Monthly Archives: May 2006

Fanaa

(Spoilers ahead)

Woo hoo! I did it! I have finally watched a Hindi movie on the weekend it released. Which, if you know me, is quite an achievement, and so I shall commemorate this historic event by doing a movie review. But before we proceed, an important reminder. If you are one of those people who go to a Hindi movie expecting unpredictability and surprises, then first, you really need to have your head examined. But secondly, please to not read this post any further. Spoilers galore and all that.

Fanaa. Such a beautiful word. To destroy yourself in someone’s love is such an incredibly powerful and intense emotion. Not only the literal dying, but the willingness to annihilate oneself and unite with the one you love (or with God, thus attaining salvation, to take the Sufi interpretation of the word) is a very sublime thought. And when a movie name refers to a thought like that, one hopes for it to reflect in the film itself. But does it? Naaah.

The story — Tour guide boy meets blind girl. Boy flirts. Sings song. Girl falls in love. Boy tells girl he is not cut out for love-shove. Girl tells him — too bad, deal with it. Girl recites poetry. Boy cannot resist girl reciting poetry. They sing another song. Top it off with sex. Girl leaves content with memories of time spent. But boy realizes he’s in love too so he stops her from going. Wants to marry girl. Finds eye-doctor to restore girl’s eyesight. But at key ‘I can see!’ moment, boy missing. Bomb blasts rock the city and boy dies in it. Boo hoo. Sniffle sniffle. Blasts are investigated. Seem like handiwork of dreaded terrorist of international repute who also sings songs. Who be he? Camera zooms in on boy. Freeze frame. Intermission. Heh, yes, we’re only half-done, imagine.

Okay, so I am being a bit unfair. The movie starts out as a love story. But somewhere along the way it changes its mind and decides to jump on the terrorism bandwagon, probably in a bid to be original. And in doing so, it sticks its fingers into too many pies and leaves a mess on your hands. Why does Aamir get Kajol from the train, if he anyway intended to ditch her three days later? Why the rush to get her eyesight restored? We are told, post-interval, that Aamir’s character desires Kashmir’s freedom. He is supposedly part of an international terrorist organization, yet all his missions hinge on him alone? The rest just sit in the background doing target practice? And what really drives Aamir? Does his ruthlessness come from a belief in his mission? Or just a fear of his grandfather? Is he really a man torn between the meaning of his life (his love) and the purpose of his life (his mission)? Or is he just confused, much like the movie is?

And about the whole fanaa business. Kajol didn’t fanaa-ofy, cos she survives. And Aamir didn’t really give up his life willingly either. He chose not to kill Kajol, yes, but it seemed like he was counting on her to not kill him too. (Tough break, dude.) So who went all heavy-duty fanaa-ing in whose ishq? Unless the change of Aamir from womanizer and ruthless terrorist to a scared man who just wants to protect his wife and child is the fanaa ho jaana they are trying to refer to. Which seems a stretch, if you ask me.

It is not that the movie doesn’t deliver at all. It keeps you entertained and has plenty of good moments. Kajol looks refreshing, is many pounds lighter than we last saw her, and has great screen presence. She deftly shifts from Zooni’s love for the man, to confusion about his intentions, to fear of him, all without saying too much. But then again, this is Kajol, so we wouldn’t have expected anything less. Aamir is reliable, but age is starting to show (and a bit of a paunch too). Also, Aamir just seems Aamir and not so much Rehan. Now SRK usually suffers from this problem, where the star overwhelmes the character he plays, but I hoped better of Aamir.

Of course, Aamir and Kajol have chemistry and one wishes they had been paired together sooner. (Horrors like Mister lova lova, notwithstanding.) The entire first half — the romance, the sher-o-shayari on the bus, the chaand sifaarish song sequence, their falling in love, the rain song dekho na .. they all breeze by, and one never notices the time.

