Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bollywood goes to Hollywood

Drift stylista Joules explores Bollywood's foray into Hollywood from Oscar to Aish to Cannes and Snoop

Bollywood has always been the step child of Hollywood. Not only did it get its inspiration (read copies) from hollywood movies, it got its acting style from hollywood as well. Dev Anand was called the Cary Grant of Mumbai while Aamir is the Tom Hanks. Aishwarya and Abhishek are called Abhiwarya to keep up with the Brangelina nomenclature while Kareena and Saif want to be the Beckham couple.

The step child although has been very popular in non-western world. How many times have we had Chinese, Russians, Pakistanis or folks from the Middle East talking about Raj Kapoor, Mithun Chakraborty or SRK and watching movies like DDLJ or Veer Zaara? So it was just a matter of time that we started seeing more and more of Bollywood in Hollywood. Here is to catalog the journey of Bollywood to the City of Angels.

1. Satyajit Ray
Word's can't describe Ray's brilliance. I sometimes wish I knew how to speak Bengali and was born in the era that Ray was depicting in his movies so I could understand all the nuances of his stories. The most talented director-writer that Indian and Bengali cinema have ever produced. Pather Panchali, Apu Trilogy to the hindi movie Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Ray left his mark on Indian cinema and has been an inspiration for a lot of upcoming directors like Rituparno Ghosh and Aparna Sen. Ray also co-wrote a story "The Alien" for Columbia Productions which never got made. The AMPAS awarded Ray an honorary Oscar in1992 for Lifetime Achievement. He got the award a few weeks before he died.

2. Mother India
Mehboob Khan's Mother India portrayed all the sensibilities and emotions associated with a bollywood movie beautifully. This movie was hailed as an epic story which combined the political landscape with an immensely interesting human story. The story of a mother who will do anything to bring up her kids with proper values is hearbreaking and so touching. It also featured some of the well known actors of that era - Nargis, Raaj Kumar, Sunil and Rajendra. Movie was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film in 1958, first nomination ever for a bolly movie.

3. Salaam Bombay
A non-judgemental movie of kids living on the streets on Bombay, Mira Nair's insight into the lives of these street dwellers is indeed commendable as she retains her sense of homour through the heart wrenching episodes these kids have to endure. It is a known fact that Nair hired the kids off the street to retain its realism. A dark movie definitely hard to watch but Oscar worthy. The Oscar jury nominated it for best foreign language film in 1989.

4. Aish Hi Aish
The most beautiful face in the world, Aishwarya came on the world stage after winning the 1994 Miss World competition. A great PR agent, a very supportive mom and a hard working personality made Aish the symbol of Bollywood in Hollywood. She became the face of L'Oreal sharing space with the likes of Eva Longoria. Maybe the only bolly actress to be profiled on 60 minutres, Aish also charmed Dave Letterman and showed Oprah how to drape a saree. Although her movie The Last Legion went unnoticed she has a full fledged role in the upcoming Pink Panther movie.

5. Lagaan
Everything Aamir touches turns to gold. So it was about time that this movie five years in the making made it to the Oscars. Nominated for best foreign language film in 2002, and heavily promoted by Aamir and director Ashutosh Gowariker. Lagaan barely lost to Bosnia's No Man's Land. Some would say that movie won for political reasons.

6. Starlets at Cannes
You know you have arrived in Bollywood if you show up at Cannes. From Nandita Das to Mallika Sherawat they all donned their finest to appear on the red carpet. Shahrukh Khan came with the Devdas team and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali returned later with Black. Aish was invited the following year to be on the jury. She has made appearance since then promoting Loreal. Preity has been a regular showing up to promote De Beers.

7. So You Think You Can Dance 
The concept of this program is so bollywoodish that it was about time that bollywood dancing entered the show. The choregrapher Nakul Dev Mahajan did a beautiful job of choreographing the couple Katee and Joshua. So fond were the audience of the Bollywood dance that the show brought it in again as an introductory segment with all couples dancing to Jhoom Barabar Jhoom.

8. East meets West
Neha Dhupia appears in a music video with American R&B singer Ginuwine. Seal and Heidi Klum get married in a tacky indian wedding in Hawaii. Natalie Portman wears ethnic garb in a spoofy indian video. Jessica Alba wears a saree in The Love Guru, Ghost World opens with an old hindi song from Gumnaam. MIA grabs attention with a remix of Mithun Chakraborty's Jimmy.

9. Snoop in Singh is Kinng
Self described as "America's First Bollywood Superstar" Snoop sings the title song of Singh is Kinng. Although it is hilarious seeing Snoop don a turban and Indian attire, the camraderie between Snoop and Akshay is not lost and all I can say is Snoop goes to Bollywood.

10. Sly and Arnold
So not only are bollywood stars and starlets making a foray into hollywood, we now see hollywood stars like Sly and Arnold want to make it into mumbai movies. Sylvester is already appearing in a movie with Kareena and Akshay Kumar and claims that he wants his friend Arnold to do the same. Will Smith and Richard Gere have gone on scouting missions to Mumbai while producers eye the large indian market.

