Sunday, November 23, 2008

Incognito

After hanging around in jungles for twelve years, the Famous Five and Droppy had to meet the final condition - stay undiscovered from Duryodhan's cronies for another year (Agyatobash). Getting discovered meant having to repeat the twelve years once again. Now, thanks to this, Yudi managed to wangle a boon from his foster father that they would remain unrecognised by everybody in that year even without disguise.
Once in the 12 years, Arjun had pushed off to the heavens to get hold of some special weapons... As you can see, the second and third Paandavs were using the 13 years of exile to prepare for what they thought was the inevitable war. While in the heavens, apsara Urvashi tried to seduce him and he refused. Not used to being spurned, Urvashi cursed Arjun that he since he behaved like a eunuch, he would be one for one year of his life!

The five brothers decided that they would spend the last year in the courts of King Viraat. Viraat had a son by the name of Uttar and a daughter named Uttara. He was a generally harmless, ineffective king whose kingdom was run by his brother-in-law - a rather dangerous sort of chap called Kichak.
They went to a forest near the kingdom, put all their weapons into a bundle made to look like a corpse and hung it onto a tree. After that, they separated and reached the kingdom from different directions.

Yudhisthir landed up at the court of the good king and declared that he was a brahmin by the name of Kanka. He claimed to be an expert at harmless gambling and expected to be employed by the king. And he was.
Within a couple of hours, Bheem landed up. He said he was an excellent cook by the name of Ballabh. He wanted to be tried out in the royal kitchens. By way of extra-currics, he claimed to be an amateur wrestler and offered to do an exhibition bout or two. Employed.
Nakul and Sahadev landed up at the royal stable and cowshed respectively, claiming knowledge of horses and cattle. As Granthik and Tantipal, they too were employed without much ado.
Mr Arjun, who - thanks to Urvashi's curse - was now Ms Arjun reached the royal court and introduced himself as Brihannala, a dancer par excellence. (S)he was immediately appointed as Princess Uttara's teacher. In an interesting piece of detail, it is noted that Arjun had scars on his forearms due to his bowstrings grazing him there and as Brihannala, he was able to hide them under bangles (s)he wore.
Mrs P landed up at the Queen's palace as Sairindhri and wanted to be taken into her entourage as a hairdresser / makeup-artist / eye-candy. Of course, the Queen got totally flustered at her beauty and said (I quote), "Your thighs are close to each other. Your navel, voice and behaviour are subdued. Your breasts, buttocks and nose are elevated. Yours hands, feet and lips are scarlet. You are as beautiful as a Kashmiri mare. You deserve to have an entourage of your own. I would be lucky if the King did not take a fancy for you." But she took her on nevertheless.

Interesting to note here that five strikingly handsome men and one excessively beautiful woman landed up at King Viraat's court on the same day (which also happens to be the day when the five Paandavs and Draupadi were supposed to start their agyatobash) and nobody connected the dots. Duryodhan was supposed to have spies all over the country and in any case, the entire country knew about the incognito thingie but this remained unnoticed.
Not really the sharpest knives in the kitchen...
So, the Bros. & Babe happily got initiated into the daily routine of the palace and hoped to spend this one year in relative boredom.
In addition to the names mentioned above, the five brothers had taken an additional set of code names (But why Sir? Generally!) - Jay, Jayanta, Vijay, Jayatsen, Jayatdal.

But then, the Queen's thoughts about the king taking a fancy for Sairindhri turned out to be prophetic in a different sort of way.
Her brother - Kichak - was the de facto ruler of the kingdom. He was a very capable warrior and protected the kingdom. Since the king depended on him, he did everything that caught his fancy and Sairindhri caught his fancy like Jonty Rhodes caught a cricket ball. He badgered his sis to set him up with this new babe. The Queen - having a bit of a soft corner for dear bro - tried to broker the (d)alliance but Sairindhri vehemently junked the idea.

