WHAT DO DOGS DO ON DIWALI ?

Riding a bike on Diwali night is like being in a video game. You’re riding on your bike on dark roads. There are psychedelic sounds and lights around you, changing with every turn on the road.

There are assholic children flinging crackers and you have to evade them. You have one life and limited health (with or without insurance).

Come Diwali, a certain type of moralistic messages creep up on your wall. Don’t pollute nature, think of the environment, etc etc. But what most people don’t realise is that it is really kids who do it. After a certain age, you outgrow it. You sit back and notice people, and write blogs about it.

I think it is a little hypocritical that after celebrating Diwali in the way we did, we suddenly turn all Baba Jogeshwar on kids and ask them to save the environment. I mean, how often have you seen 45 year old uncles jumping with joy after lighting a rocket?

Diwali brings out two broad categories of people. The DoIts (naughty children, annoying neighbours) and DontDoIts (generally elders, parents, and vegetarians other people). It’s like a Good Thought vs Monkey Mind thing going on inside your head. “Arey, let’s put the rocket sideways and send it inside the house so that it catches fire and the people inside roast to death”. And then there are the rest of the people who say “Are you stupid or what? You want to go to jail? Here, light these sparklers. Carefully go to the side.” The entire night of Diwali is spent swinging between the two sides.

It’s not like people don’t listen to their monkey minds. The news on the day after Diwali is replete with such adventure seekers. Someone who ties a bijli chain to the tail of a dog, creating a permanent rift between man and his best friend. I remember reading the news a few years ago of a few kids who bought crackers and were so enthusiastic about bursting them that they lit them then and there, causing a huge fire and the entire market blowing up in a grand Diwali that even Narakasura would approve of. So there will always be those guys. What does one do? Try stopping the guy and explaining about ozone layer hole, and he’ll tie it to your backside.

And every Diwali has these characters who blast bombs according to their character. The Hydrogen Bomb, Atom Bomb (Ten points to World Peace), Lakshmi Bomb.

Historically, I have been partial to some crackers. Some are just polluting and annoying. Like those Snake Bombs that would just light up and ash would come out like a snake. I want to meet the guy who invented that thing. Asshole is responsible for half the global warming we face today.

I had a few favourites. I wasn’t too much into rockets. I think they’re for kids who still are fascinated by the idea of sending something colorful into the sky. If I had to rank the top 3 crackers, the list would go like,

1. Atom Bomb : The Atom bomb is the gateway bomb. Tiny thing that’s rolled in green wool, the Atom bomb determines how the rest of your Diwalis are going to go. Master it, and you move on to greater things in life (like aforementioned burning neighbours). Screw it, and you’ll spend the rest of your life making circles with sparklers, discussing the Shah Rukh Khan film that released on the day.

2. Onion Bomb : The Onion Bomb actually looked like a garlic. White, tied together with rope, the bomb did not need any lighting. All you had to do was throw it forcefully, and it would explode. If you were into cricket, you could draw stumps on a wall, and run up and bowl with the bomb. If you had a Paul Adams action, well, good luck.

I used to carry the Onion Bombs with me. Everytime I noticed a hidden threat to the world, I took aim…

3. Gun : I know most of you will snigger, but that’s OK. Democracy. Peace, brother.

The effect that a gun has on a kid is difficult to put into words. Of course, it seems disturbing that a kid would run around killing imaginary people for three days in a year. But back then, that was the reason I waited for Diwali. Of course, everybody gets together and bursts crackers in the night, but that is too regulated. The real freedom was in the afternoon. When the elders are busy and you can speak around with your gun. I filled my pockets with the bullets – a spiral of red bindis filled with barud, rolled into the cardboard boxes.

I walked up and down, always on alert. For that assassin who would sneak up on me, and try to kidnap my lover. But little did he know I was armed. I would pretend to be talking to her, and suddenly, I turn around and point the gun at him. Ha! Gotcha, you piece of shit. BANG! BANG!!

Among the bombs that you see today, there will be the people who are bursting crackers in a civil manner. The regular ShakeYourInsides Bomb goes off, and you learn to jump every now and then, when suddenly some guy will light up a FuckAll Bomb. Things are going smooth when suddenlyBAMBAMBOOMBOOMBADAAMBOOMDHADAAMBOOM!!!
But the guys who have the worst time are dogs.

It’s like the entire country going into war once the sun has set. Dogs scamper from here to there, running to avoid an Atom Bomb, when Ramu lights up a Chinese Bomb, he runs right, and Rakesh is waiting with Mega Bomb. It must like a bad acid trip.

