Monday, February 25, 2008

'jodhaa akbar'-picture perfect

the magnum opus has been made at a cost of about rs 50 crores.but from day one it has been mired in controversies.was jodhaabai really akbar's wife? the proud rajputs say no.they feel history has been distorted.according to them, akbar's son salim was married to the fiery jodhaa, daughter of king udai singh of marwar and not king bharmal of amer now known as jaipur.other rajputs believe that maharaja bharmal of amer was surrounded by the mughal army and under tremendous pressure and to prevent unnecessary bloodshed,he gave one of his daughters to akbar as part of a matrimonial alliance.but jodhaaabai was not the daughter of the queen. she was not the actual princess but the daughter of one of the king's concubines. the pride and self-respect of the rajputs,they say,has been hurt by distortion of history.

the screening of the movie has been banned in rajasthan,chattisgarh and in some other places as well.director ashutosh gowarikar is confused and hurt. after all he did painstaking research for many years before the story was finalised.he claims that he also checked with a royal family of rajasthan regarding akbar and jodhaabai. in addition to the marriage being a politically convenient one, love is supposed to have blossomed between the mughal emperor and the rajput princess. or is it allowing the imagination to fly fanciful heights? the truth is vague and therefore open to interpretations. in any case isn't it quite common in india that marriages take place first and then love blossoms? he doesn't swear that everything he has shown is recorded history.he has taken liberties with the plot but then wouldn't the movie become too staid without such deviations? we must take the movie at its face value and enjoy every bit of it. thanks to gowarikar's brilliance, the production is a masterpiece. ably supported by javed akhtar's lyrics, a.r.rahman's scintillating music,superb acting by hrithik roshan and aishwarya who enjoy a wonderful chemistry and outstanding cinematography by kiran deohan,nitin desai's beautiful sets. "jodhaa akbar" is nothing short of picture perfect.

compliments have been pouring in from everywhere and from some unexpected quarters too.hrithik said that he would treasure amitabh bachchan's reaction to his performance. in the quawali/sufi song 'khwaja mere khwaja',hrithik does a trance dance. ab remarked that not since stanley kubrick's legendary 'sci-fi 2001: a space odyssey' has there been such an apocalyptic moment on was a moment of spiritual ecstacy in which hrithik got fully immersed.that was the moment when akbar connected with hand pointing towards heaven and the other to the ground.he was transferring the gift from god to people down below.he acted as the medium of divine communication.what a marvellous performance!

an offshoot of ja has been the comeback of enamel jewellery what with aishwarya sporting these exquisite ornaments with a dash of colour.'tanishq',the official designer of the movie,has launched a 'pret' line called jodha akbar collection. it is a fusion of excellent craftsmanship of the mughals and rajputs with contemporary style.

jodhaa comes out as a very strong character. a feminist figure very zealously guarding her rights. when told about her father's decision she asks him whether the mughal king is capable of understanding the significance of 'sindoor'. she chides him; but she cannot let her father down. she relents; but with two conditions. which she conveys to akbar in that she will follow her religion to which there shall be no interferencce and the other that she will not touch him unless he has won her over truly. akbar agrees and announces the conditions in public. also later when akbar suspects her integrity thanks to the machinations of maham anga his foster-mother, she goes back to her parents and refuses to return.when the truth is revealed,akbar is apologetic and begs her pardon.

the scene where jodhha serves akbar a rajasthani meal made for the mughal emperor sans all the meat dishes of the rajput royalty and savoured with dalbhatti churma,gatte-ke-saag,ker-sangri and many more mouthwatering items that she serves was delightful to watch. and to prepare all these items, jodhha takes charge of the bawarchikhana or bakawal as it is called.she meets the mir bakawal,the superchef,and gives him instructions. all the utensils get thoroughly washed and jodhaa and her retinue take over.when akbar's foster-mother maham anga insists that mir bakawal must taste the food first before it is offered to the emperor and that is the rule and practice and that it cannot be changed, jodhaa rettorts that it was a wife's priviledge to prepare food for her husband. then again maham anga instructs the court to say bismillah(in the name of god) and eat.this was the formula to be followed for muslims for eating food prepared by hindus.historians have recorded that akbar gradually converted himself into a vegetarian. we can surmise that jodhabai's exquisite cooking must have transformed his eating habits.

