Saturday, August 27, 2005

Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin

Three identities, two incarnations, one makeover. Three different careers, two failed relationships, one funeral. Two years on prime time and fluctuating TRP ratings notwithstanding ‘Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin’. The last twenty months have been witness to the most discussed serial on prime time T.V. in India. Aired on Sony T.V. between 9:30 P.M. and 10.P.M. Monday to Thursday, Jassi – the metaphorical girl-next-door-with-dreams-of-making-it-big has treaded the thorny path with much gusto and air.

The tale of the girl with the archetypal ‘middle-class upbringing’ needs no further introduction. Horn rimmed spectacles, braces, high collar salwar suits, and a rustic walking style have been used to drive home the idea that a girl intelligent enough to top school and earn an MBA degree, has still not learnt the ways of the world. She joins ‘Gulmohar’ a fashion house, where she is ridiculed for her dressing sense and her looks, till she shows them that her brains are smarter than her clothes. She falls in love with Armaan Suri – the flirtatious boss with more girlfriends than shipping orders and earns the hatred of Mallika Seth – his fiancĂ©. Through twists and turns in the story, Jassi learns the way of the world of glamour and undergoes a makeover that transforms her into a supermodel glam doll called Jessica Bedi. She still essentially remains the girl-next-door and more sordid tales in her eventful life force her to turn runaway bride minutes before her marriage to Armaan and escape in a boarding school disguised as Neha Shastri- the widowed history teacher.

JJKN reflects the growing trend in society that looks are indeed everything. The increasing scorn of the so called ‘middle-class values’ of sobriety and temperance perhaps indicates the spate of things to come. That she is chided for her simple looks and later admired as a super model could have an adverse impact on the millions of simple and ‘middle-class’ women in India for whom academic excellence has hitherto been the only parameter of success. Add to the fact that in Gulmohar nearly all the staff is not only well dressed but also reasonably good-looking thereby making Jassi stick out like a sore thumb. Commercial gains could have possibly prompted the makers of JJKN to portray reality in extremes. She is the famous model Jessica Bedi, but nobody recognizes her in the boarding school in Nainital despite the fact that some students there are very fashion conscious. No matter where Jassi goes, she encounters a mother figure and an adversary and ofcourse a renewed love interest. To add to the murky waters, she has run away from home, yet her parents make no effort to find her, but Aryan Seth, Mallika’s scheming brother does. Thankfully, Jessica has not abandoned her ‘middle-class’ salwar kameez and spectacles (they have become rimless now) in favor western wear as would conventionally befit a super model.

Mona Singh Aluwahlia (she was not allowed to reveal her identity for almost two years) has done a fantastic job and needs to be applauded. Apoorva Agnihotri after a failed career in films joined JJKN as the flamboyant Armaan Suri. He’s not much of an actor, but he’ll do. The talented Rakshanda Khan plays Mallika Seth with vengeance. We love to hate her. Perhaps, no description of Jassi can be complete without a mention of Nandu- her childhood friend, her pillar of support and indeed her moral conscience. Nandu is the friend we would all love to have and despite all the ups-and-downs in Jassi’s life, the one thing that she can always take for granted is her friendship with Nandu.

Monday, August 22, 2005

We met yesterday.
Fifteen of the seventy-two that parted seven summers ago.

There were those who remained unchanged over the years, some who had changed themselves and some who had changed the world around them.

N is earning eight lakhs a year and K is still looking for a job. Seven years ago, we thought it would be the other way round. We never thought we would meet like this, because seven years ago, we were too full of insecurities to think of the future. Today, we look back at the past as an anchor, but we dare to dream about the future because it holds before us a whole new world that we can explore.

There are those like me who refused to stay at home all these years, traveled far and wide and came back home, because it was the best place to be. There are those like V who haven't tested the waters and are raring to do so. Then there are those like L who do not want to dream.

There was the usual girl talk about boyfriends. S topped the list with 5, was much envied and tips were sought. L vowed that she'd never let her boyfriend go too far away from her, because men were to be harnessed. M said, after the reunion, she'd wait for her boyfriend to drop her home even though we were all returning the same way. A had a tiff with her boyfriend and he called her up throughout the meeting trying to make peace and everyone laughed at W just the way they had laughed seven years ago when she declared her hatred for men. Seven years later, she was very much in love.

S wore clothes that drew gasps from everyone including K, who would have loved to wear such clothes only if her mother allowed. L was under strict instructions not to venture out in anything but a salwar kameez and she willingly complied.

