Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009

How can you have a blog and not have a best-of list? There is no answer to that question.
So without much ado, here's my list of 9 things from 2009 - in no particular order.
Call them favourite, liked-a-lot, look-forward-to-more, whatever. I liked them when they happened. I remember them till now. That's good enough for me, as I see Alzheimer's approaching me rather fast!


Indibloggies & Puffin Classics
I tried to be gracious, self-deprecating and all but couldn't. The salesman in me got all hassled and tried to achieve targets. Except that I did not know the target! In the end, I found it quite tremendous that more than 120 people took the pains to find their way and vote for me.
Two more Puffin Classics happened this year with the Notes section prepared by me. That takes the total count to 5 - Ray's Short Stories, Professor Shonku, Swami & Friends, Jungle Book and Tagore's Short Stories. My mother and mother-in-law were mighty pleased to see my name in print on a Penguin publication and when last heard, were broadcasting to all and sundry!


Bloggers becoming Authors
Two of my blogrollers became published authors in 2009 and two more are in the pipeline by the first quarter of 2010.
Bishwanath Ghosh's Chai, Chai got down at all those railway junctions where one always stops but never gets off. Mughalsarai, Itarsi, Guntakal, Jhansi. As an itinerant salesman, I passed by several of those stations a little before or after he did. Therefore, I could identify totally with the seedy lodges, stained bedsheets, alcohol-induced bonhomie and the almost incidental history of towns that everyone knows and no one cares about.
Amit Varma's My Friend, Sancho - for me - was the most predictable bestseller in recent times. I meant the predictability of the high sales and not the plot. A Mumbai crime-beat reporter's budding romance with an encounter victim's daughter was simple, but page-turning stuff.
GreatBong's May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss? promises to be the first extended look at 'sub-altern' pop culture while Sidin's Dork looks at cubicle culture with a vengeance. I am smacking my lips.

HT Blogs
I know Udayan will snigger at what he calls a 'soft plug' but the best thing to happen in the blogosphere this year was the starting of blogs by many of Hindustan Times' editorial team. Editors and journalists regularly blogged, responded to readers' comments and kept alive an intelligent conversation.
On eclectic topics. And with cool names! Sadak Chhaap. @Hindi Heartland. Expletives Deleted. Shoot at Sight. Separated at Birth. Dabs & Jabs. The Delhiwallah. 1/4th of Me. IndiGestion. Page One.
My three favourite ones are Soumya Bhattacharya's Page Turner (on books), Poonam Saxena's By The Way (on cinema and popular culture) and Samar Halarnkar's Daily Bread (on food).
No surprises when you read the topics, right?
A journalist-turned-blogger-turned-novelist, Soumya Bhattacharya published two books this year - All That You Can't Leave Behind (a spiritual sequel of his lovely cricket book, You Must Like Cricket?) and If I Could Tell You (a father's letters to his daughter). Have read the first, loved it and now looking forward to the second!

Amitabh Bachchan in Paa
I hear Hrithik Roshan is moving around in wheelchair nowadays to 'get into' the character for Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Guzaarish. Aamir Khan spent the last year building muscles for Ghajini and this year removing them for 3 Idiots. Everybody in Bollywood seems to be concentrating on one film so intently that they don't have time for anything else.
In 2009, Amitabh Bachchan shot for Aladin (as a good genie in a disastrous film), Teen Patti (as a maths wizard, along with Ben Kingsley), Rann (as a heroic media baron), Binani Cement (sadiyon ke liye...) and Paa.
When you see the film, don't watch his face (which is covered with prosthetic makeup). Watch his body language and listen to his voice. You will realise how good an actor can be with minimum fuss.
You will laugh at the con of the other actors. And if you are a parent, you will cry as well.

Rajkumar Hirani & Anurag Kashyap
Ashutosh Gowariker would do well to note that while he has been making ponderous films providing social and historical perspective and protesting against jokes of awards show hosts, much better filmmakers are at work.
Rajkumar Hirani made us laugh. Made us cry. Think. Cheer. Boo. Love. Hate. Enjoy. In 3 Idiots, he showed a command over audience emotions not seen in any Bollywood director for a very long time. In the end, he made us want another chance because we wanna grow up once again.
Anurag Kashyap made two films this year - Dev D and Gulaal. Both gave the word 'edgy' a new dimension as self-destructive romance and college politics were treated like never before. Sexually liberated, ambitious heroines. Innovative shot compositions. Completely fresh musical styles. And no heroes - only protagonists.