11. Colbert takes up Khan-Bhachchan jhagda
The alleged feud between Amitabh and SRK spilled over from the Indian tabloids to the Colbert Report. Stephen Colbert host of the popular talk satire The Colbert Report in his own style covered the rivalry and ruled on the winner based on their dancing abilities by showing clips of Mohabattein and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham.

12. Crossover cinema
The last decade has seen an influx of cross over cinema into the western market. While we had Mira Nair's very successful Monsoon wedding and The Namesake, Gurinder Chaddha and hubby tried but could not live up to expectations with Bride and Prejudice and Mistress of Spices. Deepa Mehta's Water found a niche audience. Mira Nair has created an important niche in Hollywood by directing A-list stars in Vanity Fair and her upcoming Shantaram.

13. The Chaiya Chaiya Phenom
This Rahman-Sukhwinder Singh song was voted number nine in a BBC World Services poll to choose 10 most famous songs. Remixes of the song appear in the opening and closing credits in Spike Lee's Inside Man and forms of the song have appeared in television shows Smith and CSI:Miami. We also saw Nicole Kidman dancing to Chamma Chamma from China Gate in her movie Moulin Rouge.

14. Character Role Forays
Irfan Khan shows up along side the gorgeous Angelina Jolie in the movie A Mighty Heart. Om Puri has an impressive resume in Hollywood - City of Joy with Patrick Swayze, Wolf with Jack Nicholson, The Ghost and the Darkness with Val Kilmer and Charlie Wilson's War where he plays Zia Ul Haq alongside Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

15. Arre Mamu
A first time remake of a bollywood movie in Hollywood. Raj Kumar Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra's MunnaBhai MBBS is being remade in Hollywood as Gangster MD and none other than Mira Nair has been roped in to direct the movie. Chris Tucker will be the main protagonist.

Also:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Reality shows I'd like to see

Finally with the welcome demise of SRGMP Challenge USA,  we can go back to watching the best show on Indian TV - SRGMP Challenge 2009.

But between SRGMP last year and now what have we seen? Tired shows with familiar contestants. Jaded, uninventive finales. Unconvincing jhagdas. Is this what the world of TV is coming to?

Fortunately I'm enough of an achha insaan to part with some high concepts for TV shows I've been working on lately. Note: I've used popular songs as show names to provide instant brand recognition. Pretty clever, haa?

Show: I am a Disco Dancer
The Pitch: Contestants dress and sing like Bappi and get graded by how well they can fool Bappi's son Bappa. Final three have to dress, sing and cook something that Bappi would like. The best part of this show is that anyone can participate and try to look or sing like Bappi, regardless of gender or age.
Judges: Abhijit, Bappa Lahiri

Show: Dum Maaro Dum
The Pitch: A cash-in on the new fitness craze in India, singers sing while exercising. The best songercise gets the highest points. A calorie counter is employed and combined with the judges scores.
Judges: Adnan Sami, Himesh Reshammiya

Show: Geet gaata chal
The Pitch: Dum Maaro Dum but for seniors
Judges: Vyjantimala Bali, Dev Anand

Show: Roop tera mastaana
The Pitch: An entire team (lyricist-composer-singer) gets together each week and composes something in praise of Himesh Reshammiya. The one who does the best job gets the highest points. Final three get to perform with the man himself.Winner gets to spend a day in the House of Reshammiya. Loser gets to spend two days.
Judges: Ismail Darbar, Hansika Motwani

Show: Mummy ko nah hai pataa
The Pitch: Party Central for girls! Each week contestants do something outrageous that would kill their parents if they found out and then air it on TV. Parents are invited and their reactions are aired during and right after the "performance".
Judges: Malaika Arora, Sonam, Upen Patel, Babita

Show: Laila mai Laila
The Pitch: Bollywood starlets perform based on a theme each week. Suggested artists: Udita Goswami, Kim Sharma, Amrita Arora, Shamita Shetty, Celina Jaitley and Tanushree Dutta (pretty much any woman from this awesome video). Suggested themes: suhaag raat ki laila, sadaa suhaagan laila, Bappi nite laila, Barish mein laila, Ranjit ki laila.
Judges: Feroz Khan, Bindu, Shakti Kapoor

Show: Mehngai maar gai
The Pitch: A-list politicians are given Rs 500 to take their family out for the evening and have a good time. Strolls in parks or Chowpatty are not permitted. Each week viewers get to watch one contestant discover the real India.
Judges: Shatrughan Sinha, Jaya Bachchan

Show: Tashan Mein
The Pitch: Karan Johar and Manish Malhotra get together each week and pick a tashan-challenged celebrity to adopt and beautify. The season will open with Sameera Reddy and the finale will feature Parmeshwar Godrej.
Judges: Gauri Khan, Tusshar Kapoor

Monday, July 28, 2008

The making of Rock On!! - An exclusive interview with Farhan Akhtar

Farhan Akhtar needs no generic introduction to fans of Indian cinema. So I'll keep this brief and personal.

