Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Supermen of Bollywood

Bitten by the Batman (and Spiderman) bug, I did a list - yes, I have not tired of them - of Bollywood superheroes. This was first put up on the IBNLive website (complete with a picture of Drona!) but I thought I should put it up here as well. 
So, here it comes - 2100 words of pointless Bollywood gyan. And you do know what to do if you like it, right

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Any hero who romances the heroine, plays badminton with her (including an under-the-leg shot), sings a song, fights off goons and mouths bombastic dialogue all within nine minutes of screen time is actually a superhero.(This sequence of events was performed by Jeetendra in Humjoli.)
Which means you could argue that all Bollywood movies of 1960s and 1970s are superhero movies. But here, we are restricting ourselves to people with specific superpowers (or gadgets with superpowers), cool costumes and preferably a secret identity. Thanks to our super-screenwriters, they also had super-cool lines. 

In his first lead role, Jackie Shroff was Hero. Almost immediately afterwards, he was Superhero in Shiva Ka Insaaf.
Shiva was a super-combo of super-heroes from many genres. His training regimen was straight out of Shaolin. His costume (mask and cape) was taken from Zorro. His mark-leaving ring was from Phantom. His common-man getup (and profession) was alarmingly similar to Clark Kent’s bespectacled, bumbling reporter routine.
Trained by a trio of ‘uncles’ (secularly called Ram, Rahim and Robert), Jackie Shroff went from being Bhola to Shiva and back again, romancing Poonam Dhillon by day and fighting crime also by day – all in a Herculean effort to catch the people who killed his parents.

Corrupt policeman by day, black-leather-chain-armguard-salt-and-pepper-wig-hair clad dispenser of justice by night. Amitabh’s first outing as a bonafide secret identity superhero was Shahenshah, the story idea of which is credited to Jaya Bachchan.
After his honest dad was driven to suicide by the evil machinations of JK (pronounced Jaay  Kaay by Amrish Puri), AB grew up to become a police officer who always flirted with bribery from shady characters (explained by his need to know who was, in fact, shady). And once he got to know, he appeared like a messiah in his jazzy leather costume beating up Olympic-sized wrestlers for running vice dens, stopping unlawful eviction of slum-dwellers and patrolling the empty streets of Mumbai’s western suburbs at night (Andheri raaton mein,  sunsaan rahon par…).
Apart from his super strength, breath that echoed far and wide and godly voice, he had that one superpower by which he impregnated the mothers of all villains in the world. As he claimed, “Rishte mein toh hum tumhare baap hote hain…”

Apart from the wannbe Supermans in Bollywood, there was a ‘real’ one. Puneet Issar was Superman in the film of the same name – which has been part of many discussions on the worst Indian movie ever.
As Shekhar, Puneet Issar breakdanced to Michael Jackson songs and then quickly changed into his red-brief-on-blue-costume get-up (complete with a lock of hair on the forehead) to fight crime. Dharmendra played the father (Jor El) who was forced the leave his son in the care of foster parents on Earth though he returned in ‘spirit’ to guide his son when he performed breathtaking feats like rescuing a hijacked plane by plucking it off the sky and lugging it on his shoulders (except the plane was rolling on its wheels and our good ol’ Superman was tiptoeing in front with his shoulder touching the side of the plane).

After reading about Superman, those who are despairing about the quality of special effects in Bollywood should take heart from another film that released around the same time. Boney Kapoor bet his house and brother’s career to produce Mr India – an invisibility caper, originally written for Amitabh Bachchan.
Arun Verma’s father was a scientist who invented a ‘faarmooolaaa’ that rendered people invisible – except in red light. <Insert red light district joke here> He knew evil monsters (especially those with names like Mogambo) would want to misuse his invention and so he hid the gadget (a blingy bracelet with flashing lights) and got killed by the monsters. Years later, his son recovered the bracelet, put it on and became Mr India.
Mr India took on adulterers, black marketers and smugglers in action settings and horny crime reporters in romantic ones. He eventually took on Mogambo in his den and was doing phenomenally well till somebody switched on all the red lights. Then Arun Verma realized that to take on villains, you didn’t need to be Superman but Mango Man.

