Saturday, April 23, 2011

Random Movies I Like: Love Story

An inquisitive reader sent me a mail a few days back to know the 'selection criteria' for the movies that come under Random Movies I Like. Are they my favourite movies? Are they unnoticed gems? Are they part of some in-joke? Well, the answer is 'all of the above' and yet 'none of the above'...
I have written about these movies basis some immediate stimulus, which reminded me of their impact when I was first saw them. It could be a re-run on TV, a chat with a friend, a real-life situation similar to a scene or an advertisement based on the film/scene.

For the latest in the series, it is this ad series that reminded me of one of the biggest hits of 1980s and made me feel a little guilty that I have only written about Love Story in the context of its hero (whose later films - quite inexplicably - flopped) and his being missing-in-action thereafter.
This is unfair because when I first saw the film, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Rajendra Kumar loves Vidya Sinha who loves Danny and marries him. They have a baby daughter called Pinky (cho chweet). Rajendra Kumar marries somebody else and has a son Bunty (cho cho chweeet). Love Story was the story of their initial hatred, intermediate romance, parental opposition, elopement and eventual union. I will desist from describing the details of these - not even the sub-plot of Amjad Khan as a bumbling hawaldar who handcuffs them together and a reasonably large part of the film is spent trying to uncuff themselves.
Because this is what happens when I last tried that.
A typical 80s-style teeny-bopper romance, Love Story had an unknown lead pair, a predictable plot, locales and completely forgettable supporting cast.
But - and this is the biggest but of them all - it had a dynamite of a soundtrack. The kind that sticks in your mind. The kind that gets made into an ad jingle thirty years after the film is released.    

So, here are my five reasons why I still love Love Story.

Yeh ladki zara si deewani lagti hain
This is the Coke tune and the parraparrapapapa parraparrapapapa that adds the zing to a set of evidently silly ads.
Bunty gatecrashes a picnic with a plastic snake and starts taking pot-shots at the prettiest girl in the group. The girl responds and there is a peppy number, reminiscent of the best of Nasir Hussain films. If I am not mistaken, this was the first song of the film and Amit Kumar matched Asha Bhnosle note for note - even managing to bring in the romantic energy that his father made his own.

Kya ghazab karte ho jee
Asha Bhnosle and Aruna Irani never age - Old Bollywood saying.
It happens in a contrived situation where the 'teenaged' Bunty is to be given a taste of adulthood by a Mrs Robinson-like prostitute, as Vijayeta Pandit hides behind curtains. Aruna Irani - in a slit skirt - does the usual Bollywood foreplay routine by singing songs instead of any real seduction. But with Asha Bhosle's voice, nobody really minds.

Kaisa tera pyaar tere gussa hain sanam
This is your standard-issue Bollywood roothna-manana song.
Bunty and Pinky elope and set up a Utopia in the middle of the woods. He cuts woods. She keeps house. They murmur sweet nothings to each other. Eventually, to prove that this is not a Disney Film, they have a fight. Pinky goes with lunch to Bunty. And in this super-cliched situation, we have this song.
Partly because of Amit Kumar and partly because of the twinkling melody, the song rises many notches above the situation.

Dekho maine dekha hain yeh ek sapna
For those detail-oriented souls who are thinking when did they set up the aforementioned Utopia, here is the song when they did!While looking for food, water and air, they happily jumped and skipped as the song happened.
What else? Arre what what-else? Gaana suno...

Teri yaad aa rahi hain
Pop Quiz: The lead pair sing a happy song. They get sad, get happy once again and sing a song. Now they get separated - usually by warring families - and they sing a sad song. This is that sad song.
Except that the real judaai hasn't happened yet (or that's what I remember). Bunty and Pinky lose each other in the forest (which was probably the grounds of the Shimla Club) and sing a plaintive number. And as plaintive numbers go, this is as good as they get.

Now look at the range.
One nos. seduction. One nos. masti. One nos. romantic - sad. One nos. romantic - happy. One nos. romantic - peppy. All the mandatory elements that made an 80s soundtrack were there. Unfortunately, there was no megalomaniac villain in the mix or else there would have been a rocking pre-climax cabaret also!
Nowadays, every film seems to have a mood and the soundtrack follows that mood. But then, over three hours, moods change a million times (or at least five times) and there should be songs to match that. This realisation died with the age of genius composers.
So we have to lift 30-year old tunes for jingles.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Following Fish: A KKR Fan's Perverse Pleasures

Following a sports team is full of heartbreaks.
Especially for those of us grew up in the 1980s and 1990s. We were seduced into a game by a victory at its highest stage. At that time, none of us understood the game well enough to grasp the fact that the victory was a fluke. And for years after that, we had to endure heartbreaks.
Heroes and heartbreaks. But heartbreaks nevertheless.

