Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sen-Sibal Screenings

Hello Mr. Kapil Sibal,
At the outset, let me confess that you were one of the few politicians (along with Mr. P. Chidambaram) whom I respected and sometimes, even looked up to. Until I came upon your exemplary skills as a mathematician. And the masterstroke - your move to 'pre-screen objectionable content on the Internet' so that any incendiary content does not trigger off communal riots.

Allow me, sir, to explain how the Internet works. ___________. That's it. Nobody knows. It's a completely new world, a developing ecosystem that is growing every second. New hands, new feet, adapting and changing as time passes. No one can tell what it will look like a few seconds later. That's what works for people. It's a world where inhibitions are thrown out of the window, where social codes and ethics are what you make of them. It's a world where this has billions of views and there are forums and groups dedicated to cats. No, not cat welfare, just pictures of cats. With clever slogans. So, sir if you wish to enter with a seemingly well-intentioned motive of trying to infuse morality and a sense of order, here you go.

What has ticked off a lot of people (and me) is the reason behind your sudden concern - a hate page dedicated to your party supremo. What gets your goat are not the hundreds of hatred pages on religions, thousands of pages on making bombs and other such explosives but a silly little page that professes its hate for Her. It's rather unbecoming of a St. Stephen's - Harvard alumnus to succumb to such sycophantic behaviour. 

That is where Mr. Sibal, lies the true difference between you and most of the Internet users (read: the average Indian). Politicians are no more the demigods who occasionally graced us with their presence during elections. In today's information-led world, you are just another person who is supposed to be doing his job. If you do it well, we give you a pat on the back. If you don't, well we just hate you. Because if you botch it up, it affects our lives. Having been brought up in an open environment (as compared to your times), we may seem rude, insensitive and downright obnoxious. But our standards of morality are different than yours (remember this line?). The Internet brings out the animal in everybody and no one knows how to stop it. Try it and you'll see the point.

This is what we do, Mr. Sibal.
Till the late 2000s, most of our hatred was confined to friends and relatives, office conversations and the dinner table. Nothing that reached your ears. The Internet provided an escape - an uninhibited space where we could unleash our wrath without any consequences. That, you cannot disagree, is a beautiful thing. See Mr. Sibal, on the Internet one hates everything. Hate is a currency that fuels it, an economy that doesn't collapse because no one takes it too seriously. It is momentary, for we all have go back to work the next day. The only people who have the time to transform this hate from its digital form into a living being are the fanatic elements associated with...wait for it...a political party. You see Mr. Sibal, even if a common man finds something extremely objectionable, rarely does he go out onto the streets and start burning and killing. It is too much to ask from him. Sitting in front of a screen in the warm comfort of his own home, he's too  lazy to do that. We are like hay in a barn. Someone needs to strike a match for the barn to erupt in a huge ball of fire. 

History has proved that most communal riots were set off by anti-social elements with a clear motive in mind. There always has been  objectionable content - whether it is print or in digital form. Who burnt copies of James Laine's book on Shivaji when they couldn't digest its content? Shiv Sena workers. M.F Hussain's paintings? Again, political workers. We've all seen his paintings online. Did we ever march to Jehangir Art Gallery? The '92 riots? Again, politically motivated. Gujarat riots? Politics. What about the '84 riots? Who is responsible for that? In some way or the other, your brethren (by virtue of profession) have been the perpetrators. It doesn't absolve us of our own crimes, but we are not the only ones committing blasphemy.

Are you seriously surprised by the hate? CWG. 2G. Inflation. A complete lack of governance and shoddy, incompetent policies. Your government has left the country in a complete mess and you're just halfway through your term. Then you give yourself salary hikes and adjourn the parliament. With your latest move, you've given us another reason to hate you. Notice that the Congress website was hacked only after you raised this 'pertinent' issue. Another thing, Mr. Sibal. This is more of a personal opinion, and possibly an illusion. Our generation is increasingly growing tired of religion. It has given us nothing, and asks a lot of us. We've realised that it's not a match made in heaven. So we're okay with the blasphemy on the Internet. Don't take it away from us.

As a human resources minister, you should be worried more about the development of the millions of Indians who don't have access to even the basic needs, forget the Internet. So please try and work on that. And while you're at it, please enjoy this.

Image: Google

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho...

I was never a Jagjit Singh fan, per se. I was born in the late 80s (almost early 90s) and by the time I could reach an age where I could comprehend the sheer depth of his music, the Internet had taken over our lives. To me, he had always been that bespectacled gentleman who never spoke much and always sang sad, poignant songs (not that I knew what poignant meant either). Forgive my blasphemy, but for a 10-year-old, Dexter's Laboratory and Swat Kats figure much higher on the priority list. 