Eventually, Horny Kichak could not take it any more and jumped the babe. The babe - having practiced the routine with Duhsashan earlier - ran into the king's court where all the five brothers were generally hanging about. They did nothing - having practiced earlier as well - so as not to give away their identities.
King Viraat managed to pull his bro-in-law off but he threatened the babe that if she did not come to him willingly, he would come back at her.
Bheem, who was gritting his teeth all this while, decided to do what he did best. Take matters in his own hands.

A plan was hatched. Sairindhri passed a mesage to Kichak that she could not accept him publicly (having done so much nakhra) but if he came to a secret meeting spot at night, she promised a lot of hanky panky. Kichak, who had a hard-on from here to Ludhiana, agreed. He would have ageed to anything!
At the appointed hour and spot, Kichak landed up and was overjoyed to see a figure covered in a saree. On more intimate inspection, the figure turned out to be the cook Ballabh, who had claimed to be a decent wrestler. The decent wrestler managed to tear Kichak limb to limb without raising a din and vanished without even leaving a fingerprint.
The next morning, of course, was chaos and mayhem at the discovery and the subsequent realisation that without the mighty Kichak, the kingdom was at considerable risk with a wimpy King and a teenaged Prince Uttar.

Duryodhan's spy network had drawn a nought till now about the Paandavs - but they did relay back the news of Kichak's death. So, the Kaurav clan thought while they are waiting for the Paandavs to surface, they might as well attack Viraat's kingdom and make off with his riches.
And in no time, there were a 100 bloodthirsty bandit brothers (assisted by their weapons prof) standing right outside the kingdom.
Viraat - who never lifted a finger himself - kinda shat in his dhoti when he heard the news of this invasion. Strangely, dance teacher Brihannala cleared his throat and revealed that (s)he was also a trained charioteer. If (s)he was given a chance to steer the valiant Prince Uttar into battle, the young Prince would mow down the Kauravs. Uttar was had neither a sense of warfare nor a sense of reality. He readily agreed and his parents - not far removed from fanstasy themselves - agreed too.

Jumpcut to the battle field.
Drunk on false praise, Uttar came to his senses when he heard the commotion created by the Kaurav army. When he realised that the entire horizon was obstructed by the army and he was in it all alone, he felt it wise to instruct Brihannala to turn the chariot around as he needed to use the latrine pronto! Brihannala - on the other hand - assured that only about one-tenth the army was visible and it was a Kshatriya's greatest honour to take an arrow on his chest and die a glorious death. Uttar - at this point - jumped off the chariot and ran in the direction of the forest. An exasperated Brihannala checked out the position of the sun and decided that it was time to make an entry...

He turned the chariot around, picked up the cowering prince, went to the tree in the nearby forest where a 'corpse' was tied and asked him to bring it down. The prince forgot about fearing for his life and feared for losing his religion by touching a 'corpse'. The eunuch - in the meanwhile - took off his bangles, adjusted his clothing to a more battle-friendly and handled the innards of the corpse with a large degree of confidence. When he learnt the true identity of the Dancing Queen, he was infused with a large degree of relief.
And then, Arjun asked Prince Uttar to become the charioteer, twanged the bowstring of Gandeev and sounded his conch.

Some distance away, Dronacharya was intrigued to hear the signature twang. Could his favourite student be in the vicinity? His happiness permeated manifold among the Kauravs because they felt that Arjun had revealed himself before the one year of agyatobash was up and that meant an encore.
Drona, who had far more faith in Arjun than anybody else, did a few astronomical calculations himself and quietened the clan. It was a few moments since the thirteen years being up. Arjun was not a fool to have made an appearance before that.

At this point, two arrows from Arjun came and landed in front of Drona's chariot. And two more whizzed past his ears.
Did Arjun miss? Not exactly.
With the first two arrows, he symbolically touched his guru's feet. And with the next two, he asked about his well-being having met him after 13 years.
These are the cute details which elevate Mahabharat from a great epic to the greatest epic!

Of course, a pitched battle ensued. Of course, Arjun beat the shit out of the Kauravs and sent them back. But of course, the Incognito Year ended on a victorious note.

