Friday, November 30, 2007

Rama Rama Kya Hai Dramaaa: Dud minus one

Adnan Sami is on the fast track to be the new funny priest of Bollywood music. First, he was all over Dhamaal - I had some fun with Whos the Baap? for a bit. But then it got old. And he's at it again on Rama Rama Kya Hai Dramaaa (I suppose there is a perfectly planetary reason to have ten a's in the title only I don't know what it is - I'm bad at both astronomy and math).

Rama Rama Kya Hai Dramaaa Neha Dhupia, Aashish Chaudhary Amrita AroraBesides the title track which comes with a video which will make your sides split - from groans of pain, Adnan also does a typical Adnan song called Yeh Faasle in which his vocals skid all over the place.

In any case, since I've been taught since childhood that even a pool of mud can house a lotus, I try to see the silver lining in every cloud. And RRKHD has one - its a song called Laija Laija by Bhojpuri singer Khushboo Jain (who has also done the title track for a TV serial called Maayka).

Why is "Laija Laija" so endearing to me?

First, Khushboo has a very affable, grounded voice - and she uses it to infuse a lot of fun in the song.

Second, it sounds like something right out of my day dreams when I was sitting two rows behind and across from the most famously good looking girl in school (the same one I had to embarrassingly enough tie a rakhee on later). Chances that the school dream girl would sing this to me were next to nil, which is ok because I did end up marrying the girl of my dreams. But that is another story.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

The music of Taare Zameen Par

Ever since Aamir Khan made his movie selection process a part of his brand strategy, his markets await his releases with bated breath. This also applies to the soundtracks of his movies - always an inseparable part of any Bollywood movie experience.

The hugely entertaining soundtrack to Aamir's upcoming directorial debut Taare Zameen Par (music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy) features material from a child's point of view. My Dad used to always tell me: "Son, remember, Child is the Father of Man". And so it is that the collection of thoughts that form the poetry of TZP will resonate just as sharply with adults.

Musically, SEL keep the melodies clean and crisp (there are eight tracks, none thankfully are remixed). But this isn't to say they are uncomplicated - there is a duality in most of the tunes that come from the fact that while SEL keep the chorus straightforward, they add a bunch of variations in other parts of the tune.

The title track is a good example of this approach: its a piano driven tune about recognizing and nurturing special children that has a simple even syrupy intro and chorus. But once you are past that, there are changes of paces and a delectably placed tabla. The gorgeous Kholo Kholo (Raman Mahadevan) uses just an acoustic guitar broken up periodically by keyboards. By holding back the percussion until the last third of the song, SEL drive home its "shed the blues and grab life by the horns" message.

Vishal Dadlani sings Jame Raho in his special raspy voice - which cleverly enough starts off with an alarm buzzer to signify the start of a day. Its a song that contrasts the beaten path of drudgery versus a more unstructured world where dreams are valued over discipline. A strident drum beat is contrasted with soft keys to illustrate the difference. Its a song thats too short on variety to be memorable, but its a lot of fun to listen to the first few times.

On Maa, Shankar Mahadevan resists the temptation to hire a kid to sing and instead does vocal duties - and the effect is spectacular. A song about a boy trying to communicate with his mom (presumably dead) is terribly touching. It makes me want to give my sons a hug every time I hear it.

Bheja Fry bends the vocals of a number of contributors to illustrate the dislocating academic and social pressures on a child. Its a high impact song for any parent battling table stakes education with the school system.

There are a couple of other songs on the CD worth listening to that you should discover for yourself - including one with a spoken piece by Aamir Khan which made my sons laugh spontaneously.

TZP is a wonderful CD to listen to - but if you have kids, especially sons, you'll be a freakin' emotional mess by the end.

And if that bothers you and you need to be restored to a complete state of silliness right after, I highly recommend the ridiculous Rama Rama Kya Hai Yeh Dramaaa.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wrapped up in TP

Dear Love Chakker Readers,

I am touched by your numerous letters of encouragement. But I don't have time to dwell on adulation as I have to get down to work. Two desperate letters came my way, and after some deep meditation, I came upon the responses.

Letter #1---Dear Mind Rush:

Lions Gate doesn't let me have any creative freedom. I used to enjoy making gorno (aka torture porn) but ever since I met a lovely young woman, everytime i sit down writing ideas for most innovative ideas of maiming and torturing a half naked woman, i end up writing sweet love songs to the girl of my dreams.

She is a lot younger than I am (but legal) and she loves me for who I am, sick and twisted and with bushy eyebrows.

But how can i go back to envisioning torture chambers and not gardens of love.
After all i need to stick to my genre to earn bread for my new woman. I don't want struggles.

Eli Roth

Dear E.R.,

First off---this is a "family" blog. So hereafter, I shall discreetly refer to your professional interests, a.k.a. tourture porn as TP.

So, you are in love! You came to the right place to seek advice. Okay, ER, you are in a rapturous relationship! Celebrate it! Sing from a bridge! Dance in a towel! Love is pure have discovered your yang with your "Saawariya".