Another thing I liked was how Kajol’s blindness was pretty incidental to her character. There wasn’t any of the ‘awww, she can never experience what we can, so let’s pity her instead’ mellow-drama. Instead she is shown to have a sense of humor about it. When meeting Aamir the first time, she mistakenly offers her hand in the wrong direction and he asks her brusquely — Are you blind? Pat comes the reply — Of course. Can’t you see that I am blind? Why, are you blind or what? Nicely done. Amongst other things to like is the kid. Very cute, both sulky and smiley versions, and the haldi-doodh scene is aww-inspiring. Fatty and Bobo are cute, but Vrajesh Hirjee and Satish Shah are wasted. And blink-and-you-miss-her Lara Dutta. Did she lose her way onto the set or something? And for the love of God, whoever kills Jaspal Bhatti in a movie?! Tchah! It is just not done, I say!

Ooh! Special mention needs to be made of Tabu for what is perhaps the most ludicrous bit of miscasting ever — playing the head of the Anti Terrorism Unit. And don’t miss the unintentionally hilarious scene where Kajol fears for her life and radios for help and Tabu picks up the call —

Kajol: My husband is a terrorist. He is going to kill me and my son. Help!
Tabu: Okay, be careful. We will come to your house some time tomorrow.

Hello? Some time tomorrow?! We’ll take a detour and do some sightseeing before we come over? Or maybe this is like my cable TV guys — We will be over at your place sometime tomorrow, between 8am and 5pm, ma’am. No, I am sorry, we cannot be more specific. Seriously, can I have some of whatever it is they were smoking when they wrote those lines?

The music of the movie is quite lovely (a pity that it is Jatin-Lalit’s last together) and the picturizations enhance the songs. Of notable mention are the two Sonu Nigam-Sunidhi Chauhan duets — mere haath mein and dekho naa. The former has lovely use of color against the pristine snow (of Poland) and the raindrops are nicely lit up in the latter. And of course how can we forget chaand sifaarish. We have always had a soft corner for Shaan, and he sure delivers in this. But is it just me or does anyone else see some similarity in melody to Asha’s do lafzon ki hai dil ki kahaani from The Great Gambler (1979)?

(Sidenote — When heroes are drenched in rain and thus presented in clingy shirts, one is always compelled to realize that even the bestest-looking Bollywood men look plain dorky when wet. The only man who has ever flouted this rule, making us sit up and notice, is Hrithik while singing ik pal ka jeene .. aye mere dil to gaaye jaa from Kaho Na Pyaar Hai (2000). Hubb-ba! Oh and speaking of Hrithik — going by the previews, if Popeye starred in The Matrix (1999), it would probably result in Krrish? Talk about muskull-wuskull!)

Kunal Kohli hit the jackpot with Hum Tum (2004). Heck, he even got himself the Filmfare Best Director award from right under his mentor’s nose. (Yash Chopra was in the running for Veer Zaara (2004).) And deservedly so. Hum Tum was a good movie. Admittedly not an original story, but nicely Indian-ized. One of my favorite moments in it was towards the end, when Saif and Rani end up having sex and the next morning he asks her to marry him because it is the ‘right thing to do’. Rani refuses. Marry me for love, not because you had sex with me, she says. Otherwise we’ll have made two mistakes instead of one. I remember I was ready to stand up and do a jig. Not too often that a Hindi film heroine is shown with such convictions.

Sadly, there was no such memorable moment in the three hours of Fanaa. But there was one line that Kajol’s mum says while giving her relationship fundas, that I quite liked. Loosely translates to something like this — Give your heart to someone who loves you .. but give your self-respect only to someone who’ll willingly be destroyed in your love. Worthy of a thought.

And now you know why we don’t write movie reviews. Yep. They last longer than the movies themselves.

Vishesh Tippani

Someone remarked recently about a dearth of Pancham related writing on my blog. For someone whose music I obsess about, I don’t seem to write enough dedicated posts gushing praise about him, pledging to name my first-born after him and such. The latter though, is an issue, not for a lack of love for Pancham but because a name has already been picked for the purpose. Yesh, like all girls, I too, have gazed wistfully ahead and picked a name for the futuristic apple of its maa ki aankh. Or rather, maa ki aaaunkkk if you are a Rajnikanth in Chaalbaaz (1989) fan.

So I’m thinking, that the kid should be called — ta-da! — Vishesh Tippani. Yesh. Mera naam Vishesh. Baap ka naam Tippani. That way, everytime people ask for my opinion, I have something to offer.

