Tag Archives: bollywood

Maratha Mandir Memoirs

Bombay Bucket List: Hopes, Dreams, and Memories.

Have you ever irrationally loved a sappy romcom so much that you took a detour to another era to watch it on the big screen?

Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. Those with a brave heart will take away the bride. An amalgamation of cliche’s we had all loved, and hoped, in our deepest darkest fantasies, would come true. And why not? Meeting a rich, cute, khandani (who also plays the piano and composes songs on a mandoline) guy on a EuroTrip; falling in love with him in a cold barn, in beautiful churches, and in bed after he’s just proven to you how he knows Hindustani girls’ obsession with chastity; having him chase you back to an insignificant, remote place in India and stopping your wedding (and quite possibily your immediate family’s ties with your extended family). Why ever not?

There has always been a certain charm in the tested pair of Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan, and anything they do would be housefull, even if it’s against everything we believe in. So, when they came together in the epic love saga (definitely not my words, jeez) of DDLJ, they make everyone swoon, including people bittered against cheesy romantic crap, like yours truly. You want to believe that there is someone that you’re meant to be with, in the end. You want to belive in everything good and pure, and the idea that a good girl can change the bad, but not so much guy just because they are in love and miraculously everything will fall into place thereafter. (Yes, girls, aren’t you listening? Charm the pants of your prince charming and somehow he’ll follow you to that random place your dad grew up in, even though he doesn’t know if you love him or it was just to let out some flirting energy. He’ll also engage in a fight with your fiance, and feed the godamn pegions to charm your strict father. SO what every love struck rich and entitled prince charming will do.)

The movie was supposed to have Tom Cruise in it, they tell me. But I don’t see how he would have charmed Simran’s anti-Angrez dad (they lived in London for about twenty years, let me remind you). Well, never mind. They got Farida Jalal to tell Kajol how she is not the queen, so no point putting on fairness creams (where did they get fairness creams in London in the early 90s, we’ll never know)!

And can we take a moment to appreciate how this movie changed the idea of romance in Indian popular culture? I mean, before this, the most epic love story was Mughal-e-Azam, from the monochrome century. And after this, every aspect of popular culture “pays tribute” to DDLJ, by either getting the protagonists “act” like the ones in the movie, play the mandilone, or steal lines from the movie- even Obama did it (well played, man, well played). There are movies pandering to this one-in which the major conflict is (retrieved from my repressed memory, painstakingly and unwillingly) how the female protagonist tries to get a wedding dress worth 5 lakhs, just because her neighbour got one. Nothing screams entitled bitch more than stealing, going into debt, and leaking a sex tape for a stupid wedding dress- but that’s probably the India that us half-diasporans will never appreciate.

But of course, we’ll all watch it every time it comes on TV. We’ll bunk college and go watch it in the theatre where it ran successfully for 1009 weeks- a good 20 years. We’ll swoon over those amazing moments and better dialogues, because well, there will never be anything reminding you of childhood crushes and romantic fantasies than the tune of Tujhe Dekha Toh… And there will never be another movie of which you’d buy CDs, because you wanted a movie collection of your own.

I remember, when I was little (we’re talking about SRK-was-my- favourite-actor-because-Kuch-Kuch-Hota-Hai little), my uncles and older cousins would tell me about how DDLJ still runs in Maratha Mandir in Bombay. And at that time, that was the only charm of Bombay-the place where trains were too overcrowded and stopped only for less than a minute every station and where my parents still owned a house I’d never been to. I had wanted to watch it, ever since then.

A year ago, I finally got the chance, when my friends and I finally took out time from our busy schedules to go watch it in Maratha Mandir. Surprisingly, it wasn’t even difficult to find the theatre. The crowd was shady AF, but the tickets were as cheap- 40 bucks, if I recollect. We got balcony seats, something unknown to us exclusively multiplex-going people. I remember being extremely surprised at how good the hallways to the theatre looked- carpeted floors, chandeliers, glassworks on the walls, a wide, spiral-ish staircase. The theatre was your standard, albeit non-smelly single screen cinema hall, but clean, with very comfortable seats.

As soon as the movie started, people laughed and clapped and even got shocked as if they’d not seen it hundreds of times before this. And the funniest part was that we actually wanted to do it with them- not a care about how stupid and shady it looked. It was as if we’d seen it for the very first time, falling in love with it all over again.

There was never a better actor than Shah Rukh in DDLJ, nor a better actress than Kajol. Farida Jalal was the best mother and Anupam Kher the best dad (sorry, Amrish Puri). It was as if we saw the world for the very first time-swooning for the entire day. It was as if the rose tinted glasses of romanticism had never been worn off due to bitter life experiences. It was as if practicality held no value, as if love was enough.