If this young woman is legal, marry her! Once the honeymoon is over, life might well become a torture chamber. You will be recover from your sweet love songs and then can go back again to being entangled in TP.

-Mind Rush

Letter #2---Dear Mind Rush:

I am a celebrated but beleaguered Bollywood director. The critics have lashed out at not only my pure, subtle, beautiful story but have also launched broadsides at my personality dubbing it as controlling, egotistical, self-indulgent and so on. What is even worse is that my magnum opus has been dubbed a flop. I've gone on the offensive too ---- to tell my side of the story but it hasn't stemmed the tide of the critics.

What should I do now? Ignore the ignorant, biased, critics who clearly have an agenda against me or continue to fight with all I've got. Can I help it if I'm a misunderstood genius and the naysayers are clearly too stupid to understand the subtlety of my craft?

S(eriously) L(ost) (in) B(ollywood)

Dear Mr. SLoB,

Your inner purity and beauty are misunderstood! You are a visionary. As they say: "Genius is in the eyes of the beholder." And how could your vision be in need of a prescription?

I applaud your strategy. The best defense is attacking others. How dare anyone question your genius? I mean, the world is a harsh place for narcissists. (Mr. Him-mess Besharmiya should learn a thing or two from you.)

But Mr. SLoB, if ever cruel self-doubt leads you to genuine self-examination and cures your short-sightedness, you could shift your focus away from yourself and towards others for once. Heck, there might even be a choreographer who is pining for you. Now that would be a pure, subtle, beautiful love story!

-Mind Rush


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A new jodi curdles Nach Baliye 3

For some reason on Nach Baliye 3 last week, the judges were in a murderous mood. Maybe it was the fact that Madhuri Dixit wouldn't show up at all while promises were being made (enough to put anyone in a bad mood) or that a new jodi was announced and inserted mid-way in the show. Whatever the reason, they looked grumpy and came with their knives drawn.

Madhuri Dixit Aaja NachleFirst, Karan and Amita danced their hearts out. In particular Karan really tried hard. But the judges seem to have decided en masse this wasn't good enough. So they dug into the hapless guy, none more sharply than Vaibhavi Merchant. Since Karan is always ready with a joke on the show, David Dhawan pulled the "you don't take this dance seriously" angle. Visions of Mika! Poor Karan swallowed hard and smiled like Asha Bhonsle would after running into Himesh Reshammiya.

Nach Baliye Rakhi SawantA little later, the new jodi took the stage. This I was curious to see because the reason given for the surprising insertion of the couple was that the show would pick up steam. It amused me to note that the jodi struggled to impress. One half - Barkha Bisht - seems to be a sharp dancer and appears to be an overachiever types - kind of like Mini Mathur (and we all know how that turned out on JDJ). The other half - Indraniel - unfortunately, comes from the Amitabh Bachchan Finishing School for Dancers.

Their tepid performance was promptly mauled by all the judges with marks handed out so stingily I don't remember seeing anything so low. Both seem affable enough - but boy, it would be embarrassing if they were knocked out next week - which seems like a distinct possibility.

There was also a "Take your friend to work day" episode on Nach Baliye last week. This resulted in couples calling on their friends who then strode on the stage and did a vote appeal for their friends after saying something warm and fuzzy about them. Rakhi Sawant and Kashmera Shah decided they would bring each other as their friends. This entertained me: because both seem to be putting on an act (read Rakhi's comments on Kashmera in Sakshi's interview with her on the sets of NB if you don't believe me).

Priyanka ChopraHow did the star guests fare on the show?

Madhuri Dixit: Came at the very end in a foot-rickshaw, waved around like the Queen, danced reluctantly, exhibited minor diva-like behavior, stoked Rakhi with a flattering comment that trailed off in a very sarcastic chuckle and announced that she would be staying for another episode. B

Priyanka Chopra: Walked on briefly to show her support for pal Amir (and partner Sanjeeda). Revealed the mind boggling tidbit that Amir always wore white socks when dancing. Looked and sounded fabulous. B+

Konkana Sen Sharma: I've seen more personality in a chomchom but she seemed nice enough. B-

Kunal Kapoor: Kept playing one-handed table tennis, which always irritates me. But generally was less annoying than the last time I saw him on VoI. C+


Monday, November 26, 2007

Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa gets bitchy

Boy, JDJ got decidedly chilly last week. Here I was thinking the only friction on a tepid show like this could come by way of milking tension between the judges. But why bother when a number of grumpy celebrities are at hand!

Last week's highly random insertion of Prachi back into the show by way of wild card split JDJ into two camps, whether you liked it or not. And the infighting - which sadly could not be captured on camera for our entertainment - resulted in some delicious bitching during the pre-performance contestant interviews.

In the end, Ronit Roy - riding a wave of unpopularity among his peers - caught a combination of low marks and fewer votes to spin out of the show. And while he talked about his tenure on the show in the very graceful way he tends to, it was fun to watch the rest of the lined up contestants squirm behind him.

