A Request to Sanjay Dutt

LET’S START with some background check on Sanjay Dutt. Sanjay Dutt is the son of Late Sunil Dutt and Late Nargis Dutt. His parents’ story was that of a Muslim girl marrying a Hindu boy. May be that’s what has compelled ‘junior’ Dutt to pass a statement like “Jab mai police custody me tha to police wale mujhe third degree dete the. Wo mujhe marte the aur kehte the ki tumhari maa musalman hai, (when I was in the jail, I was given third degree by the police. They used to beat me and tell that your mother is Muslim)” when campaigning for rally at Mau, where 40 per cent population is Muslim. Ideally, such type of public utterances should not have come from Dutt considering he is a public figure. Perhaps he thinks that through this he can connect with Muslim voters and play another gimmick in politics. I am peeved to see that a person who has swore by ‘being an Indian’ in his reel life is talking on religious lines. What a pity!!

Sanjay Dutt should not forget that he is convicted under illegal possession of arms and has been handed sentence for six years. It is just because of his ‘superstar’ background, money and sheer luck that he is out on bail. He has faced criticism from several quarters for his proven links with the conspirators of the Mumbai serial blasts. He possessed a mass destruction weapon, an AK-47 rifle, which ironically, he said, was for self defense. :)

By the way, can Dutt explain from where all of a sudden his love for Lucknow has aroused? The only connection I can read is that ‘the visionary’ Samajwadi Party (after reading their manifesto) tried playing one more political gimmick. We all very well know that Sanjay Dutt has no connection with Lucknow except for the fact that his father was given shelter in this city after the partition and he visited that home many times later.

I don’t think that Sanjay Dutt is naïve not to understand that SP is just utilising his celebrity status to consolidate its vote bank. The party had no connections with him before and nor they have anything to do with his sufferings, humiliations and tragic past.

It’s high time that Sanjay Dutt should realise that the moment he entered the domain of politics with a public image he would be targeted for what he has done in the past.

Just a piece of advice for Sanjay Dutt from his fan. If he really wants to serve people then there are ways other than politics too. I have strong feelings that he should quit politics. If he doesn’t then there will be questions all around from his friends/fans/foes. He is still respected from some quarters all because of the goodwill of his father and mother (not talking of professional image). As an actor also, he has a good record. He is loved for his roles and especially after his Munnabhai films, his public image has also considerably improved. But by moving into the politics his past will again come to haunt him.

I hope I have been able to convince that  Dutt is not a political material. Somewhere I can’t see an MP residing within him.

Whatever may be the scenario, I, as a citizen of India am satisfied that Supreme Court put a lid on his political ambition. I just hope that Sanjay refrains from any sort of hate speech in order to put his career in politics on track.

Why Is the Indian Film Industry Satisfied with being Copycats?

I don’t usually watch Hindi films because they’re predictable. Even Hollywood films are predictable because they run on a formula. But at least the story lines are somewhat original. There are some exceptional movies like The Departed – I saw the Chinese version first before they made the Hollywood version.

I like a of Indian filmmakers, they’re not afraid to be flamboyant, or explore issues that are considered “taboo”. I like the way they execute things on film. I respect the fact that they can make outrageous plot lines work – something that is essential in order for a film to be successful here.

It is such a shame though that Ghajini, the number one grossing film with a record hit of Rs. 1 billion is based on the English movie Memento. The whole country had been swept in the publicity hype and boasts of what a great film it is. But it’s not original.

In a country where there’s an actual legalized freedom of expression, Indian filmmakers should be aspiring to produce the next Satyajit Ray not wait for the next Hollywood movie to copy. I fail to understand how a whole country can be so proud of a copy movie – knowingly. Even it’s publicity campaign has “Hollywood” written all over it. Of course Ghajini is not the first movie that copied a western film. There are other popular films like Kaante (Reservoir Dogs), Josh (Westside Story), Sarkar (The God Father), Ek Ajnabi (Man on Fire), and Humko Deewana Kar Gaye (Notting Hill). If the film is not an exact copy there are the “masala” kind where plot lines and scenes are mixed and matched from various movies of the west. Of course these are predictable, too – even when you don’t understand the language. For someone who pays attention to films like me I can even identify which movie by just looking at a trailer or a scene.