Another father died. Another villain escaped. Another police officer looked the other way. When the dead man’s son prayed to the Bajrangbali for justice, a storm blew across the temple area. A hi-tech bow-and-arrow slid across from the Hanuman idol to the little boy and the idol’s garland flew over to the boy’s neck. Thus, Toofan was born.
Directed by Ketan Desai, Toofan a superhero with a desi-snazzy costume (black pathan suit with orange cape), explosive lines (Jab jab zulm ki aandhi badhti hai, tab tab usse rokne ke liye toofan aata hai) and a calling card that literally blew you away. Whenever Toofan arrived on the scene, he was accompanied by a real storm. Wow, that beats the Batmobile hollow!
Add to that deadly villains, shady police officers, a bumbling magician (who was Toofan’s twin brother), a mother character and you had a full-blown desi superstar/superman.

Ajooba = Zorro + Robin Hood + Braveheart + James Bond. 
He wore a mask, shot arrows, robbed the rich to donate to the poor, rebelled against the ruler and was a hit with women. He was, literally, a miracle. When the evil Vazir (Amrish Puri) of his Sultan father tried to kill him, a dolphin carried him to safety (and became his foster mother) and left him with an ironsmith. The burly ironsmith trained the anonymous prince in swordfighting, archery and catching arrows as he grew up to rebel against the Vazir, who kept intoning ‘Shaitaan Zindabaad’.
Finally, Ajooba made an appearance with a booming slogan – “Muddai lakh bura chahta hai toh kya hota hain / Wohi hota hai jo manzoor-e-khuda hota hai” – that became his calling card.
Throughout the movie, Amitabh Bachchan toggled between mild-mannered serai-owner Ali and masked crusader Ajooba. The final showdown happened between him and Fauladi Shaitan (a metallic giant, which looked like a cross between Johnny Sokko’s Flying Robot and Chewbacca) amidst demons, flying carpets, magic swords and the final revelation that Ajooba Shahzaada hai!

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Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd put a motley group of six newly-married couples on a bus to Goa and tracked their love, lust and lives as skeletons tumbled out of the closets.
Abhay Deol and Minissha Lamba formed the two super-compatible Parsi couple, who were together since childhood, wore colour-coordinated clothes, danced synchronously and even managed to finish Sudokus at exactly the same time. And they both had a secret to hide.
Aspi and Zara were – hold your breath – superheroes. They got their superpowers – it was hinted – when they were both caught in an asteroid fall. And that led to both of them vanishing in the dead of the night to fight crime. A cute bit of misunderstanding later, (Gasp! Are you cheating on me?) they went on to become a superer-compatible couple.

*** SPOILER ENDING *** SPOILER ENDING *** SPOILER ENDING *** SPOILER ENDING

Many superheroes have an extra-terrestrial connection. Usually, they are dropped off from a different planet/galaxy/universe. Krrish was from a strange breed whose father was ‘blessed’ by aliens to attain superpowers and those powers passed on to him.
While his father Rohit was born with slow mental growth and sharpened only after an alien intervention (Koi Mil Gaya), Krishna Mehra was born with superpowers. As a child, he drew fantastic pictures, did Std III maths while in Std I and totally cracked an ‘IQ Test’ (which was really a GK test, but still…) His paranoid grandmother took him away from the public eye so that he doesn’t get killed like his father but it is not easy to hide a hunk like Hrithik. He soon emerged racing (and beating) horses, leaping over mountains and displaying his rippling muscles.
Very soon, Krishna had landed up in Singapore following the love of his life and had ended up becoming Krrish – wearing a masquerade ball mask and his overcoat inside out. He then saved children in a burning circus, fought goons, leapt over cars in downtown Singapore and finally locked horns with a time-travelling evil scientist (who – conveniently – had also ‘killed’ his father) in his island hideout.
His job thus done, Krrish returned to his idyllic home in the hills but in the name of the oppressed masses, in the name of helpless children, in the name of the tormented box office… he will be back.   

Abhishek Bachchan tried his hand at being a superhero in the semi-mythological fantasy, Drona that went on to become one of the biggest box-office disasters of recent times.
He started off as mild-mannered Aditya, blissfully – or rather, painfully thanks to a cruel aunt – unaware that he was one of a long line of warrior princes designated to protect the vessel of amrit that emerged from the Manthan. His super-strength was unlocked by a ‘bodyguard’ (Priyanka Chopra, who put the body in the bodyguard), who moved around with a chandelier-like weapon. He donned a traditional Indian costume with a flowing kurta, churidar and sword (not to mention a jeweled headband) to take on his adversary, Riz Raizada (Kay Kay in the most inexplicable role of his career), a magician-asura with massive pointy sideburns and hair gelled to shape like a single black antenna on his head.
Despite ticking off all the boxed of superhero ingredients, Drona did not make an impact due to some very ordinary special effects, a slow – almost boring – buildup and super unfit AB Jr, whose cheeks jiggled when he took flying leaps.