I do remember going to a music shop to buy a cassette (for those who do not remember, this is what it looked like). Given the steep prices at which they were sold (Rs 125 for an album required a lot of cajoling to get an approval from the High Command at home), I narrowed it down to either Backstreet Boys or a Jagjit Singh compilation. Having heard from a friend that Jagjit Singh was a 'good singer' (I know, I know), I held the cassette in my hand and looked at the cover art. It bore the picture of an old man with a gentle smile on his face, against a pale yellow background. On the other hand, there was Black and Blue, something which everyone thought was cool. I picked the latter. 

I have a decent singing voice and my music teacher at school would always choose me for the solo parts. He too suggested that I try out some songs by the Jagjit Singh, and I dutifully obliged by successfully deciphering the lyrics to My Name is Slim Shady. Ditto in college. A friend (he is perhaps one of the best singers I've ever known in my life), who'd learnt Hindustani classical music for many years told me why he liked Jagjit Singh. I heard what he had to say, tried out a song or two, but somehow couldn't see the point. 

Yesterday, when I read that Jagjit Singh had passed away, I was strangely disturbed. There was a bit of uneasiness, and when I read through all the tributes in the newspapers and on the Internet, I finally made up my mind to listen to his songs. And I got hooked. The mellifluousness  in his voice and the simplistic beauty of the words had me awestruck. I was drifting along gently on the river of music. Each song was a small island, delighting me in its own unique way. The river itself culminated into the sea of musical mastery. When Tumko Dekha Toh... came on, I closed my eyes and saw a beach. It was a calm evening and there were only two people on the beach, staring into the sunset. The waves knocked on the sandy doors of the beach and scurried away like a truant child, before the door was answered. The cool breeze sighed softly. There was nothing else. And no one else. 

Tum itna jo... reminded me of a Shelly poem we had in school: Our sweetest songs are those that tell of our saddest thoughts (I think it was Ode to a Skylark). The words make their way to the deepest corners of your heart and sit there, waiting patiently for you to take in the true essence of the song. With the fading strains of Woh Kaagaz ki Kashti, I was trying hard not to let a tear fall onto the keyboard of my father's laptop and spoil it. Childhood memories make me very emotional. I think I'm still trying to let the music sink in. 

So, this is an apology to Jagjit Singhji. Sorry for having ignored you and called you a man who always sang sad songs. I thought you were "that man who occasionally surfaced with a music video" that my father liked. I took you for granted. I'm sorry I dismissed your music so offhandedly. But now, I'm glad I didn't listen to your songs at an age when I couldn't appreciate what they meant and stood for. And now that I've begun to understand some nuances of your music, I curse myself for having let go of so many chances to see you perform live. 

Maybe I didn't deserve to. 


Sunday, September 18, 2011

I Believe...

That I will be able to come up with better titles than this one. Pardon me, but it's been a long time since I wrote something here. All four of my readers must be very angry with me. Ha, how I delude myself. Anyway, things have been pretty decent. Apart from the fact that on weekends, I still get awfully bored. In fact, just before I sat down to write this, I was watching a show on TV. It's been one of the longest and most watched shows in the history of television. And why not? It has fantastic scripting (the dialogue writing is of the highest calibre), beautiful production design, the highest level of detailing and some fabulous acting. I'm talking about the Miss Universe pageant. Hey, come on. Don't be a cynic. It's a show that stands tall as a beacon of hope. A child of innocence in this world full of rabid monsters. A show that stands behind your beliefs, pats them on the back and says, "Anything can happen. Just look at me." Because if Miss Universe can change the world, our time is not far away. 

Yes, I believe there is still hope for the few good men, so to say. I believe there is still hope for all of us non-drinkers (all three of us). I believe that there will come a time, when we don't have to watch the waiter snigger when the entire table orders a round of drinks and we are the only ones to ask for Coke. And we won't have to say, "Boss, sirf Coke. Not rum and Coke." Or suppress the urge to punch him in the face when when we ask him, "Veg mein kya hai?" or when we order two dishes (with the shapes of paneer being different of course) and he smiles. Or when we are the only ones who don't seem to smoke, and are left at the table to stare at each others' faces, while the rest of the gang has gone off to the smoking room, flirted with a girl or two, snogged one of them, made sweet love to the other and come back laughing and happy. And when you ask them what the joke was, the answer always is, "Arey bohot lambi story hai. Baad mein bataenge."

No unlucky brothers, we shall not be the ones to fight to a valiant third place, only to know that there was no cash prize for the third place. We shall not be the ones to send millions of text messages to contests and never win. We shall not be the ones to get into a top B-school of the country and graduate from it, straight into recession. I believe there will be some stocks and mutual funds in the market, which when you start investing in them, do not go into losses despite the fact that they were doing remarkably well for the last five years. No, there will be a time when you decide to buy a car and the government doesn't decide to hike the price of fuel. Or when you buy a house and the interest rate increases and you have to sell one of your organs to pay the EMIs. 