You think the day after Diwali, the stray dogs sit together and bitch about us? One of them goes up to the other and says, “Man, did you see that shit? I was sitting and suddenly these guys start attacking me. And the whole town does it. The whole fucking town.” “Yeah, I know. It’s insane. The next time we see that guy, I’ll give you a shout…”

And that is why, dear friend, that dog barks when you cross the road at 11 in the night. India has the largest number of rabies cases in the world, most of them from stray dogs. We kind of ask for it.

Dog may have been man’s best friend, but even friends carry grudges with them!

Posted in Absurd | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Of Idiots Who Smash Beer Bottles

As part of everyday life as a homo sapien in the 21st centure, one of man’s primary responsibilities is to deal with assholes.

It’s a natural, evolutionary process. Early Man had to deal with wild animals, forest fires, and Anil Kapoor’s chest hair. The modern man is saddled with the responsibility of dealing with assholes around him. It has to be done.

And to live in the 21st century in a country like India, means it is open season for assholes. There’s the guy who waves at you from the train while taking a dump on the tracks. Then there’s the guy who decides to enthrall you with a vintage Kumar Sanu number when you walk past him, throwing in a few animal smooching noises for few. Then there are the guys who walk past a long line in waiting, and quickly dart into the line like they’re avoiding Morpheus.

 

As a race, we have learnt to adapt to some of them. Devised ways to deal with such kinds, worked our way around their habits. But if there is one category of assholes that I simply cannot make my peace with, it is the kind who smash beer bottles after drinking.

Why?

Just why would someone do something like that?

 

 

A beer is not just any other drink. It is a beautiful drink.

Imagine all the drinks to be cricketers in the dressing room in the 90s. There is Whiskey, the Sachin Tendulkar of the lot. Loved by all, revered by some, worshipped by many. Then there’s Rum – flashy, an aura around it that commands respect, the Ganguly. There’s Tequila, the Sehwag madness that comes, shoots, and leaves.

Beer is the Rahul Dravid.

Beer doesn’t begin by hooking the first ball over long for six. You have to spend time with it, take a few sips, and talk. And then slowly, a beautiful innings is created. It is a cover drive on a sunny morning at Lord’s. The kind that sends the knocking sound of the ball across the ground.

You don’t pour your beer into glasses. No pouring it out, measuring, mixing. You raise the bottle, and gulp down its contents. Drinking beer is perhaps the only drinking custom that has remained intact after centuries. There’s no adding flavours, making cocktails, shaking, setting it on fire, or any of that crap. You raise it, put it near your mouth, and guzzle down the divine nectar.

Why on earth would you want to smash the bottle to smithereens after that?

 

I have always wondered what sort of machismo is proven by breaking a bottle of beer! It doesn’t involve high risk – the bottle will break even if it slipped from your hand. So why then the deep urge to smash it?

 

There are so many wonderful things you could do with an empty bottle. Find a stick – one that’s not too thick – and use it to drum on your bottle. It gives off a nice, clinky sound that’s hard to find elsewhere. Then one could also tie the bottle to the branch of a nearby tree, to serve as beacons for fellow revelers. The bottles will light up in green and brown luminescence every time there’s light, showing the path to brothers with parched throats.

If you are the noble sort, you could keep the bottles and give them to a rag-picker, who could sell it for a small price. What could be more uplifting than having a beer and doing a good deed at the same time?

If you choose none of the above, simply carry the bottles back to your room. Use them to fill water, and watch people stare in amazement as you sip off the bottle first thing in the morning. There’s no end to the possibilities thrown up by an empty bottle of beer.

And yet, every time I have a beer, there’s that one guy who is hell bent on reversing millennia of human intelligence in a few seconds. By flinging his bottle in the distance, and craning his neck to hear it shatter.

Yay!! Happy Diwali, you fucking idiot.

 

 

Of course, one might argue that it is beyond reason and logic. Just an animalistic urge to fling the bottle, to hear it burst into a thousand pieces. A drinking ritual of the modern age. I have no problem with that.

This is what I have a problem with.

I take my beer and find my spot.

One that isn’t very hot, preferably with shade above, a breeze if god is kind. I sit down, get comfortable, and open my beer. Take a sip, feel it go down my invariably parched throat, when a piece of glass cuts through my jeans and gnashes at my ass.

 

That, my friends, is not cool. It is torture.

It is not just the pain. It is the fact that you’re completely lost in the beautiful moment, and taken unawares in a cruel way.

Just because some asshole decided to have a beer, and thought it was a cool ritual to shatter it to a thousand pieces. To hear it burst, the satisfaction of the sound.

