Hindi films as I saw them

bobby

Some of the earliest Hindi movies I saw were Bobby, Shehanshah and Aradhana. I saw Shehanshah on video in the house of our family friend in Mumbai. The tape was available in a provision shop and, along with essentials, it was rented out for a few bucks. I was very impressed with Amitabh Bachchan in that movie, and to my memory it is the first movie of his that I watched. The shallow heroics stunned my young mind. I had just turned 11.

In those days, original sound tracks of Hindi movies were not available in Nagercoil, my hometown. So my dad used our own National Panasonic two-in-one to record the songs of Bobby when it was telecast on DD, which itself was a new channel then. He put the device in front of the TV and taped the songs. He had already seen the movie many years ago and knew when the songs would come on. I listened to those noisy recordings for months together and in love with the songs, and the movie as well. The lead pair were cute, don’t you think?

Aradhana also received the same treatment. Then I saw Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Hum. Both left an impression on me. The passion between the protagonists — Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla — is still etched in my mind. And, you simply got to watch the scene with the cockroach in Hum. Amitabh is at his comic best in it.  Hum was adapted as Badsha in Tamil later on.

I also distinctly remember watching on VHS Maine Pyar Kiya for the first time. I fell in love with the movie and its songs. I was enamoured by Bhagyashree too, just like Salman in the movie. Looking back, I am ashamed of how poor my taste was. It is too mushy and corny now. In my teens, it was something to die for.

I don’t know if Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge will stand up to scrutiny now. But the picturisation of ‘Didi Tera Dewar Diwana’ really attracted me to Madhuri Dixit. Besides, this was not the TV anymore. It was the big screen in Nagercoil’s best theatre. There was that sensual underlying to the whole business that even Rajshree Pictures is unable to capture again.

So, where do I fit in Sholay? Or Dil To Pagal Hai? I am only aware I can’t name them in the same breath. But these are films I saw around the same time.  I don’t think I can say anything about Sholay  which hasn’t been said. I never had the chance to watch Sholay in the theatre, something I regret. And, at least according to me, DTPH is quite forgettable.

I remember dragging my dad to watch the national award-winning Bandit Queen. The film was heavily edited and the print that landed up in Nagercoil wouldn’t have been exhibited in a good theatre. But despite this, I loved the film’s cinematography by Ashok Mehta.

Khamoshi was another mature movie I saw. It was exhilarating. I saw it in the theatre. The songs were damn good. The story was off beat and I developed a crush on Manisha Koirala. It broke my heart when she did Baba after all those years. But I don’t think even Khamoshi belongs in anyone list of all time great flicks in Hindi. And I haven’t seen the all-time greats as Mother India. I have to get around to doing that someday. But Khamoshi was classic Bansali and was a soul-satisfying watch.

1942: A Love Story was another movie that I saw in the theatre and simply loved. It was a movie that began my courting of Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s films. I loved the songs and listen to them till this day. I also thought the movie’s climax was mounted on a massive scale. I vividly remember walking out of the movie with my cousins, all of us slightly giddy with joy for some strange, unknown reason.

Then I remember watching Kareeb and Di Se in Thiruvanathapuram, while staying there to spend time with dad. I saw both movies multiple times since I had nothing better to do. Kareeb’s love affair between two innocent people captured my imagination, though the lead pair never matured into major actors.

I have always been a Manirathnam fan. So I didn’t mind long queues to watch Dil Se. The film ran only for a couple of weeks, but the initial crowd was maddening. A R Rahman’s rendition of ‘Dil Se Re’ is still among my favourites of the music composer.

I saw Pukar in Chennai while studying at the Madras Christian College. My friend had seen it and rubbished it. I nevertheless saw it and thought it was better than the average song and dance movie. Moreover, it had a score by AR Rahman. What’s not to like. But that was one of the few Hindi movies I watched that year. My friend and I always preferred the latest Hollywood blockbuster to the Hindi movie.

Other movies I remember watching are Dil Chahte Hai, which won an unexpected national award. I also saw Black, which I found to be a little pretentious. I didn’t like Devadas outright. I didn’t think Bansali showed feel for the material. There are probably many more movies which I have seen and liked. But this blog will go on and on if I write about all of them.

I will just end this with short notes on two movies I saw recently. One was Tamasha. I liked the movie quite a bit, despite the mixed reviews. I am happy that it had at least this much of depth, which is not often noticed in mainstream fare.

