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Showing posts from 2009
What have these three idiots done?
He let the world spin madly on.

The old man squatted alone, on the small, grassy bank between the murky green water and the dirt path for walkers, joggers and cyclists. His knees, thin and bony, were hunched nearly up to his chin. His back was thin, his ragged shirt clinging to it against the gentle evening Bangalore breeze. He looked out at the lake in front, ugly and polluted and hollow. All he got back was the stale stench of waste. His boat, old and creaky and alone like him, swayed slightly on the tip of the embankment.

He let the world spin madly on.

Not ten feet to his left, a group of young vagrants tugged at another boat. A few threw crude fishing lines into the water. Empty, eroded plastic bottles hovered half submerged not too far away. Behind the man, a college couple fought about adolescent feelings. Two men, their bellies sagging over their belts, strolled by talking business. Two middle-aged women walked, in salwar-kameez and sweaters, walked briskly past. A young cycl…
Christmas came and went. Didn't even feel it. Worked till 10pm. Three days later, after a massive lovely Mallu lunch - pork, mutton, rice, bread, kachimur, veggies, plum cake - and just being welcomed at a house I'd never been to, and sitting around with people I had never met except for two, brought back memories of my youth. The days of getting up at the crack of dawn to see how many presents were under the tree, and whether Santa had drank the milk and cookies. The stockings with peanuts, Snickers, Cadbury's, Reeses, bubblegum and an orange in them. Hot cocoa by the tree. The nativity set on the mantelpiece. Christmas cards. That massive brunch. Family. Christmas carols. Snow.
Stand out in the crowd? Tired of being stared at while sitting in an autorick at a stop light, walking to buy groceries, or at a train station? No? Well I didn't think so, but in case there are a few of you out there who do, let me introduce my three-step program to repel the gawkers who gape - and occasionally giggle - at you like you've sprouted green antlers right in front of them in the 56 seconds it takes for the light to change red to green. These may seem like drastic measures more likely to attract further intense scrutiny but they actually work in getting people to turn away and even look quite flustered. Then you sit back and marvel at your own handiwork.

Here goes:

1) Stare at said person(s)' shoes or sandles and then slowly make a face of disgust, like you've just noticed they've stepped in a pile of dung and its clung to the soles of their feet and attracted a swarm of flies. Keep staring, never for a moment looking at the person.

2) Do your best Ac…

Ten best Hindi films of the decade

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I’ve spend a lot of time these past couple weeks reading and working on various moments in cricket that stood out over this past decade, and while doing so I got to thinking about the more memorable Hindi films I’ve seen since 2000. So here, in order of their release, is my list.

Lagaan: It fell short of being a masterpiece, but Lagaan skillfully combined good acting, direction, writing, music and cinematography. The result was an entertaining, if slightly clich├ęd, film of gigantic proportions which ushered in the use of synch sound in Indian cinema. Not having to dub the extensive outdoor scenes, erected on a set in rural Gujarat, gave the film a crisp quality that was so crucial to its intricate details. It also helped change the way films were made – with Dil Chahta Hai just around the corner as well – in terms of technology and professionalism in the Indian industry.

Aamir Khan was, as most always, superb and gave the film its soul. Ashutosh Gowarikar, after duds like Baazi and Pe…
Email from HR department to all staff yesterday: "You are all invited to a special lunch from Adigas tomorrow at 1 pm to celebrate the merry spirit of Christmas."

For the uninitiated, Adigas is a chain of oily, canteen-style, cardiac arrest-inducing purely vegetarian chain of restaurants popular in Bangalore, reasons for which some very portly South Indian deity suffering from high cholesterol would only know. It is so bad that some of my south Indian colleagues crib about it. A couple even staunchly claim they have had better dosas and vadas IN NORTH INDIA. Heavens to Betsy.

Seriously, if you picked up one of those saada dosas and wrung it out,you would get a bucket full of oil more than enough to jump-start a Tata Nano.