And it queered the pitch for the Mother of All Battles - Kurukshetra!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Random Movies I Like: Dance Dance

I have done film posts in two different formats: one is a detailed analysis (!) of films of a certain period/genre/theme, usually running into several thousand words. And the second is a quick take on a film, remembering bits and pieces of it. This post started under the second format and somehow in the course of writing it, it sneaked into the first format.
Pointless - check. Rambling - check. Avoidable - check.

Story 1: A boy's parents are killed by an evil rajah. The boy grows up and takes revenge.
Story 2: An elder sister helps her little brother become successful. When she dies, the brother is shattered. However, he comes back to regain his success.
Story 3: An extremely talented musical group rises from rags to riches. In-fighting causes them to split. They eventually unite for one final hurrah.
These three stories have been repeated infinite times in the history of Bollywood. And really, there is no novelty in them anymore. The film in discussion - Dance Dance - stands out not because it used any of the above plots but because it used all three!

However, before we get into the detailed description of the plot and scenes, a brief background is necessary.

A lot of people worship Mithun nowadays as Prabhuji and his later films have found a cult following on the 'net. These films - which proliferated literally by the dozens in the mid-1990s - were darlings of the distributors because they were commercially super-successful and rewarded their investors manifold.

But the seeds of Mithun's divinity were sown much before these films. It started off somewhere in the early 80s, when B Subhash directed the movie Disco Dancer with Mithun Chakraborty in the lead and it became a monster hit. Bappi Lahiri’s music and Mithun’s sinewy dance moves became the toast of every Ganpati / Durga Puja pandal in the country and we had the country’s first male dancing star (not counting V Shantaram)!

A couple of years after Disco Dancer, the same actor-director-composer trio came together for Dance Dance – which became an even bigger hit than the earlier movie. This was the late 80s when people were still unsure about the difference between ‘disco’ and ‘rock’ and teenagers believed that being able to ‘break dance’ is the ultimate sign of coolness!


The film opens with an impoverished family of four - musician parents and their son and daughter. The parents are about to leave for a musical show, which is supposed to bring in 'dher sara paisa' and solve their woes. The son - suffering from fever - is a halwa fan (hint - hit song ahead!) and in an attempt to divert his sorrow at the parting, a container of halwa is thrust in his hand. A heartless landlord appears magically to demand rent and on being told to wait, he promptly snatches the halwa from the kid and vanishes. Logic: rent defaulters don't get their just desserts.

Just before the parents hop on to an auto rickshaw (from the same set where the TV serial Nukkad was shot), the son hands over a letter to the mom and asks her to open it when she is on stage!


The parents and their dance troupe are supposed to perform in front of the Maharajah of Jalpaiguri (huh?) - a role essayed by Amrish Puri with a silver mane and his customary gusto. The son message turns out that he wants his mother to sing a song which starts with Zu Zu Zubi Zubi Zubi. (Double huh!)

Anyway, the mother promptly starts off on a ritzy ditty, which goes Mera dil gaye ja Zu Zu Zubi Zubi Zubi / Masti mein gaye ja Zu Zu Zubi Zubi Zubi... which is all fine except the Maharajah of Jalpaiguri has developed the hots for her! So, all through the song, he fantasises bumping his substantial cheeks on her voluminous hips with his usual eye-enlargement-as-lewdness trick. The mother tries to inject a bit of seriousness with words like masti mein chur ameeri, bebas majboor gareebi and patthar dil daulat waale but when a song ends with words like Zu Zu Zubi Zubi Zubi, Amrish Puri's hormones are bound to go into an overdrive.

The song ends. They leave for Bombay (presumably with the dher sara paisa). Their bus is hijacked by Rajasaheb's henchmen. They are made to perform in front of Rajah. Rajah tries to act out his fantasies. Father (on keyboards, hitherto unseen) behaves in true Bollywood fashion i.e. protests meekly and gets bumped off. Mother runs off into the Jungles of Jalpaiguri. Bus blown up and news of parents' demise spread through newspapers.

