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Bengalis (by birth) like me do not like to admit that they have a sweet tooth. They land up at a Bengali get together(read : loud exchange of  opinioned ideas on everything and anything) and when offered, push their open palms in the air, like that on an invisible bench press and noisily decline “mishti khaabo naa …sugar achhe“(no sweets for me, I have blood sugar)”. And then after the party, on the way back, ask the wife “do we still have any of that key lime pie you made? “.

And then some days, during the coffee machine chit chat when I am asked . “you are Bengali right … you must love rosogolla?” And the sarcastic genes inside me scream “thanks for the stereotype, again!”. But on the outside, I say ” I love sandesh as much “, totally forgetting the part where I am supposed to go …”actually I do not like sweets at al. I have blood sugar .Instead; I love to use jalapeno seeds as mouth freshener“. But that never happens!!

What I am attempting to draw from the above, is how you could be immensely fulfilled with two completely disparate experiences from the same source. Another example  – when on a perfect day  your wife is giving you the silent treatment, and making spicy onion masala uttapam ,both at the same time!!  As for the female readers, I do not have an example … since men usually are not good with multi tasking!!

So when I watched Kaminey, (something which I have wanted to do since its release last year) it was that whole different kind of happiness feeling. “This is a complete movie” I told myself . Just like ..The Blue Umbrella.  And yet completely, unlike. The source – the creative genius of  Vishal Bharadwaj !! The man who has been proven guilty of being in my list of favorite directors, composers and all of that jazz since his Maachis days!! He started of as a composer and of late made some really good movies.

Now about these two movies. Why did I pick just these two?  Purely because of the experience as a viewer, watching two of his creations which have no one common point that they meet at, be it theme, design or any of those elements that work towards graduating a good story into an awesome movie and yet inspire me to write a post about them. Whether anyone is reading or not!! Wait, I did not mean that. I do care about who is reading. I digress. Let’s get back shall we, to my duo- analysis, or whatever this may be called.

The Blue Umbrella touches you,  for the simple story (courtesy: the esteemed Ruskin Bond). Pankaj Kapoor (side note: I am his fan since his Karamchand days) as usual is brilliant in the role of an aged shopkeeper who desires to own something which does not belong to him. The Blue Umbrella – the prized possession of a little girl. The movie was shot in Himachal Pradesh and just like me, as you watch the film, you will want to be part of that rustic ambience. There is innocence, love, deceit and finally utter kindness that make this a masterpiece. To me that is the sign of a great conversation – one that happens between the characters and the audience. Thank you Vishal !!

About Kaminey, let me start with the music. It will blow you away!! That is, if you are open to the idea of being blown away by music, I mean. Since the time the music released (last year), whenever we are in our small blue car, I have made myself, Onga and his mom listen to Dhan Te Nan as the overture to any journey, be it as insignificant as a quick run for diapers. And I digress again.

And I am back. Kaminey’s story is one which cannot be called unpredictable. But sometimes  cliché, when served nicely tastes good, kinda like how karela (bitter melon) would taste like honey, if Priyanka Chopra were to serve it to me. Talking of her, she did pretty good in her “not so glamorous” role in Kaminey. As for Shahid – job well done, times two (he plays twins in the movie)!! All the actors who acted as crooks, including the Bengali trio did very well, proof being I was rooting for them when they set the house(s) on fire. You see, it is not every day, that you see Bengali men who have an established career as kingpin(s) in Mumbai!! Good story with beautiful songs (which fit in perfectly even in this Satya style story) makes Kaminey one of my all time favorites. Thank you Vishal !!

In essence, this is my personal message to all movie makers – “I have some news for you. If one of your hits was a thriller, guess what, your next one need not be one, unless you are Shyamalan , and even he made some bad mistakes for e.g. The Happening.  So, ..please explore, and make us feel…. what good movie making (no matter what the story) is all about. Kinda like what I heard in the men’s room of Lighthouse cinema (Calcutta) so many years ago – “ khel khatam, paisa hajam” (the show is over, it was worth every penny)!!” The End!!

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One of the incentives of being married to a girl from South India is easy access to kick ass South Indian food! ” After having gained hundreds of pounds, since I transitioned from “self” cooking to “herself” cooking, it is but natural of me to delight in my wife’s culinary skills . Now, if she was not a great cook. I would have started this post slightly different. I would probably say, “One of the perks of being married to a girl from South India is easy access to some of the greatest movies”. Now that is a fact, which by the way sits perfectly well with me as well. I am not sure if she can say similar thing(s) about being married to a Bengali. But for that she needs to start her own blog.