Anyway, on to the only thing I wait for on this show: Mir Ranjan Negi!

In his first dance, Negi started by teasing us by swishing his backside with a towel - an orange and red one. He twirled it around and put it around his shoulders, barely catching his balance. Then Negi proceeded to gargle, brush his teeth and put deodorant under his arms. This he did perfunctorily, like he really wanted to get back to that towel routine.

Moments later he framed himself in a mock window and in tune with "Chand ka tukda" he held up a paper mache moon. This he first held the wrong way, but was chakit enough to fix the direction in moments. This had me already laughing constantly. Yet more tremendous dancing ensued - its hard to describe, kind of like a person teetering between stumbling and dancing.

Jeetendra expressed his disappointment by saying: "This wasn't you!" I disagree my Jumping Jack. That was exactly Negi and to prove me right, he did another dance.

This time he did Shammi Kapoor's Junglee only he was dressed up as a honky tonk version of Elvis - big sideburns and all. He wore a red banyan and displayed a distinct cleavage. And at one point - I speak nothing but the truth here - he patted himself down while twisting his hips. Why? I have no idea - but it looked great!

The judges, stinging from the loss of some of their favorite contestants, tore into him. This forced Negi to play his trump card - a twisted ankle which resulted in much pain that he strove through manfully in this routine. Still, he walked away looking like he had been struck by lightening.

Thankfully Shiamak Davar was absent from the show and didn't have to see any of this - although poor fill-in judge Bipasha Basu did have to sit through both performances with a straight face. And she did it so well, my respect for her has just gone through the roof.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dhan Dhana Dhan...Red Card!

Dhan Dhana Dhan...Goal runs against the grain of most Bollywood movies you see. How so? The pattern so far has been shoddy writing and glossy execution. Most Indian films tend to disintegrate plot wise towards the end of the second third. Even the recent Om Shanti Om is victim to this pattern.

Goal, on the other hand, is pretty decently written. There are some honking flaws - a poorly constructed twist that is unfurled awkwardly in the end, and a nebulous resolution to a bravely posed issue of race are prominent - but take those away and the writing is passable, even solid. Unfortunately its the execution that lets Goal down badly.

The story is a contrived one: Southall has a really sorry soccer club that doesn't get any respect from anyone. The City wants to sell the land to a developer. If Southall - led by Shaan (Arshad Warsi) - can get their act together and win the "league", they get prize money which happens to be exactly the amount they need to get out of jail on the lease for the next 30 years! Adbhut!

Once this rather mindless premise is removed, Goal goes on to tackle some interesting issues - primarily among them is the question: how does a person define himself? Is it by way of race or is it by way of upbringing. This is mostly realized through Sunny Bhasin (played by John Abraham having more fun than I've seen him have in recent times), a talented striker with genuine pace, who finds himself playing for the team he abhors after being shunned by someone he had his hopes pinned on (and yes, he also loses a bet). Sunny's agenda is that he just wants to play ball and wants race to be a non-issue.

Goal is brave enough to tackle the issue of second generation immigrants. It gives us a muddled resolution but not ducking the hard questions at the risk of muddying a fairly straightforward movie is admirable. There are some beautifully written scenes - particularly one in which Sunny runs into his father at a convenience store.

In all of this, several multiplex dues are paid - that do the movie a disservice. A romance is cooked up between team physio Rumana (Bipasha Basu - looking radiantly useless in the flick) and Sunny that doesn't go anywhere. There is an item song (the magnificent Billo Rani) inserted so ludicrously in the movie that it elicits tons of chuckles.

The cinematography in Goal is extremely choppy. Goal doesn't have the luxury of closed sets - its shot entirely outdoors on location. This contributes to the uneven feel of the movie. But its also in the way shots are constructed and executed - they make the dialog sound trite and heavy handed. There's is even an amateurish problem with camera focus in the film - foreground characters often appear blurry than the centered background behind them.

Like set pieces in soccer, the scenes sometimes feel like they are shot independently and then stitched together to form a movie. This often gets bad enough to the point where beats that look like they were shot for a montage are inserted into a scene without any correlation.

Besides all its shortcomings, there were two things that really bothered me about Goal.

First, the role of the women - even by Bollywood standards as observed astutely by Beth - is minuscule. Given several minor scenes to coast through, Bips is then handled with confoundingly traditional expectations by director Vivek Agnihotri.

Second, in tackling important issues of race and identity, Goal ends up spinning a "me versus them" vibe that I found simplistic and short sighted. In trying to explain why the residents of Southall hold identity so dear, it creates a world in which unity is equated with segregation.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Religion and Star Voice of India - Unholy Milawat?

Sidekick steps on her soapbox to protest VoI's regional and religious play for votes

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been troubled by VoI’s vote grubbing techniques. For me things came to a head with last week’s road shows. Saritha wanted to know what I meant by that, so here goes. If nothing else, it is another reminder to be careful what you wish for because I’m stepping onto my soapbox (which I do every now and again!).

