The Asli Agent Vinod


[Also published in DNA]

Gather round, children. Today I shall tell you the story of Agent Vinod. Not the Saif Ali Khan- Agent Vinod but the one who came before him, the original “Agent Vinod” from the 1977 movie with the same name.

It was a landmark year for international intrigue. Times were so bad that Iftikaar,  known to play the staid police commissioner who encircles the bad guys ( “Police tumhe chaaron tarah se gher liya hai”), had crossed over to the dark side. There he was heading an international gang of intrigue, which not  content with blowing up what looked suspiciously on-screen like toy-trains and doll-houses, had also hatched a sinister plot which involved kidnapping and imprisoning great scientist Ajay Saxena (Nazir Hussain)  in a lair that had sharp dildos descending from the roof and, even more dangerously, lip-shaped TV screens. Why did they do this? So that they could obtain from him a secret formula he had developed, one that could negate even the effects of a Hydrogen-bomb.

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The Essential Soumitra


Apur Sansar:  For Apur Sansar, the final film in the “Apu Trilogy”,  the great director plucked a young radio announcer and small-time theater actor from anonymity to play the titular role. Soumitra Chatterjee. Nurtured by Ray’s genius, Soumitra brought to the world of light and shadows the unforgettable character of Apu, boyishly handsome, romantically intense and poetically fragile, journeying on the lyrical road of life, pushing aside the poverty, despondency and death that he encounters on the way. That last scene  of “Apur Sansar” in which Apu’s face becomes an almost wordless kaleidoscope of sadness, joy, guilt and hope as he reunites with his estranged son Kajal is so heart-wrenching that not even the greatest curmudgeon can prevent the eyes from welling up with tears. It was as triumphant an arrival of a great actor as one could hope for. So sensational was he that would go on to become the exacting Ray’s favorite actor for all time.

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“The rail hike is against Trinamool’s DNA”. —Derek O’Brien, Trinamool MP

Over the past few years, in a series of blog posts, I have put the three-leaf-clover of the Trinamool under my electron microscope, trying to decode its DNA. My conclusion, not that it is particularly novel, was that “What people were calling the eclipsing of Communism in Bengal with Buddhadev’s defeat was actually its revival. Because Trinamool’s DNA is an exact clone of what used to be the CPM’s DNA under Jyoti Basu.”  “Under Jyoti Basu” is a significant modifier because there had been a slight jiggling of the CPM DNA during the rule of Buddhadev Bhattacharya, where based on some genetic perturbations, the new leader had come to embrace concepts hethetro considered anathema to the Communists, like the aggressive wooing of industrial investment. It was not however an X-Men type radical mutation, (which was what was needed) because when push came to shove (with Didi providing both the push as well as the shove), Buddhadev was found to be unwilling, or unable to, chemo out the cancer of  “party”-sponsored violence and intimidation.

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Farewell Sir


If Sachin was the teacher’s pet marked for greatness ever since he joined the school, Ganguly the arrogant gang-leader of the cool kids and VVS Laxman the freakishly-talented loner in the corner, Rahul Dravid will always be the hair-cleanly-parted, diligent “good boy”, the one who studies every waking hour to get the best grade.

The perfect student.

Not for him the arrogance of knowledge. Nor the satisfaction of absolute success. Dravid was always learning, and as one of the  first ads he shot for so prophetically said, “always practicing”.

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Thoughts on the UP Elections


Uttar Pradesh has historically exerted great influence (some may say undue) over national politics, having been the home of some of our most influential politicians. Which makes its politics fascinating, if not for anything else than for its impact on the Delhi throne. For the last ten years, UP politics can be looked upon, very simplistically, as a punch-counter-punch battle between two large voting blocs—-the OBC(Yadav)-Muslim combine represented by Mulayam “Netaji” Yadav and the Dalits represented by Maya “Behenji” Wati with each side trying to muscle on each other’s turf while trying to tip the scales by poaching the Bramhin and higher castes from the BJP. Kind of like Montagues vs Capulets, but with criminals, rifles, wrestlers, elephants, statues, mandir and India’s only royal family added for good measure.

For me of course what has been the most fascinating is how the Congress and the BJP have been, once again, relegated to third and fourth position-scrappers in what has historically been their “headquarters state” and how this marginalization reflects generally on the moribund state of our biggest national players.

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Oh Please No


[Full of Bengali pop-culture references. Caveat to the non-Bengalis]

Not that I support the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, but for the first few seconds of my Saturday morning, I wanted to become the Ayatollah. That is when I realized that they had re-made arguably Ray’s finest movie “Charulata” as “Charulata 2011” (reminiscent of Disco 82, Hope 86 and Mother 98) , a cross between the original and Jism, with gratuitous displays of Rituparna’s back, as bare as Bengal’s industrial development parks, and sexy displays of Arjun Chakraborty’s face, as poetic as a mis-shapen Nalengurer sandesh.

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