To those who’d always wanted to go to Maratha Mandir, I’m sorry for a wonderful loss. And to those who lived in Bombay for their entire life and never went there, I feel sorry for your wonderful loss too- you have lost out on the most quintessential of Bombay experiences. After all, what movie in the world ran in theatres for 20 years? And what indeed is life without the technicolor that is the irrational dream of a happily ever after?


2 States: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.

An Honest Opinion about 2 States, the movie.

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Let me get this straight- it’s the summer holidays, and I have all the time in the world to kill. That being said, I obviously spend all day reading novels and poetry, when I don’t have to obligatorily go out, like, say, to college. So, yeah, watching 2 states was on the top of my priorities list.

And no, I haven’t read the book because I’m quite the book snob- wouldn’t read Chetan Bhagat at gunpoint. (I read One Night at the Call Centre, and my high school self was scarred for life, thanks to the crappy content, language, and the like.) So, no, I won’t say the book was better, or any of that rubbish I usually say- although I hope to the heavens that the book was better. I won’t say that the parental conflict was outstretched, because I think that was the point of the movie.

Now that my context is clear: what I loved about the movie is that it looks good. My sleepy eyes got all the pleasantness it was seeking. While I already thought Arjun Kapoor was hot, I was surprised at how pretty Alia Bhatt also looked- so much so that I couldn’t help but notice how pretty she looked in each scene. Now that I have objectified the actors enough, since this isn’t some sort of a beauty pageant, I’ll now talk about what worked about the movie and what didn’t, for me.

First off, like any Karan Johar movie, the sets were pleasant to look at (okay, I’m talking of the visuals again, but it’s a movie, visuals do play an important part to play!) I particularly liked the inner courtyard that they showed in Ananya’s parents’ house- especially the rain part. It does look that amazing in real life, when it’s raining. Smart move, Bollywood. I also liked the street that they showed. However, the Delhi part was a little questionable. They kept showing an apartment building, but with stairs leading to where?

However, music could have done with a little bit more of  Carnatic influence, for all of the apparent emphasis they did give it- might have been a welcome change to the typical Bollywood music, I think. But I did like Ananya’s mother’s mash-up performance. It is something I haven’t come across in a movie.

The acting was, however, phenomenal! Alia Bhatt did a pretty good job, and Arjun Kapoor’s expressions were really good. Revathy, as always was phenomenal, and so was Ronit Roy. Amrita Singh’s loudness was just enough to annoy us, and Shiv Kumar Subramaniam was just the amount of quiet that I would expect the typical Tam Brahm to be. However, the chemistry between the couple was missing. (Think Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra in Ishaqzaade, and how amazing that was.) However, Alia’s accent was, if she was brought up in a conservative Tam Bram household, supposed to be synchronised to that upbringing when she did talk in Tamil. (I’m not talking of her Hindi. It’s plausible that her Hindi is good, thanks to her being an IIM-A graduate.)

I know absolutely nothing about cinematic techniques, so I won’t delve into that. However, I can talk of the story, the plot and the narrative, and I’ll critique it like a baws. B)

So, firstly, what was the whole deal with the shrink? Where will I find such an elaborate shrink’s office in India? And they got the proxemics wrong- the seats are generally 90 degrees when you’re in a shrink’s office. And we don’t hear from the shrink at all- isn’t she supposed to say something to her client? Even if it were a narrative tool to use a shrink, they could have utilised the tool better, since it’s there- a fundamental in any narrative. They could have done a whole How I Met Your Mother sequence*, because predictably they do end up married. (I’m sure everybody knew the book is called Two States: The Story of My Marriage.) If not, they could have used some other form of  flashback sequence.  And in my opinion, the constant coming back and narrating the story in apparent parts was pointless.

Secondly, the characters were so flawed, it hurt me. I don’t get Krish’s mum at all. I have never ever had the misfortune to encounter a person as obnoxious and dumb as her. Do such people actually exist? Okay, may be they do. But would you actually greet a guest like that? Especially for somebody who acts like that because her in-laws do not accept her, and yet love her son, she seemed too dumb to not accept someone who his son brings home. It’s the twenty-first century, for heaven’s sake! And your son is an IIM-A graduate- trust him to know what he’s doing.

Ananya’s parents also seemed way too accepting. But, I guess it was just the time talking, and they weren’t as loud about their dislike, which might have been the reason they did seem that way. I don’t know if it was the way Krish and Ananya handled the situation, or the fact that they saw how ‘educated’ Krishh actually was (I say this because they  seem to emphasize the fact that “90% Tamilians are well educated” and all that)

However, I also thought that Krish was too accommodating. He felt like he would take whatever came his way silently,except his dad’s shenanigans, and later go and crib about it to his shrink. Ananya, on the other hand was very believable. She wasn’t too strong, but wouldn’t budge like you’d expect her to.