the three hours and twenty minutes duration of the movie, some would say was a tad too long.gowrikar could have done some tight editing.but the picturisation of the taming of the elephant by akbar,akbar's diligent practice of sword fighting,the sword fighting by jodhaa and akbar,the sufi song 'khwaja mer khwaja' sung in a modest masjid and the final confrontation scene on the battleground of akbar with his brother-in- law the deceitful and rebellious mirza sharifuddin hussain(nikitin dheer) who is vanquished but whose life is spared because of akbar's love for his sister is beautifully portrayed.

to sum up ja is an epic romance movie which has everything that is required. with captivating performances,soul-stirring music and brilliant cinematography what is wrong if the imagination is allowed to fly a bit. even if the love story has no historical basis,we have to appreciate the power of the cinema to make the past relevant to the present.ashutosh gowarikar deserves full kudos for adding some mirchi and masala and for creating a truly pleasurable experience for the audience.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


written and directed by rajat kapoor of 'bheja fry' fame and starring naseeruddin shah,ranvir shorey,neha dupia and vinay pathak,the movie turned out to be literally what it is called. a deception.the protogonist ranvir shorey(vk) like many others is bollywood struck and descends on amchi mumbai from noida to start a filmi career.his histrionics is limited to his 'kholi' where he lives.on the ground,it is reality.he ends the day sitting on the marine drive parapet with a whisky bottle in his hand to drown his misery.suddenly there is an underworld shootout right behind him.he jumps over the parapet and struggles to remain safe.the killers shoot anyone they see to leave no eyewitnesses behind.they miss him and having completed their job they urinate over the parapet .vk misses the shower by a few inches.

unfortunately,he really doesn't escape.his face gives him away.he is a lookalike of the mafia boss(rajbhaisaheb) who was the one who was shot.the underworld accidentally and luckily get hold of him and make him an instrument of their nefarious designs.he is sucked into a life of gangsterism and deceit.he keeps on assuring his mother in noida that he is doing very well as a bollywood hero after sending her lots of money which he negotiated and got from the mafia for doing their dirty jobs.gangster naseruddin shah and his sidekick(vinay pathak) have their own plans.they send him to rajbhaishaeb's home to replace implausible!

vk romances naseeruddin's moll neha dupia and when he replaces rajbhai,he gets close to his wife( iravati harshe).there are some intimate moments with her too.he seeps into rajbhai's character after tremendous intital much so that he becomes very close to their two children.a person who is compelled to change his own identity becomes the person he replaces and loses his own identity.the dupilcity is found out by rajbhai's brothers and he gets a thrashing of his life. he returns in tatters.

supposed to be a comic thriller,it fails miserably inspite of having an excellent cast.the dons do their roles well.neha dupia as the vamp is a disappointment.ranvir shorey does quite a decent job.he has to show a range of emotions from being funny to frustration and sadness.he falls sick when he is given a lousy vada-pav.when not given an omlette he yells that he will kill himself.when he buys whisky,he opts for the brand which comes alongwith a free the midst of the killings he tries to save his glass.the story line is weak,the pace is slow and very often it reaches a 'cul de sac'.

true to its name it flatters to avoidable movie.

Friday, February 15, 2008


i decided to see a hindi movie last week. "halla bol".i like ajay devgan's acting.he is a serious actor.and brings talent and life into the roles he enacts.his acting was brilliant in 'omkar'.pankaj kapur who is shaheed's father and vidya balan are the other important actors in this film.both are famous for their acting abilities.direction is by rajkumar santoshi.all in all everyone has good credentials.but the movie turned out to be a disappointment.hullaballoo or halla bhool.compared to rang de basanti, this was not a patch.

sameer khan(ajay devgan) is a superstar.when it comes to his career he is a past master in manipulating.he is selfcentred and narcissist.he is a perpetual womaniser.he is witness to a gruesome muder of a young girl.his life goes topsyturvy.he doesn't want to get involved. so he cooly tells the police that he didn't see the murder happening. guiltyconscious, he finally decides to stand up and inform the police of what he saw.the two young killers have high's father is a politician and the other's is a liquor baron.they pull no stops to have sameer khan eliminated.

