Friday, December 30, 2005

MSM bashing

Much as I am disgusted with T R Vivek's unfair and biased judgement of bloggers in Outlook, some comments I have seen on this sort of issue, time and again, make me want to put in a word here for MSM. We (bloggers) often make the mistake of identifying one journalists's attitude with that of the entire MSM's -- and that's just not true, so let's not get excited about how MSM feels threatened by us. Even one publication's antipathy towards blogging does not prove that MSM as a whole is dismissive about or feels threatened by blogging. The Telegraph, to take one example closest to me, has regularly commisioned stories on blogging, and all positive ones, and so have other newspapers and magazines.

What a lot of people, including people familiar with the workings of the media, tend to forget is that a publication's perceived attitude towards anythingis shaped by the individuals who work for it. I don't think it's like tomorrow, if I or any journo blogger joins Outlook, we will be asked to write anti-blogging stories. Most of the time, it's an individual response.

As for Outlook's attitude towards this, I suspect Vinod Mehta is hugely amused by this whole debate and is indulgently letting T R Vivek, the in-house skeptic, fight it out with bloggers and laughing at him at the same time. The man is known to possess a quirky sense of humour.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Bluffmaster is a terribly good watch. Even my dad, who watched a Hindi film after 15 years or so and ostensibly went along just to see what the brouhaha about multiplexes was about, agrees, though he was fully prepared to set his teeth and sink into the plush chairs, thinking of the various cruel and cutting things he would say to us after the ordeal was over. I was rolling in the aisles laughing, and no, I wasn't drunk. Crackling dialogue. Witness this one:

Nana Patekar calls his moll from a theatre (where they are showing Ramesh Sippy's Shaan -- loads of in-jokes in the film but amazingly they don't get irritating) and asks her to get Rs 2 crores because he's being held at gun-point. She obviously asks why he needs so much money, and he says, deadpan: "Picture bahut achhi hai, parde pe paise fenkne hain". And that's just one I remembered, since I was not taking notes by the light of a cell phone in the manner of seasoned critics.

In a year that saw one con flick after another this was without doubt the winner. The heists, so glossed over in Bunty aur Babli where most of the con jobs are packed up in the length of one terrible song, are well thought-out and superbly executed. And there are a good many of them -- the one thing that makes a film/book about con artists really enjoyable, just like people who like that sort of thing want a lot of car chases in films that have them (don't ask me why, though). I just like a lot of con jobs in films that have them. I loved Jeffrey Archer's Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less for the same reason.

Bluffmaster also gets my approval for steering clear of item numbers. Much as I like kajarare, I really hate to see a movie I'm enjoying interrupted every few minutes just so that Koena Mitra can show us how to act seductive with a wooden face. And apropos my rant about film-makers setting their films anywhere except the desh ki dharti they are supposed to be so in love with, Rohan Sippy proved to be an exception. The way he's captured Bombay in the film, realistically and lovingly, making it look sleazy and dangerous in one shot and impossibly beautiful in the next, is a slap in the face of the South Africa and Canada loving directors. Was anyone else reminded of Gotham City?

I hope the guy who made Ek Khiladi Ek Hasina is kicking himself strongly where it hurts. Or getting boxing champion Mitra to do it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Monkeying around

The Bald Monkey has come up with a rejoinder to my Men! post that would make Desmond Morris proud.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Let's have some India Shindia

Neal N' Nikki, I hear, is set in Canada. It's supposed to be a about a guy who's getting married in 21 days and wants to get laid that many times before D Day. Whatever. Salaam Namaste, a film ostensibly about live-in relationships and actually quite a good rip-off of Nine Months, was set in Australia. There have been dozens of Hindi films in between that have been set in England, America, Honolulu, the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. For every Hindi film that pans out against the backdrop of a Delhi or a Bombay, there must be, I think, three that find it necessary to set the scene of action abroad. And have you noticed? Most of the films that talk about 'revolutionary' concepts such as living-in are set abroad. As if the film-makers want to show how progressive and broad-minded Indians have become, but only if they are living away from home.

I had huge expectations from Salaam Namaste. I thought, ok finally, here's a mainstream, commercial film that talks about live-in relationships, and gives every indication of talking about it in a healthy, matter-of-fact way. The disillusionment started from the first scene when I realised it was not set in Bombay, as might have been expected, but in far-away Australia, and continued right uptill Preity Zinta, nine months pregnant and looking like she'd been carrying the kid for eighteen, breaks into a jig with rasta rappers. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the film, I did, immensely, and thought it was pretty well-made with wonderful comic timing, but I couldn't help being disappointed in it. Australia had nothing to do with it, and wouldn't it have been more pertinent to show how young urban Indians living in Indian metros didn't think it was a big deal to go in for a live-in relationship? Take Kal Ho na Ho, for that matter. Did the fact that these people were living in New York in any way add to the drama? It was a story about relationships, and would have worked out just as well in India, and maybe even captured a changing country in the funny, tongue-in-cheek manner that made it such an enjoyable film (Shah Rukh Khan's wet shirt notwithstanding).

It amazes me how, with the Indian social landscape changing so rapidly and so dramatically, film-makers refuse to take advantage of it. When so much social reality can be captured in film -- whether it's in a serious, funny or even frivolous way -- they go and take the easy way out to show it's all happening abroad. When the 'abroad' adds nothing to the story, and is as much a static backdrop as a set cut out of cardboard. Is it just stunning visuals they are after, or capturing the NRI audience? I just don't understand it. Anyway, I don't think I'll watch Neal N' Nikki.

