Thursday, June 29, 2006

Reel life Bombay. Part 2



As part of my ongoing series on Bombay in movies, here's my take on "Satya". Just a recap - this series is a free-wheeling mix of Bombay in movies and about what the author (self and a couple of guest writers) felt when he/she saw it. Life, alive in the movies and in Bombay.

Satya (1998): From his first shot coming out of (where else?) VT Station to his dead body being turned by Inspector Khandilkar’s foot, Satya’s story was born amidst the dance bars, tabelas and jails of Bombay. And died a miserable death in a dingy house. The dark underbelly of Bombay and the politician-gunda nexus has rarely been shown as starkly in Hindi cinema as it has in Satya. Other than those oft-heard phrases, the word “raw” typically goes into any review of Satya.

Some scenes that I can never forget - Bhikhu Mhatre shouting out “Mumbai ka raja kaun? Bhikhu Mhatre!” on the rocks of Band Stand. Or Bhikhu pumping bullets into friend-turned-foe Guru, saying in anguish to Satya – “saala, dono ne same item ko bajaya tha”. And of course, the brilliant climax sequence shot amidst thousands of people at Chowpatty during Ganpati visarjan.

I saw Satya with my friends on a rain-soaked evening at Eros near Churchgate. We came in half drenched and reached home almost fully wet. We saw it a time when all of us were at an uncertain stage in our careers. Not that we fancied ourselves as goons. Not that we didn’t know crime didn’t pay. We saw on screen what we used to see in the papers. And sometimes had seen in real life. But most of all, we loved the crazy bunch in Bhikhu’s gang. The cigarettes, the booze, the drunkenness and the attitude.

In the years that followed, we danced to “Goli maar bheje main” when we were single, and “Sapne mein milti hai” when one of us got married. And on sobering down we talked about the times in our lives when we saw “Satya”. Even if the movie’s forgotten, the friendship isn’t.

This was Part 1: Filmiholic's take on Salaam Bombay.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Reel life Bombay. Part 1

Starting this week, I’m kicking off a series on Bombay in movies. Guest-writing on my blog is Filmiholic. Based out of New York, Filmiholic is an avid lover of Hindi movies. And she’s not even Indian.

We should be joined by a couple of other people, depending on their availability. Between us we will be talking movies, talking Bombay, talking the whole lot of emotions that this one city evokes in its viewers and how it’s a separate character in a movie. With its own identity, its own presence – sometimes even towering above its actors. Think of this as a chota Bambaiya film festival being held across New York and Bombay.

First, here’s how Filmiholic describes Bombay

A salaam to Bombay
“The first movie memory I have of Bombay was not actually a Bollywood one. I was living in Madrid and had gone to one of the art house cinemas to see Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay. It was a long time ago and three memories stood out the strongest: the boys singing and dancing along to a Sridevi number in Shekar Kapur's Mr. India, Nana Patekar's magnetic and simultaneously menacing presence, and the gullible white tourist at the Gateway of India buying drugs.

The first thing that strikes me about the city is the architecture which reminds me of Belfast. Those ponderous brick buildings, for which, I guess, both cities have the Brits to thank for. So much of what I've come to love about Bombay is the fact that it reminds me of other cities I love. But it has its own particular Bombay/Indian twist to it.

As a native New Yorker, how could I not love a city that is also a magnet to so many other people? Just substitute our Italians, Mexicans and Senegalese for your Gujratis, Tamilians, Punjabis, et al and there you are. Then there's the fact that this pullulating city lives on top of the ocean, where prime seafront real estate is all piled up with high-rises, and it reminds me of the sensuous Rio de Janeiro, with the slight (but significant) difference that Mumbaikars don't run around quite as scantily dressed (yet) as so many cariocas do !”

Kick-starting the series is Filmiholic’s take on Salaam Bombay.


