Wednesday, June 27, 2007

a new experience in dining out

our son-in-law h took us and his parents out last week to one of his favourite restaurants in south mumbai.we were celebrating the arrival of 'ruhi' into our lives.the birth of our first grandchild. i had heard about this fancy place from our daughter l and how exotic it is. therefore, i looked forward to this visit with great excitement.

when i reached the restaurant a few minutes late,i found that they had all already occupied the best table on the first floor of 'busaba',the south asian restaurant. it specialises in vietnamese, thai,burmese and other east asian delicacies. 'busaba' means to enjoy or to have pleasure. it is also the name of a thai wildflower. and in thai it means woman. i was impressed with the entrance,chic and cozy lounge bar and a night interiors.and when you go up the staircase to the restaurant and take that everyone's favourite table, you can't believe you are in mumbai.this lovely private dining room towards the rear of the building with a wooden floor gives you a feeling of being in goa or bangalore. verdant surroundings.and a huge window giving you that picturesque view of the terrace and the greenery around.

we are not great restaurant goers.we are 'ghar ka khana' people.but l and h are.they go to the most exotic places with their friends and have a very good wonder that we got vip treatment. from no one else but nikhil chib. the chef cum restaurateur in his mid thirty's who had a small tilak on his forehead.he has a formidable reputation and is known as the "momo moghul". we were introduced to him by h and after finding out that there were two vegetarians on the table he suggested some tibetan momos as starters.they were delicious. while we were debating on what we should be having for the main course,h ordered martinis and some french white wine. we had made a spirited beginning. i had a brief tete-a-tete with nikhil chib and even took his picture. a former wall street banker, after completing undergrad studies in the us,he decided that banking was not his cup of tea and came down to mumbai to pursue his passion. his father was aghast at his son's audacious decision and asked him whether he wanted to become a servant. servility,yes. to his culinary passion.

that was about ten to twelve years ago.located next to 'indigo', another famous restaurant on mandlik road in colaba,the present site was a ramshackle house when he bought it over.he has created a restaurant which is very pleasing to the eyes. and he can be justifiably proud of a long list of clientele who swear by the authenticity of his vietnamese food.that actually is his forte.the japanese and korean cuisine are also his specialities.we ordered fresh bean sprouts,vietnamese spring rolls, spinach with white rice cooked in vietnamese style. the taste was so fresh and unique that it struck me that this must be his "usp". his favourite though is the fish sauce. thais cannot live without it neither can he.he eats this dish as often as three times a day. like a friend of mine who is addicted to the korean kimchi. the finale was a huge chocolate cake thoughtfully placed before h to cut. the proud papa was thrilled.great ambience. and service with a smile is the motto of the staff.

we came out of 'busaba' around 11pm. it looked as if the gliterrati of mumbai had descended on mandlik road.the road was chockobloc with cars and the atmosphere was polluted with the deafening car horns. in an otherwise quite neighbourhood. a light shower added to the commotion.the best of cars,the most stylish men and seemed it was an oscar awards night. and in sharp contrast there were the street beggars tugging at you for some alms.that was sad, very sad.and that hits you on the face. we spend thousands of rupees for a meal and right in front of you when you are coming out after a pleasurable evening, you come face to face with someone who has perhaps not eaten throughout the day. with a child in arms who might have only had mother's milk. mumbai is a city of sharp contrasts. and so is india. the disparity between the haves and havenots is shockingly huge. it is reality and we need to do something about it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

the superboss-sivajirao gaekwad

"he is a very simple human being .the kind of adulation seen for him in our country.... i don't think any indian star has ever experienced that". -amitabh bachchan

that says it all.and coincidentally i read an article recently under the speaking tree columns titled "from the ridiculous to the sublime" by rajnikanth.where he speaks to a 'times of india' columnist on his spiritual quest.the importance of having a guru to show the right reading ramana maharshi changed his life.ramakrishna paramahamsa,raghavendra swamy and ramana maharshi were his first three gurus.and then satchidananda swamy of yogaville,usa.and then mahaavatar babaji. to know more about self- realisation,he travelled to babaji's cave in the himalayas and got initiated into kriya yoga."we are part of the world and yet we need to learn to lead a life apart from it". "when we are conversing on a higher plane, why do you want to go back to a lower plane?". so he alternates. from the sublime to the ridiculous. from 'baba' to the 'boss'.