From my six years of living in India, I can see that it is not short of issues to make films about. There are subjects for comedy, tragedy and romance all around in this country of a billion plus people. My question is, what are Indian filmmakers so afraid of to be original? What’s making them stop in their creative process? Are movie goers to blame or the industry big wigs? Don’t you want to see original authentic Indian stories? What’s your take? Help me understand.

The Demise of Parallel Cinema

Cinema was born out of the impetus to represent the reality in a more convincing manner. After the nation gained independence, the cinema focused on post colonial issues such as poverty, illiteracy and unjustified social system. Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Shanta Ram and Sohrab Modi were the few directors who made cinema pertaining to the issues of the early 1950s and their films were all chronicles of the social change that was taking place in the Indian society.

During 1970s, Indian economy was strained and the emergency imposed during that time created more frustration for the people. We witnessed suppression of civil liberties and subsequently Constitutional breakdown. It was during this time that Indian cinema came out of age. The films made during those days addressed the growing frustrations of the Indians by completely deviating itself from the feel good movies. Thus the parallel cinema came into existence. The birth of parallel cinema is also attributed to the various film schools that produced many educated filmmakers, who felt responsible for the cause of this new genre of cinema. The trend was witnessed in all parts of the country with names like Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Budhyadeb Das Gupta, Basu Chatterjee and many more. The movies like Interview, Ankur, Aakrosh captured the mood of an ordinary Indian. This new wave had great impact on the society but with the changing time the parallel cinema has lost to commercial films. I feel that the demise of parallel cinema is one of many bad things that happened with our cinema. Few of the best directors like MS Sathyu, Govind Nihalani, Saeed Mirza, Shyam Benegal are on wane.

Mrinal Sen, at seminar in Kolkata very recently, said that, “No director today is capable of making films like Garam Hawa, Ardh Satya, Albert Pinto ko gussa kyun aata hai, Mohan Joshi Haazir Ho. New Age cinema is certainly not comparable to these classics.” Many factors are responsible to this death of ‘new wave’. The time has changed and we have made much progress. Moreover, the taste of audiences have changed and a filmmaker who wants to draw attention to some serious subject finds no takers. This has resulted in the loss of space for a rural/semi-urban Indian in the cinema. The films nowadays cater to multiplex audience and they are bound to make film which sells, no matter even if it is rubbish. The advent of numerous channels, the consumerist culture and the expansion of urban India has given birth to urban-centric audiences. The cinema, which portrayed class struggle and protests against hypocrisy, has given way to more ‘entertaining’ cinema.

The story is pretty bad for the lover of serious and meaningful cinema. The filmmakers who make the serious films have failed to make the cut with TRP-driven television channels. Ironically, the stakes have seldom been higher for major players in the Hindi film world and the losses steeper for lovers of serious cinema. But then population of this section is very less. Contrary to the assumption that people want good cinema, they don’t. Even if they get it for free, they don’t watch it. Even Doordarshan, where profit is not the main motive, does not want art house cinema. It is a battle for the eyeballs, a battle for bums on the seat. It is pure and simple economics, no art.

You must have witnessed numerous film festivals on the channels in the name of Amitabh Bachchan, SRK, Madhuri Dixit but none in the name of Shyam Benegal or Govind Nihalani. We always rue that Bollywood does not makes good film and over 90 per cent of the films bog on the box office. Well you can say that you are not offered good film to watch but the fact remains that “everybody talks of good cinema, nobody watches good cinema.” The population that has created an atmosphere for themselves has no interest in parallel cinema and they love to live in utopia. There is no doubt that our nation has progressed by leaps and bounds but as a society we have to cover a long distance still. It will be better if we can be motivated by something that integrates our society, pricks our conscience and break the obsolete social customs. Both commercial and parallel cinema can co-exist, but only if we want!