800 words... and we have just gone past the titles.


The heartless landlord (see above) returns this time with a copy of the newspaper and chucks out the siblings. To increase the HWS (Heart Wrench Score), the boy now has high fever and no halwa. The sister manages to carry him to Juhu beach, while he is mumbling for halwa. Only in Hindi cinema do we see orphans with high fever pining for gaajar ka halwa, boondi ke laddoo and such ghee-laden monstrosities.

In an attempt to show that the boy's twin passions are halwa and dance, the kid is made to totter through a couple of (presumably) disco steps. And a passerby is impressed enough to throw a coin. The sis picks up coin and...

Poignant Dialogue (by sis): Ramu (oh - did I mention that the bro's name is Ramu? No? Well, I just did!), halwa khane ke liye paisa kamaana padega. Aur paisa kamaane ke liye tujhe dance karna padega... Dance Dance.

Song Situation: Aa gaya, aa gaya halwa-wala aa gaya / Rang jamaane aa gaya / Dhoom machane aa gaya...


In between the song - exactly at a jazzy musical interlude - the small legs of the brother segues into the white-shoe-clad, white-trousers-encased snazzy legs of Mithun as he sings a disco-version of the Halwa-wala song, dressed up as Santa Claus!

This is also the time to introduce the 'heroine' of the film - who is not the love interest of the hero, but his sister. The posters proclaimed 'See dear Smita Patil in her last role' and people who remember the magnificent actress from Arth, Khandahar and Bhumika should see Dance Dance because she matched Mithun step for step, lip-synch for lip-synch in this film. Her awkwardness in filmy dancing (so visible in Namak Halal) was all gone.

During the course of this song and a couple of scenes, we are introduced to Mithun and his band. Mithun is the lead performer, Smita provides supporting vocalists and Shakti 'Casting Couch' Kapoor on drums. There may have been a few other assorted characters as well but there was no answer to the plaintive cries of 'who's the bassist?'


Smita - also the brain behind the band - decides that they needed to make some money pronto and they devise a plan to entertain a very exclusive and stiff-upper-lip club. Now, for some strange reason, the club seems to have only Parsi members.

Anyway, POA is Smita dresses up as a rich dowager and plants herself as a member. Mithun and Shakti sneak in and shake a mean leg. Club members are suitably impressed and tip them large amounts of money. Err... but why is Smita dressed up as a member? Offoh... so that she can start the tipping process as 'one of them' and the others can join in.

Song Situation: Everybody dance with pa.pa.pa / Everybody dance with maa.maa.

Highlight: When the ancient Parsi community stares at Mithun's steps bewildered, he says - "You don't know break dance? Okay - tequila!" And the famous tat.tara.tat.tara music starts off and the bawas join in enthusiastically.


Now, it dawns on the band (which either has no name or I have no memory) that the above money-earning tactic has achieved only one thing - add one more hit song to the film. So, they decide to enter a Disco Championship, which is the rough equivalent of Indian Idol in the 80s. Or so it looks like. Except that it has two hitches.

One, they band has to kow-tow to Dalip Tahil to enter the contest.

Two, a band led by a singer called Janita (not to be mistaken for Janitor) seems destined to win.

You can add a third to the list - Dalip Tahil has the hots for the aforementioned Janita, played with mini-skirted aplomb by Mandakini.


Obviously, in true filmi tradition, Mithun and gang sneak in from the service entrance and crash the show - right after a superb performance by Mandy and Co (of the only song in the film, which I have forgotten which means it can't be that good a performance). And whatay performance they give... man oh man, whatay performance!

Song Situation: Super Dancer (pronounced: Soup-ah Dyan-sah) nachenge nachenge / Super Dance gayenge gayenge

In the only song he sings in the film, composer Bappi Lahiri surpasses himself and comes up with a rendition that would occupy positions 1 to 100 in the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame. Only if they agreed to count this song as rock.

