Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Common Sense

Stumbled upon this shocking little piece of news on TOI. Students from a school were used for performing dangerous stunts to celebrate the birthday of some long dead ex-chief minister of the state of Tamil Nadu. There are so many things wrong with this scene that it's pointless understanding the "why" behind the purpose and the outcome of such a ghastly display. What is even more disturbing about this story is that the parents and teachers were in agreement with this inhumane act. All the claims of a society or a village or a town or a city or a nation of advances and progress it has made amount to a pile of junk when it shows such complete ignorance of the basic understanding of "human" rights.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This I Believe - The Divine in the Book

The other day, I saw one of my colleagues use a pile of yellow pages as a stepping stool to reach to a cabinet which was beyond her reach. Words from my mother echoed within me:
"पुस्तकाला पाय लावायचा नाही. पुस्तकात विद्या असते, विद्येचा अपमान म्हणजे सरस्वतीचा अपमान. अणि पाय लागलाच तर पुस्तकाला नमस्कार करायचा".

Never touch a book with your feet, books have knowledge and by touching it with your feet you are insulting Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge)। If you accidentally happen to do so, you should bow to the book.

This was one of the earliest teachings received to me. It did not matter what the book was : a school text book, a notebook, a telephone directory, a weekly glossy, a comic book, a novel, a user manual, a Diwali ank (to the Marathi crowd - you know what I mean), etc. It did not matter, all you knew was you did not touch any published piece of work or any well bound stack of paper with your feet. There was no room for any "ifs" or "buts" there. It was firmly stamped in our psyche. If we accidentally did happen to even so much as carress a book with our feet, the immediate reflex action was to touch it with the right hand and do a little salutory action of then touching your forehead with the same hand. I am not a religious fella, but this one doctrine I have followed till date. Not for it's religious/cultural reasons anymore, but more for the spirtual reasons. In essence, I believe that the printed word in any book serves a purpose of rendering knowledge - no matter what knowledge - it could be about how to keep ones feet from smelling or building a bomb. Knowledge is power (and thus divine) - knowledge when used properly can lead to wisdom and wisdom when used wisely can lead to the betterment of the individual or a society or a nation or the planet.
So when I saw her using the yellow pages as a stepping stool, I felt the urge to share this belief with her and here on this blog. I do not expect or hope that she or anyone else follows this principle, afterall it's not about it being right or wrong, it's what you believe and what you don't. A book to me is sacred - regardless of its contents I would never,ever on purpose dare touch it with my feet - probably the two year old in me believes that there is a woman in white sitting on a swan playing her veena inside every book. This I Believe.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Kaminey - Music review

The last Vishal-Gulzar outing was with No Smoking, the stoner movie by Anurag Kashyap. The duo is back in Vishal's own directorial venture named "Kaminey". The trend of using swear words in songs has been around for a while and was popularized in the recent past by "Kambakht Ishq", a high energy number from the RGV flick "Pyaar tune kya kiya". It was sung with tremendous gusto by Sukhwinder and Asha Bhosale (Sonu Nigam also had some lines, but he fails miserably in comparison to Sukhi and Asha).
Fast forward to 2009 and we have reached a new high (or low, depending on how you look at it) - with a movie title called "Kaminey" (as in the wise words of wisdom from Dharam paji: "Kutte Kaminey, main tera khoon pee jaoonga").

Kaminey looks like a gangster comedy set in the ever fascinating underworld of Bombay. Gulzar once again deftly weaves English, Hindi, Urdu and street slang into his words and challenges the composer to weave melody around his sometimes unusual and complex poetry. Vishal does a fantastic job at it - RD would have been proud of this man.

Dhan tan nan
This one is what one calls a complete KNOCK-YOUR-SOCKS-OFF number. It's a heady concoction of a James Bond theme, 70s Hindi Cinema background score and RD Burman (somewhere I sensed the Pulp Fiction's theme in the background). Sukhwinder Singh and Vishal Dadlani (of Vishal-Shekhar) are in high gear and in a complete masti mood. This one will have you hit the repeat button on your mp3 player a number of times (and it also makes for a fantastic running track). There is a remix version of this, which is also groovy, but I am still hooked to the original one, and why not when it's so damn good. Sample these lines and you will notice how Gulzar weaves English words seamlessly:

Aaja ke one way hain yeh zindagi ki galee ek hi chance hain
Aage hawaa hi hawaa hain agar saans hain toh yeh romance hain

(Another brilliant usage was in 'Kajra re' of Bunty aur Babli:
Aankhen bhi kamaal karti hain, personal se sawaal karti hain)

Who else can weave this obnoxious word in a delicate verse other than Gulzar?

Meri aarzoo bhi kaminee
Mere khwaab bhi kaminey
Ek dil se dosti ki thi, yeh huzoor bhi kaminey!!