All of you weary travellers. Worry not, because there will come a time when the government decides to spare some change and fix the single lane bridge that connects two highways. So you don't have to watch the signal wink at you (red-green-red-green), as your car stays motionless on the road. The potholes shall be fixed. No you will not have to worry about your tyres putting in their papers and simply walking off in exhaustion. Nor will you have to smell the sweet goodness that is someone's armpit when you've had enough and decide to travel by train. 

There will come a day, when we shall not get caught on the one day we decided to travel without a ticket, just because the line was too long. There will come a day when we shall have a lady sitting right beside our seat in a train (or a plane, God bless). And no she shall not be a grouchy old woman who views you as a spoilt brat and a member of the much maligned 'modern generation'. Nor shall she be a mother of a (surprisingly) attractive young lady who, on seeing that a young lad of this vile generation had managed to acquaint himself with her daughter while she was not around, immediately swaps seats with her. Or if by chance, you happen to meet a young lady alone on your journey, she shall not assume that you are a serial rapist, when you smile and try to make conversation. And if the blue moon that is conversation doth show its face, it shall be meaningful and fun. Not like the time when you pretended to be cool and rebellious and the girl turned out to be the exact opposite, demure and reserved. Or like the time when you decided to be your simple self and the girl turned out to be Kurt Cobain's reincarnation (although it is ironic. Get it?) and concluded thus that you were gay and decided to ignore you for the rest of the trip. One day, you too shall be able to boast of how you were able to woo this girl (into giving you her phone number), like your other thirty-two friends.

And when that day does come, you too shall be able to smile and say, "Hmm. This seems different. Is it a dream?"

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bhaag DK Bose, and Grow Up On the Way

First of all, Delhi Belly spokespersons who are going around saying that DK Bose is 'just another name;, lose the charade, please. Do not insult our intelligence by pleading innocence. At least have the courage to accept that you did it on purpose. If it was just another name, why not you choose Ananthanarayan Ramaswamy or Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas? That would have been more fun now, wouldn't it?

There's been a whole lot of hullabaloo over the raunchy, in-your-face lyrics in the above mentioned song (and some others, particularly the one where the beautiful Deepika manages to look like a character from Evil Dead). Frankly, if you don't like the lyrics, just don't listen to it. Lots of people are bothered by the fact that there will be 6-year-old kids who will go around singing this song (I'll be a treat to watch the expression of horror on the parents' faces though). Then again, kids see a lot of material on television which, when we were kids, was considered taboo. And if the kids want to sing it, let them. It's not like they know the intended meaning is it? Anyway, kids have been singing songs that are much more offensive than just an expletive. Don't believe me? 

We all fall down. And never get up.
Go back to your innocent childhood and try to remember some of the nursery rhymes you were taught. Ring a ring o'roses? Brings a smile on your face? Can you see your little self whooping with joy, holding someone's hand (possibly a girl, let's make it even better) while going around in circles? You've been singing about the Great Plague. The Great Plague in 1665 threatened to wipe out half of Europe (the next one was called Hitler) and this song is a reference to the plague and its symptoms. You know what the 'ring of ros(i)es' are? They are the red rashes that used to appear on the body of the victims. Posies were herbs used to ward off the smell of the disease (they didn't have super qualified doctors or Munnabhai in those days). Nor was there Ashok Kumar. The husha husha (or whatever sound effects that our teachers taught us) are sounds of the final coughing and sneezing. You can guess what the 'all fall down' means.

Aww, how cute. Now burn!

Wait, there's more. Remember Three Blind Mice? That's a poem about the killing of three Protestant bishops by Queen Mary I of England (whose hobby was torturing and murdering people). She also burnt 300 other people because they didn't conform to her religious beliefs. Three of them ended up in a children's poem. She is also referred to in Mary, Mary Quite Contrary. Do read up on her. She seems to be quite a character. 

Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill is another one. That's a song about the execution of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette - the fools who ruled France in the 18th century, and were completely oblivious to the poverty around them. "Jack fell down and broke his crown" refers to the um, losing of the head and Jill, well, came next. 

(Side note: After people were beheaded, the head was held up in front of its former body, apart from showing it to the crowd. The head apparently has consciousness for 7 seconds and then dies. Imagine seeing your own body wriggling in front of you. That is perhaps the cruelest thing I have ever heard or read in my life.)