Chiranjeevi mania hits Andhra

It is a known fact that Politics and Acting are two of the most lucrative professions in India, but if you are a star of the stature of Chiranjeevi and are making a foray into Politics then you can be rest assured that it will certainly be a dawn of a new era.
Konidela Siva Shankara Vara Prasad or our very own Chiranjeevi has donned several roles in his successful film career, but here in the temple town of Tirupati, he set out to launch his new epoch in public life. With a crowd of the strength of almost a million people, Chiranjeevi announced his arrival into politics with the unveiling of his new party the Prajarajyam or the People’s rule. Chiranjeevi follows in the footsteps of several major actors who have gone on to have a very fruitful political career as well.
Just a week after making the announcement of entering poltics, Chiranjeevi did not waste too much time in forming his party. At the rally held at the huge 120 acre avilala tank, he unveiled the flag of his party- Green and white having a Sun in the centre.
Born to a poor constable in a village in Andhra Pradesh’s west Godavri district, Chiranjeevi went on to complete his graduation in commerce in Ongole. Not completely unaware of the problems of the Farmers, he used to till on his father’s 5 acre lands. In 1977, he headed to a film institute in Chennai to take up acting as a full fledged career. Inspite of the initial struggles and even having to work as a villain in order to establish himself in the industry, Chiranjeevi did not give up and finally emerged as the poster boy in the Telugu Film industry. He is revered by his fans and in his home state has an unmatched fan following today.
Chiranjeevi has not been averse to social work in his glittering film career. He set up the Chiranjeevi charitable trust as well as the Chiranjeevi eye and blood banks to cater especially to the poor who may not be able to afford treatment on their own. His philanthropic work also earned him the Padma Bhushan award.
In his speech made at the gathering in Tirupati, Chiranjeevi reflected at the early struggle he had to do in order to be where he is today. With less than Rs.100 per month, he survived in Chennai while learning to act in the film institute. Citing his inspiration to be Mother Teresa, Chiranjeevi went on to add that his mother taught him all about life and he does not believe in any barriers due to caste, class or religion. He also emphasized on the power of the youth and promised to be not just a leader but the servant of the people of Andhra Pradesh.
Chiranjeevi certainly went on to make an explosive beginning in the murky world of Indian politics where reputations can be made or unmade in a few days. His foray into politics at this stage will let him concentrate on next year’s assembly elections. Film actors getting into politics are a common thing in India, but having the mettle to sustain and go on to become successful politicians in the future is a rare achievement. Chiranjeevi would be hoping he can emulate NT Ramarao who had a similar entry ino the world of politics.
Though Chiranjeevi’s party holds promise as it is looking at the power of the youth while also looking at modernization, it is still to be seen whether Chiranjeevi’s innings in Politics will be as star studded as his innings in the Telugu Film industry or whether he will silently fade away like many other film star politicians before him have done in the past.

Ekta Kapoor makes mockery of Mahabharata

Ekta Kapoor’s MahabharataAFTER THE recent success of the new ’Ramayana’ on NDTV Imagine, this week Ekta Kapoor’s ’Mahabharata’ went on air on 9X. There was so much publicity and emphasis on the recreation of the older version that I decided to watch its first episode. To my surprise, it started with ’Draupadi cheerharan’, which looked like a scene from some B-grade film, and then the acting by the leading television personalities was so pathetic that I didn’t watch the next episode. The first episode was just the mockery of the older version of the epic on TV.

I can vividly remember twenty years back when the historic ’Mahabharata’ was aired, everything used to come to a standstill. The first ’Mahabharat’ was by BR Chopra’s production and it changed the history of Indian television. The Sunday mornings saw the busiest of the roads desolate. The power cut would simply make the viewers curse the electricity department. Every lip had the words, “yada yada hi dharmasya….” The characters of Bhishm, Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuns, Sri Krishna, etc are still addressed by their Mahabharata names. It entered the Guinness Book of World Records as having been watched by over 96 per cent of Indians around the world.

Ekta’s ’Kahaani humaaray Mahabharat ki’ is zilch in comparison to BR Chopra’s version. The older version had new characters and yet they acted so brilliantly. The great thing about it was that every character seemed to be born to play their role. Mukesh Khanna was brilliant as Bheeshma, when you think of Lord Krishna the picture of Nitish Bhardwaj in those costumes still comes to mind. The new version has renowned actors from television but they are just repeating their act of ’Saas-Bahu’ soaps in this. The way the ’sexy’ Draupadi said to Dushasan – ’chup reh mein apne pati se baat kar rahi hoon’ (keep quiet, I am talking to my husband) makes one to wonder what kind of language the epic characters were using in those times.