Really Christmasy, if you know what I mean. So yeah, sufficed to say I skipped that totally festive Christmas lunch and ordered Chinese.
I remember seeing my dad on TV when I was about five. I remember waiting for him to come home that day. As soon as he opened the door I ran up, excited, and blurted out: "I know who you are!"

"Yes, I'm your papa."

"No you're not, you are Tom Alter!"

Cometh the hour, cometh the Onion

What. A. Session. West Indies didn't survive in Perth but England somehow did in Centurion. Cracking last session. Friedel de Wet, take a bow. At about 5pm South African time, with England four down for about 200, the mood was bordering on dull as the on-air commentators discussed the selection conundrums for both sides ahead of the second Test, with a lot of chatter about whether South Africa should drop de Wet or Ntini for a fit Steyn. There was talk of Ntini's ability to swing the ball away from the left-handers if he found assistance in Durban, but also of how impressive de Wet had been on debut, especially the longer he bowled. Then, in eight overs of the new ball, de Wet turned the game on its head and the commentators were salivating.

Tremendous effort by the debutant. Unlike Ntini, he made the batsmen play. That's all you need to do in such situations, and a false shot or two is bound to occur. Sure enough, a solid Trott was done for bounce, the ball skimming the …

Random Films I Liked: Pirate Radio

Introducing a new post that I hope will occur frequently on the these pages: Random Films I Liked. And starting off it is Pirate Radio, aka The Boat That Rocked, a period comedy about an illegal radio station in the North Sea in the 1960s.

A film that begins with Phillip Seymour Hoffman yelling into the airwaves about the power of rock and roll to the tunes of The Kinks and ends with the words "That's how you do it, innit?" cannot really go wrong.

It's far from perfect, the frame isn't bit enough to carry the cast of eccentric characters, and it doesn't take itself too seriously, but it's a lovely little film - I say little because it doesn't carry an overbearing Hollywood tag and resonates with tinges of indie classics like Almost Famous and Across the Universe - that portrays the mayhem of rock music and what it went through in that era.

The film, shot almost entirely on a ramshackle oil tanker, is set against the backdrop of the whole sex, drugs a…
It’s always fun to watch the underdog try and make a fist of it. West Indies, set 359 to win at the WACA and level the series, were three down for about 80 when I switched the TV on. I watched fleetingly, going about getting breakfast, checking my email, letting the maid clean up, and so on.

A while later I looked up and the score had moved to 140 without further loss. Still a mountain to climb for West Indies. It wasn’t just pushing and prodding and padding up. There were pull shots being attempted, cuts were being squirted past fielders and the frustration was palpable on the faces of the Australians.

Hauritz versus Deonarine isn’t going to get many enthusiasts glued to their TV screens, but there was an intriguing little contest brewing. Deonarine was stuck in the forties for a while, and broke the shackles with a four and six off Hauritz, both hit on dancing feet and over the infield. Suddenly there was a bit of aggression in the chase, and for the next two overs Deonarine’s sho…
The kid sitting in front of his father on the handlebar of the motorcycle is looking at me, agog. What does a kid of 2 or 3 think when they see someone who looks different? Can the mind comprehend the difference in skin color? Do I even look human to that kid?
Sign spotted at the junction of Frazertown and Ulsoor: WORK IN PROGRESS TAKE DIVERSION AT KENSINGTON OVAL. Seriously?
Rare Sunday off. Found myself watching Karz. The Himesh one. Why did they have to take a bad film and remake it into a terrible one? Can you imagine being Dino Morea, dying, and then coming back as Himesh Reshammiya? It doesn't get worse than that.

Cracked up hearing Himesh clear this throat/nose when singing his ode to Om Shanti Om - Hari Om. Sounded like he was saying "Hurry home, hurry home".

And what's with his fetish for 15-year olds? And Raj Babbar looking like the discarded sardar from the mafia gang in Singhh is Kingg?

Bakhtyar is in the film too. First time I saw him anywhere other than Bigg Bosss 3 or that contraceptive ad. I half expected Vindoo to walk into the frame and slap him.
I’ve cracked it. There’s no point spending time and money joining a gym or getting up at 6 am for a run. To look slimmer, all I have to do is hang around people fatter than me.