My love affair with South Indian movies (mainly: Tamil) began almost the same time, that I started ogling my “baby momma” from the last bench of our engineering class. Back then, I was always humming Tamil songs, watching Tamil movies and gawking (from behind myopic glasses) at a certain Telugu girl…and let me tell you, I was committed to all three responsibilities to the best of my ability. I listened to the songs, for they made me happy, even the sad ones did. Once I had listened to a song I needed to go watch the movie. Unless of course it was movie like Padayappa, in which case, the music would suffice!! And being new to South India, I wanted to feel safe in the company of someone who could speak Tamil and was a treat to sit next to, in the theatre!! For the first time in my life, there was purpose to everything I did!! I journeyed with the stars during those several hours in at Devi theatre and Satyam complex.

Disclaimer : Before I go any further I would like to remind the reader that anything that I say beyond this point on, is from within my limited knowledge about Tamil cinema. I am just another Bengali who used to live in the Kodabakkam area during my undergrad and was exposed (rather densely) to the Tamil film world, both on and off-screen. I am no movie expert and my views are purely based on how I have felt towards each of these creations of art. So what follows is not a review, but an attempt to collate how I felt as a member of the audience.

The most significant characteristic about Tamil movies (from recent years) that I find so absorbing is the style of narration. A film maker picks a simple story and makes it into a 90 minute package of pure entertainment. These are great movies made from everyday life events. They are rich in emotion and easy to relate to.

One of the Tamil directors that I am a huge fan of, is Cheran. I have watched all his movies, the early ones without even knowing who he is. It was not until recently when I found out that Porkaalam is one of his movies. It had one of my favorite songs – “Thanjavur man eduthu . Beautiful words woven with the popular “gaana” style of music by Deva. I digress. It was the brilliance of his movie, Autograph, that got me sitting up and paying more attention to his work. I was moved by the sensitive elements of life in his stories, masterfully played out by artists (including Cheran) who did full justice to every character they portrayed. Maya Kannadi felt too close to me,  since our neighbours in the building we used to live in were two girls who worked as assistants to a make up artist.  

Pokkisham is the latest Cheran movie that I watched. I had not read any reviews. I never do. I think it ruins the “wow” factor that cinema deserves. It is a love story, one which is spun out of pain and emotions that will make you want to reach out into the lives of the characters and redo the story all over again.Parts of the movie were filmed in Calcutta and the scenes portrayed, brought back to me, glimpses from my childhood memories of the city. What was most admirable was how Cheran was successful in preserving the 70’s look of Calcutta. Cheran is just perfect in his role and as always so is Padmapriya and together, they acquaint us with how one’s love and life can sometimes part ways for good. And when that happens, it hurts bad and truly nothing can ever make that pain go away. We get through life with that pain, every moment of it, knowing that things could have been different. Sure, there are other movies which touch similar topics, but nothing I have watched stirred me the way this movie did. And I think art like this is not to be compared.

What Pokkisham brought to me, was an aide memoire about the definition of true love!! What a lot of us hear about, some experience and some will never know. Over the years, I have become, what I would like to believe – Cheran’s biggest “non Tamilian” fan. Someday if I do meet him, I wish to stand up in honor, shake his hand and tell him – “thank you for sharing all that beauty!!

I leave you with the  last scenes (sorry no subtitles), when Nadheera sheds silent tears for a love she deserved for a lifetime!! A lifetime, too late!!

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somewhere …….

between the disappearance of fall ……

and the onset of winter …

we found these moments around sunset  !!

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The tags keep coming and I need to make sure I attend to their calls as and when time and lack of other ideas permit. And that surely means that if you are reading this blog, and you know I like your’s , there is every possibility that I shall tag you in the next few minutes ……if not someone else will….there is no escape …..heeeyaaahahhahaha…….ZillionBig tagged me, with a bunch of questions, all in groups of four and I will try to be as quick as possible in responding to each of them …..honestly ?? ….that is a possibility …we will see how it all works out. …so bear with me …if you will …..!!!

Four places I have lived (not in any particular order):

  • Chakmaghat: small village on the banks of the Khowai river in Tripura,India…..
  • Calcutta: need I say more ….
  • Chennai: loved the place sans the auto rikshaw drivers and the dust ….
  • Detroit: I know it sounds rough, but it really is not bad at all …….

Four T.V shows that I love(d) to watch (not in any particular order):

though several years ago, I never missed any episode of Sidharth Basu’s quiz show. I do not remember the name now. ….

