Dhobi Ghat—the Review


As the end credits of “Dhobi Ghat” rolled, I felt……. happy.

For two reasons.

One was on seeing an A-lister taking a risk with his brand-name, headlining something that was unapologetically “niche”, with Kiran Rao the director, not once, pandering to the dictats of popular taste. This I believe is worth congratulating considering Aamir Khan’s contemporaries (they shall remain nameless) who lack the courage to step outside their commercially successful zones for even a wee bit.

Even more importantly, after a long time, I could say that a Hindi movie left me satisfied.

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The Opening


If I was ever asked to host a Bollywood Awards night, here is how I would open it.

Welcome to the Hindi movie industry’s only publicly voted awards, the FilmEffs, as unique as the Bee Cine Awards, the Bar Screen Awards,  the India International “Who is the Brand Ambassador” Awards, the Producers Gold Awards and the What-the-fuck-is-this Awards where the public votes for the best of Bollywood, using the same electronic voting machines that installed the current government and the results tallied by the same accounting firm that handled the account of the great software giant, Mithyam.

Welcome to everyone who will win an award tonight. Welcome to everyone who will perform tonight. Put these two together, we have the entire audience. Since those who came to know (purely on the grapevine since our awards are kept in a lockbox) that they aren’t getting awarded suddenly developed “other engagements” and decided to cancel. To them I say “Get your own award show.”

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World Cup 2011 Team Analysis


9. New Zealand: With one or two exceptions like Martin Crowe, Richard Hadlee and Chris Cairns, The Men in Black have always displayed as much flair as Deve Gowda after a heavy meal. Their very “Rani Mukherjee without makeup”-ness however has been their greatest strength, especially in a tournament like the World Cup, since like nuts and bolts in a machine, they could be replaced without any change in team performance. This is why they have always performed above their weight class in the World Cup.

This time though I am doubtful. First of all, the tournament is in the subcontinent where the Kiwis traditionally have a tough time. Second, their side no longer has the strength of old where they always had a long-line up of multi-utility cricketers who could bowl wicket-to-wicket, hit a quick twenty or thirty and field like the Devil. McCullum, like the Lady of Shalott, seems to have the “curse is upon me” expression that all KKR-players carry on their faces, Taylor and Vettori do not have the stature to carry the team on their shoulders to the end, and my favorite New Zealand player,  Jesse Ryder, looks like Kallu Mama who was wandered away from a Ram Gopal Verma film-set with one too many in his stomach, is unlikely to make it through the tournament without falling in the gutter. They may cause one or two upsets but do not have gas in their tank to go the whole way.

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The Flag At Lal Chowk


Is the BJP’s plan to unfurl an Indian flag at Lal Chowk a political stunt? If a “political stunt” is defined as a strategically-planned event, of almost exclusively symbolic value, whose sole purpose is to get attention for a political cause, then a political stunt it is. Will it cause unrest? Oh yes it surely will. So should it not be done then? Well, my answer is in the form of a question—“Do you think the Dandi March was an undesirable act of provocation—-after all it too was a political move, of purely symbolic value (like the flag-hoisting), one that everyone knew would cause trouble, whose express intent was to aggressively mobilize public opinion?”

“Wait wait”, you say. “Are you comparing Sushma Swaraj et all to Gandhi?”  No not at all. No equivalence between the nobility of the principals of the two acts is being assumed. Neither is their significance in history being equated.  I am not crazy. All that is being compared is the principle behind backing away from a legal act (to be honest raising salt was illegal as per British laws but we can all agree that being draconian it was morally legal to raise salt) on the grounds that it may cause trouble.

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The People They Don't Talk About


Among the many hypocrisies of the public intellectual space in India today is the inability to talk about the forced migration and murder of Kashmiri Pandits without being personally labeled as a  right-wing Hindutva nutjob. Anyone who brings this up in a media discussion is met with a roll of the eyes—-Oooh they bring that up again, again and again.

The tragedy in this case stems from the supreme irony inherent in this “again and again”.

Because the problem for Kashmiri Pandits is not that they are everywhere. It is that they are nowhere.

