Saturday, November 25, 2006

Branding arrives in Bollywood.

Once upon a time, there was no Bollywood. There was only the Bombay film industry. Then too there used to be remakes. Mehboob Khan remade his own Aurat as Mother India without fuss. Mehmood’s Do Phool was remade as Aankhen by David Dhawan. Also, his Hero No. 1 a reincarnation of Bawarchi. The new avatar of Chitchor was Main Prem Ki Diwami Hoon. Those days, the dastardly deed was called copying. A lot of Hollywood stuff also used to be copied. Then, post globalization, the Bombay film industry was remade into Bollywood. Remakes became the flavour of the week. Branding became the norm. Farhan Akhtar’s Don. Ram Gopal Varma’s Sholay. You see the difference? The brand is everything. Hype is all. Glitter is the thing. Sizzle is what matters. The steak may be chemically treated. Sizzle will sell. Tongues must be made to wag. Get the audience salivating well in advance. Raise expectations sky high. Old wine in a new bottle with a smart label. Way to go, baby.

The trouble with Harry.

Not Hitchcock’s second favourite film out of his own ouvre, the black macabre eponymous comedy (a capital T in ‘trouble’, though) about the corpse that wouldn’t stay put in one grave. Harry as in ‘Tom, Dick and Harry’, meaning you, me and whoever. The trouble is, we live in linear, sequential, serial Time. Unlike in the digital realm, you cannot undo. Or, retrieve the past to amend and relive it. Then why do we have alumni meets? Are we just aping the West? From what I can gather, these occasions are looked upon even there more as opportunities to show off how better off you are and how much better you have fared than all the rest of the lousy losers? It’s no problem for a guy like me blessed with an easily and swiftly erasable memory. And, no envy. I’ve listened to the heart-rending confessions of battled-scarred veterans just back from one of these journeys down the memory lane. Full of self-pity, regret, jealousy, a sense of failure. If you cannot handle the aftermath, why accept the challenge in the first place? Because someone dared you? Avoid. Run. Duck. No pain is gain too. Less is more, hombre.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

“Bloody Indians.”

Human beings take offence easily. Now there’s a very good reason to take offence for all those who call themselves Indians. The bodyguards of Angelina Jolie whom you met in this blog earlier called a bunch of Indian parents “Bloody Indians”. And some haughty “foreigner” jumped the queue in a multiplex loo for women and insulted an Indian woman calling her something “extremely offensive” (in Kiran Joneja’s opinion). The Natives struck back pronto arresting the former and extracting an apology from the latter. No more Gandhigiri, we’re proud Indians. Actually, these seem to be the right occasions to use some crafty Gandhigiri, if you ask me. By all of us including the media taking the course of non-cooperation against all these firangs. Let us just ignore them. Let the media ignore them. While they walk among us, let us treat them as invisible aliens. Left alone without attention, even a flower withers.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Role model.

Believe it or not (sorry, Ripley), my role model once upon a time happened to be an actor. I somehow instinctively started to admire him. He was a theatre and film actor and a Communist. He used to visit the Red Flag Hall on the first floor of 233 Khetwadi Main Road off and on. This morning, I happened to notice an excerpt from his autobiography translated into Marathi in a Sunday supplement. He writes in this segment (‘My first turn in prison’) about his early days in the Hindi film industry. In it, he mentions about how he used to be escorted from the Arthur Road Jail back in 1949 in order to fulfill his commitment to act in K Asif’s Hulchul. He had been arrested for participating in a morcha or protest march that had a rather bang-up climax in Parel. He recalls how his fellow inmates used to ask him to bring back signed photographs of Dilip Kumar and Nargis, bidis, specific brands of cigarettes, tea powder and so on. K Asif who had arranged for his daily trip to the Rooptara Studio used to obligingly instruct one of his assistants to do the shopping. Our first-time jailbird also recalls how Sahir Ludhianavi, a poet and fellow traveller under police surveillance, who dropped on the sets because he heard he was shooting for Hulchul, beat a hasty retreat when he saw our man dressed as a policeman (his role as jailor required it). He also writes about a totally self-absorbed Raj Kapoor dropping in one morning and talking only about himself and the film he was then shooting, Barsaat, without ever bothering to enquire about his friend’s predicament. What I admire about our guy is that he describes the incidence without any rancour or accusation – as a mere witness in the true Advaita sense. Every time I watched him on the screen I got that certain feeling about him that here was one human being who was sincere, simple, honest, forthright, humble and decent to the core. Even that biggest liar in the whole wide world – the movie camera – could not hide the truth about Balraj Sahani.