The creative head of the show Suraj Rao said in an interview that ’”Mahabharat’ has its own inherent dialogues, which are being offered in a new package. It is an altogether new ’Mahabharat’ that has never been shown on television. I totally agree with him that this type of Mahabharata has indeed never been shown. They have added a glamour quotient, used excessive technology, sexy wardrobes, western armours etc. But they missed on a few basics while making the mythological serial. They don’t have that royal presentation, the premium language and accent of epic characters, the base of power and mightiness in elders’ voice, the charm and personality of Krishna-Arjun-Duryodhan generation. This version of Mahabharata has no realism and everything seems fake. The leading men in the serial have concentrated only on their looks and body. They have failed to show their acting prowess.

The dialogue delivery is even more rueful. Anita Hasandani as Draupadi screeched at the top of her lungs and cried like they do in a saas-bahu series. There is no calmness in the dialogues. Shakuni is bald and looked like someone from ’kaal mahakaal’ series. Aryan Vaid as Duryodhan fails to recreate the character portrayed by Puneet Issar in the older version. His voice and demeanour left no mark.

Overall, this serial has failed to impress. The commercialisation and addition of ’new flavours’ should not dilute the mythological outlook of an epic. Ekta Kapoor has messed up big time with the show. If she continues this way, she might not be able to recover even her investment.

A Tribute to Legendary Pancham Da

THIS MAN revolutionised the Indian music in late 60s. His style, technique and innovations are still followed in Bollywood. His hip and energetic youthful compositions became a cult in the film industry and his partnership with Asha Bhonsle and Kishore Kumar set new standards in Hindi music. Every time you switch on the radio or television, you will listen to his songs being played on one station/channel or the other. Yes, i am talking about the one and only Pancham Da or RD or Rahul Dev Burman.
June 27, is his birthday, one of the greatest musical composer ever.

RD BurmanIn music industry, the ultimate merit in the eyes of the peers is success. But the success of Pancham Da is not related to his compositions only but the universal awe, admiration and nostalgia created by his music is because of that never dying factor in his music. It is also the rediscovery of musical essence of the vast repertoire of melodies that did not do well during its time, mostly due to bad promotion.

RD Burman started his career as an assistant to his father, Sachin Dev Burman. The mouth organ played in the song ’Hai apna dil to awara’ sung by Hemant Kumar in the film ’Solva Saal’ is played by RD Burman himself. He assisted his father in Chalti ka Naam Gaadi (1958) and Kaagaz ke Phool (1959). His first film as a music director was Guru Dutt’s Raaz (1959). However, the film was shelved after some shooting and recording of a few songs. He then got his break in Mehmood’s Chhote Nawaab in the year 1961. His compositions in the film Teesri Manzil starring Shammi Kapoor made him a celebrated composer. The songs like ’O’ haseena zulfon waali’, ’Aaja aja main hoon pyaar tera’, ’O mere sona re sona ee’, ’Deewaana mujhsa nahin’ were unlike anything audiences had heard of till then and the music of Teesri Manzil was hummed across the nation.

RD Burman was very innovative and experimental. He picked the music for his songs from very indigenous sources. In fact, innovativeness became synonymous with RD. He has been quoted as saying, “I don’t say that I am a knowledgeable man when it comes to raags. I don’t say I tried to do so and so song in Raag Darbari or attempted some difficult raag in another song. Whatever comes to my head I compose.”

In ’Chura liya hai tumne’ he used the sound of a spoon hitting a glass. For the Kitaab song ’Master jee kee aa gayee chitthee’ he brought some desks from a classroom in the studio while recording and used them as percussion.

In Abdullah he used the sound of a bamboo whistle with a balloon tied to it for a song. Once, to get the sound of raindrops, he spent a whole rainy night in his house’s balcony recording the sound he wanted.