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The World Cup Is Nigh


Being on the wrong side of the 30s, I sometimes wish that I was younger. Maybe have ten years shaved off my life clock. Yeah. That would be good.

And then I remember 1983. June 25. World Cup final.

Dancing about as the radio announced the demise of King Richards in front of India’s mighty flower-arrows of Madan-Dev, dying a hundred deaths as Dujon and Marshall soldier on, inching closer to the target of 183. And then those final moments of disbelief as Mohinder Amarnath starts running to the pavilion.

No I would not exchange youth for that experience, being born in 1985 would not have been worth the extra ten-years. Being old enough to be able to understand what we had seen in 1983  was like having been alive on August 15, 1947, a privilege few generations get. Not that we realized it then, but that day we had witnessed the start of a revolution, not just in the history of the sport but also in that of the nation.

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So all of a sudden, all our Zodiac signs have changed. So, all you Scorpios, proud of being dangerous and sexy, guess what. You were as bland as a Libra. As astrology-conscious people realize that perhaps their  “Hum baane tum baane ek dujje ke liye” was based on wrong facts and that the stars may not be as reliable as they thought they were , many are offended and puzzled. So we asked several people as to who they think is behind this sinister attempt to break up marriages, who it is that had fundamentally changed our astral identities.

Diggy: It was the RSS. Why just now Linda Goodman called me and said..What you don’t believe me? Records? You mean you want my sun-charts? I have them. You mean her call-records? Wait give me a few days, need to make them up…..

Rediff Commentator 1: PORKI.

Rediff Commentator 2: North-Indians.

Rediff Commentator 3: This comment is awaiting moderator approval.

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IPL Auctions: How They Did


[Earlier post on the Auctions themselves]

Chennai Super Kings: Perhaps the simplest strategy of building a winning IPL team, given the constraints of a maximum of 4 foreign players in the line-up, is to create a strong-base of front-line Indian batsmen, support them with a few “almost there” Indian batting talent, and garnish liberally with foreign bowlers and all-rounders. Chennai Super Kings got the formula right from the first season itself. So it was no surprise that they retained the maximum amount of old talent that they could (Dhoni, Raina, Murali Vijay and Albe Morkel). And then worked aggressively throughout the auction to get back as much of their old squad as possible, including Dhoni’s four-leaf clover, Joginder Sharma.  CSK has  proven performers who have performed well as a team (perhaps  the most important thing in the IPL). Their players are synonymous with the brand, making their audience connect immediately with the franchise. And many of them are from their home city Chennai. No franchise could ask for things to be better.

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In a sequence from the famous movie “Jungle Beauty”, Goga Kapoor sits gloatingly on a chair and opens an auction for the choicest of “jungle beauties”. Clad in their bare essentials, they turn round and round, as a group of eager bidders stand expectantly surveying what’s on offer. Then Goga Kapoor thunders,

” Doston, yeh jungle ki naageenein woh bulbule hain jinki saanson main phoolon ki mahek, badan mein haowoon ke taazgi, aur chaal main jharnon ki rawaangi hai…aap log husn aur jawaani ke jahuri boliye is naagein ki kya keemat lagate hain?”

[Video link mildly NSFW]

I have always thought that the IPL auctions should start with these amazingly poetic lines, if only to set the mood and context. But then the world rarely goes the way I want it to. Instead it starts off with Sidhu Paaji, the man whom I lovingly refer to as “the Adolf Eichmann of the English language”, announcing that the hammer is going to descend.

And the Queen, bless and God save her, is pregnant. Whatever the eff that means.

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The Pakistani Liberal


I had never heard of the Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer before I joined Twitter. Several times I had been forwarded (RT-ed to use the proper jargon) his tweets by people I follow. Most of them, containing ridiculous clap-trap like India fomenting terrorism in Pakistan, the absence of proof of Pakistani involvement in 26/11, the RSS did-it innuendo,the brave freedom-fighters of Kashmir struggling against the demoniacal Indians,  just made me chuckle in the same way that  Zaid Hamid and Johnny Lever does, as a result of which I slotted Taseer away in my mind as yet another “Pakistani public intellectual.”

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