The Small Bengali Film
Thanks to Ray, Ghatak and the several middle-of-the-road filmmakers in Bombay, Bengal has always carried the onus of being the place which breeds 'intelligent' films. Several nice films have been made by some young directors in the last few years but 2009 saw several 'small films' that touched a chord.
Anjan Dutta, singer-composer-filmmaker, directed Chalo, Let's Go about a group of four youngsters (named after the quartet in Ray's Aranyer Dinratri) who start a travel company. They take a motley crowd of wanderlusting Bengalis all over North Bengal amidst chaos, politics and great music.
Rituparno Ghosh made Shob Choritro Kalponik, starring Bipasha Basu but had her voice dubbed by someone else. A slightly stylised film, I did not care for it all that much for, had an interesting story about a career-woman's marriage to an eccentric poet. This was on the back of Khela (made last year), about a director's relationship with a child-actor he kidnaps to act in his film.
Antaheen - the second film after Anuranan by Aniruddha Chowdhury - was an intelligent film about modern relationships. Starring Rahul Bose, Aparna Sen and Sharmila Tagore, the film - though a little slow in parts - managed to make a decent impression.
One film I have heard a lot about but haven't seen till now is Madly Bangali. But from the title, I would say that I will probably like it.


175 @ 35
I turned 35 this year. Over the last few years, I have received several certificates of my old age. My favourite songs from college turning up in retro shows. Barbers wanting to dye my hair. Adults calling me uncle. So on and so forth. And the price one pays for becoming 'mature' is a bit of jadedness that creeps in life. It takes a lot to get excited. Especially in the context of cricket, where there is such an overdose of everything that momentous scores and statistics pass us by without touching us.
It was different on my 35th birthday. On 5 November, Sachin Tendulkar - a man older than me by about a year - played an innings of such scintillation that I had never seen before. I laughed. I clapped. I jumped on the couch. I gnashed my teeth. I called friends and screamed abuses. As the man went on to score 175 in 141 balls - my favourite ODI innings ever.
He could not take India to victory that day but he did something even more miraculous. He made this 35 year feel like 15 once again.
I could not have hoped for a better birthday gift!

Delhi 6
In 2009, Rehman was celebrated and toasted the world over for one of his most mediocre albums - Slumdog Millionaire. A very good album by any standards, except Rehman's.
This year also saw him come up with Delhi 6, an album of mind-blowing range and creativity making it the best album of the year in my book.
Mohit Chauhan's open-throated ode to the dreamer, Masakkali. The abject helplessness of the petitioner in Marammat muqaddar ki kar de maula. And of course, the ode to the City of Djinns - Yeh Delhi hain mere yaar, bas ishq mohabbat pyaar.
Prasoon Joshi matched the maestro with his lovely lyrics and described Delhi eschewing all the cliches. After Rang De Basanti and Ghajini, this is another rocking album from the deadly Prasoon-Rehman combo. Wish they worked oftener!

Bheja Fry
Not the film. I mean the food.
My wife and I have always been big fans of brain (in a gastronomical way). In a physical way, we are fans of stomach! This year, we binged on it throughout.
It started off with an Amritsari food festival in our neighbourhood club in Gurgaon. There is something terribly exciting about a scalding-hot tawa, lots of animal organs arranged along its edge and an expert pair of hands cooking them all together with lots of spice. We got excited.
As if on cue, a takeaway joint called Wah Amritsar opened in the vicinity. Using copious quantities of pure ghee, they served large helpings of mutton chops, chicken tikka and the like. Their most rocking dish is Bheja Masala - best served hot with some chapatis. Slurp!
Towards the end of the year, my wife managed to sneak an Amritsari Tawa in her brother's wedding menu. I say sneaking because the young fellow hates bheja. But when has that stopped us?
Tonight, we have chosen a new year's party venue solely on the fact that it has bheja on its menu!

Calcutta Chromosome wishes its readers a very Happy New Year. See you in 2010.
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