From mythology and spiritual strengths, superhero movies moved into the hi-tech gaming zone with Ra.One.
The superhero G.One (Good One) emerged out of a video game that also had the titular villain Ra.One (Random Access One – huh?) in order to protect the game designer’s son. A cool blue-tinged suit, unblinking eyes and blinking heart formed the persona of the Good One as he took on his form-shifting adversary in a London car pound, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (in a mindblowing SFX-laden scene) and finally a video game.
SRK went from the mild-mannered geek Shekhar Subramaniam to the cool, robotic G.One in an effort to woo the family audience. Despite a lukewarm critical response, the box office was more responsive to his superhero act that included running on Mumbai local train sides, doing household chores super-efficiently and wooing Kareena Kapoor with Chammak chhallo dance steps.

Honourable Mentions
It’s a bird! It’s a plane!! It’s Govinda!!!
Dariya Dil, a nondescript movie by most standards, had an iconic superhero song in true Bollywood tradition. Govinda dressed up as Superman and Kimi Katkar was Spiderwoman for a song that has become so cult that the video has gone on to garner 8.7 million – yes, 87 lakh – views on YouTube. They zoomed over the Mumbai skyline before landing in a garden and singing a romantic duet (Tu mera Superman, main teri lady/ Ho gaya hai apna pyaar already) that scaled unprecedented heights of WTFness.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

KAT Le!

This is what newspapers call a 'Sales Promotional Feature'. Not very interesting content but pushes sales. If the first print run of Kitnay Aadmi Thay doesn't vanish from the markets immediately, there will be more. And be prepared for more KAT jokes like the one in the title of this post.

Koolkart Piece
Koolkart is a site that looks to make the shopping experience social through recommendations and interactions. I wrote a short piece for them on my love for Bollywood trivia.

On the positive side
Reviews have been generally positive. Bollywood agnostic Mad Momma is happy. As are Aneela and my cousin on the Flipkart page
ItchingToRead did the first review of the book - even before I had received my copy.
Abhishek and Suhel are self-confessed Bollywood trivia addicts. They seemed to have liked it too.
The venerable JAP called the book his 'current source of joy'. And Maryann laughed out loud at a couple of parts in book (while in office).
By and large, people seem to be liking the book. Though, one must admit the people who have read it are all hardcore Bollywood fans and therefore, part of the book's constituency.

Fanboy
I have been reading Anupama Chopra for nearly two decades now when she used to write on Bollywood editor for India Today. I have been a fan of hers for nearly decade now - ever since she wrote Sholay: The Making of a Classic. I sent her a copy of my book more for my own satisfaction than the thought that she might get any time to read it.
So, I was more than a little surprised when she tweeted this:

As a classmate pointed out, I behaved like a giggly teenager. On closer inspection, I realised she had made a marginally positive comment and probably just started on the book. But then, she wrote the book on Sholay. You know, the book on Sholay.


Now on YouTube
Recently, I had a small l(a)unch meet with some bloggers and contest-winners who answered this question correctly. In the group, there was Aashish Chopra who fiddled around with his iPhone and threatened to record my silly banter. I thought he was joking even though he mentioned that he had made a video on getting a refund from a phone company.
As it turned out, he did record me answering a few questions though I wandered off on a tangent very quickly. This recording and some cool editing resulted in a YouTube video with some snippets from the book, some squeaky-voiced pronouncements from me and scary visuals of my Dracula teeth.
I am so amazed at this output that I cannot even begin to describe it. Just watch it!


Kindle in the Wind
And finally, the Kindle edition of Kitnay Aadmi Thay is now available here.
At a paltry $7.99, it is a cheap, cheerful and environment-friendly way to know more about the opening sequences in Ramesh Sippy movies. Do buy, recommend and review it on Amazon.

And hello, kind souls in India -
Paper versions of the book are available for less than $3.99 at online and offline bookstores near you.

Helpful links available in the right panel (thoughtfully arranged in increasing order of price).
If I haven't said it already, BUY IT!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

27 in 58

I spent May and June in Bombay, on work. My team at work turned out to be fantastic and it almost became a paid holiday (wait, is my Boss reading?). In the 58 days I spent in Bombay, I ate in 27 different places. This is - by far - my best average over a sustained period of time.
So, I thought I will take a break from the book promotion and write about food instead. As I started to write, I realised I could not remember some of the food. Basically - If I could not remember the food, then it was not all that great.