Important Info: All the songs of the film are sung by Vijay Benedict and Alisha Chinai, both in one of their earliest films. Vijay seems to have vanished into thin air but Ms Chinai is still going strong.


Post this Soup-ah performance, Ramu promptly becomes Romeo and the band becomes the hottest property in tinsel town. Having lost this all-important contest, the super-hot Janita vanishes into oblivion and Dalip Tahil eats tonnes of humble pie. Because Romeo now insists on taking pie pie ka hisaab. Har har...

1600 words and we are at around the interval now.

Romeo and sis move into swanky bungalow. Kaamyabi kiss their toes. Romeo learns to drink.
Poignant dialogue: Bachpan mein jab paani mangta tha, gaaliyan milti thi. Ab paani mangne se whiskey milti hain.
Drummer Shakti spotted getting fresh with sis. Romeo about to beat him to a pulp when sis guiltily confesses love for drummer. Undoubtedly, the lowest point of Smita's cinematic career, this is where indulgent Romeo agrees to the marriage. In standard filmi tradition, sis gives up showbiz and embraces happy matrimony. For some reason, drummer-husband also follows suit. Sneaking suspicion that Shakti Kapoor - hitherto heroic - might just live up to his image.

Romeo - after a drunken binge (Fast learner! See alcohol initiation, three lines above.) - walks into a shady bar. The cabaret artist is eminently recognisable and she professes her ambition to emulate Romeo one day.
Song Situation: Romeo oh Romeo. Jaaneman, tum number one ho / Har jawaan dil ki dhadkan ho / Hain sitarein tum par meherbaan / Tum ho tum to hum bhi hum hain / Hum nahin tum se kuch kam hain / Tum jahan jo jaane jana / Hum ko bhi aana hain kal wahaan...
Romeo may be drunk but he recognises thighs like that at two hundred paces. Janita - after her spectacular defeat - is reduced to being a Janitor (almost). She now dances at, well, dance bars.
Romeo feels guilty/horny enough to offer her a position in his band, a room in his house and a ventricle in his heart. Mandy moves in before we can say B Subhash.

Parallel Plot: Shakti Kapoor starts doing what he normally does in films and sometimes, even in real life.
He has affairs. Actually, he sleeps with his molls in his own bedroom while Smita Patil serves tea. You had heard of threesomes. Now, this is a tea-some. He beats up Smita when she meekly protests. He asks for money from Romeo. And if all that is not enough, he struts around in his underwear.
Smita covers up blackened eye and asks for money. Romeo threatens to beat up Shakti but pays up. Smita covers up bloodied nose and asks for money. Romeo threatens to beat up Shakti but pays up. Smita dabs at swollen lips... you get the picture, right?
Oh, if you are wondering why Romeo pays up, then you must be Bhishma Pitamaha. In modern Hindi cinema, nobody messes with
behen ka suhaag.
In between all this brutality, Smita announces pregnancy. Her real-life pregnancy was becoming a little too difficult to hide by now. Shakti is overjoyed and whips her with a belt.
Close up: Belt hitting Smita's stomach.
Predictable Scene: Smita dies in childbirth. Child is still born.
Shakti is flipping through a magazine at home. Blazing-eyed Mithun enters.
Shakti:
Tum kyon aaye ho?
Mithun (my favourite dialogue):
Doctor ne kaha kisi ne Smita ko bedardi se mara hain. Main tumhe bedardi ka matlab samjhane aaya hoon.

After the bedardi-ka-matlab-samjhane-wala-pitaai, Shakti becomes repentant. Mithun becomes alcoholic. Mandakini becomes maudlin. With Mithun downing Black Label straight from the tap, it is up to Mandy to do the shows and bring in the moolah. She does this a great show of sorrow and cleavage.
Song Situation: Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar mera kho gaya / Pyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar mera kho gaya
Important Plot Point: Romeo's liver has shrunk to the size of a raisin by now and any attempts at dancing (or so I remember) may aggravate the already naazuk haalaat.
Inter-cut with the above song (sung by Alisha in the trademark quivering-voice of Asha)
are scenes of Maharajah of Jalpaiguri. All of you who are still overcome at the thought of Smita's death, you would do well to go back to Para #2 and refresh your memories. Impressively enough, Maharajah (not to be confused with Maharaja of Behala) still has lascivious thoughts about nubile nymphets and wants to invite this specimen of feminity to Jalpaiguri!