Somewhere in the late 80s, tired of the random silliness that pervaded Bollywood, I stopped watching Indian movies altogether. Over a decade passed when a friend recommended something to me. On a whim I popped in the DVD for Farhan's Dil Chahta Hai. It instantly reignited my love for Bollywood. Years later, Farhan remade my favorite Bollywood movie. And for both these reasons he has a primo location in my Hall of Fame.

Farhan has a new release as an actor and singer - Rock On!! - due on August 29 in which he takes a serious tilt at building a formidable multi-hyphenate career.

He is also a killer Q&A subject and was nice enough to answer a few questions exclusively for Drift readers.

Aspi: Hi Farhan, great job singing on the Rock On!! soundtrack. But please start by telling us how you ended up as the actor in the film - before, after or during the scriptwriting?

Farhan: The script was brought to me by Abhishek Kapoor, the director. He wanted me to act in the film. After hearing the script, my first reaction was that I wanted to produce it. I felt the story was refreshing and the characters multi-layered, that even if I didn't end up acting in the film or singing the songs, I wanted to be associated with it.

Aspi: Tell us a little bit about how the script came together. Did you work with a specific story or turned a concept into a story?

Farhan: The story is written by Abhishek himself. The screenplay by Abhishek and Pubali Choudhary. So it came to me pretty fleshed out as a script. My feedback was purely as an actor and a creative producer. Once they were done with the screenplay, I got down to writing the dialogue for the film.

Aspi: Did you have your music system blaring when you wrote the movie? What music did you play to get the juices flowing?

Farhan: Not at all actually. I tend to listen to Western Classical when I write and that too at a pretty low volume. So although the film is about Rock, the dialogue was written accompanied by Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Mozart and Tchaikovsky!

Aspi: You seem to be having a lot of fun on Pichle Saat Dino Mein. At one point you even yelp the word "Roya" a little too happily. Did your confidence as a singer grow as you recorded each song? Or did you come rock-star-ready to the recordings?

Farhan: It did grow with each song and I cannot thank Shankar Ehsaan and Loy enough for that. They believed I could do it before I came around to believing it myself. Also, they kept reminding that me that there was no rush to try and knock off all the vocal parts...I could take my time and record them when I felt I was ready.

Aspi: With the music of Rock On!! you've shown that Hindi rock is alive and well. But you might have ironically proven that the best commercial Hindi rock can only come from Bollywood and not the indie scene. Agree and feeling guilty or disagree and feeling proud?

Farhan: I disagree. The parameters within which the two genre's operate is vastly different. I personally tend to listen to very few Hindi film albums more than once but I am not ignorant about the size of it's audience. We are attempting to bring Hindi Rock closer to mainstream audiences by making a film that has this new genre (from their perspective) at it's centre. In order to do that successfully, we have to be aware of the boundaries that we redefine without alienating the very people we would like to involve.

Aspi: Choose your favorite: Farhan the director, Farhan the writer, Farhan the actor, Farhan the singer or Farhan the producer?

Farhan: I leave that to the people who are watching my work to decide. I am equally excited, challenged and sincere about all of the above.

Aspi: Seriously, is there anything you can't do? Can you fold a fitted bed sheet? How about cooking?

Farhan: I can't scuba dive because of a bad sinus condition. I can't pat my head while rubbing my stomach. I can't say 'red lorry yellow lorry' five times really fast without messing up. I can't get over how brilliant The Beatles were. I can't do a triple axel with a twist dive into the pool. But yes, I can cook.

Aspi: Really? Tell us what you make really well.

Farhan: The words 'really well' are subjective in cooking...but the one I have got most complimented for is a recipe that involves stuffing a chicken breast with chopped mushroom and parsley and then wrapping the breast in strips of pastry and shoving it into the oven. This I serve with a sauce that is made of mustard, white wine and cream. Pretty good, huh?

Aspi: Javed Sir did a terrific job with the lyrics. Did you prep him by having him listen to your entire rock collection? Did he make a face and roll his eyes at some of those obscure rock lyrics?

Farhan: Dad is open to all kinds of music and he tried to understand what we were trying to say through our songs.

Aspi: You've worked with some of the biggest marquee names in Bollywood (Aamir Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Shahrukh Khan). Can you tell us something about your working equation with each one?

Farhan: Of course they each have their own individual appoach to their craft but the one thing I can tell you about working with all of them, is that they are extremely passionate about acting and their drive to get every take absolutely right is what makes them who they are. It has been a pleasure directing them.

Aspi: Farhan, you tackle a lot of men's issues in your films - am I unfairly typecasting you or is this emotional territory that you have an affinity for?

Farhan: Being a man, men's issues do tend to be more natural to talk about. It is a territory that I understand and at times have been in similar emotional situations as the characters from my films...so to draw from the first hand experience is possible. Furthermore, you would have to agree that the women in my films are not props as they have always had substantial roles and conflicts.

