Monday, February 16, 2009

Simple Food

There is something in simplicity and that applies to foods as well. All the cooks of the worlds with all their fancy recipes and quality ingredients cannot topple these 10 items that I never get tired of: (in no particular order or preference)
1) Toasted bread and butter
2) Warm phulkas (with black burn spots) and ghee
3) A hot cup of chai
4) Khichadi + Pithale + hot groundnut oil with mustard seeds
5) Green crisp guavas
6) Vanilla ice cream
7) Daal and Rice and ghee
8) Homemade dahee and Sugar
9) Fresh aamras + ghee
10) Zunka + Bhakari + Lasoon chutney
P.S: If you do not know any particular item listed below, email me for details.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Luck By Chance - A Review

With Luck By Chance, the Akhtar’s have proven it that it’s not Luck when it comes to their family – the genes are replete with talent. Zoya Akhtar’s directorial debut is a confident film from a confident filmmaker. Luck By Chance is a more mature debut than her brother, Farhan’s debut film, Dil Chahta Hain. (Note that the comparison is not between the two movies and it’s not saying that DCH was a lesser movie).
Luck By Chance is the story of Hindi cinema, of the inner workings of the industry where thousands of people come to realize their dreams and only a few amongst them make it big – by luck or by chance or by talent!! Farhan plays Vikram who is a confident struggling actor who knows that he has to seize the opportunity (or even create one) to succeed. He believes in his abilities, is aware of his charms and is ready to leave his moral self at the doorstep if required. Konkona Sen plays Sona Mishra, another struggling actress who believes in other people giving her the opportunity to succeed. She is willing to go to that extra length should a need arise but relies on the outside for an opportunity.

I cannot recollect the last time I was able to write about well rounded characters in a Hindi movie (based on an original screenplay). All the other characters – big or small have been well etched: Rishi Kapoor as the King-maker producer Romy Rolly, Juhi Chawla as Minty Rolly- his trophy wife, Dimple Kapadia as Neena Walia, a queen bee of the yester era now pushing her daughter to be the next star (Rishi Kapoor’s character defines her in one memorable line in the movie), Hrithik Roshan as superstar Zaffar Khan, Anuj Mathur as Abhi - another struggling actor and a friend of Farhan and many more. The friends, sisters, brother-in-laws are not mere props to fill up the frame; they have personalities and character traits of their own.

Zoya’s attention to detail is remarkable in the locations, costumes, art design, a few examples: the slightly torn sofa in Sona’s kholi, a wicker basket covering a light bulb to give a romantic lighting effect. Romy Rolly’s garishly decorated bungalow and, Juhi Chawla’s costumes are in tune with their character which scream - money cannot buy class.

Jaaved Akhtar’s dialogues are witty, funny, sharp, satirical and have that edge which is required in a self-referential script such as this. Here’s a writer who is in complete sync with the current times and the generation. The dialogues simply sparkle!

There are many cameos by leading personalities from the Hindi film industry – AB Jr, Aamir Khan, SRK, Rani Mukerjee, Diya Mirza, Akhsaye Khanna etc. They are not obtrusive to the narrative and flow in and out quite seamlessly. Watch out for a line that Ranbeer Kapoor says – you will know what I mean. Also watch out for the senior Akhtars in a scene where they show up in the background. These cameos further help the script in showing the industry a metaphorical mirror.

The music of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy to Jaaved Akhtar’s lyrics is weaved in at the right places in the movie. The opening credits are beautifully done with the song ‘Yeh zindagi bhi’ and the real workers of the hindi film world: the carpenters, the poster painters, the tailors, the accountants, the box office cashiers, the extras, the make-up men, the hair dressers, the drivers, the trolley operators – these are the people on the ground. Who knows they too might have come to Mumbai to become an SRK or a Kareena Kapoor. Their dreams never really materialized, yet they keep dreaming on and toiling in this unforgiving fickle world of cinema:
Samjhane se kab mana hai
Dekho karta zid hai yeh dil
Choone hai Taare ise
Chahiye Saaare ise

The film ends with the song “Raahi re” with the camera on Konkona’s face. Her expression is that of contentment, loss, confidence and resolve. It’s not a text book happy ending as many would like it to be, but an ending which is immensely satisfying to me personally.

All the performances are spot on - Farhan Akhtar and Konkona Sen are superlative, Isha Sharwani as Nikki (the daughter of Dimple’s character who lives in a cake) is well cast. Rishi and Dimple the lovey-dovey couple of Bobby are fantastic as Romy Rolly and Neena Walia. Rishi is hilarious in a scene where he uses an airplane taking off as a metaphor for a stars career taking off. Also watch out for his reaction when the director (played with the required annoyance by Sanjay Kapoor) of his movie announces that the movie they made is a huge hit and adds “Jabalpur mein chakoo chal gaye ticket ki line mein, suna hain ek aadmi mar gaya” and Rishi raises his glass of beer and glees “Oye cheers to that yaar”!! Dimple Kapadia lives the role of Neena Walia, check her out when she blasts an editor of a glossy over yellow journalism! Then there are the fringe characters – Konkona’s friend, Juhi Chawla’s sister and her husband (they portray the parasites who cling to their more successful family members), Farhan’s friends, Nikki’s entourage, Farhan’s mausi, all small bits but well defined characters. Watch out for Anurag Kashyap’s cameo : he is hilarious.
There are numerous scenes which stay with you after the movie, such as (without giving them away): Hrithik Roshan's scene with the little kids, the one with the Godrej refirgerator, the one with Sona in the producer's van, Farhan's fight and then making up with his friend, Konkona's response to Farhan's attempt at redemption - and many more.