Baa baa black sheep needn't even be analysed. The lyrics have Gunda-like subtle references to slavery (Baa baa 'black' sheep, one for my master is a dead give away). Maybe I sound like a conspiracy theorist but you have to put into consideration, the time during which these rhymes came around. Writing always reflects the time it is written in, so it isn't really that hard to put into perspective. Also conspiracy theories make the mundane more interesting. 

Have I ruined most of your childhood for you? Wait for more. London bridge is falling down is perhaps one of the sweetest tunes that my muddled memory can recall. History suggests that it's about the burning bridge of London after the Vikings set fire to it. There is also another, more morbid angle. Apparently there was a superstition that a structure wouldn't last until a human sacrifice was made and used in the construction material. London Bridge seems to have children underneath it, but there is no evidence as such. Humpty Dumpty is supposed to be a cannon that was used to destroy castles. But it somehow collapsed from its support and was too heavy to be lifted by 'all the king's men'. What the horses were doing there, I have no idea.

So we have been happily singing and dancing away to murder, pillage, burning and we're worried about a song? If you're thinking, "Hey, I didn't even know this, so it doesn't count", think again. Remember 'Aand paand teri maa ki ****d? Remember what came after? Ram doot, teri MKC? We were committing religious blasphemy at the age of 11. And we happily laughed at it. Hell, it can still coax out a little laughter. What about Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai? Had it been released today, I'm sure some sangh or dal would have filed a PIL barring the film's release since it hurt someone's sensibilities. And I'm not only talking about a song. I'm talking about general loss of our sense of humour.

Who is anyone to decide whose sensibilities anything hurts? And if it offends you, don't watch it. Don't listen to it, ignore it. So what's with all this outrage suddenly? Why is it that when we grow up, we lose all our sense of humour? Isn't growing up supposed to mean that you become more mature? Ironic isn't it, that we cussed religion and tossed it around like a football when we were children (and supposedly immature). Now that we're all 'big' in every sense of the word, we blow our top every time someone makes fun of us, or doesn't conform to what we think is right. So grow up.

If I'm getting a bit too preachy, sorry. There have been far too many cases of people losing their temper over the silliest of things, and it just plain irritates me. It hurts my sensibilities if you will! This outrage has to be relevant. I don't want it to stop, because that's your right (and it also provides entertainment). So good people, take up cudgels, not against the lyrics of this song, but against the mind-numbing repetitiveness with which it's being played across the country - like a woodpecker's rap on the brain, chipping away a small piece every time it hits. 

Image courtesy: and Wikipedia.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Shaitan + Pyaar ka Punchnama

We went almost two months without any decent releases, thanks to the World Cup and the IPL (which I'm still miffed about since both my teams lost). May was a month of duds, dedicated to some truly disastrous and horrendous films like Haunted, Luv ka the End (which from the trailer seemed a lot like John Tucker Must Die) and Ready. But I managed to catch two nice ones (films I mean). The first, is Pyaar ka Punchnama. Which is hilarious, and awesome. Especially for all ye guys. Although I have absolutely no experience in romance area, it was good fun. Yeah, yeah, female bashing and stereotyping and all that jazz. But watch it to blow off steam, or bitch about your girlfriend or whatever. More related to that in another post.

Second. I've just come back from watching Shaitan. Having heard only good reviews about it on Twitter, I was going to watch it, come what may, in the theatres. It's about five friends who are totally wild (and sometimes appear deranged) and how one accident changes their lives forever. But man, are those kids totally crazy! The number of complete outrageous and sometimes frightening stunts that the kids manage to pull off is mind boggling. When the kids get into trouble, they have to pay off a cop to cover up the mess their badassery has gotten them into and to do that, they end up digging even a deeper pit for themselves. The flatness of the story aside, what you need to watch the film for, is the sheer brilliance of the camera work. It takes you through a dark, murky world - a world where despondency and chaos is the order of the day, and there are no rules or a moral fabric that holds it together -  a world I'm sure most of us can only dream of knowing. There are a couple of sequences that are executed so well (the corporator scene for instance), that it makes me want to go and fall flat at the feet of the DOP and the director with reverence. Some scenes were so powerful that I wanted to leave everything and break into the movie. Then I remembered that I was too fat to fit into the projector. *laughs at stupid joke and mulls over how fat he has become*

You know that feeling you get sometimes when you just want to throw everything away and unleash? Or punch someone in the face? Or just scream at top of your lungs till the very  end of the world hears what you have to say? Shaitan brings that feeling back. The background score is magnificent (there's also a song by Bhayanak Maut). The characters? Kalki is very likable despite her rebelliousness and cocaine addiction. Shiv Pandit as Dushyant Saha is definitely a good find. Watch out for KC - insane at times, weirdly indecisive and meek at others. I don't know what Nikhil Chinappa is doing here, but he's okay. There's a pretty funny sequence with a cameo from Rajat Barmecha (Udaan) but I think the writers just got carried away there. 