Person: Can I have your vishesh tippani (expert opinion) on this matter?
Me: *promptly deposit wailing baby in bewildered person’s lap*

Nice, no? We can call it Vishy for short or VT. (No, not Victoria Terminus — the Bombay station that sounds like a disease that killed the queen.) C’mon now, it’s not that bad. Just to put things in perspective for you, prior to the Vishy idea, we were considering naming them Kid1, Kid2 and so on. Or if we’re being gender-specific maybe, Dude1, Dudette2. So Vishy is pretty much an upgrade, we think.

Seeing as this kid will obviously grow up with matricidal tendencies, some of you readers are probably concerned about my future well-being. Not to fikar. It is inevitable that the kid is going to hate its mother for a zillion other things, so a couple of things here and there won’t matter. Really. And if you are feeling particularly sympathetic towards the kid, console yourself with Shakespeare’s ‘What’s in a name?’ Then again, with a name like Will Shakespeare, he probably stood in the schoolyard as a teenager, with a bullseye painted on him, so it is only understandable that he had a somewhat unemotional view of things.

Coming back to the person we are not naming our kid after — this post has gotten long enough already, so we’ll return in a few days with more gushing about his music. No no, we promise it won’t be weeks. The thumbtack of your waiting has started to prick at our balloon of conscience plenty, so we’ll be back much sooner. Really. Vishy ki kasam!

ps .. No, Vishy is NOT on his way. Don’t even THINK of asking, else heads will roll. Thankoo very much.

Asha, Pancham, Kronos and ditzy Ghaat women

I realize I need to break this routine of not saying anything and then apologizing for not saying anything, but still not *really* saying anything. And how better to do that than to write a post about moojic. And the fact that THE Asha Bhosle was in town a few weeks back, touring with the Kronos Quartet and Zakir Hussain, only makes it easier. For you see, I was *there*. All of ten rows away, while they performed R D Burman numbers from their Grammy-nominated CD — You’ve Stolen My Heart: Songs from R D Burman’s Bollywood.

A digression here — The debate about which of Lata-bai or Asha-bai truly deserves to be called the queen of Hindi film music is always a tough one to resolve. It is difficult to take sides, unless you are an RDB fan, in which case Asha rules. Lata is no doubt, an exceptional singer and has rendered masterpieces like none other. But in terms of sheer consistency, versatility and a willingness to experiment, especially in her work with Pancham, Asha rules. Then again Asha and Pancham had, in my opinion, a symbiotic relationship, creatively speaking. They each pushed the other to new heights. An implicit understanding of the other’s art, perhaps helped by the personal relationship they shared, leading to output that few other music director-singer combinations can match.

Then again, preference for one over the other, is beyond logic and debate. As Pancham diplomatically put it once — If Lata is like Don Bradman, Asha is like Gary Sobers. Or like when, at the end of a exhausting discussion with a friend, complete with examples and counter-examples, I was asked to sum up, in one sentence, why I preferred Asha over Lata, and I replied — Lata may be Lata, but Asha is *Asha*. Okay, not exactly an argument that would hold up in a court of law, but that is finally what it comes down to. A gut feeling. That and Lata’s annoying giggle. Yep, those are pretty much the only things that matter.

Another thing that amazes me about Asha, the performer, is her incredible energy on stage. The way she’s all chirpy-chirpy and wheeeee! all the time. And her wonderful sense of humor. At the start of the show, she stated rather matter-of-factly that she doesn’t know English, but since half the audience was non-Indian, she was gonna speak English anyway. And then added, with a cheeky grin — the doors are locked, so you can’t really do anything about it. Heh!

She also said a few words about how it is ‘eeshwar kii ichha aur aapkaa pyaar’ (God’s will and your love) that I am able to continue singing at this age. So please excuse any mistakes I make. Just then, an unhappy child went waaaaaaaa in the audience. (Side rant: People who bring wailing two-year olds to music concerts, assume that the audience will find the wailing adorable, and stay happily glued to their seats, while the kid howls away. Bah.) Asha-bai sweetly said — If I can listen to your kid cry, you can also listen to my mistakes, na? One could see the blur of a red-faced parent as he promptly darted out, howling kid in tow. Sweet.