Four places that I have been on vacation:

  • Rimbik (India): Just like Samaresh Majumdar mentions about this place and Sandakfu in his novel, Garbadharini…this is a glimpse of what paradise probably looks like…..
  • Autrain (Michigan) : Quaint and surrounded by the Great Lakes this is where you want to be if you like to sing to the sounds of silence…..
  • Wilmington(North Carolina): Blue, green and in between …..
  • Tirupati(India):Vacation with my wife’s family where the alludu (groom or something like that) got the royal treatment including an oil massage and the works…..

Four of my favorite food items:

Fortunately for me and my taste buds, I have too many favorites and cannot pick any four. I love to eat and I close my eyes when the food is good, while making obscene noises of content which may annoy others around me.But I do not really care, since at that very moment nothing is more important than to honor the goodness of that indulgence !!

Four websites that I visit daily:

Four places I would rather be (not in any particular order of preference):

  • Chicago: I love this city ……
  • Chennai : and I love this city as well …..
  • Charlotte (North Carolina) : and I ……..
  • Calcutta : and …..

the fact that all the places are cities whose names start with “c” is mere coincidence ….. or not ??

Four things I hope to do before I die….. (not in any particular order):

  • Start our own restaurant, serving food so good that guests “close their eyes and….
  • With a dear friend of mine,make our first movie …..me as herr direktor…
  • Hold hands and walk in the streets of Paris …not in a human chain… a little more romantic
  • Attend our son’s graduation commencement and then go to dinner with him and his very charming girlfriend or boyfriend ….(you never know…..)

Four novels I wish I was reading for the first time:

  • Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • Shesher Kobita by Rabindranath Tagore
  • A House for Mr.Biswas by V.S.Naipaul
  • An Equal Music by Vikram Seth

this list is not finite and I just named the first four that I could think of. I could go on and on and on and ….. you know what I am talking about !!

Four movies that I can watch over and over again:

and just like the books, this list is unlimited ….. including Singh is Kingg….or not !!!

Four people I believe will respond to this tag:

Now is the tricky part…..I do not want anyone to feel left out ….(yeah right…!!) ….but I think I will spare one or two business bloggers …and include someone who is too busy to blog …..

I know Rads is already slammed with other tags and so I am not including her.But if she or anyone else wants to pick up the tag, please feel free to do so !! Thanks ZB for the tag. I enjoyed trying to answer the questions…..!!

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The following happened between 10:00 and 10:05 pm …….

Attentive late night walk in the patli gali (diet controlled walkway between rooms) by the mom of the child, who refuses to give in to her efforts of trying to make him drift away into dreams about soft toys,teethers and every “lickable” piece of furniture. But exhaustion has its rewards.”Aapka beta bahut aekteev hai“(your son is very active).The couple exchange a grin (heck yeah ..we have our reasons) each time someone decides to state the obvious…….!! “We like to tire him out so that we have time to catch up on the latest and greatest that is happening in the movie industry …….around the globe “….(really ??)..though that would be inhuman to admit..so we say …”taanks

The following happened between 10:06 and 10:25PM……..

Wife starts snoring at the same frequency as the ceiling fan (which is still WTBS…..work to be started). “What da, you want me to watch a thriller alone in the dark?”….asks the man, knowing pretty well that, that action will induce zero reaction (equal or opposite). So he proceeds to start on a journey into what he later realized was a terminal velocity dive into the ravines of confusion, created when someone probably put a needle in his sun glass covered eyes, if he didnot make this movie…….

The following should have “never” happened ……..

Man looks at the bed side time piece …..way past the time he should have joined the chorus of nasal symphony.Instead he decided to brave it. Have you ever been to a dhaba (pure bliss) where they served you sailudd (salad), you bite on the onion and you realize a few seconds too late, this is definitely not fresh.If you have not, then please cooperate and try to customize that to cold french fries or a little too sour coconut chutney (you get the picture ….). Well multiply that feeling with a huge number (I don’t know, just come up with a number….). That would be the number of times I wanted to turn the damn thing off…..

Moral of the story …….