Maan gaye ustaad! Vishal Bharadwaj keeps this for himself and lends his voice for this number which is soaked in a beautiful symphony with interesting orchestration (notably - piano and trumpet). This is like a glass of good wine, will win you slowly, steadily but surely.

Listening to this one for the first time, it was hard to comprehend what the song was about, the occassional sound of a whiplash just added to the puzzle. And then there was the revelation in the end:
Yeh ishq nahin aasaan, AIDS ka khatraa hain
- the entire song fell into perspective. Yes, this is a song with a social message around safe sex and AIDS. This one could be an anthem for the AIDS awareness campaign. Kailash Kher and Sukhwinder Singh both have the throaty quality in their voice which lends well to such songs. Gulzar uses many similes and metaphors in the lyrics which are revealed to you once you know the underlying message in the song.

Raat ke dhaai baje
Rekha Bharadwaj can do no wrong. She teased in "Namak" in Omkara, she was melancholic and naughty in "Gendaa phool" of Dilli-6 and here she is back to rock our world. She is joined by Sunidhi Chauhan, Kunal Ganjawala and Suresh Wadkar. It's always a treat to hear Wadkar's voice, last heard in another Vishal composition - Jag ja from Omkara.

Rekha has the unique quality of giving an impression of just fleetingly touching the words, like hovering over words without actually saying them. Right from the opening notes this one keeps you wanting for more and more. A great ensemble song.

Pehli baar mohabbat ki hain
This is a lazy love ballad sung by Mohit Chauhan who delivers on every note, staying and lingering on sounds and words just enough for creating the right effect. Once again Gulzar's words are dripping with many emotions:

Khwaab ke bojh se kapkapaati huyee halki palkein teri,
yaad aata hain sab, tujhe gudgudaana sataana yunhi sote huye,
gaal pe teepna meechna bewajah besabab,
yaad hain peepal ke jiske ghane saaye the,
humne gilharee ke jhoothe matar khaaye the!

Classic Gulzar - hits all the right spots.

Overall a knock-out soundtrack. More power to the Gulzaar/Vishal teaming.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


I was standing in line to order my lunch at a neighborhood restaurant. Two 50 something white guys were behind me, the line was quite long and slow. One of the guys was checking his blackberry and all of a sudden he burst into a loud laughter. The other guy asks "What's the matter?" The blackberry guy goes "This friend of mine from South Carolina, he is too funny, listen to this one". He goes on to read an email from his phone "On June 25th 2009, Farah Fawcett died after a long battle with cancer. On reaching the Pearly gates she was asked what she wishes? She responded - All I want is all the children on Planet Earth to be safe and healthy. After 4 hours Michael Jackson was declared dead". Both of them started laughing out loud with intermittent remarks of "brilliant", "hilarious", "too funny"!!
Funny? You decide!

Sunday, July 05, 2009


Records are made only to be broken. Roger Federer broke Pete Sampras' record of 14 grand slam wins at the age of 27 by defeating Andy Roddick in an epic final at Wimbledon on July 5th 2009. He had to play 77 games and hit 50 aces against an equally tenacious Andy Roddick. The last set alone had 30 games and lasted 95 minutes. Federer was broken twice by Andy, and Andy was broken only once in the final set and that was enough for Roger to emerge as the champion. Final score:
Andy Vs Roger
7-5, 6-7,6-7,6-3,14-16
To Andy's credit, he was playing superlative tennis - probably the best he has ever played. What kept him away from winning was not bad play but some ungodly superlative play from Roger: In the second set tie-breaker, Andy had 4 set points on 6-2 and Roger dug himself out of it to win the set. Before Andy could realize that the set was slipping out his hands, Roger had equalized the scores to one set all. Roger made it look so very simple, to the ones watching, it looked like it was second nature to him. It was at such critical points in the match that Roger summoned the Tennis-Gods in his arms and the racket and his feet - oh those feet - watch his feet and only his feet for a few games and one knows why that man has 15 slams on his mantelpiece.
The match was being watched by such legends as Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg and the second most grand slam winner - Pete Sampras (Yes, Pete is now "second" - bitter-sweet). Tennis-pundits, sports analysts and the Internet will be once again buzz with that ever-annoying question: "Is Roger the best tennis player to have lived on the planet?" If greatness was to be measured by numbers and numbers alone then the answer is simple - yes, he is:
- has won 15 grand slams
- has been ranked number 1 for 237 consecutive weeks
- has won all the four major slams
- has reached semi-finals or better in the last 21 slams
- has been physically fit to have not missed out on the major events on the tour (this is no mean feat given the current high-power, high-energy requirements in tennis. Exhibit A: Rafa Nadal who had to sit out due to an injury)

So the numbers are very well stacked in his favor. However, every era is different and thus every era has its own "great" players. If Sampras and Becker were contemporaries to Federer, where would they rank? That's a question that tennis fans can never answer with complete confidence, and hence no single player will be the "greatest ever". But for now, Roger you are alone at the top: How's the view?