There was laughter and noise; there was music and tears of remembrance. We parted promising to meet again. But deep inside us, we all knew that we wouldn't meet again. Curiosity had brought us together, but familiarity would breed contempt. We knew that promises are meant to be broken and that we would forget our promise as soon as the night was over.

Time changer of season
Time will set another flower blooming..............

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Writing Reviews

Writing reviews hasn’t been easy. Not for me. For one, there have been movies that I adored only to find that my friends disproved completely. It is not only difficult, but almost impossible to tap into the collective consciousness of a million people and come up with a verdict that everyone seems to agree with. I secretly thought ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hain’ was a pathetically queer name for an equally pathetic movie, but nearly all my friends thought otherwise and forced me to revise my opinion. I still don’t like Veer Zaara. I think Preity Zinta should do only bubbly roles. She’ll not make a great mother-in-law twenty years from now unlike Reema Lagoo who seems more like Salman’s mother than Salman’s biological mother herself. I think Salman should stop coyrighting the name ‘Prem’, ditto for Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Raj’ and Hrithik Roshan’s ‘Rohit’.

I make no secret of my admiration of Amitabh Bachchan. When he was voted “Star of the Millennium”, I pooh poohed it. When my father confessed that he watched Sholay 20 times, I laughed. I regretted being so skeptic after I saw him in ‘Black’, in ‘Bunty Aur Bubbly’ in KBC, for ten minutes in ‘Paheli’, in Baghban and now in ‘Viruddh’. Amitabh Bachchan is now experimenting on a canvas that has no limits and he seems to enjoy his acting than ever before.

But, I digress. It has been a strenuous exercise to find out whether I share with everyone else a similar liking as far as my taste in movies is concerned. Fortunately providence has been kind. Its is now possible to watch a movie, and then hear what people who have seen it feel, read reviews in the newspapers/on the net, watch box office collections and umpteen movie based TV shows and thus form an opinion that is not quite er…original, but nevertheless quite accurate. However, I have my boundaries clearly defined. I refuse to admire obnoxiously made art films only because they portray poverty and misery. Swadesh was a great movie and I continue to stand by my words. I still don’t understand why it flopped while ‘Mujhse Shaadi Karoge’ was a hit. I think Shaahid Kapoor is soon going to be counted among the great actors and I am sure Salman cannot act. Vivek Oberoi makes a wrong choice of films while John Abraham has been able to hit the bull’s eye time after time. I think Rani Mukherjee is grossly overrated and Kareena Kapoor is more substance than just glamour. I believe ‘Dil Chahata Hain’ is one of the finest movies made in recent times and that there is an Akash/Sameer/Sid in each one of us. We took turns in college trying to guess which character we would like to identify ourselves with.

Opinions, views, decisions, judgments … is so easy to dole out in copious quantities. So easy to watch a three hour performance that embodies so many months of effort and give a verdict that could make or break the fate of everyone involved. The world of movies has always been a make believe world inviting us to escape from reality and enter a world of fantasy.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

‘Umeed Se Dugna’ – Kaun Banega Crorepati (2)

Rating: *****

KBC is back. This time its a whole new series, with more money, new life lines, new rules but thankfully the host is the same inimitable Amitabh Bachchan. Aired on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 9PM and 10PM on Star Plus, KBC evokes memories of the famous catch line that rocked India a few years back, 'Nau baj gaye kyaa?'

Having started on 5th August, Kaun Banega Crorepati Series 2 is about 'Umeed Se Dugna' There are 2 crore rupees to be won this time. 15 questions answered correctly will fetch the moolah.Rs.20,000 at the 5th question and Rs.6,40,000 at the 10th are the new barriers that ensure the minimum guaranteed amount that the contestant will take away should (s)he get the questions beyond that wrong.

The usual 3 lifelines: 50-50, phone-a-friend and audience poll still persist. A new lifeline called Flip has been introduced that comes into effect after the 5th question is answered correctly. This gives the player a choice to reject the question given and ask for another question instead.

In order to involve the audience both on screen and off, a question is asked in every episode and answers are to be smsed during the episode itself. A randomly selected entry will fetch the winner a cool Rs.2 lakhs. There is good news for the participants who aren't lucky enough to make it to the famed 'hot seat'. The participant who answers all the questions asked during the game the fastest also wins a prize of Rs.2 lakh.