My peeve against Star is about how the show presents its results and incites SMS voting. No secret that these reality shows make pots of money from the SMSs and this is purely an economic game: more votes = more profit for the channel. However, is it too much to ask for some modicum of social responsibility? How so, you might ask.

Well, SRGMP split voting results between International voters and India - not a huge problem in my mind. Given the composition of the audience, the Indian votes are always going to be decisive and it’ll be a cold day in hell before a non-Indian, much less a Pakistani, wins the show. Poor Amanat never did stand a chance.

However, Star VoI plays a much more insidious game. The show first presents votes from the “neutral” zone and then unveils the biggie – the home state’s contribution. Again, no secret that the typical Indian or desi abroad is terribly parochial, whether it is politics or a reality show - we vote along regional, religious, state,..., lines. Isn’t it then duplicitous of judges on the show to implore voters to choose based on merit and then incite the concerned states to support their home grown candidates?

On one episode I recall Alka Yagnik bemoaning the fact that Irfan was not getting enough support from Andhra Pradesh. Duh! Hey Einstein, Hyderabad is the solo Hindi pocket in Andhra. The rest of South India doesn’t care a fig about Hindi reality shows. They have other regional fish to fry.

It got much worse this weekend with the Ludhiana and Banaras road shows. This time not only were regional and linguistic allegiances called into play but a new one - religion got drawn into the mix. Cries of “Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal” in Ludhiana and “Har Har Mahadev” in Banaras were rending the air. Even if the religious connection was only implicit up to this point, it was made explicit by all concerned this week.

The worst offender of course was Aadesh, aptly titled the hooligan by Saritha. He led the “Har, Har Mahadev” chants and freely invoked Ganga maiyya and Saraswati ma (although not Lata Mangeshkar this time!). His disintegration began right at the start when he announced that he was bringing with him the good wishes of Amitabh Bachchan ---- huh??? Whether that was to strengthen the UP connection or it was to prove how he is so well connected in Bollywood, to me by the end of the show Aadesh seemed irredeemable.

I’m capitalist enough to acknowledge that the channels will follow the money, but I’m also secular Hindu enough to regard gratuitous dragging of religion into the mix as truly despicable. Even without Sony’s active participation riots broke out in Shillong and Darjeeling over the II3 finalists. It is not as if people need much help to get belligerent or even violent over their local candidates.

It is indeed fortunate that VoI is not raking in the TRPs because I shudder to think of a full-on clash between Ludhiana and Banaras much less between Punjab and Uttar Pradesh! Oh, well time to step off the soap box. If you’re still reading, this is your cue to breathe a sigh of relief and mutter “Not a moment too soon”


Nach Baliye 3: Dancing in drag

There seems to be a guaranteed way to get laughs in Bollywood and related media these days: men dressing up and behaving like women. Actually gay men can be inserted with just as much facility, but really in today's immature Bollywood, that is just a variation on men behaving like women.

So, while the judges and anya janta split their sides laughing at last week's Nach Baliye 3 gender-reversal episode, I barely cracked a smile. What's there to laugh, anyway? Might as well give a guy a hammer and have him smash melons. This is not to say I didn't enjoy the show. There was plenty of drama and enough people behaving in silly ways to keep my poor taste in good humor.

First, of course, was how uncomfortable some of the men got when they had to play women. You didn't hear the women complaining. But a couple of the men looked like they were about to faint.

Some exaggerated their movements so much as to convince us they were manly men. At least one (Karan) tried to be a little too low key and graceful and promptly got admonished by Vaibhavi Merchant. "Women don't dance like that!" she shook her head. "Hum to tagda naachte hai!"

So who did the best girlie dance? These days I like Abhishek so much that I'd have to say him. Dressed up as a Basanti who had too taken a few too many swigs of badam ka doodh in her youth, he showed up dressed colorfully and maroed thumkas with glee. All the men on the show: this is how you do dance like women.

In the same dance Rakhi Sawant came dressed as Gabbar (makeup people: there are other ways to make women look manly than just sticking a stubble on them, you know). And I must say, she made a fine bandit. If only we could have had Himesh singing Mehbooba, this episode would have rocked.

Now I can't help but notice that although Rakhi is a decent dancer and Abhishek is an outstanding one, their choreographer rescues them time and again on the show.

Anyway I digress: later in the elimination episode Rakhi and Abhishek watched a clip of themselves celebrating Diwali with Abhishek's parents. On screen was Rakhi, overdressed as usual, with enough hoops on her person to delight a gymnast and in the audience was Rakhi without much makeup at all. All I'll say is: delightful to watch!

So where did the drama come from? First, John and Bips came on the show and started a buzz about how they might join the contest. Here they played along gamely - regardless of the rumored state of their relationship, they retain an easy chemistry. And Bipasha's refusal to play sharmilee, giggly Bharatiya Nari is a winning personality trait with me.

Later yet, they held up those hilariously overgrown table tennis paddles and announced the wild card jodi: Krushna and Kashmera. Much clapping ensued - Krushna grabbed the mike and said something graceful and articulate. His partner - who often resembles a wet mop emotionally - looked really happy.