I will end with a note on Bajirao Mastani. The dialogues were complex and I had to struggle to keep up. But with the movie being such a massive hit, it is clear that there will always be people in the Hindi film industry wanting to be alag and people ready to embrace their fare. And that is a happy thought.

The all-seeing eye and challenges in the modern era

This was done in April. Attempts to locally publish it in Ooty came to naught. So here’s it.

I notice that Dr D Krishnamurthy is preoccupied and to the point of being fidgety during the course of my interview with him. He has hundreds of things to do and yet he accommodates me gracefully after a couple of hours of waiting. The man is all charm as he lends a keen ear to my questions.
The most common of eye problems, the good doctor tell me, is of refractive index, which forces 30% of all Indian children to wear glasses. With the life expectancy increasing, diseases like Glaucoma are also on the rise. Age-Related Macular Degeneration, ARMD, is also common these days.
I take a quick survey of the patients at the Eye Foundation in Coimbatore. Most of them are middle aged. Nurses are reverential and efficient. There is a system put in place. My own examinations lasted about 15 minutes, and I came out happy that a thorough job had been done. The foundation has its own pharmacy, critical in a town like Ooty, and also dispenses eye glasses. I was asked if I wanted to go for a non-invasive laser surgery. “Do you want contact glasses?” Again, a no. I politely declined.
I asked if glaucoma had become an epidemic. “Not really. Cases are common but the procedure is safe. But it is better if the condition is caught early,” says Ramamurthy. The Eye Foundation has several clinics strewn across western Tamil Nadu. “All of them have cutting edge technology,” he says.
“His day is divided between administrative tasks. But we always have patients who need to see him. He divides his time equally between centres. However, he is based in Coimbatore at the Eye Foundation there,” says Girish Reddy GC.
Retinitis Pigmentosa, otherwise known as night blindness, is the scrounge among eye disorders. “We have hundreds of patients who come with us seeking a cure for their problem. Though the issue can be alleviated, it cannot be cured, which is unfortunate,” says Ramamurthy.

Strong and shaping me

A few years ago, I met a girl in my office. She was interning and I was heading the desk. She was smart, good with language, had a terrific sense of humour, and was pretty. She was in her early twenties. Because she was proficient and had a degree in journalism, my boss asked her to join the desk as a trainee. I used to talk to her a lot and not always about work.

Soon, I learned that she had a boyfriend. When I teased her about that, she would say that they were “on a break” like in the series, Friends, in which Ross and Rachel go on a break from their romantic relationship to preserve their friendship.

In the months that followed, we kept in touch and I would often ask her about her boyfriend. I realised it was an on-again-off again relationship that my friend didn’t want to take forward even though they had been intimate.

During the time she was there, she even started an affair with a married man not knowing he was married. Somehow, the winds had shifted around her foundation.

Why do I tell you this story? This is the template on which women often base their relationships. They may not marry men with whom they once were in love with . Or were intimate with. The modern woman craves for more.

Parents have little choice other than marrying their daughter to the man of her choice. My friend married a guy of her choice in a way they wanted to. The parents had no other option other than to bless the couple.

The latest trend is that women look all things their parents traditionally looked in a prospective groom and much more. My friend chose a guy who was close to her in age, dark and handsome, and was attuned to her temperament. Like the movie, O Kadhal Kanmani, my friend moved in with her boyfriend much before marriage. That she was bold enough to do that is a testimonial to her courage and others like her. She also waited, like many others like her, for her to be mature enough to live with her partner forever. But she made the choice to tie the knot mostly on her own.

The modern woman especially in cities doesn’t vote lest the government take over her duties..

There are 497 million women in India, which is 48% of the total population, according to the latest Census data. At least a few million must be calling the shots despite making bad decisions. This only makes them stronger.

My friend married and was divorced within a few months, much to my shock and dismay. From being an example to girls her age, she had, in a way, become a fallen angel.

I had a close friend in college while doing my bachelor’s degree in Nagercoil. She was romantically interested in me and I was not particularly keen. My friends used to tease me about her for hours together even as I tried to keep a straight face. I think I did underestimate her quite a bit. Recently, I saw her on social media and she was in the US happily married. She had made it in life in way I never would have imagined. She was sweet the same way she was in college. We were polite with each other and moved on.

