Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Worst-case scenario. Worse than a dirge.

There was actually a time in the Hindi film timeline (much before “Bollywood” became the vogue word) when really big-time stars did not flinch at being paired off with non-stars. The most glaring examples were Geeta Bali matching dancing steps with the erstwhile stunt star Mater Bhagwan in Albela (1951) and Shriman Satyawadi (1960) where Raj Kapoor consented to acting with Shakila without batting an eyelid. In those days, star earnings were not counted in crores of rupees but in single digit lakhs. They also did not have any product endorsing or ambassadoring opportunities and idiot box appearances to fall back on. Life was simple and honest and so was moviemaking. Middle India, the chief consumer of Hindi movies, too was not as greedy and self-indulgent as it has now become. To get an idea of how much of a turn for the worse things have taken since then, you should listen carefully to Middle Indian preteens slurpingly describing the food spreads they’re frequently privy to or their mall and multiplex visits. When I was their age, I did not know enchilada from my elbow. And, although I was clued in to Hindi and Marathi movies and cricket from a fairly early age, my role models were neither film stars nor cricketers but fictional characters like Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes. I was totally ill informed on the availability of goodies of all sorts and didn’t really crave for them probably because there were not too many of them around. (The only stuff I craved for was the unattainable 25-cent novelty items advertised in American comics.) I’m not saying that I was particularly virtuous, moral, principled, just, straight, honorable, honest, upright or incorruptible. I was just too dumb and deprived of temptations. I didn’t either know or use the F-word till well past puberty. Times sure have changed.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chawls of Mumbai. Revisited.

In the Overview section in The Chawls of Mumbai: Galleries of Life (ImprintOne 2010), Sandeep Pendse, Neera Adarkar and Maura Finkelstein remark that “the current rulers [of India shining!] certainly prove themselves to be more ‘colonial’ in mentality than the white British. They too wish the ‘natives’ were not there, as citizens; that they would quietly perform their tasks and disappear into the woodwork”. The quote is lifted from Eunice de Souza’s 11 February Mumbai Mirror book review The “born in the USA” flunkeys of the present rulers emulate their masters unflinchingly. McDonalds and Dominoes, for instance, refuse to home-deliver their exorbitantly priced junk to denizens of the chawls in Girgaum at least to the best of my knowledge. This is ironical considering the fact that the delivery persons probably hail from a chawl or, even worse, a zoparpatti. Apart from “warehousing people”, meaning ordinary folks, the Mumbai chawls have also been accused of “warehousing criminals”. For instance, there is the Dagdi Chawl, literally a chawl built with stone, at Saat Rasta, Byculla. It used to be the fortress of Arun Gawli, formerly an MLA and currently a resident of the Arthur Road Jail. As far as “warehousing future cinema stars” is concerned, there is “Jumping Jack” Jeetendra – who claims to have been a Diwali kandeel (lantern) making champion in his childhood – from the chawl abutting the Girgaum Portuguese Church near Central Cinema and Rajesh Khanna from a chawl in Thakurdwar. Contrary to the rumours you may have heard, Lohar Chawl is not a building where ironsmiths reside but an area close to Crawford Market where you can shop for mainly electrical goods but also a lot else besides. The Purple Foodie confesses to having found her blow torch at Saria Steel in Lohar Chawl, in fact.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Lie to me. Once more with feeling.

Now that Maria Schneider (Last Tango in Paris) is no more, Bernardo Bertolucci, who directed it, belatedly expressed regret for robbing the actress of her youth. Sophie Taylor who wrote the above-cited article in The First Post on 4 February, writes that both Schneider as well as her co-star felt exploited and humiliated by their participation in the movie. The actress of course was a newcomer and, presumably, inexperienced when she got her $4000 break in Last Tango because Bertolucci’s first choice, Dominique Sanda, went hors de combat owing to an ill-timed pregnancy. But Brando was no starry-eyed ingĂ©nue. He was a veteran and quite capable of judging the implications of his role. In any case, this kind of talk from actors and directors makes me want to puke. As Hitch and Ashok Kumar would have said, it’s only a film for heaven’s sake. What you do on screen is acting. It has nothing to do with what you happen to be off screen. In the snippet of Last Tango I saw on YouTube, both Brando and Schneider seemed to have got under the skin of their respective characters – real troopers that they were! – and enjoyed themselves while they were doing this crucial scene. So why all those pious after-thoughts, I wonder.