Who kicked the figurative bucket? After a confusing and joyless switcheroo in announcing the results, Shweta and Alexx, fine happy triers got the shaft. There is a huge positive in this: I won't have to put up with those tired gora, phirang jokes anymore.

The additional jodi (thanks to anu g) will be Indraneil Sengupta and Barkha Bisht. Although they are supposed to be celebrities, I don't know who these people are (this happens whenever someone announces themselves as celebrities as opposed to "actor" or "director", etc). But hey, we'll find out soon enough.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Star Voice of India: The winner and the rookie

The race to the finish heats up and Saritha is here to tell us about it

When I was a kid, I had a chance to visit many places in India thanks to Dad’s LTC and in the process I have come across a few airports named after the Gandhi family. So when I saw Varanasi’s Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport on last week’s homecoming episodes, where throngs turned up to see Harshit, it took me on a nostalgic trip where Dad used to talk to me about the heroes of Indian politics like Shastri and Sardar Patel.

Processions, garlands, huge hoardings, people taking Harshit and Ishmeet’s autographs, kids cheering for their favorite, firangs taking pics, bhangra on the road, all of this was more amusing than the actual singing on the show.

Harshit's awkward attempts to connect with the crowd, the security guards’ expressions ‘stage pe gaanaa!’, toddlers running around the place giving their mom's a tough time, with Aadesh and lalit around, Ishmeet feeling like a shrimp in the big blue sea - it was pure comedy.

Thankfully the crowds did not get unruly and proceedings stayed under control.

‘Zindagi chandva, phir bhi gamandva’ Bhojpuri superstar and guest Ravi Kishan spoke in such chaste hindi/bihari/lucknowi that I had to check Google for the translations. I am amazed at his ability to put across a simple thing like ‘you were good’ with a resonance that transfers his energy to the listener. He made me believe that the singers had just gave the performance of their lifetime and that we were naively ignorant of music until today.

If anyone did ‘hadkam’ on the show, it was Ravi.

Aadesh has now become the official hooligan of the show. He asked the audience to bless Harshit through votes – the enactment of the same looked like ‘hafta vasooli’. He hogged mike time from Ravi and despite speaking in Hindi he didn’t make any sense to me. Lalit, who sat between Aadesh and Ravi - realizing that with a just a week to go, the judges comments would have no effect on the voting pattern - was distinctly low key. It seemed like finally doing a show outdoors had done some good to him.

Both the participants played their cards well, choosing the numbers they could do justice, thus ensuring that they would reach the finish line with the least road bumps. SRGMP always had the edge over the other musical shows, so it was not a surprise that it finished first in the TRP race.

But I always wondered how II3 secured second place ahead of VoI, where a bunch of young boys and girls barely out of their college were crooning to become the next big thing in the music industry. Like fellow Drifters have said, may be that’s what worked for them, not to mention the target audience who loved them for what they are and not for what they will be.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Katti with Famous in Bollywood

Mind Rush begins a regular Dard-e-dil column in which (rumor has it) famous Bollywood stars anonymously ask for some phaltu Drift advice. Our first sankat bhara prashn:

Hi Mind Rush,

I'm a famous Bollywood actress struggling to break internationally. I've married into a rather famous Bollywood family to a moderately successful actor. However, I'm katti with the most famous actor in Bollywood, who doesn't get along with my sassur.

Should I try to repair my relationship with the famous actor? Or should I follow my sassur's lead on this? Help!

- A(nonymous) R(eader)

Dear A(nonymous) R(eader),

OK, so let me get this straight. You are famous, successful, happily married and on the verge of of an international career. Let me guess: you are probably beautiful and rich too. And you think YOU have problems??!

Ms. A.R., in the male dominated world of Bollywood you need to write your own script. Forget the other famous star's rantings. (He probably regrets being katti with you too.) Forget the sassur (professionally at least. He probably has his own biased baggage.)

You go girl! Go pursue Hollywood! Go to Cannes or the Oscars. Be seen on red carpets with your hubby playing arm candy. Pursue propah British film projects too as they will pave the path to LA. If all else fails do some brand endorsements so that your face is splashed across magazines and gets you instant recognition.

Your best revenge will be to become internationally known. Soon the "most famous" actor will be writing to Mind Rush for advice on how to manao you!

- Mind Rush

Everyone, this is written in jest. Please don't be daft and mistake this for professional advice.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Anniversary, the Wedding and the Loin Cloth

The Telegraph takes the occasion of the Diamond Anniversary of the Queen to describe the events of her wedding. Its full of fascinating details (thanks Drift Memsaab).

Earl Mountbatten's daughter Lady Pamela Hicks who did bridesmaid duties at the wedding recalls:
Before we left, my parents saw Mahatma Gandhi [the spiritual leader of the new India] and he told my father: "I so wanted to give Princess Elizabeth a present, but I have given all my possessions away."