Animalistic urge, it seems!

Fucking assholes.

 

Posted in Arbit Gyan | Tagged , | 3 Comments

My 10 Book Challenge

BOOKS.

For a long time, the word held a special place in my heart. At times, it signified a sinful indulgence, at other times, flights of fancy. And Facebook being Facebook, the recent 10 Book Challenge was sprung at me regularly.

For someone who talks a lot and writes quite a bit, the limited space on Facebook felt claustrophobic. How does one fit in all of what one feels in such a small space? How does one talk about the fantastic covers of the books? Or the smell of the pages that transported you into your own world? Or the smug feeling of satisfaction deep in your heart – when you sit through a Math class knowing you’re going to go back to your room.

Also, most lists seemed like an affirmation of sorts – Enid Blyton, Sherlock Holmes, Paulo Coelho.

Which makes me think, did we all read the same books as children? The entire nation, circulating a few books across each other?

So, here’s my list of 10 books.

Not all of them are great books, but through a combination of chance and scarcity, ended up shaping me in whatever way they did.

 

1. Chacha Chaudhary

chacha

The first book I ever got was a comic of the Beagle Boys.

It’s one of the earliest memories of my life. I must have been about four, and the comic came from a Book Fair that was held near my house. I remember sitting on the bed, staring transfixed at the pages. The colours, the lines, the words – they were all too much for me to make sense.

Till a relative explained the key – follow the speech bubble. Whoever the speech bubble points to, is saying the line. My world opened up after that.

I read the comic over and over. I read it while sitting, and lying down, and having lunch, and watching television. In a few months (or a year, perhaps), I was introduced to Chacha Chaudhary.

I had joined my boarding school at Class 1, and it was the winter holidays. My father and sister had come to take me home for the month long vacation, and brought along with them a Chacha Chaudhary comic.

This time, I was prepared. I was given a quick intro about the characters – of Chacha whose brain worked faster than a computer, and Sabu, who was from Jupiter. Since Jupiter was the largest planet, he was much larger than us earthlings.

I read Chacha Chaudhary comics like a fanatic. I read them on the way home, and while coming back to school. I read them in English, and in Hindi, spending half an hour at the shop, going through the covers (all of them in brilliant, blazing colours), sneaking in a few pages of every one of them before I was rapped on the head and told that the train would leave.

Chacha Chaudhary comics remained a feature of my journeys to home for the next five years. They were also the beginning of my days as a storyteller. Since I was among the few students who read comics, I would begin making up stories of my own to my classmates. As long as the stories contained Chacha and Sabu, my friends believed everything I said.

Once Tingu Master goes to Chacha and says ‘Chacha, I want to win the skating competition, but I can’t skate fast. What do I do?” Chacha says ‘Hmmm, let me think….Ok! I will keep your skates ready for you, come and collect them on the day of the competition.’

On the day of the challenge, Chacha gives Tingu Master the skates and tells him ‘There is a button on the skate. Once the competition starts, press this button. You’ll definitely win.’ Tingu Master starts the race, and then bends down to press the button. From inside the skates, hundreds and hundreds of cockroaches start coming out. All the other skaters scream and fall down, and Tingu Master wins the race.’

Now, the story above was like any other Chacha Chaudhary story. There was very little logic involved. The stories were generally irreverent towards science and common sense, and yet, I devoured them. The addict had gotten his first fix.

 

 

2. Fairy Tales

fairy tales

Around my third standard, I felt grown up. I had had my first erection, and the shared knowledge with few of my friends proved that there was a world beyond the one I knew. A world where boys and girls meet and fall in love, hold hands, and get married to each other.

It was around this time, that another transaction from the National Book Fair brought another book home. A collection of fairy tales, the book contained the Who’s Who of the world – from Cinderella to Rapuzel to The Sleeping Beauty to The Little Mermaid.

The book had illustrations on one page, with text next to it. I spent much of my vacations going through its contents, and imagining the same stories with my crushes. If there was a girl with long, luscious hair, I would close my eyes in the afternoon, pretend to be asleep, and imagine her to be Rapunzel. While everyone teased her during class, I would run up to her and tell her I knew of her secret. She would then climb up to the girls dormitory and let down her hair to the second floor, through which I would climb up.

We would then sit and talk about life, love, and food.

The wondrous escapade was cruelly cut short when my mother locked the book up. ‘It contains all love stories’, was her reasoning. I never had it in me to read a fairy tale ever again. The memories of unfulfilled love made it just too painful.

 

 

3. Hardy Boys

hardy boys

By the time I was ten, books had become a villain.