HOTELS
ITC Grand Central, Parel - Landed up here for a alumni meet and managed to eat just before they wrapped up the buffet. After the uncountable bottoms ups that are mandatory when you meet old friends, I don't recall the food too much. The black daal was fantastic. They probably imported it from Bukhara Delhi.

Taj Exotica, Goa - Stayed here for a holiday and crammed ourselves with the Goanese delights. 5-star kitchens usually temper the local flavours but Exotica didn't do that too much. Oh - and their breakfast buffet was to die for. The amount of eggs and bacon I had was quite unbelievable.

NIGHT SPOTS / BARS
1000 Oaks, Pune - This was the nostalgia trip. My wife had done her Master's degree in Pune and we had to order the Barman's Pitcher in what was easily the most crowded nightspot I have seen in my life. People were standing on each other's feet, sitting on random stranger's table and the glass panel in front of the DJ looked to be under serious threat. The Barman's pitcher turned out to be Rooh Afza but the other cocktails were good, the music fantastic and the atmosphere electric. Highly recommended.

U-Turn, Khar - It is a sasta-sundar-tikau joint in the vicinity of the better-known WTF. Its entrance through a hotel has got to be the shadiest I have ever seen in a bar/pub. The rooftop ambience was much nicer. Ended up having lots of snacks and Bacardi while conducting deliciously inane conversations with college friends. IPL on the giant screen was almost not needed.

Blue Frog, Lower Parel - This is the place to be. Known for live gigs, it also has a menu serving cocktails and snacks. Who knows, maybe even main courses also. But I was there when Leslie Lewis was performing live and we were bidding farewell to a colleague. Which led me to an excess of LIIT and no recollection of the food.

ORIENTAL
Royal China, Bandra - My friends took me to this place, which managed to get us all excited by giving us an iPad to order. We tapped on the dishes we wanted to eat, sent them to a 'shopping card', saw the bill amount and 'confirmed the order'. The tastefully dressed (read: short skirted) ladies who seem to exist only within the borders of Bandra lived up the ambience but the food didn't stick too long.


Busaba, Lower Parel - Again, one of those places that are very nice without being memorable. Had a Khao Sway which was decent (though I like my wife's version better). It also made me realise that I have eaten too much at too many great places to get excited by just a good meal. (#WriteLikeVirSanghvi)

CONTINENTAL

Pali Hill Cafe, Bandra - This is supposed to be one of the 'cool' places, frequented by models. It sports a 'chic' run-down look, complete with an unobtrusive entrance near Pali Naka. The food was good without being spectacular and therefore, led to the feeling of overpricing.

Moshe's Cafe, Lower Parel - Located under a staircase of Palladium Mall, this is a coffee shop - the most over-priced one in the city, even by Bombay's exalted standards. I had a Rs 45 chocolate tart, which was about the size of a small pani-puri. The coffee and tea were good by general standards and passable considering the price they charged.

Indigo Deli, Lower Parel - Brilliant food. Understated ambience. I went with the intention of having a light meal and ended up polishing off a juicy tenderloin steak and half of my wife's Caesar salad. Me having a salad - yes, the place is that good!

Cafe Zoe, Lower Parel - This place was made famous due to a raid by ACP Vasant Dhoble (of Mumbai Moral Police Force) and the celebrity junky that we are, we had to be there. The food - though a little expensive - turned out to be fine. The best part was the space. Located inside one of those mill compounds, Zoe has a huge bar-cum-dining area on the ground floor AND a large dining area on the mezzanine.


Bungalow 9, Bandra - One of the those sprawling Bandra bungalows converted into a sprawling restaurant  serving people who seemed to have walked straight out of the supporting cast of Dil Chahta Hai. Had a great time withe some colleagues. Don't remember the food, though.

Candies, Bandra - Old favourite. What do I say that @FinelyChopped has not said already? I went there with Abhishek and we ended up eating pretty much everything that is usually left in Candies after 8 PM. And we had a delightful conversation on the lack of canons around Bollywood.


Touche, Pune - This is supposed to be Pune's 'sizzler place' and part of my wife and her friends' nostalgia trip. Either nostalgia puts a rose tint to everything or my wife's taste has evolved over the last decade (thanks to you-know-who), this was a bit of a let-down. Puneites don't share my sentiments, though. They were packing it in.

PAN INDIAN
Jumjoji, Bandra - Claiming to serve authentic Parsi food, they also offer a warning: "Offer open till Parsis last." A small restaurant (almost like a largish drawing room in a 2BHK flat), their food is excellent. Their Patrani Machhi is so good that we had one each. Yes, one full fish each. The Salli Boti was great too. Only their desserts weren't too great. But only a pig like me would attempt dessert after the amount of food I ate.