My father, however, knew he still had his spinning wheel and he told Gandhi: "If a cloth could be made from yarn you have spun, that would be like receiving the Crown Jewels." And so this was done and we took his present to Britain for the wedding...

And what did grandma Queen Mary - who mistook the gift for a loin cloth think of it?
"Such an indelicate gift," she is said to have remarked. "What a horrible thing."

Be also sure to check out Mirren's bravura performance as the Queen in this movie.


Monday, November 19, 2007

TV Asia Phone Spam: A short film

Recently Manish sent me a couple of Bollywood scripts. While I was reading them I kept getting bugged by phone spam from a satellite TV channel that inspired me to write my own short film. Hope someone buys it soon.

(working title)

A screenplay


Hotshot, a young marketing executive has been called in to revive the flagging fortunes of TV Asian. Hotshot dressed in a navy blue power suit is presiding over an executive meeting attended by the senior leadership team. The boardroom is brightly lit, long polished wooden table sorrounded by black tall back chairs. All executives are dressed in slightly loose fitting gray or tweed suits. A bowl of Aloo Bhujiya lies untouched in the center of the table.

We recently did a poll of Disc Networking subscribers of South Asian origin in the US and asked them 'Which channels do you watch?' Do you know where TV Asian stood?

Er, number two

That was a rhetorical question. We weren't even on the list. Then we asked 'Have you heard of TV Asian?'

Most of them had but had no time to tune in, right?

Only answer when called on please, otherwise no need to depress me. 90% said they didn't watch Korean TV. The other 10% asked if Doordarshan had changed its name as part of a makeover.


Exactly! We need some ideas on how to jazz up TV Asian, people! ...You, surely you have past experience with this!

Hotshot thrusts his finger at a middle-aged man who is about to doze off. Camera swivels from HOTSHOT's pointed finger to show KEERAVAN, a funny looking man (note: cast Paresh Rawal) who stifles a yawn and suddenly looks rather nervous.

Well, I was fired from B4U before coming here. But we can always cover the Gujarati Hasya Sammelan in New York this coming...

Moving on!

Hotshot now points to a woman with straight long hair, a gigantic bindi and painted nails who is smiling broadly and looking excited at being called on.


How about a 24 hour ghazal marathon! We could get Pankaj Udhaas and Ghulam...

Shut up!

Suddenly a voice is heard as the camera stays on HOTSHOT's frustrated face. As the voice speaks, the camera swivels to a corner of the room we haven't seen before. A stocky man in horn-rimmed glasses is sitting working on a Rubik's cube. Greasy hair poke out from under the baseball cap on his head. The shirt says 'Shri 420' in devanagiri. Several pages of eight row Sudokus lie completed around him. The Rubik's cube is jumbled.

SHRI 420
We need to get close to our customers. Make them feel like we are thinking of them. A lot.

Rubik's cube now has its blue face complete.

I'm listening.

SHRI 420
We need to tell them what a great channel we are. Lure them in.

Rubik's cube now has red face complete

SHRI 420
We should phone spam all Disc Networking customers with our ads!

Phone spam? Isn't that a bad thing?

SHRI 420
So was Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag, but he still made lakhs, didn't he?

Rubik's cube now has white face complete

SHRI 420 (continues)
Phone spam is super cheap these days. All you need is a recorded voice. Let's use a man's voice, we don't want our customers getting confused about what we broadcast. Disc will sell us their customer phone numbers in an instant if we show them some cash. Then their ass is ours!

Brilliant idea! Why didn't I think of it before! Annoy the heck out of our customers and they'll sign right up and start watching!

SHRI 420

The Rubik's cube completes with a snap. A triumphant smile spreads on SHRI 420's lips. He slowly gets up.

Where are you going?

SHRI 420
You'll have to excuse me. I need to go attend Himanshu Besharmiya's staff meeting.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Black and Blue on Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa

I'm convinced John Abraham is a comedic genius! Let me explain.

On this week's JDJ, the star of the show - that would be Mir Ranjan Negi to everyone who's been living under a rock so far - got ready for another side-splitting routine.

This time, he dressed up in a shimmery black outfit with gold lame all over. He then donned a moth-eaten afro and applied what looked like black boot polish all over his face. Then he came out bouncing a basketball. It took me a few seconds or so to realize he was trying to channel a black basketball player.

Now if he had tried this around here in Chicago, he would have become the next CIO (Career Is Over) of the industry. Be that as it may, with this look in place, he bombed. Not funny bombed. He just bombed. This saddened me - because more than anyone else I like seeing Negi in full flow.

Bipasha Basu, who was all geared up to praise Negi to the skies, admonished him for disappointing her. But then John Abraham grabbed the mike and said more or less this: "Negi, the skin on your face was all dark. And so when you smiled, your white teeth really stood out. And this made your smile very noticeable. And this smile really saved your ass today" On the pantheon of nonsensically kind things to say, this one must rank pretty high.

Meanwhile, JDJ as a show took a rather nasty turn.