the rules of the film distribution game have been changed.'sivaji-the boss' has been released across maharashtra with a record seventeen prints.a milestone of sorts.his rajni crazy tamil fans are leaving no stone unturned to see that it is a superhit.poojas have been performed to his cutouts and divine blessings mumbai alone the picture has been released in five mutiplexes.mayaajal,a theme park with six screens in chennai has been fully booked by corporates(it and bpo) for their staff and families for several shows.the six theatres in mayajaal screen 27 shows daily. gold coins were gifted to all children born on the day of release by the fans in vaniyambadi.(incidentally it was the same day when l's daughter ruhi was born).a megastarrer hindi movie,'jhoom barabar jhoom', has turned into doom barabar doom by the mighty sivaji. the 25 crore flick has bombed badly at the box office. there were riots in malaysian theatres due to delays and cancellations of 'sivaji-the boss'. a cinema theatre in malaysia was set on fire. even in countires like china and japan the movie has been released. in uk it is already in the top ten. with pulsating songs,awesome backdrops,tonnes of energy and loads of oomph,sivaji has it all.

last sunday morning i decided to see this could i resist it after all the hype that i saw and read about. the decision was taken in a split consulatations,no better half was travelling and it was easy for me to decide on the movie i wanted to see .last show at metro adlabs.i didn't bargain that the show would go on from 10.45pm till 2am though. but i have no regrets. if one more proof was required,i got it. i declare rajnikant as india's most versatile actor."super s(t)aar, avar super", his fans were saying when i was leaving metro in the wee hours of the morning.

it didn't take me much time to reach metro adlabs where they are showing one latenight show of 'sivaji' every day. now three shows are being looked as if the whole of tirunelvely had descended there.the annais and thambis thronged the theatre wearing tight jeans and multicoloured halfshirts and t-shirts. wearing shades at night. all rajni fans. screaming and whistling.luckily,less boisterous and less crazy than their brothers and sisters in tamil nadu.some of them even carried high resolution cameras and cell phones to shoot the movie inside the theatre.two people were arrested while they tried to shoot the movie.

'sivaji,the boss' is now available on the mobile space as well.across 33 countries.his latest flick,ringtones and trailers.reaping in a huge collection.50,000 monotone down loads and 200,000 in the first week itself,it is a virtual has been released in 200 screens across india and 52 screens alone in malaysia. and 850-900 screens worlwide.made at a cost of about rs 80 crores,some say rs 95 ctores, rajni 's fees will be rs 20 crores and share in profits.directed by shankar and music by a r rahman.its soundtrack on digital platforms are available for sale on itunes.that is a first.'hungama mobile' claimed that their servers got overeloaded and crashed three times in the first two hours of the music launch.

rajnikant stunts,style and gimmicks leave his critics freezing. he puts bacchans and the like to shame. ask a tamilian who is the biggest superstar and rajnikant's name will invariably feature.'sivaji,the boss' is his 126th film. it is an out and out entertainer.rajni with an airbrushed jawline and innumerable colourful wigs.the movie starts with a flashback in a prison cell. his neighbour prisoner asks him why he has landed there? has he committed a bank heist,murdered someone or raped a young girl. no,he says. none of these." i was trying to do good for my people by building schools,colleges and hospitals". rajnikant plays a corporate honcho. a us returned software professional,he wants to build schools,colleges,hospitals and roads for his people. "that's cool buddy,really cool". this expression must have been used by rajni atleast 15 to 20 times. and cheered by his sidekick and maternal uncle(younger than him) vivek.