All pictures of Farhan courtesy of and taken by his fida fan Sofia Akhtar at the Rock On!! music launch on July 7 at Infinity Mall, Andheri.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Saas Bahu Himesh Part 2: Chaos in the Kesammiya Khandaan

Undeterred by the fact that her last brilliant saas-bahu treatment failed to lure Himesh Reshammiya to the small screen, KTeddy delivers another classic

There’s a crash in the back of the room as Daai-maa drops a thaali of dhokla and rushes towards her baby Himes.

“Heeeeeemooooooo babaaaaa!!!!!!” she screeches, scattering dhoklas left and right as she lumbers full speed towards the couple. Meanwhile, Himesh’s brothers Jignes and Hites have tremendous frowns on their faces. Their wives Hetal and Lethal, in backless spaghetti-strap cholis, surge forward. They’re wearing earrings bigger than their faces and those terrible snake bindis, and are glowering at the new bahu on the block. Lethal’s eyes go weird. Pungi music is heard in the background, and she smiles evilly to herself.

What Jignes and the Kesammiya Khaandaan does not know, is that Lethal is really an icchadhari naagin, hell bent on revenge against Seth Dharamdas!

What about the Kesammiya Khaandaan ke buzurg? Seth Dharamdas is terribly upset, because he has just got hit on the noggin by a wooden Dandiya. He glares in a rage at his youngest offspring, a large bump throbbing on his bald head. His comb-over is coming undone. Sethani Maniben has just fainted in Dhayabhai Patel’s waiting arms. They look deeply into each other’s eyes, and think of the affair that they had so many years ago, the result of which has just brought home a bahu.

“Baa, your baby is back with a bahu for you,” says Himesh.

“Yeh ladki kaun hai, Himes? Iska khaandaan kya hai?” roars Dharamdas. “she better not be...middle-class!”

Rotika is trying to walk with a footlong pallu covering her face. She bumps into a table, and a vase on the table flies off in slow motion as the whole assembly watches. Water from the vase splashes slowly on to the portrait of Chimanbhai Kesammiya, making the face of Chimanbhai look like something Picasso would paint after a night of indigestion-induced nightmares.

“Nahiiiiiiiiiiin! Apshakoon! Dharamdas, Yeh ladki is khaandaan ko mita degi!” the family tantric OdieBaba has now moved to the foreground, with cleavage and hair extensions to rival Himesh’s, and orange robes with huge rudrakhsh beads around his neck and arms.

“Betaaa” a quavering voice pipes up. It’s the maali cum cook, Ramukaka (A.K.Hangal’s triumphant return to showbiz). “Yeh to hamaare gaon ke munshipalti iskool masterji ki ladki hai, naa!”

There is a shocked silence. Hetal and Lethal smile evilly, and Lethal hisses “Middle-class!”

“Middle-class!” “Middle-class!!!” “MIDDLE-CLASS!!!!” everyone in the Haveli is repeating “Middle-class!!” to each other. The camera spins faster and faster around the room, and rests on Rotika, who has fainted in Ramukaka’s arms, who has in turn tottered into Himes’s arms.

Nostrils quivering in righteous anger, Himesh draws a deep breath and flicks a hand over his tresses, just to make sure the “do” is okay. “Yeh aapki bahu hai, ab is ghar ki izzat hai!!! Maa Saraswati aur Hanumanji ne hame milaya tha, chiku ke khet mein. Jai Mata Di, chaalo roke (rock ) kariye!”

Himesh glares at his khaandaan, daring them to disagree, his chest heaving, cleavage quivering.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Autoricksha Confessions 6: Growing up with sisters

I've narrated a part of this story before but I think it bears repeating

Growing up I didn't have any sisters - and I've always missed having one.

But there was an awkward age - during which us boys couldn't stop analyzing the merits and demerits of girls - when this became a distinct advantage. Friends who had sisters developed an awkward awareness that their sisters were being put through the same scrutiny that they afforded other girls.

I remember once riding pillion on my friend's motorcycle, spotting a long haired girl from behind, exclaiming together "Woot! What a maal!" and realizing as we drew closer that it was said friend's older sister. Awkwardness!

And there was yet another incident involving a different friend - let's call him Ranjeet shall we? Ranjeet's sister, Farida Jalal (not her real name) once went to see a movie and was repeatedly harassed by the boy next to her who kept rubbing up against her in the dark. Now this being a chuha-billi theater (i.e. think toxic garbage dump but with seats) with terrible lighting, Farida couldn't tell who was sitting next to her.

But as the movie hit intermission, the lights went up and Farida turned to confront her tormentor. It was none other than Ranjeet who turned visibly pale. "Ranjeet!" she screamed. "Saala badmaash! Wait till I tell mummy what you have been doing to girls in the theater!" If I remember correctly Ranjeet was grounded for the rest of his high school life and suffered the ignominy of turning beet red whenever we studied certain events in Greek literature.

In any case, I had a scarring incident related to having a sister - and I didn't even have one!

This happened in my school years when we were all just hitting puberty and becoming intensely aware of a girl in class who was later accorded the status of Maha Maal - which meant that girls would come and go but there would be none like her. She was pretty and graceful - picture Michelle Monaghan complete with green eyes. I was hugely interested in her best friend (we'll call her Bipasha) which was unfortunate, because how do you make friends with the princess to get at her friend?