First, Mika got kicked off the show - and the bad vibes between him, the judges and his peers on the show resulted in a surreal results episode. Last week, frustrated with the judges thanda reaction to his rather sloppy dances, Mika asked his fans to refrain from voting for him.

Now on his exit, he grabbed the mike and proceeded to tell everyone how only Mika could have caused the exit of Mika, no one else. "My job was to increase the grandeur of this show" he smiled "which I've done. Now I'm leaving so others can get a chance to come forward". Heh, heh. A heart of gold, our Mika has.

The saga of Jay Bhanushali also plumbed some tacky depths. Tired with Jay's constant whining and recognizing the pettiness behind his claims that the judges were biased, Urmila finally had a go at him. In a voice that could freeze hot lava from a volcano in three nanoseconds, she ripped him up for focusing on the wrong things. Jay, who had earlier tried chatoing Urmila, for once looked lost for words.

This was followed by a dance plagued with wardrobe malfunction for his luckless choreographer. That same dance ended in both barely keeping their balance in the end.

Thus chastised, Jay tried to salvage some pride with an undoubtedly rehearsed jig where he chatoed Bipasha and asked her to dance with him. Phaltu Drift advice for Jay: it's pointless to create more opportunities to do stuff you're not good at - like dancing!

Ronit Roy has now become a highly interesting character in the show. He's dancing better than anyone else (he gamely took on Hritik Roshan's jig in Dhoom 2 and did it rather well).

But you get to see these montages of a driven, sad sack type of guy who keeps pushing himself, mainly by getting constantly pissed at his choreographer. Despite his extra humble personae, this makes him difficult to like whole heartedly.

Finally, the prospect of a wild card entry to either Prachi or Sudha Chandran caused much bitching among the contestants. I'm not sure how I would handle JDJ but if I were a producer (and I recognize I'm nowhere near being one), I would consider it the responsibility of the hosts to control the vibes on the show and generally keep them positive. In that, Rohit Roy and Mona Singh seem to be failing spectacularly.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Nach Baliye 3: A Shahrukh gathers moss

A lot of times men do stuff that they think is cool with their hair but actually looks ridiculous. You're never sure why - perhaps a Man Hair Silly gene will be discovered some day.

Now you could say: Aspi, you're just jealous - but you know what I'm talking about. Like say those fantastic comb overs that makes their possessor feel pleased and confident but actually causes suppressed chuckles all around.

Shahrukh Khan has one of those confounding things going with his little pony tail. The first time I saw it, it took my several minutes to figure out it was actually there. And after that I wasted more time trying to figure out why it was there. Ah yes, I am aware there are hair control issues, but hasn't anyone heard of hairspray? And haven't I got enough trivial stuff to worry about without getting side-tracked like this?

But in any case, I digress. SRK's appearance on Nach Baliye to promote OSO, but mostly as a favor from Farah Khan, was much fun to watch. Why so? Because SRK is terribly articulate - in Hindi (and some Urdu), he's disarmingly engaging and he was whole-heartedly funny. By not doing things guardedly - as big stars often seem to do - he made himself feel accessible.

It could have been my imagination, but I thought the producers played a laugh track in that episode to punch up SRK's funnier comments. How would I know this? For one, a lot (not all) of the laughter was too controlled and timed really well. And whenever I would hear the laughter but look at the audience I couldn't match the sound with the expression on everyone's faces.

Be that as it may, probably the only thing a little overwrought about SRK's appearance was that he kept insisting he was a poor dancer. And then he went on to execute some fine moves in the curtain stage dance. In return he was generally good natured and came up with a crowd-pleasing formula: give one point more than the best points handed out by any judge. After all, no one really came to see SRK for his dance-judging abilities.

I was also curious to see how much Rakhi Sawant would chato Shahrukh Khan. But this turned out to be a damp squib as Rakhi simply rushed SRK like a gawking teen without much of a plan (note to Rakhi: look into enrolling in the House of Reshammiya Finishing School). As with all things Rakhi related that I'm finding out: the hype supersedes reality. Its the same way with her dance - I know she's good and everyone praises her to the skies, but when she actually dances I don't enjoy it quite as much I expect to.

Instead, I'm developing a furious fondness for her partner Abhishek. Mostly because he just sits there dressed outrageously wearing a sweetly goofy smile. And don't let that tabby cat look fool you - he's a pretty good dancer, probably even better than Rakhi herself.

He came dressed in a shimmery blue outfit with a tremendous cleavage decorated with a honking silver pendant. He kept smiling constantly. And when it was his turn to dance, he grabbed a guitar and swung it around like Rajesh Khanna used to swing his younger heroines. Forget Rakhi! Go, my man!


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Star Voice of India: Back to the Pavilion

Saritha reports on a VoI that made me believe: Hema Malini + Accent = terribly sexy

Week after week, I try different ways to say the same thing which is essentially a known fact to all: that Voice of India has nothing going for it – it’s a lost cause.