Zoya has said that it took her seven years to make this film; I must say the wait was well worth it. With Luck By Chance, a much needed sensibility has arrived in Hindi cinema. Hopefully, this movie will pave the way for many more movies which deal with its characters and its audience like real human beings. Just as DCH was a path-breaking movie, so is LBC. Regardless of how it does at the box-office, 20 years from now, this movie will be discussed, analyzed and studied.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Michael Phelps and his marijuana bong has created such a frenzy. I for one do not understand the furore, he was let go for a DUI (which IMO is much much much more serious and potentially harmful to others than smoking a doobie once a while) and here people are shunning him for a silly frivolous act of youthful behavior. This society, media and the holier-than-thou-high-sugar-cereal maker Kelloggs' (which btw is fattening our kids at an alarming rate) needs to take a chill pill. Let the kid be! And please oh so please legalize marijuana - the Govt will save so much money and time on fighting something which is a futile battle. Stupid, moronic and ridiculous drug laws which allows for hallucinogenic drugs to babies and kids and bans weed. Phelps, you are still the olympic super star to me. Pass me the joint!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A Rocking start to 2009...musically speaking

It's incredible how I was equally thrilled and ecstatic after listening to two compositions which are polar opposites of each other - and we are only in January. The compositions I am talking about are - "Bhor Bhayee" from Delhi-6 and "Emosanal atyachaar" from DevD. The former a classical Hindustani composition by AR Rehman and sung with tremendous aplomb by Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Shreya Ghoshal, while the latter a goofy-brass band-street-lingo song composed by Amit Trivedi.

Both the albums are winners all the way. Delhi-6 sets new standards for ARR and DevD proves that Amit is not a one film wonder (previously composed music for the much under-rated Aamir). Short reviews of the music:

Masakkalli sung by Mohit Chauhan is an instant hit, the lyrics by Prasoon Joshi and Mohit's rendition give this one a distinct flair.
Genda Phool starts as a ladies sangeet type song and then a hypnotic loopy beat totally catches you off guard. Rekha Bharadwaj's voice is a mix of naughtiness and sadness. After listening to it a couple of times, it's one of those tunes that stay in your head and you wonder what's that humming in your brain when you are in the shower.
Rehana Tu is a classic Rehman piece which he saves for his unusual vocal chords. This one is a masterpiece.
Tumhare Bhavan mein and Arziyaan : Now here's one composer who has me humming bhajans and islamic devotional songs. Tumhare bhavan mein is rendered by three singers in PERFECT harmony (remember Ishwar Allah from Earth?) and Arziyaan is yet another triumph in a long repertoire of Islamic devotional songs composed by ARR. Do not listen to it in your car while driving alone on a dark highway - the trance this composition induces will make you loose your way - first hand experience.
Bhor Bhayee: The recording has a feel of a girl practicing the song with a tape recorder playing the original in the background. Shreya Ghoshal take a bow.
This Amit Trivedi shot to spotlight with Aamir and was very impressive with his rustic earthy and very INDIAN compositions: "Chakkar Ghumiyo", "Haa Reham", "Haara" and "Ek lau". With DevD he has outdone himself, it's a crazy loopy album dripping with unabashed North Indian-ness. The album has eighteen tracks - yes EIGHTEEN. It remains to be seen how they are used in the movie, which by the way I am eagerly waiting for.
Emotional Atyachaar - This one gets under your skin, the brass band version is, how do I say it - cheap and boisterous!! The lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya are decadent, modern and yet make all the sense, sample these lines:
"Bol Bol why did you ditch me,
Zindagi bhi lele yaar kill me,
Bol Bol why did you ditch me whore."

Now imagine Devdas singing them for Paro. BRILLIANT, innit?
The rock version of this song is a viral mix of frustration and angst.
Payaliya : Haunting and lyrical, the "by god" loop is endearing and notice the use of Shehnai. I am sold.
Dhol Yaara Dhol: This one has a hangover of 'Mitwa' from Lagaan for the first few seconds, but then emerges to create its own world.
Ek Hulchul Si and Saali Khushi : A heavy guitar, drums number with throaty singing
Duniya: Is in the Chakkar Ghumiyo mould, about the mysteries of this crazy world we inhabit.
I am still swaying to Emotional Atyachaar, will get to the rest of the tracks soon. Looking forward to more from Amit Trivedi.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

When grown men cry....

For anyone who follows tennis, any Rafa-Fed match is a gold mine and if it's a finals in a major, it's a "sone pe suhaaga" (cannot find the English equivalent for it). Today, Rafa defeated Fed on the hard court surface at Melbourne in an explosive display of tennis never seen before. Fed gave up in the fifth set (very unlike him) and Rafa emerged as a true champion. Then, came the moment when Fed accepted the runner's up trophy and he just could not hold it together...he broke down...he was sobbing...tears rolling down his cheeks...the crowd tried to bring him back, but he could not say a word! What was going through this winner of 13 majors, noone else can ever fathom!

Later on, Fed and Rafa publicly expressed their respect and admiration towards each other. It is this exchange of respect and words off the courts combined with the exchange of shots on the court between these champions is what makes this rivalry truly "legendary" and "human". Cannot wait for Wimbledon!