But back to the main story. Once the nuns in my catholic school decided to become all secular and celebrate Rakshabandhan with a sample boy and girl. This was torture enough. But it got worse.

Our teacher Mrs. Mukherjee - a tall imposing figure with a penchant for pulling cheeks instead of slapping them - announced one fine day that the fake brother and sister would be picked from our very class.

Needless to say Michelle - with her stunning visibility - was picked to be the sister. None of the boys wanted to be her brother. All of us lifted up the top of our desks with the pretext of looking for something and hid ourselves behind them. One of us in the back row dove under the desk and hid there, shuddering and praying.

But alas, since I was a teacher's son I matched Michelle's visibility (albeit not for my looks). And so Mrs. Mukherjee's finger swept the room and settled on me. For long after, I had recurring nightmares about this - Mrs. Mukherjee pointing at me in class, everyone laughing - only her hand was a shotgun and the trigger was cocked.

Thus one fine Rakshabandhan day, in front of the whole school I became Michelle's brother. Worst of all I had to go shopping to buy her a gift which I gave to her after the tying of the rakhee. Amidst the kind of silence you'd find at a public hanging, a particularly nasty friend whooped from the third row.

I was incessantly teased for being Maha Maal ka bhai. My life appeared to be ruined. But against all odds, some good karma resulted from my new status with Michelle. First, I didn't have to work hard at all on an approach to get her friend Bipasha's attention. And some huge entertainment resulted from this situation later in life.

But that is a story for another ricksha ride.

Also:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

No Sa Re Ga Ma Pa? On to Star Voice of India!

For some reason Star Voice of India doesn't whip up the same frenzy as its more celebrated cousins - SRGMP and Indian Idol. But with ZeeTV USA force feeding people that boring kavi sammelan - SRGMP Challenge USA - and with nothing good on TV and some time on my hands, I tuned in to Voice of India 2 last weekend.

And boy, was the reward immediate! But more on that later.

VoI has three judges: disgruntled ex-SRGMP judge Ismail Darbar who launched into a delicious mini-attack of SRGMP at one point, Sukhwinder Singh of the booming voice and goofball potential and Monty Sharma - who with his startled lab rat look makes Ismail Darbar look like he is in a GQ shoot.

All three judges are at moral loggerheads with each other. Let me explain.

All evening Monty Sharma kept using the confounding word "Attack!" whenever he wanted to encourage a contestant. Confused by what this meant, contestant after contestant bowed meekly and scurried off the stage. Perhaps sensing this, Monty felt compelled to explain.

"The meaning of this word Attack!" said Monty, "is that I want you to go out there and get what you want! Don't wait for it to come to you."

Immediately Ismail Darbar picked up the mike and said: "You have to chheeno stuff these days. Even asking God for it doesn't work. God doesn't have time for us!"

At this point Sukhwinder put on his best achha insaan face and cut in. "God has time for all us" he said solemnly, waving one arm around. "He gives without asking!" Then he turned to the perplexed contestant hanging out reluctantly on stage. "Don't make this advice a guiding slogan in your life!"

Black and white sankat ensued. Monty grabbed the mike and peered from under his hair. "When does a child get fed milk by his mother? Only when he cries!" Despite the implication here that Monty may have had a disturbed infanthood, this deliciously loopy and unrelated take on Gabbar Singh's famous saambha-maa-bachcha dialog from Sholay was fine entertainment.

But back to that instant gratification I mentioned earlier. Some girl called Saptaparna opened proceedings with a fine rendition of Kay Cera Cera. The judges threw their hands around and did much wah, wah. I had to down a tequila because I saw Sukhwinder mouth Kya Baat Hai at least once.

When the performance was finished Ismail trotted on stage and looked at Saptaparna. "Your name is very convoluted!" he declared. "So from this point on you shall have a new name. And to remind me of the light your singing will spread in this world, I will henceforth call you...ROSHNI!"

Saptaparna swallowed hard and bowed long and deep - probably to give herself some time to make sense of the drama. Host Shaan smiled broadly and immediately began addressing the poor girl by her new name.

Right after that another contestant called Debarati with enough spray in her hair to hold up all of South Delhi came and sweetly ambled her way through Bhaage Re Mann. After she finished she hopefully waited for Ismail to issue another spontaneous naamkaran. But Ismail appeared to be least interested. It might have been my imagination but Debarati looked distinctly crest fallen.

Lady, new name ke liye aur mehnat karo!

Also:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Inside the music of Rock On!! with Ehsaan Noorani (A Drift Exclusive)

Shankar Ehsaan Loy's music for Rock On!! is a landmark effort. How so? Stripped of non-Bollywood style constructs, it embraces a spare four piece rock band sound and stays true to it from beginning to end. There are some bold choices on the album from the choice of lyricist (Javed Akhtar) to the choice of singers - none more so than giving lead vocals on no less than five tracks to Farhan Akhtar (writer-director: Dil Chahta Hai, Don) who makes his acting debut here.

Rock On!! is probably the best Hindi rock CD that indierock never gave us.