In the song ’O manjhi re’ from the movie Khushboo, RD Burman used bottles with water filled at different levels and created a hollow sound by blowing into them and this sound effect was used with the orchestra.
During the recording of ’Hum dono do premee’ (Ajnabee), the musicians were on strike. So he improvised the song with emptied-out musical interludes and just listen to the song!

Many people say that Pancham Da plagiarised, which is not completely wrong. But while plagiarising too, he kept his unique stamp of authority over the number. Today, most of the originals may have been wiped off from memory, but the inspired numbers remain. His inspiration of “copying the tune” extended to incorporation of different forms of tunes and rhythm patterns into his music. No matter what the people say but I can assert that RD was one of the best composers. A publicity-shy man, RD let his music do the talking for him. The list of the compositions is so huge that you can pick a song for every moment of your life. I met few pretty faces in Delhi very recently and remembered the last composition of Pancham Da from film ’1942-A Love Story’, ’Ek ladki ko dekha to aisa laga’.

RD continues to rule today as well. This is evident from most of the soundtracks today being re-mixed in the Indi-pop scene are RD’s compositions. You might not be aware of this but you must have rocked and danced to his songs.

Image Courtesy: www.downmelodylane.com/legends/rdb.jpg

The demise of Appu Ghar

All good things must come to an end and so did the Appu Ghar. The 15.5 acres amusement park is being brought down to be replaced by the Delhi Metro. Appu Ghar maybe no more, but the nostalgic memories of this magical park will last forever.

In the evergreen debate between the Mumbaikars and the Delhiites, Mumbaikars used to score over their counterparts thanks to the presence of the glittering stars of Bollywood and the safety tag of the Island city. Having passed through the phases of living in both the cities, it used to be a tough choice for me. For having grown up in Delhi, my heart was still in the calmness of Delhi, though Mumbai has become my Karma Bhoomi and I shudder at the thought of leaving it. Visiting my previous home has been on the cards for a very long time, but in the tough schedule that a student has to follow, the dream could not materialize. But in all the Metros and the Development plans being executed in the capital, it has lost something which was closest to the heart of its citizens- Appu ghar.

And in the host of management entrance exams that I had been giving, I lost the chance of visiting this place as it opened its gates for the last time on the 18th February, 2008. A feeling of nostalgia overcomes me whenever I think of this place. Even before I visited the Qutab Minar or the India Gate, I had made three round trips to Appu Ghar. And visiting any trade show or exhibition at Pragati Maidan was incomplete if you didn’t flock to Appu Ghar in the evenings.

The house of horrors, the bumping cars, mini Disneyland, the eerie tunnel were the places I used to frequently visit. Those were the days when you didn’t have any worries and could soak in the excitement of the place. It has been more than seven years since I last visited it, but the park is etched in my memory. Away from the commotion and the traffic snarls of the city, it was one place that despite all the noise that the children would be making would offer a sense of calm. America would boast of the Disneyland, but Appu Ghar for its citizens wasn’t far behind.

February 18th, was the last chance for people to say goodbye to this amusement park. As the number of tickets sold touched 5,000 and the timings extended by an extra hour, people flocked from all the parts of the city as well as the outskirts to visit this magical place. Many children who had grown playing here would have got their children to share the same experience. But, there are many of us who missed that last opportunity would lament this miss for a long time to come. But, as they say all good things must come to an end because that is the nature of life.

It seems that the Appu ghar has been shut down for the development of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. The Metro has been a huge boost for Delhi and now it can compete with the like of Mumbai and Kolkatta in offering good commutation means. But whatever the purpose be, was their not a way of building at some other place? Maybe im being a bit irrational for Appu Ghar meant more to me than any other landmark in Delhi.

The place might have been losing its charm, for children nowadays prefer computer games and gaming consoles to a visit to the park. And with malls, supermarkets, gaming centres opening up in all parts of the city, where is the place to have an Amusement Park. Im disappointed that the next generation in my family could not visit this place but hopefully by the time they grow up there would be something better to visit. Appu Ghar may be no more but it will be missed for ever. I don’t really have much to look forward to the next time I visit the capital. And if I were the Supreme Court of India and had to make a choice between the Metro and the Appu Ghar, the choice would have been a fairly straight forward one.

Is the celebration of Valentine’s Day against the Indian Culture?