If I had to talk about my dream job, one of my daily responsibilites would be – “critique one movie in between eating at every food joint on the face of this earth……while ..”….since that is not happening any time soon, let me fill you in on my perspective of this one. For someone like Nagesh Kukunoor, somewhere while he was wrapping up production and all the fancy footwork he must have asked himself ……”what the f#$% was I thinking ?”. I shall not get into the details of the story, ….well because there is none. …..(ouch….) !! So let me work on the rest of the package ……

  • Casting: Impressive, especially when it came to picking the main lead to be Akshay Kumar (who as we all know has been accused of brilliant performances like the one in Singh is Kingg). Now the fans will say, “Katrina nahi thi naaa” (There was no Katrina Kaif….hence). As for Sharmila Tagore, she looked beautiful as ever, often times forgetting, that the movie needed zero acting and her efforts were going to get unnoticed, especially when people actually walk out of the “scene of accident” (the movie) !! Javed Jafri must be really hurting or his contract had a “no suicide before project completion” clause. Ayesha Takia (she actually did act a little in Dor) did what she was supposed to – look unintelligent,…… wait she did not really have to work towards that. Girish Karnad and Benjamin Gilani – it is my strong belief that Single Malt played foul ….
  • Story : I believe one of the key factors to the success (or not) of any thriller is that the audience (as a whole number/integer) should not be able to predict the next scene !! I am just saying!! Well, that happened way too many times and any average viewer (of the complete gamut of offerings from the Hindi movie industry) could have easily rattled out what the kahani mein twist will be…..in the first thirty minutes !!
  • Comic Effect,Location etc: If you like to rewind the same scene several times, or like to keep listening to the same dialogue – “Jatin, tum ne bahut pee li hain”..(I am not going to translate that)…your search ends here.You will also be rewarded with amazing locales (but the you could have watchedTum Bin for the same effect…it has couple of good songs) from Canada and that’s that. Overall there was too much comic effect as a result of a bad combination of the other two factors(from above).

As someone who has grown to follow every creative experiment (read:commercial or not) of Kukunoor’s, (because I consider him as one of the greatest movie makers), this movie poured so much sadness on me, that I almost wallowed in agony like Kamal in Nayagan !! The End !!

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The light from the 40 watt created a grimy focus area on the concrete outside the little window with the iron bars.His rusty hands smelled of cheap country liquor as he passed out the little blue slips to the thrilled teenager.The teenager walked up to the group waiting in the dark next to the construction area fence.In the air, was the smell of freshly cooked jalebi from the big iron karahi (of the Mithai ki Dukan – confectionery store) on the walkway next to the clock repair shop.The intersection of Central Avenue and Harrison Road, two of the busiest roads in Calcutta (the name before the K effect).This is the same corner which housed the theater that had screened Sholay for the last one hundred weeks.I was going to be part of that history, just like,several others who were fans of this one man industry.We howled in grief and animated ecstasy, as the commercial success engulfed us. As other members of the audience (mostly in checked lungis…) joined us in our dance and coin flinging, life seemed complete …..I know, …sounds really tacky !!!

And then sometime in the recent past I saw clips from the festival.I saw them walk hand in hand,just like anyone would like to see any successful (read:actor fees + awards + endorsements) couple.And then I saw how he turned down the honor from down south. And then I saw about how the kids feel at the other festival.And then there was the media ruckus about the SMS. And then Times Now® did a weekend special on him, a retro ride of sorts with interviews from the big guys in the industry like Yash Chopra et al.

Close to two decades after that evening,(teenager at the run down place) ..I heard myself sigh ….!! I may be hurled stones (or styrofoam cups) at,for what I am about to natter. My opinion and my right to it, is purely my own and thanks to Blogger® – this space is for my selfish fulfillment.Hence I shall indulge in not so many words…well at least I shall try to ….and here goes ….

Amitabh Bachchan has come a long way – from the days in school with our late prime minister, to his Jay and Veeru days, through the time he got injured from the infamous punch in Coolie (where the whole country was praying for his recovery),his trysts with humiliation, his music launch (the same time that he started to be known as the Big B) and then the bail out (read: Kaun Banega Crorepati) to his current days where he types away on his Mac® from all corners of the world to his EF(extended family ..so he calls his fans)…He voices his opinions about movies he dislikes and claps for his son and daughter-in-law at the award ceremonies…….so “not” covertly evading a much awaited peck !!

How does it feel to be the head of the household which resides within it, the most talked about family of the country? And why do we, as a nation obsess about them so much? What makes him and his family so important? I can work on a really good slow fire roast on that, but that would need a zillion posts.What I cannot measure, is when will this mad craze about the family stop? Is it because we would sound “not cool” if we claimed – No we are actually not that impressed with his acting or the several other activities like making a public appearance outside his house on a certain day of the week (kinda like his character in Sarkar Raj) for his devoted fans!!