But the best of them all is the macho cop Rajeev Khandelwal. The street chase, the bone-crunching kicks, the head-smashing punches - this guy carries an extra dose of mean wherever he goes and uses it to full extent. The shootout at a Bhindi Bazaar building is jaw-dropping. Few years back, he was the lead role in an Ekta Kapoor show. I hated him (partly also because all of my female friends kept gushing about how good-looking he was). Now, I have newfound respect for him.

I could identify several influences in the whole film - the gory fights with a sweetly remixed version of Khoya Khoya Chaand reminded me of Guy Ritchie. There are several montage sequences a la Ritchie. And the shoot out is a bit like the scene from Chan-wook's Oldboy where Oh Dae Su takes on around ten men at once. Mix in a bit of Danny Boyle and Tarantino. It's fantastic. I'm too lazy to even think of a better adjective for the film. The only thing I didn't like? Kalki's memories of her mother, totally unnecessary and also reminiscent of The Ring. Other than that, it's a cracker of a film - a rollercoaster ride that I wished never ended. 

All in all, watch it. In the movie theatres. It's brilliant. And yes, I suggest you leave all your morality and social codes aside. Because the film has none. 

PS: Kirti Kulhari is hot!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rubber Dinghy Rapids, Bro!

I just finished watching an absolute treat of a film. It's called Four Lions, a superb, politically incorrect black comedy film on jihad and terrorism. Yes, that's right. In the wake of all the recent sensational revelations, I just happened to come across a mention of this film while wasting away my time getting inspired on the Internet. While the timing and the nature of the whole operation cannot help but fuel the cynic in me with countless and meaningless arguments, he certainly is dead. He's gone to hell. Let him.

But I did manage to catch Shor in the City last week. I've frankly been very surprised at all the rave reviews it has been getting for what can only be called an average execution of a good script (the advertising terms are kicking in now). Though made on a low budget (another advertising term), there was certainly scope for betterment in many departments of the film. Some scenes felt completely unnecessary. Also the Telugu cricketer angle left me completely baffled. Enough of that. I read somewhere that Shor... bore a resemblance to Four Lions. Hence it was, ahem, procured. 

Four Lions is the story of five British jihadists (there is a reason why it becomes 'four') who dream of teaching the Western Imperialists a lesson by, well, blowing up something. The only problem is, they can't decide what to blow up. Omar leads his dim-witted brother Waj, the bellicose White convert Muslim Barry, Faisal and wannabe rapper Hassan. The writers weave in a nice bit of irony in the characters, where the liberal Omar is the jihadi and his extremely orthodox brother is a peace-loving man. The typical dry British humour writing makes for some hilarious sequences. The bumbling buffoons that they are, they can't get anything right. After making their way to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, Omar and Waj try to take out an American drone with a rocket launcher but end up launching it in the opposite direction and wiping out their own Arab camp. Watch out for the resolution of this scene at the end. And remember that this was written in 2010, and just admire the situation. I won't say more.

Back after their misadventures in Pakistan, Omar and co decide to put their plan into action in London. Again, they stumble across London trying to get their hands on explosives, and then trying to avoid blowing themselves up. One of them tries to blow up a building by attaching a bomb to a crow. While the film is largely funny throughout its run time, it also brings to the fore, the narrow-mindedness of the terrorist and their convenient interpretation of Islam to suit their needs. Look out for Barry's arguments on all the things in the world that are not Islam. So utterly inane are the foursome that the madcap bombers end up wearing huge costumes while on their way to completing their task. Not a very intelligent choice if you want to blend into the crowd.

With all the idiotic rapping (uber-funny that too), rib-tickling situations and paranoia of the terrorists, the other side of the coin, the police isn't left too far behind. They manage to raid the wrong house - a sad indicator of the times we live in and how we tend to slot everyone in pre-defined places in our minds. Stereotyping, however sensitive it may be, tends to be funny, and the film uses plenty of it to its own advantage. 

The comedy of errors in the finale leads in to a sad reality of our times. So why the strange title? It's the loveable terrorist (what an oxymoron) Waj's version of heaven - where he won't have to stand in a long line to get into the Rubber Dinghy rides at Alton Towers, an amusement park in London.

The one question that popped in my mind was this: Is religion (be it any religion) really worth all the trouble we are taking for it?