Arsalan, Khar - Mutton Biriyani and Chicken Chnaap for 4 people = Rs 730. You already know how good the biriyani is. Even Imtiaz Ali does. He was there partaking the pleasures.

Pal's Fish Corner, Bandra - I don't know where this restaurant is. I don't even know if they are restaurant or just a takeaway joint. I happened order in from them once and asked for Bheja Fry. Their Bheja Fry is prepared by batter frying little balls of brain. OH MY GOD. I cannot describe it. I cannot forget it. Let me just say, it is like an orgasm in your mouth.

The Golconda Bowl, Bandra - I wanted to have a meal here since I love Andhra food and @FinelyChopped recommended it heartily. Just when I had given up hope and it was our last evening out at a friend's place, they made my day by ordering in from this place. Their Patthar ke Kabab is to die for, to live for, to dedicate books to, to sing odes to.
Sing with me: Patthar ke kabab, tujhe maine mohabbat ka khuda maana... Don't laugh. It is that good.

Masala Craft, Bandra - It could be a typical office lunch place but it is much better than that - including a semi-open seating area. A competent Butter Chicken and a very good Yellow Daal should make you think it is a home-style place. Their Butter Naans convince you otherwise.

Diva Maharashtracha, Mahim - A sister restaurant of Goa Portuguesa, they serve the delights of Maharashtra from Kolhapur and Malwan. Mutton from the former province and fish from the latter (Hirva Rassa, to be precise) are most recommended.

Zaffar Bhai's Dilli Darbar, Mahim - Located a stone's throw from my office, their Mutton Biriyani was my standard lunch option. I had their number of speed-dial and ended up having their huge portion singlehandedly at least once every week. Their rolls aren't bad either.

COASTAL
Gajalee, Lower Parel - Old favourite. Opened with a Tandoori crab and followed it up with some fish curry. Since I was in the company of Bongs, much joy permeated through the table as we checked the size of the crab to be cooked. In hindsight, we consciously (and gleefully) ordered the death of a live being for the express purpose of our pleasure. But then, our ancestors didn't get us to the top of the food chain for nothing.

Jai Hind Lunch Home, Lower Parel - Great food. Cheap food. Sea food. Need I say more. Jai Hind Lunch Home has many branches spread throughout the desire, offering delicious pomfret, bangda and prawn within an arm's length of desire. They do home delivery. Their Fish Ambotik Curry had a low-profile brilliance that was quite memorable.

Mahesh Lunch Home, Fountain - The stunner. Their Butter Garlic Crab should be made mandatory for all last meals before execution.They also have a mean Tandoor Liver. Not to mention a Prawn Harimirch. We went there twice and both times, I wanted to die with a morsel for their food in my mouth.

Goa Portuguesa, Mahim - An old warhorse of the Mumbai eating scene, it has aged a bit since I came here last. Their Sorpotel is still very good as is their Bombil Fry (served with tartare sauce). Their decor is still garish but with all that pork and prawn around, who cares about the orange walls?

Martin's Corner, Goa - The old favourite of Goa. Their Lobster Thermidore is brilliant but too little (food) for too much (money). Otherwise, it is brilliant. Oh, did I say their pork is also brilliant.

Mum's Kitchen, Goa - This is Goa's best restaurant. There, I said it. The fabled shacks, the better known places, the model hangouts all pale in comparison to this place in Miramar. They are terribly full all the time and their servers never have time. But when a place is this good, you don't complain about the slow service. Waiting only makes the heart grow fonder.

My Favourite 5 Dishes (in no order):
- Pork Vindaloo - Mum's Kitchen
- Patrani Machhi - Jumjoji
- Bheja Fry - Pal's Fish Corner
- Butter garlic crab - Mahesh Lunch Home
- Patthar ke kabab - The Golconda Bowl
(Biriyani from Arsalan has not been considered for this list since it has now been inducted in my Hall of Fame.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Premiere of KAT

The good people of URead.com and Westland Books are running a picture quiz as part of a Kitnay Aadmi Thay? contest. 

Take a look at the image below and answer two simple questions:




1. Which movie is this poster from?
2. According to the movie, there is an error in this poster. What is it?

E-mail your answers to ureadshop@gmail.com, mentioning your complete contact details. 

If you participate, do leave a comment here. I will push for reservation of seats for Calcutta Chromosome readers.


Ten winners will be invited for lunch with me (among other people) on 14 July, Saturday at Zura, Sector-29, Gurgaon.
UnfortuNote: This contest is for Delhi-NCR folks only.