The meeting of the Orient and the Occident will always produce a spark. Valentine’s Day is just not a day restricted to the West, Love is a global language and everyone who is in love ought to celebrate this day for love knows no barriers.

Valentine’s Day is celebrated with great fervour all across the World. Even in India the Day has captured the hearts of all romantic couples. You will see love in all malls and hyper markets with big discounts and freebies being offered to couples. There are contests on Air, TV and the Print to determine whose love is strongest. All major Brands and companies want to cash in on this day. Theatres where the Crowd generally flocks offer discount schemes to attract hapless couples which don’t really have any other place to go.

But the Detractors say that celebrating Valentine’s Day is against the Indian culture. They believe that we are just aping the Western Culture. Now there have been so many instances when we ape the Westerns. Our Constitution in itself is the longest constitution drafted and was made from the UK and the American Constitution. Whenever we want to make movies, we again copy the entire script and the screenplay. All the high technology products coming into our country come from the West. The Internet which has become the most vital medium for survival came from Switzerland. Even the SEZ policy which is being criticized by one and all right now came from China.

So why don’t the detractors of Valentine’s Day stand up against all these things? Isn’t Valentine’s Day celebrated as a Day? Love just does not mean love for your spouse or partner. You could be in love with your parents, your children and even your dog. After being under the British rule for so long, Indians had to acquire some of the traits from the British. It was just not restricted to the language of English even the colonial architecture stands out as a tribute to the British today.

Valentine’s Day began with St. Valentine, a Roman Christian. It is believed that this Saint died on February 14, 269 A.D. Legend also says that the Saint left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, and signed it “From Your Valentine”. Other aspects of the legend say that Saint Valentine served as a priest at the temple during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Claudius then had Valentine jailed for defying him. But Since 496 A.D, February 14 is being celebrated as Valentine’s Day to honour St. Valentine.

Thus 1502 years hence, Valentine’s Day is still healthy and Strong all across the World. The legend of St. Valentine might not be that popular, but people do celebrate the Day as they would celebrate Holi, Diwali or any other festival. Saint Valentine became the patron of love and this day is remembered in his name and celebrated by everyone who is in love.

If Americans can celebrate Diwali at the White House, if parts of London celebrate Holi in the open where even Foreigners join in the fun, for the main purpose of a festival is to spread happiness and have fun. How can anyone be against the spirit of love? Indians too revere Parvati- the Goddess of Love and Kama- the God of Love. Since childhood, the stories of Laila Majnoo, Soni Mahiwal are imbibed in us. The Love Stories in Bollywood have been the biggest hits ever. Love is a feeling that brings everyone closer irrespective of all social, political or economic barriers. To not be in love or not celebrating it, would be to be devoid of the most powerful emotions that humans have. Even the Animals who cant communicate properly to each other exhibit qualities of love.

There is nothing wrong with the concept of Valentine’s Day, but the only problem which the detractors have is that we are aping the Western culture. Now if the Westerners have created a good precedent for us, then why shouldn’t we follow it. Ask all the detractors to celebrate another day in the name of love, im sure people wouldn’t mind sharing their feelings for each other on that very day.

Couples say that any day which spreads the message of Love cannot have any adverse effects on society. For Love is the perfume that you cannot spray on others without sprinkling a few drops on yourself. Spreading Love is spreading happiness in these days where due to terrorism and violence everyone is on the edge. Who knows what terror comes your way tomorrow? Till then you ought to enjoy every moment in love. And Love is not blind – it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.

This New Year; Dont Drink and Drive

It is that time of the year when every city’s uber chic party animals are all set to ring in the New Year. Some will be flocking to the pubs, whereas the others will be enjoying exclusive performances by actresses at five star hotels. But one thing is for sure there will be drinks flowing at all these parties. If you choose to drink in your party there is nothing wrong with it but if you choose to drink and drive it could well spell doom for you. Continue reading This New Year; Dont Drink and Drive

Taare Zameen Par: A Movie that could change your life

Rarely do you come across a movie in which the audience applauds at the end. Well, here’s one that received a standing ovation. Taare Zameen Par has emerged as the best movie of the year. Continue reading Taare Zameen Par: A Movie that could change your life