sameer was neglecting his wife(vidya balan) and was ungrateful to his guru(pankaj kapur) who taught him the rudiments of acting by giving him roles in his streetplays.from thereon he started getting roles in films. and then he became famous.but fame went into sameer's head.his superstar status and the money and women made him go completely astray.his wife decided to leave him.his parents thrilled with their son's fame and fortune moved in to live with him.but after seeing the metamorphosis in his personality,they decided to go back to their humble abode.his bandit turned social activist guru comes back to his life and pulls him up.sameer realises that he has to speak the truth.he is ready to fight it out in the streets.justice must be brought to the victim.he takes this cause to the people.vox populi.he takes on the minister and liquor baron.he has contempt for the belgian chandeliers,beijing mugs and italian paintings and persian rugs in the minister's house,where he accosts the minister.and scotch whisky.he unzips and urinates on the persian rug and says "this is the dhaar of hindustan".

i had expected a lot from rajkumar santoshi.though he depicts well sameer's helplessness when caught in a political storm and handles the complexities in sameer's character excellently,he fails because the plot is a bit period.santoshi's adaptation to the recent trends in cinema leaves a lot to be desired.guruji(pankaj kapur) is made into a superman. his superb acting steals the show.

cinematography and music are ordinary.the scene where guruji recalls the days when they protested against social injustice through street plays,is memorable.well written and directed.though a socially relevant subject,it fails to put the message across effectively.halla bol turns into a hullballoo.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

sufi for the soul

it touches your heart and heals your appeals to all cuts across age and gender can keep on hearing sufi songs or even hum them all the time.such is the impact sufi songs have on people.

last sunday i visited the kala ghoda fair at mumbai.this is annual event and extremely is a visual extravaganza of india's art and culture.the exhibition is an open air event and plays,movies and music programmes are held in the amphitheatre or in the nearby halls or gardens.the sufi music programme was in the horniman circle gardens.what a delightful time i had listening to kavita seth and her karwaan sufi band.the orchestra consisted of drummers accompanied by tabla and mandolin.

kavitha gave her heart out in her scintillating superb performance.she is like a pop diva.young and attractive with a mellifulous voice,she was so lively on the stage.and the packed audience liked every song selection that she made.starting with 'allah oh' and followed by 'lambhi judaai' and some other lovely numbers.

in november we had attended a wedding in rajasthan when i had for the first time attended a sufi programe.i liked it and decided to attend every sufi music concert when i got such an can call me a sufi buff.

sufi madeness is required in our enters the depth of our beings through the door of our hearts.the heart longs to love,sing and dance and go ecstatic.sufi spirit is based on the premise of for all. love that transcends all barriers.god is the beloved.godliness permeates everwhere and it radiates from every nook and corner. sufism has no time for intellectual is focussed on intense passionate love.sufis don't renounce.they rejoice.sufis call it 'ishq'. it is the sufi alchemy.create such a passion that it takes you to the ultimate."i searched for god and found only myself.i searched for myself and found only god"

the 13th century poet jalaluddin rumi wrote in persian about soul and union with god.he is the best known sufi poet across the world and usa's number one and best selling poet today.last year his 800th birthday was celebrated by the rumi foundation in a grand manner."rumi" means one from roman anatolia. he accidentally met a wandering dervish called shams tabriz .that chance meeting changed his life completely.they fell in love.islamic orthodox scholars insist that it was 'spiritual love' while european translators thought they were gay.shams was driven out to damascus by rumi's family and later when he returned to konya, his family members had him killed.devastated,rumi wrote some 26,000 couplets besides rubaiyat and ghazals.rumi has a terrific following in india too. he is seen as the soft face of islam and sufism goes well with the bhakthi movement.

rumi was not just a poet.he founded a religion of love.through his couplets and ghazals.which are sung all over the world.which touch your heart and stir your do not need any other medicine.listen to sufi music and rejoice with sufism.revel in life and get sufi-mad. "if you are not one with the beloved,seek! and if you are in union,rejoice!"-rumi

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

the big fat indian lunch

jayalalitha,the ex cm of tamil nadu, is known for thinking big.she recently courted narendra modi,cm of gujerat.modi had won the recently held state election with a thumping majority disproving his critcs and naysayers.he belongs to bjp and by inviting him and giving him honours, jayalaitha,the shrewd politician that she is,has signalled her readiness to join hands with bjp whom she had abandoned many years ago.

it has been reported that narendra modi was invited to jayalaitha's posh poes garden residence for lunch on pongal day. a lavish spread consisiting of delicacies from various indian states were placed on the platter. aviyal,samosa,bisi belle bhath,avakai,rosogollas,wheat halwa,pulav etc.etc. of course tamil delicacies like venn pongal and chakra pongal,idi-appam,poriyal,kuzhi paniyaram,ennai katthrikai,kara kozhambu featured prominently. it was a gargantuan lunch. a 45 course lunch fit for a king.narendra modi is a teeotaller and a frugal eater. narendra modi had to suffer an embarrasment of riches.