Perhaps, it was because Chetan Bhagat was trying too hard to please his readers- he was self-deprecatingly harsh on himself, But I can’t make a comment on that, having not read the book. So, it might have been Krish being too frustrated, since he was the protagonist, and the whole narrative was in his perspective.

 The story, on the whole was not that great- not something we haven’t heard before. The families being in conflict is, on the whole, extremely overdone. However giving it a cultural barrier, with stereotypes as the reason for the conflict was interesting. And overall, it was quite predictable.

Some major flaws in the plot that I observed included how Krish’s dad and mum kind of reunite after what seems to be decades of marital conflict and abuse- talk about a hurried happily ever after. And what was that whole cousin’s wedding speech? For one, would somebody actually listen to some person they’ve never met and let them insult you in front of all the wedding guests? Secondly, would you change your mind about dowry, because, it’s illegal, and once you are exposed, you are kind of screwed? Also, the speech wasn’t that great. Thirdly, if you hear your future husband tell his mother something along the lines of ‘I’ll let you control my wife once we’re married,’ after being insulted by said mother-in-law, you wouldn’t really get back with him. I, for one, would have slapped him. (How sexist!) Or was she so mature that she understood that he was only trying to pacify his mother? Another hanging question was that how did somebody who got insulted everyday by her Carnatic music teacher about not getting the tune and rhythm right everyday a) not give up her lessons, and b) get ready to sing with S P Balasubramaniam and Shankar Mahadevan? I mean, come on! Nobody is that thick. Also, what happened to them?

I also found the typewriter questionable. Where did he get it from in this age? And how does he prefer the typewriter over his laptop? We all know editing is easier on a laptop. Even though I would personally love to own a typewriter, I know I would’t use it when I do have the comfort of a laptop.

However, there were other things that I really did like in the movie- the way Krish slaps his father. It was epic! And overall, the changing relationship between Krish and his father was endearing. It was, at least to me, the best relationship in the movie. The portrayal of a Tam Bram family, also, according to me was justifiably done. At least in comparison to other movies which have gone horribly wrong. So was the portrayal of a broken family. The wedding scene was also well done, as was the last flashback scene, where the two of them sit looking at the shore.

However, it doesn’t stay true to the hype. I’m sure many fans were disappointed. And I also thought that the movie didn’t stay parallel to the book. The whole ‘Read the book to understand the movie’ has become a tad bit old, and let’s face it, for a 250 page paperback, it is completely unnecessary.

So, overall I’d rate it a 5.5/10. The additional point for getting a South Indian family very closely correct included.

*Let’s not talk about the ending of HIMYM.

The Saga of Sleep Deprivation. Chapter 1: Why don’t you like me?

Tales from the Yale Summer Program, 2013

(Because making excuses for not updating can be changed into a multi-part post. Read and Review, please? Enjoy. :P)

Only, coffee worked for her.

Only, coffee worked for her.

It was on the way back, from her internship, when she got an email, which congratulated her for being selected for the Yale Summer Program. She couldn’t contain her excitement, but had to, for everyone in the bus were at least ten years older than her and she didn’t know any of them, which is why she screamed it out in WhatsApp groups (hello, caps lock!) because, hey! Spamming was her birthright and she shall have it.  Little did she know that she was going to loose what kept her sane, and what she loved the most.

The first week of the course was pretty okay (If spending half her monthly pocket money in a week was considered fine.) considering she was in a classroom full of complete strangers. But, she survived, thanks to the others not knowing each other either. Restaurants around the college she studied in for three years were discovered, and so was a lot of housing problems, Dharavi and analysing papers she hardly understood. It was the week of the first shower of the season and discovering that people, other than herself, love Friends and How I Met Your Mother. It was also the week when she spoilt her first smartphone, and finally got hold of an Android JellyBean device. (It didn’t even need persuading, thanks to the impossible shower that greeted her at the sea. Soaked, is the word.) It also, unfortunately soaked her copy of The Game of Thrones, which would refuse to dry up even when dried with a hair-dryer. (Why do those things exist? Apart from blowing up your hair disproportionately, of course!)