Ehsaan Noorani - who along with Shankar Mahadevan and Loy Mendosa makes up SEL and whose guitar riffs power much of the signature sound of Rock On!! - was nice enough to tell us about the making of the music exclusively here on the Drift.

Aspi: Hi Ehsaan, congratulations on a terrific CD - its a straight rock album but its different in tone and texture from regular Bollywood albums. Did you get specific directions on the songs from (director) Abhishek?

Ehsaan: Farhan and Abhishekh briefed us on the kind of songs that they were looking at for Rock On!! which was essentially rock. They played us the kind of music that they were listening to while penning the script. Naturally the music was going to be totally non Bollywood in terms of format and style.

Aspi: How long did the album take to put together?

Ehsaan: All the songs were composed in about 5 days! We composed like a rock band with the drums and bass set up and we all played live to the recorder . We cut this album like a band does which is essentially live...no programming.

Aspi: You picked interesting singers on the album. Is there such a thing as a good Hindi rock voice? 

Ehsaan: Farhan was naturally the first choice since he is the actor in the film . It was a nice move on the part of the director to make Farhan sing as it gives the music and the film a sense of realness like Hollywood films have. Suraj (Jagan) is a great rock singer and was the first choice for the Zehreelay song . Caralisa (Monteiro) and Dominique (Cerejo) who sung the two mellow songs are fine singers with totally different voices and we chose them because they are completely apart from the typical film voices.

Aspi: Ehsaan, could you tell us something about each song on the CD?

Ehsaan:

Socha Hai
(This was) the 2nd song we composed essentially based around the guitar riff which opens the song!

Pichle Saat Dinon Mein
This was the first song we composed. We literally jammed on the guitar riff that I came up with and the song fell into place in about 20 mins! The words are very interesting about how one loses everything but can't afford to lose love. The guitar solo was the solo I played on the first draft of the recording and we decided to stick with it.

Rock On!! 
This song came later as we thought it would be nice to have a title song! The song has a nice 80's vibe which we went for on purpose.

Ye Tumhari Meri Baatein
A beautiful traveling song which Dominique sang with such wonderful soul. She really is an awesome singer! I like the texture of the entire song which has a lovely ambient quality to it.

Zehreelay
The heavy metal song on the album which Suraj has rendered like a true rock star! Suraj also inputted on the composition of this song. Javed saab freaked us (out) by writing the words for this song. He totally related to it! The guitar solo on this song is totally unlike my style of playing and it came magically in one take I don't think I will be able to play it again.

Tum Ho Toh
The rock ballad on the song has a wonderful vibe and it is completely different from the other songs (an angle you will see in the film). It was challenging for Farhan to sing and he did a great job.

Sinbad the Sailor
Javed saab created a great hook by coming up with the Sindbad the Sailor words. There have been songs like Achilles Last Stand and Brave Ulysses in the past so this concept is really cool. It has a great jangle to it.

Pichle Saat Dinon Mein (Live)
Essentially a live version of the song to give people a feel of the film.

Phire Dekhiye
Caralisa's vocals took this song to a different level! I composed this song in English to get the right feel after which Javed saab wrote the words (in Hindi). Loy has played a million dollar piano solo in the 2nd interlude.

Also:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Jab We Met versus Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na: An emerging trend

A lot of people have been comparing Jab We Met to Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. How exactly has this association engine kicked into gear?

Theories can abound - both are vibrant romances with hatke moments, both talk sincerely to a younger generation - but I suspect that the scriptwriter's ability to find a character's inner voice has much to do with it. Everyone seems to identify with the characters. Of course, everyone seems to think of themselves as either Jai or Aditi of JTYJN and their friends are mapped to the sideys but wasn't it Galileo who once said that the Universe revolves around each one of us and not the sun?

This new found character engagement in the script is incremental, not evolutionary. But in Bollywood - which tends to ignore its abundant talent and feed its audiences a steady diet of masala cliches - its enough to get noticed.

More on that later. First off, Imtiaz Ali's Jab We Met is easily the stronger of the two movies.

JTYJN gets only a few of things right - although they majorly count. Its stunt casting works brilliantly. And Imraan Khan connects with the dweeb within with enough flourish to power the movie. (It's also got a low tech heart which is endearing but I digress)

Yet I felt JTYJN's first time director Abbas Tyrewala, who also wrote the movie, had problems pacing it initially. The first third of the movie will probably go down as its most memorable given that it has its two biggest hit songs (Kabhi Kabhi Aditi and Pappu Can't Dance) in it. But those songs are largely responsible for stopping the narrative dead in its tracks. Tyrewala happily overcomes this and finds his rhythm later on.

JWM had another advantage - Shahid Kapur played his character generously enough to allow Kareena to unfold a revelatory performance. In JTJYN, Imraan's geeky flair doesn't have anyone to bounce off of, least of all his partner Genelia, who turns in a safely boring, by the numbers performance.

In any case on to the glass half full - so what is it that causes people to connect both movies together?