Image: Wikipedia

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Goodbye, Uncle Pai

It was the month of May and the hot summer sun was beating down on no one in particular. A young boy, around seven years of age was standing on the platform of a railway station with his parents. He was happy. The horribly monotonous ritual that was school had just gotten over and he was waiting to go to the only place on earth where there would be absolutely no repercussions (or beatings) for his actions. In fact, it was a place where his mother would get scolded more often than him. His grandmother’s village. But a whole day of train travel was a prospect that he didn’t fancy too much (AC seats were very expensive, you see). And he’d made his displeasure clear to his mother right from the beginning. How? By whining and unleashing a barrage of questions upon his mother, who was already tired at having to take care of the boy’s little brother.

Seeing this, the father sprinted to the nearest bookshop and bought a couple of magazines. He ran back to the train and slid the magazines through the window and told the boy, “Here. Take this. It’s a very good magazine. And keep quiet.” The boy picked up the magazines and looked at them. On the cover was a motley assembly of monkeys, crocodiles, foxes, a king and his minister and a hunter whose hat had completely covered his eyes. The boy read the title: T-I-N-K-L-E. ‘That’s a strange name’, he thought. He dived into the book, having nothing else to do, and never came back.

That little boy was me. As you might have read, the founder of Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle, Anant Pai, fondly known to us children as Uncle Pai passed away recently. Anyone who has grown up in the ‘90s and has a reading habit will have read Tinkle. The beauty of Tinkle lay in its simplicity and its endearing characters. Tantri the Mantri was a genius when it came to plots and we never failed in our enthusiasm to find out how his plan would be undone. Shikari Shambhu (coward that he was) always was the hero. The Suppandi strips were like little children themselves – good, clean and loveable. Kapish the monkey always amazed us with his cleverness. The awesomely funny pair of Chamatka and Doob-Doob is perhaps the one of the funniest characters I’ve come across. Then there was Nasruddin Hodja, Pyaarelal and the rest of the gang.

My grandmother’s house is an old mansion (it’s a big house really, but it’s my blog so I will call it a mansion). The whole area is a bunch of houses with terraces so close to each other that you can practically jump across from one terrace to another. Just behind our house is a house that is more than hundred years old. Its roof has caved in, and I could see the courtyard and the old rooms. Having just read an Ajay adventure in Tinkle, I jumped from my terrace into the old house. Like Ajay, I didn’t break any bones, but unlike him, I got what every child in our generation got for not following orders - a couple of slaps, an audio cassette’s worth of screaming and a stern warning of more of the former to follow if I fooled around anymore.

Tinkle was not just stories. It was educational. There was Tinkle Tells You Why – something that explained science in an easier, cooler way than the textbooks. There was the geographical tour feature that took you places – I remember a travelogue comic of sorts on Nagaland – precisely because it showed the rich culture and landscape of Nagaland, which till that point of time (for me) was a place where people with straws in their hair shouted ‘Humabalala jhingalalala’ and danced around in circles. There were the Tinkle fun projects (from where I lifted one project and secured an ‘A’ at school). There were puzzles and we competed for the princely sum of Rs 50 (I think) and getting our name featured in the next issue. I sent in many entries, but never won a prize. But I did get some stickers. I’d also sent in entries for ‘It Happened to Me’, though never got published there (I only tried once).

Uncle Pai also gave us Amar Chitra Katha. It all started out when he saw on DD, a quiz where the participants answered questions on Greek mythology but couldn’t name Lord Ram’s mother. We all owe our mythological stories to two sources – grandmothers and Uncle Pai. Say the name Ram and the first picture that comes to mind of anyone from my generation will be the yellow-blue-red-green shaded cartoons from ACK. I was a decent quizzer at college and won a quiz by answering a question on mythology, thanks to my copy of ACK.

Mind you, Tinkle got me into a lot of trouble. There were many a chiding sessions for reading it while on the dinner table, for spilling food while reading it on the dinner table, and for ignoring all other chores and errands while reading it. I remember getting scolded by my grandmother (a rarity) for reading it while my aunt was getting married in our house. What could I do? When you are ten years old, you are too young to be of use to anyone, and too old to be of entertainment value. You are hence a hindrance wherever you go.

After that fateful train journey, it became a family ritual. Whenever my feet touched the platform of any damn railway station in the country, I had to be bought a Tinkle. And I always got the fortnightly copy, since it was for ten bucks. Only after shameful begging and coaxing on the platform would the larger digest make its way into my hands. It was for 25 bucks you see, a huge amount to be spent on a kid in those days. I only recently gave away my old copies of Tinkle.

I will scour the cupboard this weekend and I’m sure I have some copies left.

I regret having never written a letter to Uncle Pai. I should have done so. Uncle Pai replied personally to most of them (from what I’ve heard). So here is a short one.

Dear Uncle Pai,

This is my first and last letter to you. Tinkle is what initiated me into reading and it's a habit that I will never change. Ever.