i wonder what would be the reaction of karunanidhi and clan to this maha saappadu.stalin and kanimozhi,the favourites of kalaignar, have recently made truce with their discarded sibling azhagiri,who recently celebrated his 57th birthday at madurai with pomp and splendour.with the family united jayalalitha would find it difficult to drive any wedge.however she still has a chance. dayanidhi maran booted out of dmk by his thatha (grandfather) must also be planning his next moves. will he join hands with his erstwile foe jayalalitha? it is difficult to say. in politics there are strange bedfellows.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


i recently attended two weddings.both the families are well known to us.buying a gift for the newly weds is often a bit tricky.many of the gifts get trashed or get recirculated if they are surplus to their requirements or if they are not unique. or not of great value.the problem becomes compounded if the newlyweds are doing well and settled abroad.most of the things that you can think of,they have it anyway.the gifts, therefore, have to be carefully chosen. they are not willing to carry extra baggage with them when they fly back.

some hosts insert a small note alongwith the wedding invitation saying "no gifts please,only blessings". that lightens the invitee's task. but if you sincerely want to give a present, under such circumstances what do you do? a gift cheque is an option.but it becomes a bit impersonal. i decided to present pashminas to both the brides.they live in london.they would for sure use it and light as pashminas are,carrying them should pose no problem.they are valuable and one would look really classy with the pashmina decking the upper torso. i was happy that i had found a perfect solution. a gift having elegance and finnesse.

what is pashmina? it is a rare soft wool from the underbelly of the capra hircus goat. these goats are in abundance in the palins of the northern himalayas.nepal,tibet and kashmir.the westerners refer to this wool as "cashmere".the pashmina shawls and scarvess come with various designs and the price band extends from 600 rs to a few lakhs.the shops in taj mahal hotel and the oberoi are reputed for selling original pashminas.there are many other well-established shops too dealing in original pashminas. the fabrics are known for their softness and texture. the scarves and shawls are all delicate and brightly coloured. sometimes pashmina is blended with silk. it gives it a soft and warm feel.

due to the recent melting of snow in the himalayas and the severe cold about one lakh 'chyangra' goats have already died. if the cold spell continues, sadly, many more goats wil lose their lives. what a pity. they give their coat for our warmth but when they need warmth they cannot be saved.

Monday, February 04, 2008

the french italian connection

the lovers have tied the knot.what was media speculation in the last few months has now become a reality.french president nicholas sarkozy has wed for the third time.this time with an italian songwriter,singer and former supermodel carla bruni.unlike other past french presidents,he did not keep his love affair under wraps.he was open about it.immediately after his second marriage broke up his new relationship with carla seems he was prepared to call off his love affair with carla if his second wife who had desreted him returned.that was not to be.

sarkozy recently visited india and was goi's guest of honour for the republic day celebrations.he wanted to bring alongwith him his beau. the main attraction was the taj mahal.diplomatic compulsions prevailed and he left her behind.but he is not giving up. he promised to come to india once a year during his reign.that meant that carla will accompany him during his next visit. that is if the union survives till then.

before leaving for india,sarkozy issued a statement that bangladesh-born taslima nasreen would be given the prestigious "prix simone de beauvoir" award this is simone de beauvoir's birth centenary.she was a french philosopher,novelist and essayist.and a long time companion of jean paul sartre.she was a champion of the worldwide feminist movement and fought against misogyny and male chauvinism.he wanted to give the award personally in india,but our government developed cold feet.

his rating in france has come down,though the french lke their presidents to be virile.people feel let down that a comparitvely young and dynamic person chosen by them to lead the country is now having a major distraction. will he able to conduct the affairs of his country with focus and energy? that is a tough call. let us hope he settles down quickly to addressing the problems of his country.there are just too many of them.

there is some psychoanalysis doing the rounds.about sarkozy's height.he is only five foot five.according to them he was humiliated when his second wife chose a taller he rebounded by choosing a glamorous woman.after all wasn't napolean bonaparte,the french emperor,a very short man? maybe his greed for power and for women had something to do with his height.

the french are known to be good lovers.and good rulers. hopefully,sarkozy will prove his capabilities in both the fields.