I felt that the writers Imtiaz and Abbas had well developed back stories for each character. You couldn't see it in the movie - but when writers work this way, they end up writing lines for characters that sound genuine, making them stand out and allowing audiences to connect with them. In addition, when characters acted a certain way in each movie, they did so with a consistency that matched their motivation and psyche. (Michael Caine's prep story for his role in The Dark Knight is a great lite example of this)

I hope to see more of this trend in the future. But there are a couple of thorny problems worth watching in this space.

This trend needs to move beyond fun-bindaas Bollywood flicks and address characters in larger, masala flicks where characters tend to be broader. I mean no disrespect to the numerous movies that might have done this previously - but we are talking about mass market hits here.

And second, throwing traditional masala moments, like say songs, becomes harder in a movie that is well written. After all, imagine a sad sack who breaks into a dance with a guitar in the middle of a mope worthy moment. It would entirely derail the flick. So new constructs have to be developed.They have to be tried. Some will work, some won't.

Still, it can be done. (JWM snuck its songs into the movie superbly) And I hope it will.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Shaili Police: What never to wear

Admittedly I'm a pretty lousy dresser. For one, my shirts either hug me like a noose or surround me tent-like. My pants - well, lets not go there.

But that doesn't mean I don't hold others to a much higher standard than mine. And although I'm agreeable about a wide swath of dress choices, there are some that are universally bad ideas - kind of like making Mimoh dance.

Make these choices and risk going the way of the mullet, i.e. family album showings will become an annual embarrassment worth skipping Thanksgiving for.

Emily Blunt Long Belted CardiganThe Bath Robe

A while back long belted cardigans were all the rage and I still see women who can't seem to get rid of them. Like bad rupee notes, they end up near you every now and then. The only piece of clothing you can wear that covers your hips and has a belt (with matching fabric I might add) should be a bath robe, not a sweater. And the only appropriate thing to say while wearing one should be "Hot tub?" not "Bartender, another mango martini!"

The Branded Butt

Besides being a remarkably bad idea, putting words on the back of pants so that they frame people's butt is dangerous. Why? Because out of morbid fascination, I'm compelled to read them. And reading a word that is being split up and down continuously is hard. Now imagine someone jogging and me driving. Bad situation. And for god's sake, doesn't the irony of putting the name of a State on a badonkadonk strike anyone like lightening?

Jennifer Hudson Oscars ShrugThe Quarter Length Shirt

I've never gotten the idea behind a short shrug or a bolero and I suspect in a few years the trendistas will be scratching their heads over this as well. Why pay full price for a shirt that does less than half its job? Do you see anyone wearing only one pant leg? No, because its plain silly and impractical. Unless you are Mammooty and its your lungi we are talking about, full length is the best length.

The Rolled Up Coat Sleeves

For those of you who continue to do this (and you know who you are), I'd like to point out that its been over a decade and a half since we said goodbye to Miami Vice. Stop watching reruns on TV and believing this stuff is actually happening now.

Thanks to girlie girl, j and H&R for helping me name certain pieces of clothing

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Saas-bahu Himesh Reshammiya: Karrrrzz ka Kussoorr

JMLR! KTeddy scripts a brilliant saas-bahu debut for Himesh

A new soap from Kalaji Films, starring Himesbhai, Rotika (a new discovery makes her TV debut), and supported by veteran character actors Kaalokh Nath, Kurupa Roy, Kader Khhhan, Aamras Puri, and the inimitable Pani Puri among a host of others.

Some of the characters:

Kaalokh Nath - Heroine's lachaar baap Haribhai. Retired school teacher who talks incessantly about Gandhiji, usool, sanskriti. Has a drinking problem and is partial to buxom women.

Kurupa Roy - Heroine's buxom mother. Talent for screeching, fainting spells and bhajans. Secret vices: eating jalebis in the puja room while pretending to fast and sing bhajans. Always regrets not marrying Hasmukhbhai the darzi. Secretly thinks she is much better looking than any of her six daughters and that her husband is a wuss.

Rotika - the Heroine. Will be required to stumble, fall, gaze at Himes without flinching, and of course, to CRY. A lot.

Himesh - as the Himes. Honestly, who could ask for more. JMLR!

HUGE SPRAWLING BUNGALOW - INTERIOR

The wind howls and moans through the house, as windows and doors creak and swing. Curtains are blowing in the wind. The only thing not in motion, is the hair of the man brooding in an armchair wrapped in a shawl, a guitar held close to his chest. He looks up.

It's the Himes. Camera zooms in on Himes's chapped lips, and flared nostrils. The lips move....no, false alarm, it's just another crack developing. They move again, and this time it's for real, because the nostrils are quivering.

"Bees saal beet gaye....ab tak yaad hai....uske payal ki goonj...HOOOOOOO Hooo-oooo-OOOOO" He croons. Tinkling of anklets heard in background.

Himesh Reshammiya Karzzz"Woh aa gayee! At last woh aa gayee!" Himes jumps up and rushes towards the door, where he bumps into Ramukaka with the tea tray. Cups shatter, tea splatters, biscoots crumble, as Himesbhai catches Ramukaka just in time.