'suryano chandrno,yaar ivanno, chattunu shollu'( is he the sun or is he the moon,tell me fast,who is this one?). this is the introductory song of the film which invokes his real name shivajirao gaekwad. a scion of a rich family,he is smitten by a 'real' tamilian girl in a temple.her name is tamil selvi(shriya).no westernised dames for him.and he will stop at no end to achieve her.he thrusts himself on the family and tries everything possible to woo her. coaxes her,cajoles her,flatters her and her parents. but they just will not accept him. he tries his antics in the music shop in which she works as a sales girl and creates a ruckus. when rejected by her saying that he is black he goes to great lengths to change his colour by applying loads of 'fair and lovely' on his face.milk doused with saffron.and marinates himself in multanni mitti.he even eats a platefull of red chillies to show his machismo.he attempts suicide by standing on a rail track.that is when she finally yields.flagged down by a red chunni from his heartthrob.

the picturisation of the song 'vaji' was unique."vaaji vaaji en jeevan si sivaji". a fantasy song,neeta lulla and manish malhotra did the hairdresser sandrine verrier seth is the person behind rajni looking much younger than his real age.rajni and shriya, a 24 year girl whom he romances, appear as king and queen and there are more than 100 dancers in the background. the palace setting of a babylonian type was designed by thota tharani.

donning countless colourful wigs,he romances and also butchers a fight sequence,when he leapt in the air to deal with goons ,it seemed that he would remain airborne for some time. you have to hang your disbelief temporarily. he disproves the law of gravity.he rips open a packet,takes out a chewing gum and shoots it against his foe's head.the gum bounces back and goes straight into his mouth.a bullet stopping itself inches away from rajni's forhead.and the flick of the one rupee coin which is given to him by his adversary adiseshan(suman),a politician,also building hospitals and schools. sivaji loses everything after he admits in court that he has indeed bribed all the way to get the various clearances.that one rupee was given to him like one gives alms to a beggar by adiseshan. he uses that one rupee to turn to riches again from rags."after six it is seven and after sivaji it is heaven". he tries to scare of one of the goons with this one scene he is surrounded by some 40 gangsters.the villain says to sivaji that he has made a mistake coming alone."only pigs come in groups,a lion always walks alone". deafening claps and unending whistles."amma, why was i born dark?". because his mom says,"dirt shows easily on fair people,i didn't want you to look ditry,kanna." after he is nearly killed in an encounter, he is flown abroad by his doctor friend who uses advanced technology to bring him back to life and sivaji now emerges with a different name and passport. he now has a cleanshaven head. he uses his extensive network to convert black money into white! an ingenious way of converting rs 20 lakhs crores!that is his estimate of the amount of black money in circulation. he then goes hammer and tongs for the one rupee giver.he bashes him into pulp .and in the finale shows that one rupee coin to him.which has helped him to get back to riches from rags.he flicks it in his inimitable style and it lands safely in his shirt pocket. all is well that ends the end it is the triumph of good over evil,honesty over corruption and fraud.

the technology bar has been raised for 'sivaji,the boss'.cinematographer anand has used advanced 4k technology which offfers a very high quality image.4096*3072 pixels.high resolution,better colour grading and printing,cinematic quality and rajni's razzmatazz. a deadly combination. it is 'thalaivar's'(leader's) 100th tamil film out of the 175 so far.the unavoidable comparison with amitabh bachchan is of course doing the rounds everywhere.and people ask what has made rajni such a collosus? earlier i had blogged about rajni and his fan- following in japan after the release of 'muthu'.his screen presence is so electrifying that alain chabat,french actor-director,featured a five minutes fight sequence from 'odoru maharaja'(muthu) in his film "prete moin ta main'(lend me your hand).the heroine when asked what she was watching she refers to 'odoru maharaja' and the fight scene featuring rajni.

superstar rajni is the superboss.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

art that glitters is gold

yesterday was the last day of the exhibition by an octogenarian couple of their oil on canvas paintings encrusted with 24 carat gold and jewels at the nehru centre, worli .173 of them. titled 'om namoh', ram kishen and kumudh goyal were exhibiting their fruits of labour, thanks to some smart commercial sense of their daughter in mumbai. and why not? after all they have toiled so much and put in such hard work in their golden years. should they not reap the benefits replied their daughter, when i asked her whether the art works were not too pricey. some of the paintings i liked were priced at rs 2 to 3 lakhs. i saw some truly remarkable paintings of gods and goddesses. balaji,krishna and radha,ganesh and sai baba were the main exhibits.'makkhan chor' lord krishna dominated the show. one of sai baba in a sitting posture and the other of lord balaji were outstanding.