Her discomfort with English (which I sometimes think could be an act) did not prevent her from subjecting Dave Harrington of the ‘Quartet to snark. She narrated a tale of how, when she initially met Dave, it was tough to explain to him, what the song meraa kuchh saamaan tumhaare paas padaa hai from Ijaazat (1987) meant. Saamaan? What’s that, Dave asked. Oh, luggage, she replied. They have poetic songs about luggage, in Bollywood?, he asked incredulously. Uff, ab main inko kya samjhaaon, she said, and proceeded to tell us — It is a song in which a girl, after breaking up with the guy she loves, tells him to return all the things that belonged to her. Her feelings, her memories, the moments shared with him — anything that is hers, she wants it back. At this point in the tale, she turned to Zakir saying — Zakir, you speak English well .. how do you explain the meaning of this song? Zakir promptly replied — Oh that’s simple .. Alimony! Heh heh. Gulzar would have been proud.
Mousie Singh

And then, there was the little joke that was gleefully tossed out by her on stage. Made us proud, it did. But before we tell you what it is, we have to show you a picture. Here it is, to the right. Guess who it be? Yep! It is Mousie Singh! So here’s the background —

There was a Sardarji wedding in town. But this wasn’t any ordinary wedding. This was one of Sardarji tigers. Punjab da sher and all that. So a bunch of tigers were dancing in the baraat and growling yahoon yahoon! A wee-little mouse in a tiny pheta was also dancing with them, squeaking a little yawoon yawoon! of its own. A random passerby came up to Mousie Singh and said — Oye, yeh sher ki shaadi mein chuhaa kyon naach raha hai? (This is wedding of tigers. What’s a mouse doing here?) At which the mouse replied — Arrey! So what if I am a mouse? Shaadi ke pehle main bhi sher thha! (I too was a tiger before marriage!)

Heh Heh. Ouch. Made you wince, did that not? You were not seriously expecting a post only about music, were you? But trust me, when that joke is earnestly narrated by a chirpy and twinkly Asha, accompanied by a little mouse-bhangra, it gets much much cuter.

Age has begun catching up on Asha, and there were moments where her voice faltered, gently reminding us that she is, after all, nearing seventy-three! But even then, watching her smile and sing and even dance at times, resplendent in a white and gold sari, surrounded by musicians half her age, was incredibly inspiring.

And then there was the music itself. The ‘Quartet’s song selection for their CD (and thus the show) was unusual. Rather than only going with RD’s more famous numbers which people are wont to doing, they’ve picked a number of lesser-known and interestingly arranged compositions. Will do a separate post on that, if anyone wants to listen to me ramble about RD. C’mon, be nice and say you do, will you?

The audience was about half American and half Indian, roughly divided along the lines of those who had come to hear the ‘Quartet and those who had come to watch Asha sing. It was pretty much the perfect evening, marred only by some ditzy Ghaat women who chattered next to us in the lobby, and whose scintillating conversation we had the privilege of overhearing —

DGW1: How many sisters are they in all?
DGW2: Four.
DGW1: Really? Lata .. Asha .. and?
DGW3: Usha ..
DGW2: There’s one more! There’s one more!
Me: *math genius!*
DGW2: Uh .. her name is .. uh .. her name is .. uh ..
Me: *someone put the woman out of her misery, please*
DGW2: I know it! It is .. it is ..
Me: *turning to woman* Meena ..
DGW2: Oh yes! Thank you!
Me: *phew*

A few minutes later —

DGW1: Her husband was also a music director, no?
Me: *Duh!*
DGW3: Was it Hridaynath Mangeshkar?
DGW1: No yaar, that was her brother! Chheee!
DGW3: What was his name then?
Me: *This was right after an Asha-R D Burman concert, for crying out loud!*
DGW2: Mr Bhosle, I guess? *annoying giggle giggle*
Me: *groan*
DGW4: She was married to R D Burman, yaar! Did you not read the brochure?
Me: *God bless your soul*
DGW2: But why is she Asha Bhosle then?
DGW1: That was her first husband. She divorced him.
*DGW2 and DGW3 clamping hands to mouth and collectively gasping in shock* Ohhhh really? Hawww! She’s a divorcee?! Wowww, I didn’t know that!

Sheeesh. Gah bah! But we don’t do generalizations about Maharashtrian women. Nuh-uh, we don’t.