They stare deeply into each other's eyes.

"I wish you wouldn't wear those anklets, Ramukaka! It reminds me of ...of...(sigh) her! Besides, the anklets do nothing for your dhoti-kurta-dishtowel-on-shoulder look."

Himes drops Ramukaka, looks at the camera and continues his tale.

"This is how we met....my Varsa and I. I was spending a few days in Valsad, enjoying the anonymity that this town gave me. After all, it is not easy being the sexiest, most talented man alive, and to be mobbed by adoring women wherever I go. So, here I was, just me and my burkha, my baseball cap, my guitar, my hairdresser and some 50 bodyguards. I wandered the marketplace and the shopkeepers thought I was Maulvichacha's daughter Rehana returned from the middle east."

"My khaandaan in Mumbai did not know where I was, except for Daai-ma"

"My father is Seth Dharamdas Kesammiya, and our family controls the janghya-kachha, I mean underweeyar  empire built up over the years by my grandfather Chimanbhai. Then when my father married Maniben Patel, daughter of the Papad-pickle magnate of London, we became one of the wealthiest families in the city."

"After all, as long as there are men in this city, they will need underweeyar-banian. And as long as even a single desi is alive outside India, they will grab a bottle of pickle in a desi store as if they have found the elixir of life, no matter how many other moldy pickles are rotting uneaten in their pantries."

"Anyway, Varsa and I got married at the Hanuman Temple on the hill outside her village, her lachaar baap, her chubby maa, her irritating sisters and even Hasmukhbhai the darzi came to give us their blessings. Lachaar baap..oops I mean Sasurji gave a sermon on Gandhiji and the joy of celibacy. Sasumaa cried buckets and totally upstaged poor Varsa. They had a crying contest and Sasuji won hands down. My bodyguards cried, my hairdresser cried too, but I found out later that he cried because he would have to pick out all the grains of rice from my silken zulfein.

Then I took my bride home to the Kesammiya khaandaan.That's when all the fireworks started. "

Himesbhai looks into the distance as the chorus starts to sing in the background and the scene fades out, signalling a flashback.

KESAMMIYA KHAANDAAN HAVELI - EXTERIOR

There's a glittering Dandiya raas party going on at the Kesammiya Khaandaan's haveli. The elite of the city are present, the women in their ghagra cholis and designer kathiawadi outfits for the men. Babla's disco dandiya music blares in the background as the Kesammiya khaandaan shakes a leg.

Suddenly, the door flies open, and the entire assembly stops in mid step. The shock is so great that some unfortunate guests get hit on the head by their partners' dandiya.

Lightning! Thunder! dhish! dhish! DHISH!!

Camera spins around the vast ballroom and rests on the faces of Himesh's relatives.

The Himes has arrived back home, and brought his bride with him.

(To be continued)

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Jo Jeeta Wohi Superstar: Grand Finale

Thanks to the magic of the skip button on my DVR I enjoyed the JJWS finale weekend. But I confess I enjoyed the pre-finale a lot more than the finale and it had to do with the presence of Sukhwinder Singh.

I say this with the utmost fondness - Sukhwinder is a prodigiously talented goofball. Most of the times I see him his hair is either standing up like in a 21 gun salute or it flops around his head in a tapeli-cut. He's always up for a laugh - and when he speaks the tiniest voice comes out of him, it makes Bappi's voice sound like the equivalent of Charles Bronson. But give him the mike and ask him to sing and clearly he is powered by a nuclear reactor.

Sukhwinder sang some ghasaa pita songs through the evening, but such is his ability to have fun with a song that it didn't seem to matter. Right after his first performance, he hailed Vishal and Shekhar as pioneers of mixing Techno with Melody. Later towards the end, he called Mandira Bedi on stage, did a Punjabi tease-item and serenaded her like a snake. This is the closest you can get to hog heaven if you are a Sukhwinder fan.

But on to the finale: this is just my opinion but JJWS did give us a deserving winner in Rahul Vaidya. He was easily the most consistent and entertaining performer of the show - and towards the end he even showed a new found ability to do the achha insaan bit.

Back to my skip button - which saved me from from the silly comedy and sillier games - boy, that finale went by quickly and had only good moments in it. First, Sonu Nigam walked in and pooh-poohed all the chaat he got from anya people. Whenever he opens his mouth to sing you realize what a tremendous talent we are all enjoying this generation.

Shahid Kapur and Vidya Balan both shilled for their romance Kismet Konnection. (I noted in one of the previews Vidya in a huff calls Shahid a Male Chauvinist Pig - how cute, funny and fresh!) On JJWS, both displayed an inter-personal chemistry resembling that between an avocado and rice noodles.

Finally, some public service messages:

I wish Shahid Kapur luck in the new auto mechanic role he will play soon - not that its been announced but his new look makes it pretty clear.

Sonu, its ballroom dance or ball, not ball dance. The latter is a little like all those people in Amdavad saying Ellisbridge Pool - in other words, its redundant.

Vidya, bow on butt: No.

Thanks to anu g and Sidekick who recommended  that I watch JJWS way back in April.

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