Either Mandy has bad feelings about the Rajah or she has had enough of Romeo sitting on his ass and guzzling whisky, she inspires him to return to the stage... at Jalpaiguri! When Romeo stares at her balefully despite her flashing spirit, thighs and cleavage in sequence, she decides to move on. For the show. Not from the relationship, silly!
When her van is on the way to Jalpaiguri (which, incidentally, has a train and air station in real life but not used in this film), a hijack attempt is made. However, this time a spooky figure in a spotless white sari emerges from the jungles and AK-47s. They are the Maharaja's henchmen. They obviously had great respect for their 30-year old hijacking trick but had not bargained for Romeo's Mom hanging around the jungles for so long!
YES, Mom-Lovers, YES! The mom, whom we had given up for the dead, is not dead after all and is ready to shake a mean machine gun once again.
By this time, Romeo has also reached Jalpaiguri. He has regained his natural narrow-eyed, pointy-lipped coolness. He embraces his mother and promises to avenge her
be-izzati. And, he has decided to throw caution to the winds and dance like there's no tomorrow. Dance at the bloke's function who he has to kill to avenge his mother's misfortune. Don't fret... Hindi films' strength are its set pieces, not the bloody logic.

Song Situation: Zindagi mera dance dance (pronounced: dhnyanns dhnyanns)
Mithun dresses up in a zebra-striped costume with gloves upto his elbows. There is strobe lighting. There is repentant Shakti, singing in the aisles. There is doting mom doing the
nazar utaaro act in the wings.
And there is a purported cirrhosis of the liver. So, during the particularly tricky moves, Mithun supposedly has tremendous pain in his liver and holds on to his right flank!
Net net, all's well that ends well. People die of happiness seeing Romeo come back. Shakti dies catching a bullet intended for Romeo. Amrish dies because he needs to give his enlarged eyeballs some rest.
And the audience goes home in a state of ecstatic delirium.

I have seen this film just once. And despite that some twenty years later, I remember reasonably large chunks of the film in scene-by-scene detail. Quite amazing, this points out the pull of a seemingly hackneyed plot, charisma of the lead stars and the melody of Bappi Lahiri's music.
And even after writing reams, I still have not told you that Shakti Kapoor's name is Resham. Or, Mithun calls Dalip Tahil Banjo sahab. In one scene, Mithun mistakes a lightning bolt as a photo flash and poses. Mithun gets an agent called David (played by Om Shivpuri). Even in Disco Dancer, he had an agent called David (played by Om Puri). So on and so forth...
Such is the Mithun magentism. Hallelujah!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

James Bond, RIP

I saw a very good action film last Sunday. It was called Quantum of Solace.
Before the film, I was led to believe that this was the latest in the James Bond series but evidently that was not correct.

In the opening scenes, the hero (in an Aston Martin) evades three villainous cars behind him in a breathtaking display of vehicular stunts over a rugged terrain. At the end of the adrenaline pumping sequence, he opens the boot of the car to reveal an abducted man and says, "Time to get out".
In another scene, a beautiful Secret Service agent tells our hero that if he tries any funny business, she would have him chained and jailed. In response, the hero smiles and says, "we will see about that." His companion almost prods him - "Does she have handcuffs?" And our hero laboriously says, "I am banking on it."

FOR GOD'S SAKE, IS THIS WHAT JAMES BOND - THE JAMES BOND - SUPPOSED TO SAY AND DO?