Again, that is an example of a woman putting the pedal down on what she wanted. Even while coming from an ordinary family in Nagercoil, my friend had landed a life she most craved for. Well, time to say, congrats.

Nowadays, I shamelessly watch Romedy Now. I can’t say I hate all the movies. Some are particularly good and soul satisfying. I wish they served more of that fare.

I think of these friends while watching TV or taking a bath. They creep into my thoughts unbidden and stay there for an uncomfortable time. As much as I admire their roller-coaster of lives, it feels unseemly to be thinking about them, now that I am a husband and father. I mean for this post to be a tribute for all the strong women I have met in my life.

My mother was one. Soon after the birth of my brother, my mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease difficult to diagnose and nearly impossible to cure. My mom didn’t have much to hang on to. Her relationship with my dad, especially in the last few years of her life, was hard on her and him. Yet, she remained tough till her last breath. She died when she was 39. I don’t want to end this post without a mention of her. She was probably the strongest woman I know. She made sure that my brother and I turned out alright. My early childhood is strewn with happy incidents, which she stage managed. I do wish she was still around. She would have guided me in all my relationships with women, who were just like her. RIP, mom.

Forbidden love

We were not in love
You called it infatuation
I thought it was just sex

When you left I was lonely
I realised I had loved you
more than what you had thought

You are now married, I am too
we haven’t forgotten the past
we still love each other

You love your husband and son
I love my wife and daughter
and life seems all right

On the train

I miss you
I remember the times we had together
How much I was in love with you
The lady on the train thinks
we are brother and sister
Even after I clarify
She seems doubtful
That brings a surge of joy,
I grin widely,
She smiles slightly
I think you will be smiling too
Only if you knew
I know I will remember this moment forever

Behind the scenes, at the CAG

Not Just An Accountant – Diary of the Nation’s Conscience Keeper

Rs 500, Rupa Publications, New Delhi. 2014

Author: Vinod Rai

Vinod Rai’s voice is one of reason; more sober than sensational. His analysis on Coalgate and 2G scam in this book should not be missed. His argument is piercing and book reads like a thriller He slowly builds up, solely based on facts, the now famous accusation that lakhs of crores were lost in these scams.

When it comes to gas exploration and drilling, Rai unequivocally hits out at Reliance. With ample proof, he establishes that government departments toed the Reliance line under the guise of being corporate-friendly.

The book starts with a one-page forewoaccountantrd by former President APJ Abdul Kalam, where he calls upon people to act with righteousness in the heart and excellence in their endeavors. (Kalam, sadly, is no more)

In the preface, Rai lays down the contours of the book and its various case studies.  In a short chapter, he recalls his journey to Delhi after working in Kerala and a couple of other places. The book begins in earnest only after he was appointed Comptroller and Auditor General.

He repeatedly points out that had the government taken a different stand on the various scams, we would be on a different level economically. He eviscerates the various decisions taken during the rule of UPA II, most of during which Rai was CAG.

He also records his correspondence with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on various subjects, including leaks to the media.

He takes us behind the scenes of the CAG’s office and also questions how media leaks happened frequently and were in many cases before the final draft had been drawn.

He also exposes how civil aviation ministers considered Air India to be part of their fiefdom and expected bureaucrats to fall in  line. When anyone opposed, they were shunted out to unimportant posts.

He also bemoans the corruption in the holding of the Commonwealth Games. He accuses the government of withdrawing supervision enabling the organizing body to indulge in corruption.

His steadfastness, persistence and honesty are to be appreciated. I hope this book is widely read.

Ooty- Part IV

Coldness and its various forms. It is different in Ooty compared to Chennai. Even when it’s raining, Chennai is humid this time of the year. Chennaites like the rain. People in Ooty don’t. When they say that the weather is pleasant, they mean one thing in Ooty and another in Chennai.

Chennaites yearn for freedomooty from humidity and here in Ooty we yearn for the sun.

I had the occasion to be in Chennai recently. It’s raining out there. But still it is quite humid. Ooty is cold and I need a sweater, which is unthinkable in Chennai. May be in Decemeber I will need one especially if it is late in the night, when I like riding my bike.

But people can be cold in Chennai. They are all warm in Ooty.

It’s a nice place to live in and I am having fun.