Thank you uncle for all that you have given us and done for us. Thank you for all those beautiful summers and those wonderful train journeys. Thank you for all the delightful stories that drove away boredom and taught us many valuable lessons. Thank you for all those times your magazines came to our rescue when we just wanted to escape annoying neighbours when they came over.

A big thank you for making Indian mythology cool, simple and entertaining.

But I have many unanswered questions. Will Tantri ever become friends with the Raja? Will Suppandi ever learn? Will Shikari Shambu ever get away from trouble? Please do answer these if you can. 

And thank you again for shutting me up.

A loving fan

PS: It was my little cousin’s birthday in December and I went to buy him a gift. Being the idiot that I am, I had no clue what to get them. Kids these days are so cool that I feel like a Neanderthal amongst them. So I decided on the safest bet. I got him a Tom & Jerry DVD.

It was a mistake. I should have bought him a Tinkle instead. Or an ACK.

Write in your thoughts on Tinkle and ACK. Do share this tribute if you like it :)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Secret Justice System

Be nice to people. Not because you want to be treated nicely as well. Because there is a secret justice system that is observing everything that you are doing and keeping a record of it. And when the time comes, it will all come back to you in equal measure. 

No, but sir, you never,
Kids, every time you're naughty, your parents will automatically want you to show your dance moves to Kapoor uncle. Every time you shirk your homework and watch TV, your mother will make karele ki sabzi on a weekend (both dinner and lunch). Don't make fun of anyone lest you want that childhood photo album of you dressed as a princess shown to everyone. Don't trouble your teachers too much or the system will have Arnab Goswami as your examiner for your viva voce instead. Teachers don't be too hard on your students or you will have him as a student instead.

Even when you grow up, the law continues to hold. Be very careful. One small mistake and boom, your friends will have made a plan to watch Tees Maar Khan after college. And you have to pay. 

Every time you mock someone, that girl you really like will turn out to have a mouth like Sonam Kapoor and a brain like Kareena Kapoor. 

Whenever you make fun of people, the justice system ensures that your girlfriend gifts you sunglasses that make you look like Karunanidhi. Whenever you are snobbish, you will find yourself choosing from the following directors to have a movie made on your life - Sajid Khan, Madhur Bhandarkar or Priyadarshan. One more wrong step and Vivek Oberoi will play the lead role. So be careful, okay?

Neighbours, every time you compare your MBA son's salary with a non-MBA person's salary, the system makes your son audition for Roadies, where he gets selected, loses, auditions for Dance India Dance, gets selected, loses again but decides to keep the haircut he got on the show. Whenever you make someone else feel small, your daughter will join Splitsvilla, and spill all your secrets on national television. Be careful not to be too vain about your wealth, or flaunt it shamelessly otherwise Mayawati will personally visit your house and perform a havan using your money as fuel. Don't let success go to your head or your wedding card will designed by a bunch of baboons using a pirated version of Photoshop on Windows Vista. The same bunch that churns out political hoardings in Mumbai. The system will ensure that.

Guys from the corporate world, every time you claim your 'expenses', your family will want to eat a "traditional, Rajasthani thali" at the mall. Double price, eating food that looks like an elephant took a dump (tastes like it?), sitting on chairs where there are other people glaring at you for not eating fast. It's almost like prison, except here, you have to pay to get in. Stay away from office politics or the system will ensure that your career advisor is Sania Mirza. Don't try to put anyone down or the secret system will ensure that Ashok Chavan invests in the housing society you just bought a home in. Don't vent your spleen on the driver or the waiter just because your job sucks, because you might just end up having to work at a telecom company where your job is to ask people to switch over to your network. And don't use your cell phone while driving or show off your BBs or your wife's cell phone number will be forwarded to Shane Warne. And if you are a woman, it'll go to Raja Chaudhary.

Actors, every time you lie on camera or the system will see to it that Suresh Kalmadi (make that SM Krishna) reads out your achievements on the day they felicitate you with a lifetime achievement award. How, you ask? He will. Wait and watch. And Charu Sharma will host the show. The secret justice system has a counter with a beeper on it that goes red whenever you act smug when it comes to your acting skills. Don't do it or you will have to admit on the same talk show that you use a particular brand of skin rash cream. Let's see how you do that with a straight face and maybe then your vainness is justified. Try and pull a publicity stunt on a charity event and you will have Digvijay Singh as a director for your film. And Amar Singh as the playback singer.  

Filmmakers, the next time you try to claim a rip-off as an original, the system will personally send Rajnikanth to remake you. And throw it in the dustbin. 

It's either Khali's voice or you
News people, turn down the shit knob on your channels or you will find yourself in a Saw-like situation where you have to do either of these two things - transcribe Khali's audio interviews or die.