Does anybody among the producers and directors even know what James Bond stands for? Is it only having gigantic sets, orchestrated car crashes and killing megalomaniacs intent on world domination?
If I wanted to total a desert hideout of a villain, I would employ Schwarzenegger and a machine gun. If I wanted to kill millions of enemy soldiers, one Stallone is more than enough. Jumping over buildings is something Vin Diesel does in his sleep. Hell, if I wanted to disintegrate Pakistan, there is always Sunny Deol and his hand pump.
But when James Bond kills a villain with a spear gun, I don't expect him to stop there and gasp for breath. I expect him to say, "I think he's got the point." And then, maybe adjust his tux.
Or when he electrocutes a villain, he finds it "Shocking, positively shocking."
This is why I go to see a Bond movie.

Bond is supposed to terminate mega-villains. Effortlessly. He is supposed to have a gun (a smart Walther PPK, not an ugly machine gun) in one hand and a stunning woman draped on the other. He is supposed to know about the finer things in life. And he has to - has to, has to - have a sense of humour.
Also, if the stunning lady has a stunning name, it will be kinda cute!

So you have Pussy Galore. Holly Goodhead. Plenty O'Toole. Xania Onatopp. May Day. Honey Rider.
And you have Dr Christmas Jones (in The World is Not Enough) about whom Bond famously remarked during an intimate encounter, "And I thought Christmas comes only once a year..."
In Quantum (probably for the first time in the history of Bond movies), the real name (Olga Kurlyenko) of the actress playing the Bond Girl was more exotic than her screen name (Camille). And in an act of supreme sacrilege, a second girl is steadfastly referred to as Agent Fields. Only in the titles is it mentioned that her full name is actually Strawberry Fields.
Bloody hell!
Of course, when Craig kisses her back in an allegedly passionate scene, he does it the way people taste pasta sauce off a very hot ladle. If he is supposed to be charming by just flashing his eight-pack (or is it sixteen-pack?) abs, then somebody has very wrong ideas about the series.

Bond is supposed to be a little heartless about women.
In Tomorrow Never Dies, he left Paris (the girl, not the city!) for several years after going out by saying, "I'll be right back." He had just one love story - when he married Teresa in On Her Majesty's Secret Service - and he is supposed to be a suave rake all through.
To show a person who is grieving for his dead girlfriend for two movies, you need to have Hugh Grant who can mumble and stutter through his non-existent one-liners.
For heaven's sake, Bond got over his wife's death in half a film.

Bond villains are supposed to be big enough.
They try to rob an entire country's gold reserves. They attempt to start wars between superpowers. They try to siphon off billions of barrels of oil. They make off with satellites and nuclear bombs.
And in Quantum, we have a villain who looks like our Engineering Mechanics professor from college and whose ambitions are not any higher. I am not divulging the apparent ambitions of Dominic Greene to avoid spoilers but either I misunderstood the plot or a self-respecting MLA from UP has larger designs than him.
Where is Goldfinger's son? Or Dr No's surviving henchman? Can they please come back and try to assassinate Barack Obama on January 20th?

Dear Producers of Bond Movies -
Do you even realise why we like to see Bond movies? Because he is a childhood hero. He does EVERYTHING that we can never do. Smart guns. Snazzy cars. State-of-the-art gadgets. Stupendous looking women. Unbelievably powerful villains. And he handles all of them so bloody well. We can never do any of this and therefore, we look forward to the escapism of two hours.
Maybe this Bond film (thanks to the absolutely brilliant marketing and PR) will just shovel in the dough by getting millions of women and Van Damme fans to see something they want to see. But for little boys in their mid-30s, it is the loss of yet another childhood hero.
As if that was not enough, even Sachin may retire in another couple of years...

For some convoluted reason understandable to only ladies and Ross Geller, Daniel Craig never says the signature line in the film. Before I saw the film, it was a bit disappointing to know that the iconic line would not be there.
Now, I feel it is a blessed relief. Because the handsome man in the tuxedo could have been anybody in the world but not Bond, James Bond.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Man Who Never Listened to Anybody

Twelve years ago, for the first time in my life, I delayed going to a dinner to watch a cricket match. I was trying to catch an Indian scoring a century. My interest was not because the player was a fellow Bengali but because he was being reviled all over India as a 'quota candidate'. I remembered wondering if he was aware of the caustic reactions back home as he went about his silken cover drives. Seeing his winning smiles after each boundary, I concluded that he couldn't have. Nobody can perform under that kind of pressure.
But then, I did not know anything about Sourav Ganguly.

