In Honor of the New Censor Chief

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While there are many who swear by Govind Nihalni, I am more a fan of his brother Pahlaj Nihalni. This doyen of 90s movies, produced many of the most iconic films of my teenage-hood, like “Shola aur Shabnam” and “Aankhen” and “Andaaz” , giving me hours of pleasure that the boys of today, fed on an anti-cultural diet of “Baby Doll” and Honey Singh will not understand.

Thus it was with nothing but un-alloyed joy that I welcome his becoming the Supremo of the Censor Board. It’s like an old friend that has made it big, not that Mr. Pahlaj Nihalni was not big before.

Of course I am not a teenager any more. Now as a parent, I am extremely happy that the job of “maintaining the sanctity of Indian culture and values” and “preventing vulgarity” has now fallen on Mr. Nihalni, because I don’t know of many men, other than the director of the above movies( one Mr. David Dhawan) who is a bigger expert on the topic.

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On Dhoni

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It’s strange, this phenomenon. Hours and hours of watching my favorite sportsmen on the telly, and I begin to believe that I know them personally. That’s why I tuned in when Sachin was close to a century and become all emotional when Ganguly walked out that last time. Even though it is extremely silly, I become personally invested in the individual successes of these strangers, that goes above and beyond my team winning, just like I would do for my friends.

And just like I do for my friends, I make these little mental stereotypes.

The passionate. Sourav.

The gentleman. Dravid.

The self-absorbed geek. Sachin.

The guy who never gets his due. VVS.

The maverick. Sehwag.

The relentless. Kumble.

But what about Dhoni?

I don’t think I have that personal connect with him, not in the way I have for the names above. As Harsha Bhogle writes, in this beautiful piece,  he could not figure out who he was and he is someone who actually knew Dhoni pretty well in real life.

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PK—The Review

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[Spoilers]

So I saw PK.

How was it?

TLDR: It’s a three-hour long episode of Satyamev Jayate.

For those of you who have not seen this program, which strongly makes me believe that you are not the kind that stops at a stop sign, Satyamev Jayate can be summarized as “social activism for those of us that like to watch Big Boss but feel guilty “. It picks a certain “problem of the week”, like police reforms or corruption or doctors, and then runs through an hour of over-explaining and music and appropriately emotioned-up guests.  The USP of the program, the reason why people watch it, is of course  Method-Actor Khan (known to mortals as Aamir Khan) for whom Satyamev Jayate is a perfect prop for his carefully cultivated  image as a socially conscientious superstar. Cycling through various  expressions, “the-oh-my-God-I-had-no-idea” (“Apko police ne yeh kaha?”) as if he is hearing the guest’s story for the first time, “the-oh-my-God-I-so-feel-for-you” eyes-welling-up-with-tasteful-tears, Mr. Khan straddles perfectly that grey area between reality and choreography, between the person and the persona, and if the topic of the week does not keep you watching, or that sharp prick on your conscience if your finger goes to the remote control to change the channel, Aamir Khan’s performance sure does.

Like Satyamev Jayate, PK too has a “problem of the week”, long passages of preachy exposition, poking-in-eye messaging, and each one of Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate stock facial expressions. Except being an alien, his innocent “I-had-no-idea” face makes a little more sense, though for old-hands like us, there is a bit too much of the Main Kahaan Hoon Tiloo from “Andaz Apna Apna” and one of the characters he played in Dhoom 3, for me to be overtly blown away by the acting. Just as Satyamev Jayate, despite its flaws, is an improvement on the brainless muck that passes for entertainment on Indian television,  PK is definitely better than the “Bang Bangs” and the “Ready”s, a low bar surely, somewhat like complimenting a fast bowler for bowling faster than Venkatesh Prasad.

It had a lot going for it,  like Mr. Perfectionist’s perfect derriere, though obfuscated by mist, Raju Hirani at the helm, and some funny sequences involving pee-ing, peek-ing, peekaying and anal-probing, which I would perhaps have better appreciated if I was nine years old

However it is let down by two major cinematic boo-boos.

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The Devil Made Me Do It

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One of the sad realities of living in today’s world is how inured we have become to incidents of terrorism.

Do we know anyone who died today? Naah we don’t. So let’s hashtag, share update on FB, and move on. Which of course raises the bar for terrorists, obligating them perversely to be more “spectacular” to catch people’s attention.

Like bringing down two of the world’s tallest buildings on a busy office day.

Like storming 5-star hotels and butchering people in cold blood.

Like shooting dead close to one hundred fifty school-kids.

As a parent, it is difficult not to feel a deep bond of empathy for those that have lost a child,  for it is the most frightening thing that can happen to a human being. I would not have said this a few years ago but now that I am a father, I truly mean it.

But alas in this world, I cannot just be a father. I am an Indian. I am a Hindu.

Which in Pakistan, means I am the Devil.

Which means I did it.

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A Thousand Weeks of DDLJ

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Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge is a thousand weeks old.

That’s a long time.

To put it in perspective, a thousand weeks ago, Narendra Modi was a small-time politician in Gujarat, Kohli was eight years old, Vinod Kambli still had a future and I was in first year.

My how days fly.

And yet it seems to be just yesterday that we were introduced to the great patriot Baldev Singh (Amrish Puri), who tracks pigeons from Punjab so great is his desh-bhakti, but who, despite the deep rumblings for mitti ki khusboo, never visits his desh, perhaps because he is too busy looking at “goree teeetli” and drinking Black Dog, (Ok wrong film), his wife the beatific Lajjo, an anthropomorphism of ghee and aloo parathas, their well-fed daughter Simran with a proclivity for dancing in the rain in itsy-bitsy skirts,  Raj Malhotra, the character that would be played by the actor, Shahrukh Khan, for the next twenty years in more or less every film, and his father, played by Anupam Kher, who would beat Sonia Gandhi hands down as the parent of the century.

It seems to be just yesterday that DDLJ came into our lives.

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The Battle For Delhi

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[A version of this published in Huffington Post India]

There are no knockouts in Indian politics.  No matter how hard you have been hit, you can always bounce straight off the ropes and back into the ring.

Take the Aam Aadmi Party. It seems just yesterday that they were wiping their brains off the sidewalk after being hit by the Modi Express, and yet here they are, back for the Delhi elections, swinging hard and strong.

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The Voice of God And His Silences

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Originally appeared in SwarajyaMag

There was a time, around a few thousand years ago, that God would talk to us.

A lot.

Sometimes He would say something from behind a burning bush. Sometimes He would appear in a dream. Sometimes He would give us his words in the field of battle and sometimes He would just send his son down to the earth.

Then, for some reason, God became silent, round about the time Man started this whole “science” thing.

Now once again, after years, he has spoken, this time through a new prophet.

Not surprisingly, the chosen one happens to be a Bengali by the name of Boria Majumdar.

I apologize for the blasphemy I am going to commit right now. But I have to say it. Prophet Boria’s prose is, for the want of a less obvious word, boring. Not to sully the purity of His words, but one wishes that He had chosen a more accomplished spinner of sentences, someone like Rahul Bhattacharya for instance, who would have been less liberal with passages that sound like paraphrasing of score-cards.

But perhaps I am wrong. God knows best.

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