But still, there has been one constant factor – the host Shaan. Friendly, charming, non-controversial, he’s often seen sailing through turbulent times with an infectious smile on his face. Inspite of being an established playback singer currently riding high on the success of big banner movies, he appreciates these newbies on the show without ever trying to grab the limelight or intimidate them. I feel comfortable to know that whenever things go haywire (which happens pretty often around here), he’ll use his trademark charm to keep things on track. And he has never failed me.

When Ishmeet sang "Suno na" from Vishal-Shekhar’s lovely album Jhankar Beats, Shaan enjoyed it just like an audience member and for a second, I forgot that it was actually one of his early hits until Abhijeet grabbed the mike and reminded us.

At this point I was getting ready for the usual comments that defy logic, when Abhijeet surprised me by saying how "Suno na" had made him Shaan’s fan. Confession of the day! And surprise, surprise; he said it sitting down in his chair. It must have been a bright, sunny day in Mumbai. In return, Shaan admitted that Ishmeet is singing so well, he might be competition. Hmm...that might not happen anytime soon, but Ishmeet is targeting Shaan’s area of expertise, that is for sure.

Abhaas was in excellent form when he left the show and that irked Jatin, who always rooted for this boy, to no end. In fact, all the judges looked upset but Aadesh (who had to say something nasty) expressed his discontent with the show’s format where a ‘Seekha hua baccha’ got eliminated.

Jatin who was boiling already need to diffuse the heat and he did that when Harshit delivered a dud with ‘Mitwa’ from KANK. Aadesh promptly defended his chela for taking up a challenge with himmat’to sing such a song on stage .

Lalit went a step ahead and dragged Ishmeet into this saying that they didn’t want Harshit to play safe like him, sticking to a single genre. For a moment I was not sure if I was watching SRGMP L'il champs with parents are screaming "Nahi, mera beta teek gaa raha hain. Aap gaake batao, zara”

Later yet Jatin thundered “ If he can’t sing this song in a single take, at age 20, he should never sing at all. Main gaake bataoo?” The B/W sankat moments crept in, Aadesh and Lalit turned pale, Abhijeet and Alka watched the tamasha and I grabbed my coke and turned up the volume of the speakers getting ready to relish the drama, I’ve been craving for all these weeks.

Alas, the show tamely resumed from a break and I slouched back into my seat. Sigh!

Moreover, celeb guest Hridayanath Mangeshkar played messenger of peace asking the judges not to fight, thus embarrassing them.

Amidst all this, on Diwali's especially boring episode, each of the top three were gifted with a Chevrolet Spark making them very happy and that touched me. Those smiles will at least keep my cynicism at bay for a while.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L'il Champs: Kids do the darnedest things

Without social expectations of how to behave weighing them down, kids can be fun to watch a lot of times. And I enjoy doing that whenever I tune in to SRGMP L'il Champs.

Take for example Raja Hasan on SRGMP. Every time he would get asked a controversial question he would come up with something dreadfully diplomatic (in Gujarat this is called dodh daapan). If he got low marks, he would smile like Arun Govil in Ramayana and walk off in good humor.

But the kids on this show haven't been fully socialized yet. Sometimes they'll bawl and mention how their parents' expectations put pressure on them to do well. Often, they'll stand there and demand marks from the judges. Some have worked out how to make cute faces for that extra bit of candy. And despite last time's alarming Lalita Pawar moment, Suresh Wadkar and Sonu Nigam keep loading up the marks for the kids.

Now the marks are give as grades - from C to A+. And these grades dance across the screen until they settle on the final letter. So you'll see this highly amusing ritual: the judge will start with C and keep looking at the kid. The kid will beg for grades, the crowd will egg him or her on. The closer the judge gets to the grade he wants to give, the warier his expression becomes. And the more furtive the pleas from the kid.

There are two ways this ends: (1) the judge says the equivalent of "ok, you are too cute to pass up and I don't want to be meanie uncle or (2) the judge says "enough is enough, you truly blew, so you get just an A (or B+)"

This brings back high school memories - really bad ones. But because Vishal and Shekhar were on, I watched. And I must say Vishal was a total surprise for me. Dressed like Prem Chopra from the 70s and free from having to deal with Himesh, he seemed relaxed and clearly enjoyed being the alpha cool one.

At one point Head asked him about his role in Om Shanti Om. He started off with a mock Oscar acceptance speech and noted that it had taken Farah about 6 seconds to narrate the role to him. "My role is so small" he joked, "that let it not be an excuse to not go see OSO".

All through, he was laid back, generous without being pretentious and pretty funny.

Geez, Vishal has been holding out on us. More importantly, it told me how caged in he must have been in the presence of the House of Reshammiya on that other show.

Finally, since Head insists that each kid get their own unique line of introduction (remember the Royal Cub of Bengal?) one kid was given the label "The One Whose Parents Think He Looks Like ET Alien". Along the Mir Ranjan Negi scale of entertainment, I must say this ranks pretty high. Especially since the poor kid finished singing and complained that he had no idea why his parents were trying to sabotage his dating future in this manner.