All of that started to change in the 2000s. It was a little slow to start with. But after a few hiccups, it picked up momentum in the later part of the decade.But we - or at least, I - were not prepared for this.
After two decades of losing after Sachin scoring a century and losing after Sachin scoring 18, I was so not prepared for this. After twenty years of seeing Sachin picking up the Man of the Series trophy with his usually stoic expression, it was such a surprise shock to see him drenched in champagne.

Now, nostalgia is a strange thing. When the going is bad, you think of the rosy past. But when the going is good, you - well, this is strange - miss the perverse glamour of the struggling past.
It is only when Amitabh Bachchan becomes a superstar does his stories of spending nights on Marine Drive sound cool. Similarly, when we have Sachin with the World Cup in front of the Gateway of India, the time that he scored 137 in a losing cause sounds like a Greek tragedy - sublime.
And that (after this long-winded introduction) is the utility of Kolkata Knight Riders.

For three seasons, KKR has been a reprise of the India team of the 1990s.
Gallant performances and passionate fans overseeing spectacular defeats. Experts tearing apart overpaid stars. Last-ball snatches of defeat from jaws of victory. Rifts between coaches and captains. Team playing substantially lower than the sum of its parts. Brilliant individual heroics falling short of the target. Sounds familiar? Yes, KKR was all that and more. It even had a faux-insider revealing lurid details of the team. Wow - that was like even worse better than India 90!
They even had Ajit Agarkar. Shit - they were only missing Kambli.

But even that seemed to change.
At the beginning of IPL4, the team had a brand new squad. They had a dashing batsman in Gautam Gambhir. Big hitters like Yusuf Pathan. Dependable veterans like Jacques Kallis. Exciting new finds like Ryan Doeschate. And even local lads like Bengal captain, Manoj Tiwari.
They seemed like a team that could win.
But the consensus was that they were one captain short.

And they are back to square one.
They lost to Chennai - but only just. They beat Deccan - reasonably well. They look like beating a few more teams comfortably and making the final four for the first time in four years.

Yet...

There are empty stands in their home ground. Fans are distributing leaflets exhorting others to boycott home games. Which is prompting the owner to make unconvincingly placatory noises in the general direction of the the ousted captain.
For the KKR fans who love the maverick captain, it is sad that he is not with the team in any capacity. For the fans who love the charismatic owner, it must suck to see King Khan pleading for the sake of filling a few seats. 

Come tomorrow today, Kolkata will play Rajasthan on Bengali New Year's Day.
And just like the 1990s, fans will have their minds on things other than cricket. When we beat better teams then, we used to wonder if the match was fixed. When our captain was down, the coach kicked him in the teeth. When Sachin scored a century, captains took strange decisions and lost us matches.
Now fans, instead of enjoying the cricket, will wonder if they are being disloyal to their Prince by watching the match. Not the happiest way to celebrate New Year.

But then, we have seen testing times. We have practice.
Even when we saw Australia pummeling us, we prayed for that Sachin century. Now we can cheer Gambhir on while accepting that he's not the best left-handed batsman-captain KKR could have had.
So yes, bring it on - Warnie!
And GO, KKR!!

Shubho Nabobarsho.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sachin Bhaumik: A Tribute

One of the biggest cliches - and lies - of Bollywood is when an actor says, "I decide on the basis of the script". It is never the script. If it was, Habib Faisal, Jaideep Sahni and Anurag Kashyap should have been on more magazine covers.
And  that's why Sachin Bhaumik passes on almost unnoticed. There was much more outpouring of grief on Twitter and Facebook for Bob Christo (fully deserved, that) than for him. In fact, there's almost no mention of Sachin Bhaumik anywhere. Sad, considering that his first record-smashing blockbuster happened in 1964 (Ayee Milan Ki Bela) and the last happened in 2006 (Krrish).

Master filmmakers like Rakesh Roshan, Subhash Ghai, Naseer Hussain, Shakti Samanta and Hrishikesh Mukherjee have worked with him again and again - delivering hit after hit. He has written off-beat stories, masala formulae, star vehicles and even Hollywood rip-offs (Daraar based on Sleeping with the Enemy and Karobaar based on Indecent Proposal come to mind).
When you see the range of films he has written, it just takes your breath away.
So here, ladies and gentlemen, is a random selection of my favourite Sachin Bhaumik screenplays.
For some, he has written the stories as well but his forte - in my humble opinion - has been his screenplays, with a very expert build-up of events going into a satisfying climax.