Jinge bells, Santa smells

You can tell the Christmas season is upon us in Bangalore when the beggars at the MG Road traffic lights come up to you wearing floppy Santa hats and try to get you to buy one as well as a crappy plastic Santa mask. Ho ho ho.
"Tumhara desh ka ek rupaiyya hai kya?"

That's the cab driver at 12.20 in the morning after dropping me home from work.
"Chunnu, munnu aur pappu di gaddi". Its no more. Buland Bharat ki buland tasveer. Its no more. RIP.

Please don't touch HMT watches, Saridon or Laxman Sylvania.
If your name is Hanumanth Reddy and you are reading this, please tell all who are important to you that my number is not your number. I'm sick of the wrong numbers.

Paa ...

Electricity bill was a week overdue. Decided to beat the rush and get to the local BESCOM by 845. There was still a line at that time. An eclectic one at that. An Anglo-Indian portly lady, her hair done up in a bun and bandanna, with shopping bags. Three old men, each haggard and unshaven, like they'd stumbled out of the nearest watering hole and decided that standing in a line was a decent way to beat a hangover. I ended up behind one of them, with long oily hair matted to his forehead. He was sweating on a cool morning. The burlap handbag hanging by his side was leaking something that, if you stepped in it, smeared the ground. Then a short old man joined the line behind me and kept getting a bit too close for comfort. I'd move to one side, he'd close in. Not fun.

Finally I got to the window and paid my bill. As I was waiting for my receipt another old man, scrawny, toothless and in a beanie, sidled up and smiled. I nodded back. Then from is satchel he pulled out three b…
Three of the first crew that was Motley were at the Brabourne watching the return of Test cricket to the venue. Naseeruddin Shah, my father and Aakash Khurana. Where's Benji?

Seeing the trio, alone and on different days of the Test match, took me back to Sadhana Apartments and the backstage of Prithvi, where as a kid I would watch rehearsals, make-up sessions and after-show parties. I remember hiding under the bed when I saw Kenny get out of the lift at Sadhana. I remember hating Naseer briefly because he'd killed my father in Shyam Benegal's Junoon. I remember playing with Benji's son Rahil. I have vague memories of meeting Naseer and Ratna in the US, and ordering pizza.
Do the blind have dreams and nightmares?
Music has always been an integral part of my life, even though I can't play an instrument. Tried the flute in grade four, but something about blowing on a long, thin object just didn't seem right. Tried the piano, but old Mrs. Hoy in Harrisburg, PA put me to sleep. Tried the guitar, but the creepy Polish instructor Ivor pissed me off. Am I making excuses for my own ineptitude? Maybe.

I grew up around music, if not musicians. There was always music playing wherever we lived. I remember being a toddler and fiddling with my parent's record player, tiptoeing up to it and playing with the cartridge - it reminded me of a caboose - before someone yanked me away from it. LPs of Bing Crosby, CCR, the Eagles and Bob Dylan sat placed on shelves in Mussoorie and various apartments in Bombay.

My earliest memory of comprehending lyrics is of sitting in Sadhana Apartments on Gamadia Road, the quite little lane that connects Warden Road to Peddar Road. My dad flipped between audio casset…

"You prepare the paperwork and come, yes?"

So apparently I have a new job profile - that of translator between my building's Nepali watchman/supervisor and foreign tenants with broken English who don't speak Hindi.

I'm at home finishing up season two of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia this afternoon, after getting home from a 4am-12noon shift at work, when the doorbell rings. It is Ramesh, the watchman, who speaks decent Hindi. But he's got an accent that makes it a little difficult to comprehend what he's saying, plus he doesn't really open his mouth when he speaks. Its more of a mutter.

He says something about how he can't communicate with the man below, who he says is Iranian. He says he's supposed to pay eight thousand rupees but wants to bring it down to seven. I have to ask thrice to confirm just what he was paying for. It's a motorcycle the guy below is apparently selling. Ramesh asks me to translate between him and the Iranian.