Cricketers, please concentrate more on the game or else you'll have to host a talk show on DD with Atul Wassan and Saba Karim. 

Every one else who I'm too lazy to categorise, my apologies. Be good, because in this crazy world, you never know what can happen. I believe in the system. Do you?

PS: The system doesn't work on politicians.

Image courtesy: Google

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Seen and Heard

Almost two months. I'm completely stuck on what to write here. I don't think I qualify for the term writers' block, since that usually involves people who have written at least 200 pages worth of reading material (key word is 'worth'). Talking about reading material, I've bought quite a few books, and have a lot of reading to catch up on.

I finished a book called The Indian Clerk  by Stephen Leavitt some time back. It's the story of Srinivasa Ramanujam and GH Hardy, told through the eyes of the British mathematician. The book traces the relationship of the pair, right from the day Ramanujan wrote a letter to Hardy, asking him to take a look at some formulae he'd been working on to the day Ramanujan leaves Hardy and Cambridge forever. The author has taken creative liberties in creating characters and situations, but the gist of the story remains mostly true to history. What is interesting is that it also explores the elite English society and their opinions of the First World War. Famous names - D.H Lawrence, Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell (who according to the author, was brilliant but had foul mouth odour) are mentioned in passing. 

What I saw was a good glimpse of the genius that was Ramanujan. Most people only know Ramanujan as "that south Indian guy who was good at maths and died early." The book tells you why he was so (although in a much romanticised manner). For math geeks, this book should  be a good read. It is a bit long (500 pages) and there are tedious portions which you tend to skip. The author is gay, so almost everyone seems to be gay at Cambridge (which is weird if it was true). GH Hardy comes across as a very cold person though. I loved the part about Ramanujan's mother. She's the 1920s version of the south Indian mother. Most south Indian grandmothers would be like her, only  less creepy. 

Meanwhile, TV seems to have something interesting. Koffee with Karan (yes, I watch it) seems to be the new bitching hub for the film fraternity. Ranbir Kapoor got pwned by the Sonam and Deepika. Deepika kept her cool for most, but Sonam just let it all out. She was probably shooting for Aisha when brains were being made. And not just her. Mr. Anil "I have enough hair to make a furcoat" Kapoor let out some secrets too. And then there was Kareena Kapoor. If brains were bartered for objects, Kareena would probably only get the Ravalgaon 25p orange toffee. Or maybe half of that. Because she seems to have none. She can act well and all that jazz, but she doesn't know what she's talking about. According to her, 'quintestinal' is a word (not quintessential) and Led Zeppelin's favourite song is 'Stairway to the Moon'. Poor Saif had a hard time defending her utter stupidity. He must have thrown his guitar out of the window when he went home to vent his frustration. 

And enjoying all this is the bitch of Bollywood, Karan Johar. Sexual innuendos, fake laughter, fake kisses, and emotions that make Pamela look a hundred percent real. Karan Johar seems to have taken it upon himself to make people pour their heart out to him. Like a confession booth. Which is even more appropriate, since on every episode, he makes it a point to say at least once, that he's never been in a relationship with a woman. Maybe it's his way of coming out of the closet. And with the new Nescafe ad series, he only has to announce to the world that he's gay. Everyone probably knows it, and are just playing along. Like in Superman, when he takes off his glasses and no one can recognise that he is Clark Kent. Or Spiderman, when Peter Parker is the only person in the world who can get Spiderman's pictures. Without spycams, secret tapes, mobile MMS or anything that today's voyeur uses, mind you. And whatever happened with SRK that no one wants to be with him on the show? Ra.One? Really?
King Khan gone bust so soon? 

And for those who have been following the bullshit on media, here is some more (It's old but interesting). They issued an apology later. How can you ask Delhi for inputs on the superstar, sorry, SUPERSTAR? You can write a whole book on Rajnikanth jokes (which are copied from Chuck Norris jokes ironically). How stupid can you be to steal an article in the Internet age? No no. How insanely foolish do you have to be to copy an article on Rajni from a foreign magazine? I never did like India Today, and Outlook is just for sex surveys. The Week seems to be okay. Open seems to be the new Tehelka. They were the only one who carried the Radia tapes. Other print media followed soon. There was a media blackout for almost two weeks on the case. After Barkha Dutt and co got abuses like they give out chocolates to children, the mainstream channels and newspapers finally decided to cover it. And now it's forgotten. Almost. Like the CWG. #youremember?

Ah, the joy of the interwebz. Follow me on Twitter. It's fun.

PS: Watch 127 Hours. It's excellent. Forget the Rahman mania. Watch it for the cinematography. And James Franco. The soundtrack is good, and peaks towards the end. Watch out for the last 30 minutes. Brutal.