the very fit husband and wife duo who live in meerut came up to me and welcomed me when i visited the exhibition hall. and their daughter explained to me about the intricacies of the paintings and how it all started. the goyals were also providing a certificate on the purity of the gold. ram kishen goyal began painting after retirement. and his wife kumudh has also been working with him. truly a great achievement by this ideal couple.

there is a moral in this story. don't brood after retirement. keep your mind and body occupied. read,paint,walk,write,blog. and if you can convert your efforts into cash,do so and enjoy what you richly deserve. gold begets gold. that is what this couple with a golden heart from meerut have proved in their golden years..

snacklets at rajdhani

it is not the prestigious mumbai-delhi-mumbai train or even our notorious capital. it is a new eating place at metro adlabs. part of the rajdhani restaurant chain. the most famous one is located at crawford market near the masjid. i have been there several times. the hot puris and gujerati/rajasthani dishes are something to die for. when i heard that they have opened a snacklet at metro adlabs theatre, i decided to give it a try.good ambience and fast service. i felt that it was not fit for the rather crude person next to our table was shouting at the top of his voice at what he felt was insufficient atention being paid to him. as i had some guests with me it was very embarassing.

instead of the traditional thali you get exciting meal combos without any loss of the original rajasthani touch. satpaddi na gatta(layered chappatis) with besan ganthias cooked in curd gravy,dal dhokli and darbhari khichdi,dry aaloo bhaji,a barbecued aubergine with millet bread called ollo rotlo.not to mention the ubiquitious farsans-dhokla,ghugr.khandvi and patra.

as it was the end of the mango season there were only a few varieties of mango flavoured snacks.their unusual mango based dishes are really unique. kairi kaanda bhajia,fajita pulao,smoked kairi chaas,and thepla with amarkhand.

prices are is open all any time is 'jamvanu' time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

it's boom time,baby

both the indian and chinese economies are moving at a fast clip.some economists are afraid that they are overheating.our mandarins say "no". they are emphatic that inflation is under control and the good monsoon will ease the pressure on prices. in any case they say,systems and controls are in place to check any runaway inflation. like the interest rates. which moves up when the growth is too rapid. that puts a brake and keeps the economy on the right course. but the baby boom continues without any a selfish way,i am not bothered about that.

2007 is the "year of the golden pig". it is considered auspicious for newborn per hindu calendar it the "sarvajit" year. the pig is one of the 12 animals on the 12-year cycle of the chinese zodiac,which follows the lunar calendar.the "year of the golden pig" comes once every 60 years.we also follow the 60-year cycle.

children born during the year of the pig are polite,honest,hardworking,loyal and the chinese claim.newborn chinese babies are immersed in a pool of water with a rubber ring surrounding is supposed to keep the baby calm and peaceful.

i cannot vouch for any of these qualities yet. but i can dance and shake to 'shakalakaboom'. i have become a grandpa.
l gave birth to a lovely girl on friday the 15th. a bundle of joy. h and l have named her "ruhi".

in office,my colleagues clamoured for sweets to mark the joyous and auspicious occasion. one of them suggested that i should get barfis. "pedas for babas and barfis for babies", he said. and when i distributed the barfis i proclaimed "mee aazoba zalo" (i have become a grandfather). be in rome like the romans!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

kolkata and the first rains

a few days back it rained heavily in kolkata.not unusual at this time of the year.when i take my evening flights,i am always a bit wary of the 'norwester'. before landing at dum dum airport you really get a good shakeup for 10 to 15 minutes. and as usual the roads got flooded. and who came to the comman man's rescue. no prizes for the answer. it was the affable rickshawallah. a fading community. facing a permanent ban from kolkata's streets. will better sense prevail?

can you spot ashima's(namesake) fictional house on amherst street?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

eros mein "metro".