My first observation about his blog was – this cannot be real.Let us get that assumption out of the way. I am not calling him phony.I am just saying that when you are as “sought after” as he is, there is only so much (or so little) truth about yourself that you would want the rest of the world to know. I do appreciate his grasp of the English language,but the contents…excuse me while I take a swig of the “will believe anything you say” beer and then I can read it and believe what I read !!

While he has been making news, his son has been struggling and then almost making it (read:Guru) and the world said – “awwww, don’t they make the cutest couple”.I am sure ….what followed was cooked by the Mistress of Spices and happily fed, to a strong Drona. They tied the knot and I told myself – that has to be “true love”. I must be completely out of mind to doubt anyone and tend to think, that this is a “convenience of celebrity status for eternity”.

So here is what I want to do. I want to be able to call them the “First Family” of the country which follows every move of every member in that family…..just like on the other side of the world the media drools over every member of different kind of “First Family”…..Now that I have vented enough,I shall get back to reality.That would mean turning to look at my mother wiping tears as he stands on the podium stressing out the words from Baghban, which go something like this ….”hum hain to jahaan hain” (the universe is because I am) !!

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And then it happened…… The Happening !! I shut out the the lights, turned up the speakers and got myself refreshed (to not let bad reviews and memories of bad reviews take over) and I heard myself hoping …. come on man, you have to prove them all wrong!! You are not just anyone.You are the man who created bedlam in the mind of the critics with The Sixth Sense. You have to prove everyone wrong.You have to stun me with your genius …. again.It has been way too long and my expectation has seen some serious depletion with each new release since then.I have to give it to you for the first five minutes….you did create the mood and the open window suddenly seemed to bring with it the cold air from the humidity outside….a story which begins in the city and goes all over the northeast to completely disappoint me…..there, I said it !!

So here is my analysis …. man to man …. team member of your audience family to …MNS

Story: You did not do justice to the story….this is with the assumption that you had a good idea and you ran with it.Just that the movie does everything but narrate a good story.Actually, it does not do everything.It really was like an assembly line of well taken shots.It does not qualify to be a movie.It just was not a strong story.After the release of your previous movie, you told the world (of your followers) how you had nourished that idea for a long time,from a bed time story.But then you missed a small element….connection with the audience.Not many people related to that story. Very few will or have with this one…sigh!! I did attempt, and trust me I did, to give you the benefit of the doubt (I had many, one of them being – when will the movie end) since I am your fan.But come on now.You clearly were not thinking about this as a complete package…..were you ??

Cast: From the “days” of the Boogie Nights, to “skills” in Italian Job and then “team work” in Four Brothers and then in your piece of art ….Wahlberg has been conveniently staying away from a responsibility that comes with the job – acting !! Anyone who has watched those three (if not more from him) will know what I mean.If not then here is what I have to say to them – since no one should believe everything they read on a blog (like they do….)….I would suggest that they rush to pick up the DVDs and then regret “after the fact”.I can understand that Mark is a pretty sharp guy who does not miss his work out, but seriously…. did you think that this was the right “Entourage” (MW is the producer …see, no acting required in that). And not only him but also Zooey ??? What were you thinking,Manoj Bhai? ……ouch !!

and finally ……

Brand Name:There are good movies (for everyone to applaud) and then there are good movies which are meant for a certain group ….not necessarily the best of the lot (just different). I remember watching interviews of wannabe directors from Bollywood who would (and probably still do) always stick to the phrase ….”kahani thoda hatke hain” (“the storyline is away from the ordinary” in Hindi). Now that is really what goes on in a fan’s mind when they settle to watch one of your creations.And you know that as well.And here is what I think is happening as a result of that – somewhere in an attempt to stick to the brand name, you seem to be losing focus on your final product.The horror element, the sound effects, the camera swerves and the subtle message are all getting lost in the medium – from the moment it is emitted off the screen and by the time it hits the viewer…..sad !!

O.K….enough with the nagging ….too much expectation build up and a strong denial of truth (from reviews) is the cause of this grief !! I was badly hoping that The Happening would really be “the happening” movie which would refurbish my lost belief in your ability to blow us away …like it did to me, so many years ago …in Satyam theater (Chennai) where I had gasped at the climax of The Sixth Sense !! You need to bring that magic back….and I am sure there are several faces like me who are waiting eagerly to hold on to their chairs and wait for it all to happen ….will it be the next one ??

Of all your movies – I love the OST of The Village the most and this is one of my favorite scenes from the movie …..especially the bit from 3:22 on the clip (the hope”ful” romantic) …such was your magic . ….!!!



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