Salaam Bombay (1988): Mira Nair’s brilliant movie was my introduction to Hindi Cinema and to Bombay. So many details are familiar, having seen them on screen and in real life. I look at the scene where Krishna runs alongside the taxi that Sola Saal, the young Nepali girl, rides in, and I flash back to my first arrival in Bombay. The young girls begging for money, rapping with small fists on my hotel car’s window as we stood at a signal. Salaam Bombay’s scenes, shot around various bordellos around Grant Road, vividly show the pastel shades around the city. In between those walls and balconies, there are grey and crumbling bits. Sometimes, in between that, a flash of color from a religious poster, or a movie star in an ad. Or from the garish dress worn by someone like Sola Saal. Like the city, it's too much to drink in with your eyes as it goes by.

And then the clothes. Over a decade before the term "metrosexual" was ever coined, Bombay boys had it down pat. There's a scene where Krishna and his friends rob an older Parsi man and go out to celebrate by drinking while on a carriage ride around the city after dark. I looked at the garish shirts these kids had on, and I flash forward to the Saturday morning Bollywood shows we get here, and how in the weekly segment looking at what the man-on-the-street in Bombay thought about the most recent release, they'll tape comments from these guys exiting the cinemas, and as I watch them swagger on camera (never a shy guy in the bunch!) I can't help but thinking that in Bombay, men - on the whole - have no fear of color or accessories.

Picture courtesy: Mirabai Films

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ghanta

No, it's not a bad word. Really, I mean come on. Like all slang, it captures feelings that a hundred words can't capture. In one word.

Honestly, think about it. How many times have you used it ? Recently someone asked if I'd come along to see Fanaa, even if he paid for it. Yup - you guessed my reply. The other day someone expected me to drive down to Bandra from town in half an hour, in rush hour. Reply? Yup. Then someone at office was saying that Holland would win the World Cup this year. What else could I reply? Hell, this optimistic friend of mine thought we'd get parking outside Pappa Pancho on a Saturday night. What did I tell him ? You get the drift.

Then today I read somewhere that Bombay's the rudest city in the world. Now you know what I'm talking about.

Monday, June 12, 2006

MI3: a.k.a. I'm with stupid

After seeing Mission Impossible 3, I'm of the firm belief that "Dude, where's my car" and "Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery" should have won Oscars. At the very least, they should've got nominations. I know, I know, suspension of disbelief et al is required. But honestly, you can't leave all of your brains behind.

The Brian De Palma directed MI1 had something to it (like Kirstin Scott Thomas). In any case, ten years back, you barely had any expectations and hence were easily thrilled by Mr. Cruise on a bullet train surviving a helicopter crash inside a tunnel. Hell, you had U2's supercool remix of Lalo Schifrin's original tune.

With John Woo taking over for MI2 in 2000, you had the everyone-shoots-sideways, motorcycles-and-cars-turn-sideways, doves-fly-everywhere routine. And of course a deterioration of the storyline. Villain progresses from the rogue file of MI1 to a deadly injectible virus. But you still had Limp Bizkit's remix of Lalo Schifrin's original tune.

What about Part 3 directed by Mr. J. J. Abrams? Injectible virus is now "Rabbit's foot". We are never told what it is. We are never shown how Mr. Cruise steals it. Barring of course, our hero using the "fulcrum" principle to jump from one skyscraper to land on another, slide down, shoot two villainous guards while sliding down and land into..umm.. some place where the "Rabbit's Foot" is kept. The Rabbit Foot when finally revealed turns out to be a glass bottle of red-coloured Gatorade (or some such). No MI tune by anyone, bar the original.

This bit of dialogue is up there in best parting line of all time.

Ethan Hunt to Luther Strickel and his gang (as he departs to give the Rabbits foot to the villain): So I'll see you around

Luther Strickel: You know Ethan, where you're going, you and Julia could both get killed.

Ethan Hunt: Ok. So I guess I won't see you round.

The only crime that beats all of above is to cast the ethereal Bahar Soomekh (remember her in Crash?) in a bit role, murder her and explain it as "Mr. Davies doesn't like failure".

As always, proper reviews left to the established lot.