life in a metro rocks and rolls. director anurag basu of 'gangster' fame has worked hard to prove his point. his inspiration has come from an old(1960) hollywood film called "the apartment". shilpa shetty who maintains her newfound international ranking; kay kay menon who never fails to disappoint and even sings; kangana raut,the absentminded beauty; konkona sensharma, the punky bengali with an artistic lineage and the great irfan whom i always mistake as a bengali after his excellent portrayal of ashok ganguly in 'namesake' and the up and coming sharman joshi all make a great ensemble to together and individually convey what life is all about for yuppies in this fast and frentic concrete jungle which has very little sensitivities.they depict the different facets of relationships,emotions and feelings,love and sex.they are looking for instant gratification.a city which gives you more dreams and less sleep. lyrics by sayeed quadri and music by pritam beautifully convey the individual lives of seven people living in mumbai.

amol(dharmendra) a 70 year old man returns to india after 40 years to spend the last years of his life with his first love shivani(nafisa ali) who is a widow,is the dance teacher of shika(shilpa shetty) and lives in an old age home.she cannot forget her first love affair and literally dies in his arms.for she says that the first love is something that you can never forget.

shikha, though well educated, is a homemaker and she and ranjeet have a 6 year old girl. ranjeet a tad lower in education than shikha is quite a successful hrd executive in a bpo firm. he has a beautiful secretary(kangana raut) who is very efficient and also in love with her boss. ranjeet likes to have a good time with her.period. when neha realises her folly,she tries to commit suicide but is saved by her silent fan and admirer and lover rahul(sherman joshi). he is ambitious,wants to move up the executive ladder fast, and is prepared to adopt any means to achieve his objective. he keeps his boss ranjeet pleased by making his flat available to him for his nocturnal activities with neha. shikha's marriage has become a bit of a bore and shikha becomes an easy prey to someone who shows affection to her. by accident she meets a good for nothing artist akash( shiney ahuja). they develop an instant chemistry and meet several times after their first chance meeting. shiney fully knowing that shikha's marriage is crumbling proposes to her for a live-in relationship which she straight away rejects and is angry with herself for almost destroying her home.she confesses to ranjeet who turns violent on hearing about her affair.but after neha's suicide attempt and love for sherman,the philanderer has no where to go but return to his own home.shikha forgives and forgets.rahul and neha come together and rahul fulfills his dream of owning a restaurant.

shruti(konkona) is shikha's sister and neha's roommate.shruti works in radio mirchi and is desperate to marry and settle down.she falls in love with wishy k and is shocked to find out that he is gay.through a matrimonial site on the internet she meets monty(irfan pathan). she is unimpressed and even despises him. but he likes her and is willing to marry her. she will have nothing to do with him.but fate wills it otherwise.eventually monty literally chases her in his baarati horse from the pandal in which he was getting married to another girl and they come together. a scene where irfan and konkona are on a rooftop and scream their throats nay lungs out is funny. "when it is the matter of the heart,listen to the heart and not to the mind". well said.

the highlight of the film are the the rockband which truly has an urban flavour.the soft rock music truly rocks.they go about strumming their guitars. 'in dino','alvida','o meri jaan','baaten kuch ankahee si' and other numbers have remained chartbusters for a long long time.for the first time,a rock band that takes the story forward. produced by ronnie screwvala of utv motion pictures it is a realistic depiction of life in this fast 'amchi mumbai'. bobby singh is very good with the camera.

in a lighter vein,i must mention about a titibit i read in a daily about a 'burbie' film buff.he went to the sterling theatre for an 8pm show but was rather late.he then decided to cab it to inox at nariman point.on the way he passed through eros where he realised he might be able to see the movie earlier than at inox. and for also half the price. he told the cabbie "boss,zara dekho,eros mein metro hai kya?" the cabbie was confused,jammed the brakes and asked,"saab,aapko metro jaana hai ya eros?"

