Of Azhar and Sanju and Hagiographies


I get it. I really get it. Now stop beating me over the head with that.

Azhar never fixed matches. Or rather, as the film Azhar tells us, he pretended to fix matches so that he could catch the real match fixers.

And Sanjay Dutt was never a terrorist.

And that car was self-driven.

I have often wondered why some of our flawed heroes, and let us all agree, Bhakts and Sickulars, that Azhar and Sanjay Dutt are as flawed as they come, have this obsessive need to establish that they are innocent.

Whether they got away lightly or took more than their share of punishment, the truth is that they have done their time. They don’t need to sway public opinion just to get a good verdict.

Sure, Azhar might have a political career and Sanjay Dutt may be contemplating embarking on one, given that his salad days of flexing muscles and Ey Shivani-ing is almost all but over, and that might seem to be reason enough to go all heavy with the PR.

But I don’t think that is the reason “Azhar” exists. Or “Sanju”.

They exist because the enormous egos that have their names in the titles of the films actually, really, deeply want you to believe they are good people.

And only when you do, only then, can they themselves believe they are.

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Darkest Hour at the Oscars


Whether for good or bad, the Oscars have, over the last few years, become super political. What used to be a few jokes, a few reaction shots, a few fashion flaws, and gush talk about movies that people claim to have seen but really haven’t, has now become almost political theater, with issues of representation, racism, colonialism, police brutality, sexism, harassment, front and center in glittering marquee lights. Some may say that by moving away from being an anodyne apolitical platform, the Oscars have somehow recaptured its relevance, its mind space, that the Oscars are water cooler talk again, even by people who have never seen or will see the Shape of Water, a love story of a human and a fish, one you can see for free at any Bengali lunch.

But I digress.

Given how woke the Academy has become, their decision to recognize, with one of its premiere awards, “Darkest Hour”, a hagiography of British war-time Prime Minister and unapologetic South Asian killer Sir Winston Churchill, is beyond reprehensible. Maybe in the 80s and the 90s, when no one cared, I would not have batted an eyelid, but now, now given the widely tomtommed sensitivity on the part of the Academy to the recognition of marginalized narratives, the fact that the Committee chose to reward a movie that airbrushes Churchill’s role in the genocide of 2 million official (some say it is close to 4 million) in India and Bangladesh, just goes to show that not all marginalized are treated equal,  and that Churchill being the savior of Europe still gives his reputation the immunity from having to answer for his crimes in India.

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Potol Babu Filmstar is one of Satyajit Ray’s greatest short-stories.

Its main thesis is that in theater or in cinema, there is nothing like an insignificant role; a truly skilled artist, even if given one word of dialog, can make it memorable.

Sanjay Kapoor is one of our greatest actors. His main thesis is similar.

“Only Indians are bothered about the length of a role instead of its impact,” complains Sanjay Kapoor. [Link]

Very right. As in movies and as in life length does not matter. What matters is whether you can hit, with searing impact that spot which is the nerve-center of all pleasure.

Yes I am talking about the heart.

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Sunny Side Up


When we were young, the only Sunny we knew was this one guy called Sunil Gavaskar. Some of us knew a  Leone too, some firang director whose spaghetti Westerns like “A Fistful of Dollars” and “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” we had seen on bad-quality VHS tapes loaned from Neha Video Library. But we had never heard of the term p***star and even those who had, never knew that this was a legitimate career option. The word adult star was known but in a different wholly innocent context, like what Jugal Hansraj endeavored to be after his lakdi ke kaathi child-star days in “Masoom”.

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Masters of Horror—Part 1


I have been meaning to do a “Masters of Horror” series at RTDM for a long time, with the focus being  superlative Indian horror movie directors like Mohan Bhakri, Rajkumar Kohli, the Ramsays, Kanti Shah and many others. The way I want to go about this is by profiling one movie of each of these masters of the craft. In this post, I look at the art of Rajkumar Kohli by profiling Jaani Dushman (1979), one of the first superhit horror movies in the pre-80s. Depending on audience interest and of course time I hope to continue this series subsequently.

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Rakhi Springer


Living in a locality in Kolkata that overlooked a sprawling bustee (an illegal slum), one of the joys of urban life was to witness, from time to time, dog-fights/cat-fights between denizens of the bustee, usually fought out in the vicinity of the Shib Mandir (which housed a Shiv Lingam, a carrom board and a bamboo stand on which was pasted copies of Ganashakti), where in front of a crowd of screaming inhabitants of the said bustee, those in conflict would let loose. Wife beating up drunk husband. Woman shouting at the other woman. Father beating up drug-addict son. Two druggies throwing punches. Mother yelling at daughter caught “red-handed”. Passers-by would stop casually, just listening to the general conversation as the assembled crowd passed judgment, threw out advice, sometimes came in between if the fist throwing became serious  and periodically noisily murmured their taunting disapprobation or whole-hearted approval.

What I did not realize then and I do now is that I was watching advance episodes of Rakhi ka Insaaf, (premiered recently on NDTV Imagine) which has brought to the world of Indian television the cerebral classiness of watching a drunken lout of a husband being beaten up by chappals while he wallows in the drain singing vulgar songs, a show that promises to go where no show has ever gone before. And how can it not? It is after all helmed by Rakhi Sawant, or the “Arundhati Roy of reality television, the God of large-sized artificial things”.

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Indian Television's Finest Hour


As I watched the first two episodes of “Rakhi Ka Swayamvar”, I realized I was witnessing history—an aesthetic amalgam of Dali-ian surrealism and Dada-ist anti-conventionalism, a monument to the post-DD “India Shiney (Ahuja)” Youngistan socially and culturally conscious media, the kind of media that gives us news like this:

“There are two things that you notice instantly when you see Deepika Padukone. One is that she is pencil-thin; and, two, she has a love-bite on her neck that is still to fade away.”

Make no mistake. Rakhi Ka Swayamvar, now being shown on the appositely named NDTV Imagine is Indian television’s finest hour. In the past, we have been shocked by Tamas. We have been educated by “Bharat Ek Khoj”. We have danced to “Ek chidiya anek chidiya”. We have cried with Haveli Ram. We have dreamt with Mungerilal. We have flown with Shaktiman. We have become “Putrabati bhava” with Mahabharata. But never have we ever been as moved by anything as we have been by Rakhi ka Swayamvar, as classy as a circus freakshow and as spontaneous as Dick Cheney.

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