An Evening in Paris
The standard issue story of twins growing up on two sides of the law was given a radical twist by making the twins female. Very sexy females. Sharmila Tagore played the docile daughter of an Indian daughter as well as a cabaret  dancer in a Paris night club with aplomb switching between sarees and skiing, bindis and bikinis in almost every alternate scene.
The story - almost like a Sheldon plot - moves from Paris to Switzerland to Beirut to India (flashback) and finally to Niagra Falls for a breathtaking climax. The story had space for about seven hit songs, romance, emotion, comic relief, sensuality-just-bordering-on-but-not-spilling-on-to-sexuality and even the Grand Indian Sacrifice.Whew!

Aradhana
This was the film that transformed Rajesh Khanna from a superstar to fan-mail-in-blood superstar. An Air Force pilot woos, sings songs with, impregnates and dies on The Iconic Indian Woman who goes from simpering girlfriend in pigtails to sensuous seductress in orange towel to suffering mother in white saree (and chalked wig). Don't laugh at the cliches because these plot points hadn't become hackneyed when Sachin Bhaumik wrote them. In fact, he orchestrated them to build an emotional crescendo which starts with the death of Rajesh Khanna I, gets a boost with the re-emergence of Rajesh Khanna II in yet another dashing Air Force uniform and finally climaxes in a public awards function where both mother and son get awarded for bravery (figuratively and literally).
Many people predicted the end of Sharmila Tagore's stardom when she agreed to play a grey-haired widow for half the film. They obviously hadn't bargained for a screenplay like this one.

Andaz
Another temple wedding? Another unwed mother? But the twist was different here.
Rajesh Khanna dies. Hema Malini moves on with their son. And meets widower Shammi Kapoor. Before the super-success of Seeta Aur Geeta, Ramesh Sippy directed Hema Malini in this serious romantic drama and conjured a hit out of nowhere. When veteran producer GP Sippy's maverick son started work on his first feature film with such an offbeat subject, the industry predicted doomsday but then as he went on to show a couple of films later, that was his forte. As was Sachin Bhaumik's.
But now that you think about it, this off-beat story had great music, high-octane melodrama, multiple sub-plots. And all of it building into a satisfying climax. What else do you want from a filmi story?  

Khel Khel Mein
Naseer  Hussain's brand of frothy college romances had some trademarks and some twists. In this one, Humne tumko dekha was the trademark and the murdered jeweler was the twist.
The problem expectation from college romance was almost always romantic rivalry and/or parental opposition. In this case, Sachin Bhaumik dispensed with both and brought in a murder and got the happy, chirpy Rishi-Neetu-Rakesh Roshan running for their lives, away from a murder they didn't commit. Try telling the laconic Iftekhar that because they had their prints over every clue in a hurry!
Don't worry, Mr Bhaumik - with a little help from fellow Bong, Mr Dev Burman - got them out after a roller-coaster!

Golmaal 
What can I say except you guys need to close your mouths and start clapping. Who would have thought that the screenplay of this classic had to be written? Taking a story by one Sailesh Dey, the lives of the double set of non-existent twins were set in maniacal (to put it mildly) screenplay by Bhaumik.
When you see the sequence of scenes that start with the job interview (Aap Black Pearl ke baare mein kya jante hain?), go on to establish Ramprasad's professional credentials (Badebabu, usko is mahine sau rupyah conveyance bhi dijiyega) and finally lead to the birth of Laxmanprasad, you realise it is a triumph of great screen-writing. Both the screenplay and the dialogue (by Rahi Masoom Reza, yet another unsung Bollywood talent) were marvelous.
As was the rest of the film.

Karz
The rebirth drama had a rebirth. 
When we talk about Karz, we inevitably end up discussing Simi Garewal's icy villainy, RD's soul-stirring music and Subhash Ghai's showmanship. But a word of commendation has to be reserved for the screenwriter who took the hoariest of Bollywood cliches and turned it into a gripping film.
In true Bollywood tradition, there were a host of exciting scenes - my favourite being the one in which Rishi Kapoor plays the guitar with electrodes stuck on to this head. As the famous Karz tune comes on, a (presumably) brain-scan machine (that looks suspiciously like an ECG machine) blips into action. Scenes of the previous life start popping up in negatives and... And the game is afoot!
Three decades later, people are still paying tribute. Some brilliant. Some terrible. But tributes nevertheless.

Saudagar
Again, a triumph of Bollywood screenwriting with the screenplay by Bhaumik and dialogue by Kamlesh Pandey. Had written a sort-of tribute here, which is really all about the scenes and the lines. And there are very few Bollywood films that stand out for that.