Saturday, June 09, 2007

do it with flowers

i am right now in one of the hottest places in india. titilagarh in orissa. the day temperature during summer goes upto 50 celsius. somedays even more. and when you have to stand and watch steel being melted in an electric arc furnace,it is really a high voltage situation. but then the early mornings compensate for the incredible heat and harshness of the day. being an early morning riser,i enjoy every bit of dawn. the airconditioners are put off, windows and doors kept wide open, and i take in the smell of fresh flowers from nearby trees and creepers and enjoy the silence and the stillness punctuated occasionally with the chirping of birds. i get ready for my first cup of morning tea. my laptop has been opened up and i decide to visit my blog.i realise that i haven't posted after the last one on 'chini kum'. "do it when it is fresh in your memory",i say to myself.i quickly run through in my mind the subject on which i would be posting when the door bell rings and our guesthouse boy brings me a plaintainleaf full of fresh flowers for my pooja.

the aroma of jasmine and the soothing feeling to the eyes of the colourful flowers remind me in a flash as it were of the play called "flowers" which l and i saw a week ago.written by girish karnad,the jnanapeeth awardee and padmashri recipent.he is a great movie director and famous playwright. this is his first play in english. produced by arundhati nag's raagshankara group and ably directed by roysten abel of delhi and sincerely performed by rajit kapur.

'flowers' is a 90 minutes monologue of a temple priest(rajit kapur) who talks about his love for lord shiva whose lingam form he worships. he is a family man with a wife and children and parents living with him.he is a devoted and pious priest.he is in the horns of a dilemma.he has become infatuated with a courtesan.he is torn between his love for his family and love for god and love for chandravati and duty towards his chieftain. one night,his life goes for a toss when everything comes together in a potboiler.the story of "flowers" is an old folk tale, a mythological story, from chitradurga, karnataka. girish karnad lived in a village without running water in karnataka for the first fourteen years of his life.his father who was a doctor would take him to 'harikathas'.and with the servants he would go and watch 'yakshagana' performances at night.karnad grew up in an ambience of puranas and mythological tales.all that seems to have rubbed off on him. as is evident from his debut play.

when l and i walked into the ncpa hall,we were welcomed by the fresh fragrance of camphor sticks and blue light.the design of the set was visually elevated platform with the priest seated on it,with his back towards the audience.the body was so still that i wondered whether the object was a human being.till he turned around to stand and face us and start his monologue.while the pujari was suspended in the air,the stage below was scattered with white jasmine flowers and flower garlands and a huge heap sloping over the lingam. a perfect temple setting with the priest standing over the temple tank.

the devout priest has been doing it for years.'abhishek'(ritual bath) to the lingam. anointing it with flowers,talking,discussing,complaining. so much so that the intimacy and bond with the lingam have grown over the years. the lingam was virtually his companion in the temple.devotees would come from the village to worship the lingam and partake of the 'prasad' offered by the priest every day.the local chieftain visited the temple day when the priest offered flowers and prasad to a female devotee,he was dumbstruck with her ravishing looks and was instantly drawn towards a mole on her right breast.they exchanged glances.that was the beginning of his love affair with the courtesan. he would think of her all the day when she did not turn up,he went to her house and was met by her companion.she explained her absence and that after two days she would be having her purificatory bath.he returned only to come back after two days.chandravathi expresses her admiration for his skill in so artfully preparing the ropegarland for shiva.she invites him to decorate her naked body with flower ropes like he does to the lingam.the besotted priest gives in to her audacious demand and every night after the pooja in the temple,he goes to her house to fulfil her desires.

the affair goes on for some time.the priest's wife is aware.the parents know.the village is talking about this liaison.but he is the venerated one dares to point a finger at him.till one night matters come to a head.while bedecking chandravathi's beautiful body,he hears the trumpet of the chieftain announcing that he is on his way to the temple.he rushes back to the temple and places the same flowers on the lingam with which he decked his paramour.his wife is aghast at the sacrilege.the chieftain receives the flowers and prasad from the priest after the pooja.amidst the flowers the chieftain sees a strand of hair."does god have long hair?",quips the chieftain.stunned,the priest is silent for a moment.picking up his wits and courage,he answers " if you believe god has long hair,he will have long hair".unimpressed,the chieftain demands proof.the priest pleads for time to demonstrate what he has said.ten days are given to him and the chieftain leaves.

the priest is in great anguish.he prays to the lingam ceaselessly to save his honour.he is ashamed that he has been caught almost redhanded.god shiva can only be his saviour.the day of reckoning arrives.the chieftain comes for the customary pooja and prasad.then he instructs his assistant to examine the lingam to determine whether it has any hair.the assistant pulls out a srtand which he notices leaving behind a spot of blood.he examines more deeply to check whether any hair has been glued.he is convinced that indeed the lingam has hair.the chieftain is ashamed and repentant and begs the priest for forgiveness.