The second week was the week that hit her harder than Dudley Dursley hit Harry Potter. Ever. Classes started, and with it came a professor who would make her nervous for the months to come. It was bad enough she missed lectures, but why point it out? It’s not like she was ‘chilling’. Added to one term of Summer school, she also had to study for eight papers, four of which didn’t remotely interest her. (Who picks these papers, anyway? Stop shoving it down our throats, people!) But the violence that she heard about made her think twice about everything she heard, or read. She decided that atheism is the way out. (Also known as escapism and refusing to take sides. Learnt from the country she lives in, perhaps?) Because Religion instigates violence, and it has ceased to be what it used to be, and doesn’t provide for anything, but fuel for violence, at least in her city.

Third week descended and she found herself amidst thinking about a term paper, and lots of submissions. Oh, also talking about gender, labour and beautifully done documentaries. Mills and Malls, and Caves and changing from Mumbai to Bombay was just about the only things she talked about. (Except Grey’s Anatomy, because Grey’s forever and #LoveForShonda.) She realised that she wasn’t the same person she was before the week started and, apparently, coffee could keep her up for about three hours at a stretch, before her eyelids would refuse to stay away from her cheeks. The fifteen minutes of treasured time with her Friends was utilized in standing at the coffee counter, screaming, “Bhaiyya, ek Cappuccino,” and bitching about the Professors, who thought their job was to push students to become the creamy layer on the top. Her friends from Yale would spend hours talking of Friends and Grey’s with her, and singing Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty because it annoyed another friend of theirs.

Come fourth week, and the research for the term paper would begin in full swing, and she realises that the solution to all the problems in the world was Inferno. She realised that she would miss these people, who was all she had in the name of social life (even though they would ruin Grey’s and warn her that she was going into a pit. Stop it. Stop it before it leaves you weeping. Stop it before Mark Sloan dies. Stop it before… Oh, wait. Bye, bye sanity!) In any case, they would still quote Friends and talk about that weird one-act play Chandler goes to called “Why don’t you like me?” This became a ritual, and they would be heard screaming “Why don’t you like me?” in a crowd, that would look back at them, not realizing that they were tired, and drained and coffee was the only thing that kept them alive. So they didn’t care. It was also when they talked excessively of caste and Dalit problems and how similar they were to racism in the Americas. She learnt that reservation was Ambedkar’s idea of getting, not equality, but representation. She also learnt that her countrypeople came to conclusions without understanding the dynamics of what their ideologies and values imply. She learnt that she isn’t an atheist, after all, but, ideologically, is a secular humanist. She also learnt that religion is a way of life and giving it up, practically is an impossible task. She learnt that zoning out during her college lectures, especially in lecture of subjects which she didn’t understand at all, and topics she understood, but opposed the professor’s Point of View, is actually an effective coping mechanism. (Coping, here, refers to staying alive, in face of a cognitive breakdown due to information overdose.)

And, finally the fifth week comes, and with that does extra dosage of coffee, better friendships, ‘seducing a friend and taking her home’(to study, because they are awesome like that.), to realize that you have mosquitoes in your house, which apparently are bored of you and were dying to get fresh blood (Jeez, people. If you’d have told us, we’d have gotten more people, no? Not.) Talking of Bollywood, art, cinema, culture, theatre, and everything under the sun happened. And, visiting Dharavi happened. She would have loved to say that Dharavi changed the way she thought of the world, but it didn’t. All it did was change the way she thought of Dharavi. What did she think now, you ask? She thinks that Dharavi is hyped. That she has seen and interacted with people worse off. She thinks that the people in Dharavi are richer than at least 10% people in Bombay. She thinks that people look at Dharavi with sympathy, when the people there don’t deserve it. She thinks that people there should be treated as equals. She also presented her first research paper and fell in love. With Excel. (Her friends ask her to date excel. She told her, ‘If I could, I would. But I can’t, so I shan’t.’)

And thus, that phase is over. The phase of Mills, and Malls; Weekends of road trips and trekking; getting wet in the rains, even with your windcheater and umbrella on, and smelling of sea, salt and wet clothes (okay, I know you didn’t want to hear about it.); and talking, debating, discussing in class about everything under the sun; eating out every day; everything that defined her life for those five weeks were over, with a dinner at a fancy place, and lunch at a dessert place. She tried not to feel deserted, as if her life was over, because it wasn’t; and she tried not to think that she might be meeting some of these friends for the last time in her life. But she went home (by the ladies special, like every other day) to watch the latest epi of Grey’s Anatomy, not knowing that the saga of sleep deprivation had just started; and this was only its first chapter. (To keep her from thinking of things, she watched the first episode of A Game of Thrones, and was scarred for life.)

A/N: The characters in this post are only fictional. Any resemblance to a person (attending an autonomous college) living or dead, however, is purely incidental. The ideas presented are of the author’s own and if you don’t agree, you are requested to shove it up yours. That said, please review, and let me know what you think. J