What Could Have Been

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[Published in DNA, November 11, 2012]

There are quite a few things from my teenage years that I cringe owing up to, none perhaps as embarrassing as having been a shameless Shahrukh Khan fan-boy. As a matter of fact, I was so Madan Chopraaaa crazy that I would occasionally dress up SRK-style (I still have photographic evidence of me in my Ramjaane-inspired get-up) .

Those days, there was a hero vacuum in Bollywood. Amitabh Bachchan, after a disastrous run in politics, was turning out turkeys like Toofan and Akela, fast descending into the rabbit-hole of Dev Anandian obsolescence. Mithun Chakraborty was preparing to pack his bags for Ootie, Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff were on their ways out (they didn’t know it yet of course), Aamir Khan and Salman Khan were still finding their feet through a series of chocolate-boy low-key romantic roles, Saif Ali Khan was thought to be a Sharmila Tagore lookalike with no future, Akshay Kumar was cavorting in speedos as “handsome man” Mr Bond and producers considered Rahul Roy a viable sole-hero.

Yes things were that bad.

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Patriot Missiles

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Around Independence day, I inevitably start feeling patriotic. And when I do, I turn to Bollywood for sustenance and succor. Honestly, where else would you find true greatness like Dev Anand’s “Peeya hoon main sat mulk ka paani, sabse meetha Hindustani”? Where indeed?

Which is why, in this post, I salute five of my favorite filmi patriots. A disclaimer: Since I am primarily a Hindi film man, I have avoided greats like Balayya in my list (I lack intimate knowledge of his body of work) and for that I apologize. I have also not considered Prabhuji simply for the sake of fairness. After all, everyone deserves a chance.

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Some Thoughts On Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu

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Readers of this blog often ask “Why don’t you ever review movies you like?” Or the variant” Do you always watch a movie so that you can hate it?”.

Well, I actually do enjoy quite a few movies and review them on this blog.

Of course when I do, I end up hearing “What? You liked this crap and not <insert his/her favorite movie> here (Usually “Rockstar” or “Rang De Basanti” or “Delhi 6″)? And that too has its variant “I had come here expecting you to skewer <insert movie-name>. Such a mild review. Not upto your mark.” As if I am obliged to be trenchant about anything I see, even though I may have…errr…enjoyed it.

Quite a conundrum.

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Superheroes in Desi movies? Old Hat

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[Original word-limited version was published in DNA Sunday. Sans these pictures]

Can someone tell me what all this hullabaloo is about? Krrish and Enthiran and Ra-One—-a new wave of Indian superhero movies, the so-called next level, reflective of the recently acquired international taste of the Indian audience?

What? Superheroes new  to Indian cinema? I beg to disagree.

All our action heroes, for decades, have been superheroes. Spiderman and the Green Lantern can just stuff it.

Sure our Indian superheroes did not wear Tron-and-Ironman inspired suits (Ra-One) or  Zorro and Shiva (played by Jackie Shroff)-like masks and capes (Krrish). They did not need to, being comfortable in their own skins. They also had enough fashion sense not be caught wearing a underwear over their trousers or over-tight, trapeze-artist-like body-suits.

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Shakti-Man

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[I have been busy putting finishing touches to my next book "The Mine", releasing next January. Hence the long hiatus. Sincere thanks to all who inquired.]

I have always been a fan of Shakti Kapoor. One of the reasons for my admiration has obviously been his career-defining performance as the Vitamin Sex-amped, ambigosexual, killed-in-a-ladies-bathroom-by-Prabhuji-through-cutting-off-of-male-organ Chutiya in one of the most influential Hindi movies of the last century, Kanti Shah’s “Gunda”. But even before I came across this life-altering celluloid classic, I had been keenly following  Shakti’s acting career, marveling at his histrionic abilities.

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Yahoo

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There was Raj Kapoor, with the gentle smile and the jee at the end of each line, the right hand pointed to the heavens, the Charlie-Chaplin gait. There was Dilip Kumar, tragically intense. There was the suave Dev Anand, with the head cocked to the side, the fluttering eye-lids and the machine-gun dialog delivery. Together they defined the space of the Hindi film hero—-decent, clean-cut and more than a bit stiff-necked.

And then he came, like an avalanche, rolling down the slopes. Stretching his hands out, throwing his head back, rolling his eyes, mimicking the haughty heroine as she walks by ignoring his advances, stumbling forward, hip-shaking, stumbling, shaking and pouting. This was acting as had been never seen before—- physical, raw and very very in-your-face.

Shamsher Raj “Shammi” Kapoor.

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The Art of Bone Crushing

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[An edited version of this piece appeared in the DNA on Sunday July 31st]

“Singham” is a throwback to the single-screen, honest-cop-against-the-system potboiler from the 80s and 90s, a formula that as “Wanted” and “Dabangg” demonstrated still has legs, even in these multiplex-friendly, emasculated “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” days. Honest cop set-up by bad guys, heroine being ched-chaad-ed by baddies, “comedy” scene, song sequence, romance angle, corrupt cops, corrupt politicians, honest cop arresting goons, bad cop bailing them out, villain coming to police chowki and offering bribes, villain getting humiliated, villain being beaten up, villain getting back at the hero, hero punching his daylights out; every element of the much-loved formula is arranged in repeated regular patterns like nucleotides in a DNA polymer.

And yet Singham for me had as much kick as a slap from Alok Nath.

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The Greatbong Rain Song List

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[Updated with an 11th song that just had to be put in (thanks Tejas)]

11.Lagi Aaj Sawan Ke Phir Woh [Video]: Statistics show that when a man cheats on his wife and gets caught, 64% of the time he says “But darling, when I did it with the other woman, I was thinking only of you. Only your chehra was in my mind.” This song captures that excuse perfectly. Lalit (played by Vinod Khanna), feels the hots for employee Chandni (Sridevi) and that transparent yellow sari she wears isnt helping matters any. But since he is a virtuous hero, he cannot show lust.  And so we have him reminiscing sadly of his “dead wife” (Juhi Chawla) dancing sexily in the rains, as a surrogate for the person he really wants to see getting wet.   How noble. Water I tell you. Plays so many tricks with your eyes. And your morals.

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Gossip Girls (And Boys)

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[This article appeared in DNA, July 3rd, 2011]

Many years ago when in high school, I would make it a point to go to the barber shop during Sunday mornings, precisely when it would be chock-a-block with patrons. This was so that I could wait on the rickety bench for as long as possible and read the movie gossip magazines, banned as they were at home. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, they were like a box of chocolates; you never knew what you would find. Hey look there is Mamata Kulkarni doing an asset cover-up shoddier than Bofors and oooh my God, here is shirtless Marc Zuber (he was slated to be the next big thing at one point of time) on a satin sheet with a come-hither look. But pictures are after all pictures. They became boring after a while.

What did not however were the gossip titbits— who was going out with who and who did not know about it. This was valuable information, to be exchanged back in school, hiding in the back benches during Geography classes.

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