These are my favourites. And yours too. Only, you probably didn't know it till now.
That's the tragedy of Bollywood. We don't respect our writers. And a charismatic star like Ranbir Kapoor ends up delivering badly written gags in TV ads.
In the words of a Sachin Bhaumik character - "Yahin toh maar kha gaya Hindustan..."

Friday, April 01, 2011

India vs Pakistan: A Rivalry Review

SALES PROMOTION FEATURE: This is a chapter from my book on the World Cup (available on Flipkart at 35% discount - nudge nudge wink wink!), which could be relevant in the light of the semi-final. 
Before the Final, I will post the chapter on the Longest Names in International Cricket, which is monopolised by our worthy rivals!

India and Pakistan were part of one nation at one point of time, which charges the atmosphere both ways when they face each other on a sporting arena. Both the teams have been blessed with great talent down the ages and that has led to nail-biting contests. Unfortunately, due to political reasons, there were often large periods when there were no sporting ties between the nations.
There has been hatred. Supporters said that it did not matter if their team lost a tournament as long as they defeated the other. Conversely, there have been effusive gestures whenever the two countries played. When India toured Pakistan in 2004, a banner borrowed a Hindi film title to proclaim, “Pyaar to hona hi tha”.     

Pakistan is considered to be the fount of some exceptional fast bowlers – among the best in the world. India – quite symmetrically – is home to some of best batsmen of modern cricket. Be it Imran Khan versus Sunil Gavaskar or Sachin Tendulkar versus Shoaib Akhtar, the competition has always been intense in an India-Pakistan match. And the atmosphere electric.

In the playing history of the two countries, three matches can be identified at which there has been a shift of momentum. These matches have come about a decade apart and have been representative of the cricket that was played in the subsequent years.
In the initial years of ODIs (till April 1986), there was very little ODI cricket that was played between India and Pakistan and the honours were equally shared.

Total Matches
India Win
Pakistan Win
No Result
India Win %
Till 17 April 1986
16
8
7
1
50%

18th April ’86 
In Sharjah, the finals of Australasia Cup saw the first tectonic shift. Javed Miandad hit a six off the last ball of the match when four runs were required. With that one shot, Javed Miandad tilted the balance decisively in Pakistan’s favour for nearly a decade. Whenever Pakistan played India, they seemed to have a psychological edge that often weakened a superior-on-paper Indian team. Especially in Sharjah (the venue of that shot), India seemed to have a terrible record against them. 
India (245/7 in 50 overs, K Srikkanth 75 in 80 balls, Sunil Gavaskar 92) lost to Pakistan (248/9 in 50 overs, Javed Miandad 116 in 114 balls).

Total Matches
India Win
Pakistan Win
No Result
India Win %
18 April ’86 to 8 March 1996
25
4
20
1
16%

9th March ’96 
India defeated Pakistan in an electrifying World Cup quarter-final after Ajay Jadeja playing the innings of a lifetime and the Pakistani middle-order was not able to capitalize on a blistering opening partnership.
In a very symbolic result, India beat Pakistan – which was also Javed Miandad’s last ODI. Till the moment he was there, there seemed to be hope for Pakistan, however hopeless the Required Run Rate looked. With his departure in a run out, India swung the momentum – not only of the match but for future face-offs as well.
India (287/8 in 50 overs, NS Sidhu 93, Ajay Jadeja 45 in 25 balls) defeated Pakistan (248/9 in 49 overs, Saeed Anwar 48 in 32 balls, Aamer Sohail 55 in 46 balls).

Total Matches
India Win
Pakistan Win
No Result
India Win %
9 March 1996 to 28 February 2003
44
17
25
2
39%

1st March ’03 
Yet another World Cup match, which was billed as the battle between Sachin Tendulkar and Shoaib Akhtar and settled in the second over of the Indian innings when the Master Blaster derailed the Rawalpindi Express.
18 runs came off the over (1w-0-1-0-2w-6-4-4) and it gave India enough momentum to tide over some mid-innings jitters to win yet another battle of nerves. After Sachin’s departure, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh took India to victory quite easily, with nearly 5 overs to spare.
Pakistan (273/7 in 50 overs, Saeed Anwar 101, Zaheer Khan 10-0-46-2) lost to India (276/4 in 45.4 overs, Tendulkar 98 in 75 balls, Yuvraj 50*, Dravid 44*)    
Post this match, there was one more movement of the momentum towards India as their success record improved even further.

Total Matches
India Win
Pakistan Win
No Result
India Win %
1 March 2003 to end-2009
33
16
17
0
50%

Also, with more and more matches being played between the countries, the camaraderie has improved.
The pressure to win was still there and a match with Pakistan still had that must-win edge. But we enjoyed it more!

* * * * *
What? Still not impressed enough to buy the book? What rubbish?