UPDATE, UPDATE: I read this post just now and since it happens to say similar things and was written much before mine was and is on a vastly more popular blog than mine, I am now certain mine will be the next name on the Blog Plagiarism Hall of Shame. And I'll be on holiday (yes, despite my self-proclaimed dislike of the same) for the next two days, and don't want to come back to discover my name is mud. Genuine, genuine coincidence folks. Or great minds thinking alike. Whatever.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Today, I sat in the same auto with a very young girl in a burqa. I was waiting for an auto near my house in the morning, and there were these two girls waiting at the same corner - one wearing a school uniform and the other, a classic all-covering burqa with a veil across her face, leaving just her bright and rather fine eyes uncovered. Autos being scarce, and they having caught one just before me, I asked if I could share it, as it looked like we were headed in the same direction.

I fell into conversation with them - both were chirpy and very school-girlishly curious. Shyly asked my name and what I did and everything. I found out that they were Class 8 students at a Muslim girl's school nearby. The one in the burqa was the chirpier of the two, staring at me in a very friendly manner, and, I am shamed to admit this, I was completely fascinated by her. I tried not to stare too rudely back at her as I tried to understand what was going on in her mind - rather difficult, as I couldn't read her expressions.

The burqa has always fascinated me. I don't completely understand its dynamics, I don't know anybody who wears it regularly and I would really like to know. This is not about the politics of the burqa at all -- I don't think I could add anything coherent to that discussion - but I do sometimes wonder how these girls of 13 react to it, and how these reactions change by the time they are 21, 25, 30. I see a lot of young women in burqas near my house in Bangalore. We live in a locality that's almost equally shared by Muslims, Hindus and Christians, and every day, I see a large number of women going about their business, apparently unconcerned about the black garment that covers every square inch of their bodies. Some of the burqas are quite stylishly cut, some are embroidered and sequinned.. I find myself wondering if that is just a little touch of defiance. I could be completely wrong, honestly.

Anyway, so in the beginning, I was surprised by the sheer number of burqa-clad women I saw on the streets of Bangalore. I remember wondering if the city's Muslims were more conservative than the ones in Jamshedpur (where I grew up) and in Delhi. It took me some time to realize that if anything, they were much less conservative. The reason I hadn't seen so many burqa-clad women in the other places was simply because they lived in very compartmentalised little societies - one could almost call them ghettoes -- didn't venture out so much, didn't really attend mainstream schools, colleges and jobs (and the few who did didn't wear burqas). Whereas in Bangalore, they are everywhere. From the high heels and confident strides and smart handbags of some, I can make out they work at regular jobs, some zip around in two wheelers, walk away hand in hand with friends from school and college, eat out at restaurants. Most are economically and socially on a higher step of the ladder than their counterparts in Delhi.

And it makes me wonder, how do they get used to the burqa? Do they see themselves as different in any way from their friends whose cultures or families don't ask them to cover themselves up? Do they ever feel rebellious, at least in the beginning when it is decided that they too must now wear it? Do they feel jealous of friends who don't have to wear it? Do they sometimes wish they could show off the pretty dress they are wearing underneath? This young girl I met in the auto today, did she dislike it, or was it a given fact to her, something she had accepted calmly as part of her identity? Sometimes, I wonder if any of these smart, confident women ever wonder why they are wearing it, and ask if they can do without it?

Sometimes, I want to tear it off them.

Friday, December 02, 2005

First 'Men!' post

A friend (let's call him Y Chromosome) who is seeing -- no, is in a serious, committed relationship -- with another, very close, friend (X Chromosome), just came back to Bangalore after a month visiting his parents back home. He called me to ask if I would like to join them on M G Road for coffee. Now, I knew X Ch had been missing him terribly and had a million things to talk to him about, and I had no wish to be de trop -- or as we elegantly put it back in school, kabab mein haddi. So I made a gentle excuse, whereupon Y Ch, guessing with unusual perspicacity for his sex my real reasons for refusing, informed me that they were not meeting tete-a-tete in any case, since his room-mate was also dropping by.

Since I know both these people very well and sort of look upon them as children who have to be hand-held through the delicate moves of a serious, committed relationship, I asked why he was not meeting his girlfriend alone. After all, they hadn't met for almost a month and must have been looking forward to seeing each other without hangers on. Y Ch, to my utter surprise, started off on how he didn't see why he should have to meet her alone. Meet her, yes, but why alone? As long as he was seeing her, how did it matter if there were other people joining them? I suggested, though I should have given up by then, that they may have stuff to talk about that would be difficult to discuss in front of others, even close friends. The man refused to see my point! "Come on, we are not those ultra-romantic types, like soppy teenagers or something," he said, or something to that effect.

I was hopping mad by this point. At him, and at all men. I cut him off on the phone, almost rudely I suspect, and turned to vent my spleen at the only man I know who will take it, who had all along been making exaggerated gestures expressing exasperation at my 'interference'. I raved and ranted about how insensitive men were, how they had no concept of privacy, how this guy could at least have acknowledged that they need to meet alone while admitting he couldn't refuse to meet his friend etc etc.

At which point, the Light of my Life replies: "Listen, it's not as if they are going to get much privacy in a coffee shop anyway. I mean, it's a public place after all."

I stood there with my mouth hanging open for about two minutes. Was he suggesting, was he by any chance suggesting, that a couple needs to meet alone only so they can jump each other's bones? That if you are meeting in a public place, it hardly matters whether it's just the two of you or the entire extended list of your friends, since you can't do anything much other than hold hands anyway? He had the good grace to look sheepish, but he couldn't deny that yes, he had sort of meant that. Then he tried to backtrack by saying that this guy probably didn't understand all this yet, that you do need to talk and all, but give him time, he'll get more sensitive (like me) -- all the time implying that he had been browbeaten into sensitivity over the years he has known me and wishes the same fate on all other men.

What does one do with them? Really?