god saved his 'bhakta'.he showered his grace on his sincere devotee. the priest is relieved but then he asks god why he has saved a sinner? did he not commit the most serious transgression? and was he not fit for a severe punishment? god in his infinite mercy saved his devotee from death.there are many such stories in our mythology where god rushes to save his devotee in distress. the relationship between man and god is built on faith and not on logic or reason.

i am reminded of a book on hinduism by swami nikhilananda. writing on 'hinduism in practice',he wrote about a christian missionary who one day,near the elephanta cave at bombay, saw a primitive man absorbed in worship.the uncouth man was seated by the roadside before a lingam,the phallic symbol of shiva.the disgusted missionary, coming near,saw a sudden light on the face of the worshipper and exclaimed:"ah,after all,in spite of his superstition,he has it.but with all my education,i am still in the dark."

girish karnad probably wanted to convey in the play the deep conservatism of our society and the paradoxes that we live in.the relationship between god and man and whether the holy and sexual can is not new to hindu religion and culture.eroticism has been an integral part of hindu religion.sadly,the message of the playwright had not been conveyed clearly in the 90 minute monologue.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

less sugar, not sugarless

i had seen the promotional videos of 'chini kum' and expected it to be a fine movie. i was not fact it turned out to be beyond my expectations. for balki (balakrishnan) it was the first time as writer and director. he is the national creative director for lowe and one of the finest minds in the advertising world. ilayaraja,the musical wizard from tamil nadu, was composing music in a hindi film after a long hiatus.and i think amitabh bacchan and tabu acted together for the first time in this romantic film with an unusual and interesting was a series of firsts for the heroes. the effect was synergistic. well-written and directed with witty dialogues,terrific songs,and excellent chemistry between bigB and tabu(not taabu). a friend of mine commented that this is a fantastic jodi;even better than amitabh & rekha and amitabh & jaya. amitabh is the interpreter of ageing with grace and dignity who finds love rather late in the day.chini kum is the bittersweet tale of romance between a 64 year old man and a 34 year old woman with dollops of humour.tabu holds her own as amitabh's feisty young girlfriend. she looks fabulous.

buddha gupta,the bengali chef cum restaurateur, owns a restaurant in chelsea, london,called 'spice6'. a desi gordon ramsey. he runs it with an iron hand. the hot-tempered boss micromanages the kitchen breathing down the necks of his cooks and waiters who are quivering most of the time. the ponytailed arrogant owner thinks no end of himself and his restaurant. he can do(cook) no wrong.he gets the shock of his life when the hyderabadi zafrani pulao ordered by nina verma(tabu) is brought back to the kitchen. rejected by nina. furious, he wants to know what was wrong with his zafrani pulao. he goes to her table and sings hosanas about his kitchen. she is amused having already formed a poor opinion about his culinary skills. the next day she sends a plate full of hyderabadi zafrani pulao to the kitchen. thinking that it is his preparation he has a taste and praises his cook, only to realise a few seconds later from the bearer that the memsahib who has just arrived has sent it to him. a lesson on how zafrani pulao should taste. chini kum ya chini zyada? he admires her gumption and they develop a friendship.nina,the 34 year old spinster visiting from india,is bowled over by the charm of the 64 year old man. love blossoms between the two.they communicate with deep looks and shared smiles. soon buddha's umbrella(chatri) becomes the excuse for her to drop in at the restaurant.thanks to the unpredictable english weather.whenever she leaves the restaurant, it is raining outside and buddha chivalrously offers the chatri.