The Chairman of Selectors makes a public comment that he would not pick Sourav as long as he was alive! And yet, he does.
A highly respected international cricketer calls him a liar, mentally and physically unfit to play in the Indian team, let alone lead it. And yet, he comes back.
Sourav's poor running between the wickets. His obvious weakness against the rising delivery. His (initially) non-existent on-side play. All these shortcomings came to a nought when balance against that one thing that is being advertised by Dhoni these days - Zidd!

Over the years, I have had many favourite Ganguly moments... his zero-follow-through fours during his debut Test. His languorous sixes during the monumental 183. The raising of the bat after the incredible century in Brisbane. His wry smile after his half-century in the comeback at South Africa. His shy wave after the Nagpur victory.
But my favourite moment is the one which happened a few minutes after the most famous Sourav moment.
Everybody remembers Sourav taking off his shirt in the Lord's balcony (My son was there!) and screaming expletives while twirling it. What people don't discuss is right after that, he charged into the playing field and leaped onto Kaif in an alomost-deadly embrace, pinning the lad to the ground in an obviously painful gesture!
And that's what Sourav was all about. He discovered, developed and trusted an impressive line-up of Indian cricketers with a ferocity that commanded undying loyalty. He abused them on-field, he pushed them to the limits, he crushed them with his demands - but they lived and died for him. When Sourav was in the wilderness and he was the official persona non grata of the BCCI, at least three of his proteges (Yuvraj, Harbhajan and Sehwag) were publicly reprimanded by the Board for speaking their minds.
Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Kapil Dev were great players but each one of them fell short of being great captains. While their leading from the front was undeniably good, they either lacked the vision (Kapil) or the objectivity (Gavaskar) required to build a long-lasting, high-performing team. Even the Great Sachin was guilty of carrying on with Bombay players of questionable quality (including childhood friend Vinod Kambli) in the team.

With close to 20000 runs in international cricket, Sourav can easily claim to be among the foremost batsmen of India but definitely not among the greatest, whose legacy carries on beyond their cricketing lifetime.
Only as a captain, he stands unparalleled for having taken over the reins at the darkest hour of the nation's sporting history and turning out the only team in the world which can beat Australia regularly. The same team lost to Bangladesh as well... but then, Sourav is nothing if he is not unpredictable!

As he rides into the sunset, a thought struck me. Sourav is Sourav because he never did what others expected him to do. His debut. His captaincy. His successes. His failures. Everything was contrary to the expectations at the time.
We expected him to cut a sorry figure in the swinging pitches of '96 England. As a 'quota-candidate' becoming the captain, we expected him to load the team with Bengal teammates.
We expected him to crumble at the 'mental disintegration' of the Aussies. We expected him to be hounded out in the wilderness by a foreign coach, partisan selectors and their cronies.
He did the exact opposite.
Even in his last match, we expected him to equal Greg Chappell by scoring a century. He equalled Sir Don Bradman instead!

Now, we are waiting for him to write books, start coaching schools, captain Kolkata Knight Riders and appear as commentator. If his past is any indication, Sourav is not stopping at any of those.
He is plotting a comeback for the Fab Five. Imagine Kumble as the Indian coach, with Dravid as the batting consultant. Sachin is the Chairman of selectors and Laxman the South Zone representative.
And who do you think will be the BCCI President then?

See you soon, Dada!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

India Shining

From a window overlooking the Marine Drive thirty years ago, a dock worker looked out and relived the miserable times when he and his family were poor and unfed on the streets of Bombay.

From the same window last week, a supermodel looked out and saw her own face on a billboard for India's premier fashion label.

How the country has changed!