I go down and ring the doorbell. A thin, nearly…
Flat tracks be damned, Sehwag has just hit three consecutive fours, scampered a couple, and smacked another boundary to reach his sixth Test double century. What a player. No Indian batsman has hit six double centuries.

He's on 202 from 168 deliveries, on day two of a Test match. Not just any Test, the first one at the Brabourne for 36 years.

My father is sitting in the crowd somewhere. Lucky man.
Listened to a few tracks by The Raghu Dixit Project. Decent. I especially liked 'Mysore Se Aayi', 'Hey Bhagwan' and 'Ambar'. Its contemporary folk, sort of. The band played at a prison in Bangalore recently. Seems the inmates enjoyed it, from what I saw on TV.
It doesn't feel right seeing Adnan Sami Khan and Jermaine Jackson jiving in a pop video tribute to Bombay (yes, Raj, I will call it that, boo hoo)a year after 26/11. What does Jermaine know of the city? What does he know of India? And seeing Adnan holding the Gateway of India between his index finger and thumb just looks wrong. I see where he's going, trying to salute the city's spirit and all he's earned from it once hopping across the border. It smacks of gimmick. But more so it leaves an awkward taste, given how strained relations have been between India and Pakistan. A Pakistani, who has earned so much fame and money since landing in Bombay, holding a symbol of the city, just in front of the scene of that horrific attack? Doesn't feel right.
Trains used to be decent fun. What happened? Can't sleep. Can't eat (what is with the two veg patties and a slice of bread for breakfast?).

Ik Omkara ... OYE!

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What if Vishal Bhardwaj had made Omkara with Sunny Deol instead of Ajay Devgan? Let’s have a look at how different some of those unforgettable dialogues would have been … steady on …


Omkara in the jail (yelling with an outstretched hand, with that trademark sideways glance): “Jo agvai ka kaam kare soh hijra, Bhaisaab. Agar inki beti mujhe jhoota bole toh maa kasam, saara PIND ko aag lagake ek-ek karke in KUTTON ka khoon pee jaaonga! Jo bole so nihaal!”

Omkara to Vakil Sahib: ”Hamari jaat to khoob pehchani aapne Vakil Sahib, par apni beti ke dil ki baat nahi pechaan sake! Dolly sirf meri hai, sirf meri, aur koi bhi mai ka laal uski taraf aankh utha kar bhi dekhe na … toh haddi-paslee thod ke rakh doonga!”

Omkara to Surinder Kaptan: “Badi lakdi mat ttha, Kaptan! Maa ka doodh piya hai toh asli mard se panja lada!”

Omkara to Kichloo, who has been held up against a wall: (With an outstretched arm, pointed index finger wagging, eyes burning, nostrils flared, lungs being cleared with the forc…

Run fat boy run

I’ve started running off and on – the off ration outweighs the on significantly – in the mornings after my gym membership expired in August. I can’t do this gym thing; I much prefer the outdoors.

It’s been good because there actually is a place to run near my apartment in Bangalore and there are lots of joggers and walkers so I’m not the only person exercising at that hour. As expected when a white guy puts on a t-shirt and shorts and straps an iPod Nano to his arm in these parts, there are a lot of curious onlookers.

By now a few of them - the regulars like the bicycle tire repair dude, the newspaper stand owner, the barber who opens his shop at 7 as I’m returning, and the army guards at the gates of the officers’ mess – don’t even bat an eyelid as I bustle past.

A few people have struck up conversations whenever I stop to walk a little ways to cross the road or where the dirt path around the lake is dug up. There was the sardarji who crossed me in his Hyundai Accent – he’s also a r…

Ransacked

It seems nobody is safe from those hooligan Shiv Sainiks. Not journalists, not Sachin Tendulkar, not even Kareena Kapoor's bare back.

The latest episode is something the entire country needs to be ashamed of.  The attack on the IBN office was despicable and cowardly and terrifying. Is this what the Shiv Sena wanted Tendulkar to be proud of?