the short-tempered buddha has a mother(zora sehgal) at home who spends most of the time watching tv. she implores him everyday to go to the gym for exercises. and that irritates him no end. he detests her cooking because she prepares only roti,dal and subzi.he foulmouths her often for bringing rubbish on the table.then there is this precocious "sexy" six year old neighbour who is suffering from leukamia and for whom the countdown has started.swiny khera acts well beyond her age and the script for her has been thoughtfully done.i have a bone to pick here with balki .why call a six year old "sexy"? balki should have been more sensitive and responsible about that. even the father of the child calls her "sexy". something unthinkable.she is both humourous and poignant.she is cool,calm and composed. she is sensitive and perceptive and finds out very soon that buddha uncle has changed.she finds him coming home late and preoccupied. she asks him whether there is any other woman in his life. she would like to see all adult dvds before she 'goes up' and beseeches buddha to get them for her to watch. buddha is extremely fond of 'sexy'.

when the love blossoms with nina and buddha asks her for an evening out,nina lashes out at him asking him whether the only desire of all men is to jump into bed with single women. but in fact she wants to spend the night together with ghasphoos(buddha is a vegetarian) and he with tengdi kebab.nicknames are the order of the day.her roommate is having a bad marriage and one day nina brings her husband for friendly counselling to 'spice6'. buddha gets jealous and insecure. later when he enquires about this new person, she laughs it away and puts him at ease.when she agrees to go out together and invites buddha to visit her house,his joy knows no bounds.he goes to a druggist to buy a condom.the sardarji salesman finds it difficult to follow the sign language of buddha for the condom which he employs as he is shy to utter the word in public. finally when buddha has no choice and asks for the condom,the salesman tells his assistant "chacha ke liye ek paaket condom nikalna".buddha is furious that he has been referred to as chacha.because he thinks he is still young.

and then one on his 64th birthday when nina drops in,she is invited to the kitchen where the staff have kept a birthday cake ready with 64 candles.buddha has already reached there and quickly pulls out about 5 to 6 candles and stuffs the mouth of his funny keralite waiter(prounouncing zefrani pulao in a typical keralite accent) who is about to blurt out to nina his real age.that was a really funny scene.and there are many more scenes in the kitchen which make you laugh.

nina agrees to marry buddha under one condition.he must get her dad's approval. buddha agrees without realising the uphill task he has to face. both leave for rawal) is a cricket buff and lives in new delhi.a terrible bore.a staunch gandhian who is fond of scotch and chicken.after several failed attempts,finally buddha makes the proposal of marriage to nina's dad in the loo! he is many years younger than his daughter's beau. he is shocked to see the man who asks for his daughter's hand. no way will his daughter marry him,he says. nina is insistant that she is in love with him and will marry no other person. he goes on a hungerstrike and refuses to touch even water.buddha and nina go to the qutab minar and buddha stands in front of the 2000 year old pillar and stretches his hands backwards so that the hands can touch each other.the legend goes that if you are able to do that,whatever you wish will be fulfilled.finally there is reconciliation.the adamant father relents.meanwhile in london 'sexy' dies.buddha is shattered and sobs uncontrollably.he goes to the pillar again and tries to brings his hands together.

buddha's nonogenarian mother(zora sehgal) is overjoyed at the thought of her pyara laadla getting who was almost destined to live as a permanent bachelor. the zesty grand dame has a funny style of dialogue delivery which adds sparkle to her conversations with her grumpy son. she acts with gusto and a joy de vivre.

ilayaraja's tunes have the hummability factor in them.though they are not new creations,as they have been lifted from some of his earlier films,it is new for the hindi-speaking population. ilayaraja is a very talented music director. chini kum opens up a window of opportunity in hindi films for him.and what a zetsy music track! three cheers to ilayaraja. as well as balki whose direction is par excellence.

chini kum also shows the changing concepts of hindi films.keeping in line with international format of two hours.and importantly not necessarily a huge budget.and balki with his advertising background gave zydus cadila some publicity for their sugar brand called sugarfree.this is the new flavour.

a very feelgood film.racy dialogues,polished cinematography by p.c. sreeram.they say that you should carry a torch with you to watch films shot by him.he generally shoots very dark sequences.thankfully,there are not so many in this film. excellent lyrics and shreya ghosal's haunting voice singing 'chini kum hai,chini kum hai'. let us have more of such films."hamhe chini zyaada chahiye!".

yes,there was less love(chini).but it wasn't loveless(no chini).go and watch it.go and love life and enjoy it.and if possible watch it with your loved one.