Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The day I discovered the third way of watching movies -Rang De Basanti

I always believed there were two kinds of ways of watching movies. One was going to the cinema, stacked with Pepsi and popcorn and watching wide eyed for one hundred and fifty minutes. The other was to wait for the local cablewallah to poach the latest movie and show it on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, curse the print quality, sound quality and the drowsiness that would overcome me. Last week I discovered the third. Met up with D after four years, dragged her to my place, got a DVD and watched the movie, rewinded it, paused it, lunched over it and loved it. What follows next is saved for my granddaughter and my great grandaughter and all the generations that shall transcend me

Rang De Basanti thankfully, is not yet another incarnation of Dil Chahta Hain unlike the many pretenders that sprang up on the Indian movie scene after DCH. This is original cinema and even though the movie seems to have a façade of a lets-have-fun-while-we-are-young creation, it does throw a lot of serious questions and not one of them is funny. This is Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s second movie after ‘Aks’ and the director-with-a-difference has indeed as the title promises managed to awaken a generation.

Sue (Alice Patten) chances upon her grandfather’s diary who was the jailor of the prison where Bhagat Singh was held before being hanged. Despite being British, he is all in awe of the 20-something year old revolutionaries, who are not afraid to die for the nation. Sue is inspired by the bravery of Bhagat Singh and Chadrashekhar Azad and plans to make a movie on their life. Sponsorships are hard to come by, but it fails to deter her from coming to India and shooting the movie with the help of Sonia (Soha Ali Khan)

The rehearsals are futile because although they have scoured Delhi University (some shame considering that the great Amitabh Bachchan was in Kirori Mal college of DU) they have not found a single student who could do justice to the role. Dejected, Sue goes along with Sonia to meet her friends and take a break.

Here is where she comes across the face of the 21st century youth of India. Diljeet a.k.a. DJ (Aamir Khan), Aslam (Kunal Kapoor), Karan (Siddharth) and Sukhi (Sharman Joshi) live life on the edge. They do not worry about tomorrow and an evening spent getting drunk is an evening well spent. Sue looks at this vagabond group and sees in them the characters of her movie.

None of the boys are serious about acting and they do not make an effort. Sue somehow manages to motivate them to act and they do a fine job out of it, but they are still not motivated enough to feel for the nations as Bhagat Singh and his companions did. All this till Flt. Lt. Ajay Rathod (Madhavan) Sonia’s fiancée dies in a crash while flying an outdated MIG aircraft.

The carefree friends who did not have a worry in the world now transform into a group of committed individuals who will exact revenge for the death of their friend. The parallels drawn between the imperialist British government and the present day Indian government are spine-chilling. Like Bhagat Singh, DJ and friends kill the Defense Minister and surrender so that the nation would be aware of the state of two hundred odd pilots of the IAF who died while flying malfunctioning MIG aircrafts. Like Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad and Rajguru, they lay down their lives for the nation.

RDB is a grim reminder to our generation that although we were born in a free India, we cannot afford to forget a whole generation of youngsters who gave up their lives for the freedom that we have learnt to take for granted. It is an irony that it took a British woman to awaken the consciousness of four Indian men. It is a greater irony that the enemy is no longer a colonial super-power but a part of our democratic system.

As an actor Aamir Khan is unparalleled, but it is time to handle the mantle to a worthy and younger successor. At 40, Aamir can no longer pretend to be in college. Perhaps Shahid Kapur could have done justice to the role, but Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra refrained from taking the chance and hired the best in the business. Soha Ali Khan is the surprise of the movie. She acts with restraint and this would rank as her best performance so far. Sharman Joshi is good but his role is rather limited to the irresponsible and careless hunk that he has played in nearly all his movies. Siddhartha is a new face and given the fact, that the director reposed so much faith and screen time to him (he plays Bhagat Singh), he has done a great job. As the conscience of orthodox conservative patriotism, Atul Kulkarni who plays Laxman Pandey the rising student political leader is a fine actor to watch out for. My personal favourite in the movie would be Kunal Kapoor who plays Aslam. Despite limited screen presence, he steals the show with his portrayal of a Muslim boy with Hindu friends, who goes to the bar but drinks water, who would give up his life for his friends, but would do so in sotto voce.

A.R. Rehman redeems himself with some soul tapping tunes (‘Roo Ba Roo’). The title song - a catchy Bhangra number marks the return of Dalaer Mehndi to playback singing.

Overall, a wonderful effort and with all the controversy of the IAF having problems with the movie and the Defense Ministry objecting to the release and being a rare Aamir Khan starrer RDB is a movie that we are going to remember for a long time to come.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Our pet

When we saw her for the first time, she had not eaten for three days. I noticed her lying asleep in the morning, my mother noticed her in the same position at noon and late at night, when he was coming back home, my Father noticed that she had not stirred. Too weak to move a muscle, too feeble to walk, we bonded instantly. That night, when I fed her a few 'rotis', I thought I saw tears in her eyes. We have never had a dog of our own, and stray as she was, we were not too sure if she could live with us, but we knew, when we counted the members of our family, we would count her as one of us.

It soon became evident that she survived solely on the food that we use to give her. That's when we made it habit to give her a meal everyday. There were days when we cooked something special at home, and she got her due share. I still remember making spaghetti at home and forgoing my share, so that she could have some.

We saw her walking, and then running to greet us whenever we left home. We laughed to see her stick out her tongue and wag her tail whenever she caught sight of us. We spent many a pleasant evening discussing her antics.

We still do that now-a-days. In anxiety. For she has disappeared for the past one week, and we have no clue of her whereabouts. When I used to hear of famous pop stars giving away their prized guitars to the person who brought back their pet dog, I used to laugh. Today, I feel the same way...I could give away my computer to anyone who'll bring her back. For even though, we can lay no claim to ownership on her, she can tell the world, that if ever she had a family, it is us!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Mere Paas Paer Nahi Hain

Mere paas gaadi hain, bunglow hain, naukar hain, aish-o-araam hain par mere paas paer nahi hain.

My feet I have come to realize do not belong to me. They belong to little kids who kick you and then push with unbelievable Complan energy in the line for tickets to 'Rang De Basanti'.

They belong to older women who are trying to get off the train when suddenly everything between them and door becomes invisible.

They belong to our great potholed roads to fall into and get bruised, and then to dettol, gauge and lint.

Sometimes they have belonged to crepe bandages and plaster-of-paris casts.

Often they belong to the blisters that new shoes lovingly gift them.

They belong to Krack SR cream because gruff ankles are out of fashion.

They belong to ugly green creams and the salts that the latest pedicure mantras eschew.

My feet alas! are not mine