Tailormade

Torn jeans are in fashion but there's a rip in my favourite pair of 501s that was getting a big too ugly so went looking for a tailor to patch it up. Yes, I'm trying to get the patch back in fashion.

Found one just down the road. Small little dingy place. I ask the guy sitting there, in Hindi, if he'll do the needful. He gives me the odd look I'm so accustomed to now, and says he can. He examines the damaged goods while I ask him whether he'll patch or sew it up.

"Do you speak English?" he asks, looking very disgruntled.

I tell him I do, and Hindi as well.

"No, no Hindi. English is fine," he says.

So we decided that he will sew up the rip. He says come back tomorrow at 5.

Then: "Where you from?"

I hesitate as usual before opening the dreaded can of worms. "America."

"Where in America?"

I go for Ohio.

"Not New York? You know New York?"

"Yes, I've been there."

"You heard of Blondie?"

"Ten rupees extra, sir?"

So I've decided to start a Bangalore Auto Driver Hall of Fame section. I've had so many incidents with this breed - some hilarious, some quirky, some irritating and some horrible. It's the quirky I'd like to remember.

Just to refresh the memory in case you missed previous posts. There was Syed Azam, who shared his views on how "ladies log" coming to Indian metros from smaller towns "bahut sexy-sexy dikhne pe dhyan deti hai" and wanted to know if I found Rani Mukherjee of John Abraham hotter; there was the guy who was hellbent on getting me to learn Kannada and offered to stop and show me the best Kannada-to-English tutorial books; there was the guy who knew of more of "my type"; there was the guy who spoke in crisp English whose son was in Texas; there was the former insurance agency clerk who had lost his job due to injury and who was rehabilitated and aiming to get a job with Bharti AXA; there was the chap with whom I discussed George Bu…

aatlu modhu kem the giyo bhai?

Bal Thackeray criticizing Sachin Tendulkar for his "Mumbai for all" remark. Lalit Modi shaking hands with the Indian team before the start of a Test.  India's two biggest fascists, under whose watch two of the country's most horrific acts of genocide were carried out, both whose credibility is on the wane, getting involved in the sport that is a religion here. India really is secular, isn't it?

'Kevin, I'm going to feed you to my tarantula'

Remember Buzz from Home Alone? McCaulay Kulkin's older brother; freckles; spiky haircut; total jackass; "I wouldn't let you sleep in my room if you were growing on my ASS!"?

Of course you do. I'd not seen him in a movie since but squinted my eyes while watching a crapfest called Surrogates today. It was Buzz, about 200 pounds heavier and looking like the offspring of say ... if Michael Moore and Roseanna Barr had a kid. He looks way different now but still is recognizable. I think it was an expression he made in one of his initial scenes, which for a flash resembled a look he'd give his younger brother Kevin in the classic movie he's most famous for.

Anyways, it just reminded me of a time long gone by. It happens now and then. I'll see a movie from the past and immediately I'll associate it with a precise time and place. Mohra on Sony in 2009 = a rainy Saturday afternoon in Mussoorie circa 1994, after which Vinod and I did our best Akshay Kumar an…

Another attempt ...

It's been well over a year and a half since my last post. Well, nearly 22 months in fact. Not good at this at all.

The few of you who followed loyally and kept dropping comments and feedback, thank you. I hope to see you back here again. Simran, thats means you.

Well, as you know there are just two things I can really talk about at length: cricket and movies. So let me begin with the former, for now. 

It's Tendulkar's 20th year at the top, and I remember January 19, 1989 pretty well. I was a week shy of my eighth birthday and my father took me along to interview what he said was the next big thing in cricket, a guy who was going to shake up the sport. I wasn't in to cricket at the time, but was made to believe this was a going to be something big. I tagged along.

It was at the Hindu Gymkhana ground on Marine Drive. It wasn't a very hot day, I recall. We got there, my dad and I, and there was a small camera crew. Just two people, I think. There was chit-chat betwee…