PS - It was a weird coincidence that I got this forward the day after I saw MI3. It was titled "Bollywood defies Newton's laws" and the body starts with "In the movies of Rajanikanth, Newton was confused to such an extent that he went paranoid". Here are a few scenes

[1] Rajanikanth has a Brain Tumor which, according to the doctors can't be cured and his death is imminent. In one of the fights, our great Rajanikanth is shot in the head. To everybody's surprise, the bullet passes through his ears taking away the tumor along with it and he is cured! Long Live Rajanikanth!

[2] In another movie, Rajanikanth is confronted with 3 gangsters. Rajanikanth has a gun but unfortunately only one bullet and a knife.Guess, what he does? He throws the knife at the middle gangster & shoots the bullet towards the knife. The knife cuts the bullet into 2 pieces, which kills both the gangsters on each side of the middle gangster & the knife kills the middle one. Long Live Rajanikanth!

[3] Rajanikanth is chased by a gangster. Rajanikanth has a revolver but no bullets in it. Guess what he does. Nah? Not even in your remotest imaginations. He waits for the gangster to shoot. As soon as the gangster shoots, Rajanikanth opens the bullet compartment of his revolver and catches the bullet. Then, he closes the bullet compartment and fires his gun. Bang...the gangster dies... Long Live Rajanikanth!

[4] Rajanikanth gets to know that the villain is on the other side of a very high wall. So high that Rajanikanth can't jump even if he tries like one of those superman techniques that our heroes normally use. Rajanikanth has to desperately kill the villain because it's the climax. Rajanikanth suddenly pulls two guns from his pockets. He throws one gun in the air and when the gun has reached above the height of the wall, he uses the second gun and shoots at the trigger of the first gun in air.The first gun fires off and the villain is dead. Long Live Rajanikanth!

No further comments.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

RIP Go 92.5FM

I caught the bright hoarding today morning at the Sayani Road junction. You know the one at Prabhadevi, before P. L. Deshpande auditorium. It was for a new radio station called “Radio One” and promised naya music, blah, blah.

And then the number on the hoarding hit me – “FM92.5”. Quickly I turned the dial to 92.5. Sure enough – there was Taraana saying “aap sun rahe hai Radio One! Thodi hi der mein hum batayenge traffic ka haal Jaggu ke saath”.

I typed “www.go925fm.com” and was instantly redirected to “www.radioone.in”.

And so Go 92.5FM is no more. Its ashes despatched to the air waves. Scotty’s already beamed them up.

I want to mourn the loss of a good radio station. But I already did a bit of that.

For some reason, Madonna’s “This used to be my playground” is playing in my head as I type this. With mixed feelings. Part sadness, part finality, part Radio ga-ga... "you had your time, you had your power, you've yet to see your finest hour". Only Go already had its finest hour a long time back. And now it's played it's last song.

So R.I.P. Go 92.5FM. Go well, old friend.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Hafta Magazine - now live

My 50th post in the blogosphere (*applause*) coincides with the launch of The Hafta Magazine, which has gone live today (*more applause*).

A steaming espresso crossed with Bambaiya cutting chai, this brand new online magazine is a collective effort of some of the finest writing talent you will find in the desi blogosphere. From views to reviews, the serious to the hilarious, the nice to the naughty (enough clich├ęs please !), you are ensured a stimulating read week after week.

Sample the debut issue – the future of our energy supply rubs shoulders with Arctic Monkeys. As does Aamir Khan with the Genome Project, and the sex change of Victoria Terminus with the India-West Indies ODI.

Yours truly is part of the Metropolis Team at the Hafta Mag, and my 50th post is also a call out to all those bloggers who are fans, fanatics, freaks – and even frustrated – of this great City. Bombay, Mumbai, Bambai Nagariya. Call it what you want. We all know our city has its own identity, its own DNA, its lovers and haters. A city, as Suketu-bhai put it, in heat. But then you already knew that.

So, if you have something to say about this city, mail me at bombayaddict[at]gmail[dot]com. You can also check our clarion call. A read of the above articles, and others, in today’s issue will give you a feel of what and how hafta-kars write.

Enough said, ladies and gents, please click away here for the Mumbai Hafta.