KBC (2) has lived up to the standards of the first edition of the serial. The participants are better prepared this time, as can be judged by the fact that almost all of them have answered atleast 10 questions correctly. The questions are framed to tease the intellect and yet ensure that you don't have to be a regular quizzard to get them right. Amitabh Bachchan is as jovial, genial and his presentation skills are only getting better with time. A host of sponsors has ensured that there is no dearth of money in the game. Good job done by Siddharth Basu and his team at Synergy communications. If you still haven't seen any episode of KBC (2) you're missing something.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

wE tHe PeOpLe

We the people is a nation of compulsive spitters. We spits on the road, into the drain, while waiting in a queue, in agony, anger, frustration or excitement.

9 AM in the morning, there is a long queue waiting to catch the elusive, oh-so-comfortable and thank-God-it travels-more-than-it-stops state bus. The queue keeps growing and we the people is getting irritated. So we closes our eyes, draws a good breadth and spits the irritation out! Unmindful of the fact that it missed the target and settled near the feet of a girl who is sulking to office on a Saturday.

Then when the bus comes and we finds it difficult to get a seat, we showers a few nice words on the bus driver and then gears up for another great spit, to cleanse our souls. We the people is not aware of the watchful eyes of a girl who is sulking to office on a Saturday.

The bus passes in front of a garbage dump and we is horrified by it. What a sight!!!!! Surely this calls for drawing all the spit that has escaped from the food pipe to the small intestine. So we energises ourselves and tries out another good spit. Not satisfied with the effort we tries again, but there is nothing left to spit. So we tries to drive out the ugly vision from our minds and tries to strike a conversation with a girl who is sulking to office on a Saturday.

But we doesn't know that girl who is sulking to office on a Saturday is going to write about us in her blog and let the world know what a detestable habit we has!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


The first thing that struck me after I watched Viruddh this Sunday was the seeming absence of songs. The opening credits had songs ofcourse, but what about the rest of the movie. Where was John Abraham doing a jig with his ladylove or the stare-at-the-moonlight-and-sing kindof sad song? There can be two ways of looking at this. Maybe, the songs are eminently forgettable and that's why you don't notice their absence, or maybe, they blend so well into the story that they never strike a jarring note.

Viruddh tells the age-old story of family love and support. As the subtitle suggests the family indeed comes first. A young and promising son comes home for a vacation from London to visit his aging parents. He gets into a brawl and is killed. His father seeks justice and leaves no stone unturned in the process.

While there is really nothing strikingly new about the story, Viruddh comes like a whiff of fresh air. You've breathed it all the time, but somehow it seems different this time. The first half especially exudes a feel-good air. You are introduced to a loving family. Old couple, typical dominating but caring wife. The husband is the archetypal devoted and happy guy. Normal, ordinary guy who gets scared when a bunch of young rowdy car mechanics setup shop outside his house, put an end to his afternoon nap and feel unapologetic about it. Same ordinary guy later shoots his son's killer with a steady hand and unflickering eyes. Splendid!

Amitabh Bachchan is fantastic. Growing up in a generation of Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, I never idolised AB and could never understand why my parents were so obsessed about him. Now I do, when I see the depth in his acting skills. AB in Bunty Aur Bubbly is the rustic cop, AB in Paheli is the eccentric shepherd, AB in Sarkar is Don Corleone and AB in Viruddh is an ordinary retired man, leading a happy existence, and completely involved in domestic life. In each of these roles, he has slipped into the skin of the character and created magic.

Sharmila Tagore is on screen after a very very long time. Alas! She is Kashmir Ki Kali no more. Time and age have taken care of that. But she excels in the role of the retired principal, who treats house like school. You are often deceived into believing that perhaps she is not acting in screen but enacting real life. She is sensible wife who tells her husband to keep down the phone and met her son when he is finally spotted at the airport. She is the loving wife, who talks to the car mechanics and ensures that they do not make fun of her husband. She is the strict disciplinarian who makes sure that 'Vidya' takes his pills, puts on his monkey caps and gets his daily exercise.

Sanjay Dutt is in a 'dynamic' appearance in Mahesh Manjrekar's movie. He plays the cameo of the car mechanic, who befriends the grief-stricken family. John Abraham doesn't have much to do in the movie apart from looking good. As usual, he doesn't disappoint.

Viruddh is an eminently watchable movie and the pace is constant from start to finish. There aren't too many boring moments and you would say 'Paisa Vasool' as you left the hall. The one thing that I’m still not sure about is: Where did the songs disappear???