They were the epitome of all evil, and somehow could bring destruction to the house – among other things like playing chess, not washing your feet after using the toilet, and sleeping beyond sunrise.

The Hardy Boys were a little more serious than The Famous Five and The Secret Seven, whom I couldn’t take very seriously. How can you be a crime-solving group when one of your members is a dog? A dog? Seriously?

But Hardy Boys gave me the requisite boyish bravado that only pre-teen years offer. By this time, I had begun reading books on the sly. Hiding it from teachers at school, the ayahs at the hostel, and my folks at home.

Every book had to be read while keeping ears out for intruding adversaries. The Hardy Boys didn’t change the course of the world with their adventures, but they didn’t need to. Since I was at an age when I couldn’t probably handle sex, the timorous flirting of the Boys was enough for me.

Girls, you see, in Hardy Boys, did not form the crux of the story. They flitted in and out of the narrative, to keep the boys going. Much like the role girls played in my life back then. I never spoke to any of them, but went about my life, stealing a few glances every now and then.

 

 

4. Sherlock Holmes

sherlock holmes

 

I remember the day like it was yesterday.

The gate to the school was opened a little so that my father could walk in. Along with a few magazines (Cricket Talk, Sportstar), he handed me three thick books. Each of them had a similar cover, a silhouette of a lanky man smoking a pipe.

I was tired of the Hardy Boys sort of adventures – nobody really died in their stories. The evil people were arrested, and the town felicitated the Boys for the good work. And along came Nancy Drew and the Boys were now wrangling with her while solving cases -it was all too indigestible. I wanted the real thing – blood curling uncertainty, actual crime-solving skills (not the regular ‘Hey, there are some tracks. Let’s follow them….oh! Look, there’s a dead body – Fuck that!)

And that is when Mr. Holmes walked into my life. I read The Hound of Baskerville on a train, looking out of the window every once in a while to check if there was a creature pouncing out at me.

Since he was famous, nobody could admonish me for reading his books, even if the sly remarks continued unfettered. It is difficult to explain the effect Mr. Holmes had on me.

This was the age when strange things were happening to our bodies and minds. Dark, evil thoughts were brewing, bubbling up into thick, frothy evil that formed pimples on our faces. Mr. Holmes helped me wade through such turbulent times with his skills. I would look at a classmate and try to guess where he was playing in the playground. Look at the mud at the back of his feet, he must be playing near the Boiler on the girls side. Sissy fellow!

In the event of a heinous crime (a stolen book, or someone writing ‘You Love Nandita Sister’ on another’s notebook), I used whatever Mr. Holmes taught me.

 

 

5. Sidney Sheldon

Sidney Sheldon

 

He looked at the hair strewn at the bottom of the shower. Pubic Hair. It belonged to a man. He knew that men had curlier hair down there than women did. 

When I first read these lines, I knew not how to react. ‘Are people allowed to write stuff like this? Don’t they go to jail?’

For a long time, I assumed Sidney Sheldon was a woman. Only a woman could write in such a way, I thought. I was in Class 8, and well past the Sherlock Holmes stage. I mean, the adventures were thrilling, but Mr. Holmes was a tad clumsy around women. And this led to rare meetings with women, excepting the times when Mr. Holmes sat on his chair and moped about ‘her’. I wanted a little more, a little…ahem…more.

We used to go to the temple in the ashram for prayers and bhajans every day. For three hours, we were expected to cleanse our minds from all evil, and sing and clap and pray to God, hail his benevolence in creating the world, and pray for redemption from sins.While my brethren sang, prayed, or picked their nose and slyly rubbed it on the mats, I filled my mind with evil.

We were allowed to carry school books, and spiritual books to the temple. If you were caught with a novel, your ears would be pinched till you felt like Evander Holyfield. In such trying circumstances, I chose to carry Sidney Sheldon with me. I wrapped the book in newspaper, made sure it fit snug, and then slipped the book inside my shirt. I made sure I walked with my back straight, to avoid looking like I was to give birth to a paperback.

The books were passed on through an underground circle of novel-readers. I remember being pissed off when a senior flipped through a book, tore off a page, and then gave it to me. ‘You should not read those pages. They are very bad’. I never did that to my friends or juniors, though.

I got caught on a number of occasions, of course. The teachers were adults, and they’d met thousands of guys like me. But I had my days too. If I had a friend who was studious, I would beg him to carry the book for me. And once the item was successfully smuggled in, I had to race through it to ensure I didn’t have to smuggle it in the next day too.

Sidney Sheldon was my first exposure to sexuality. Since every book had an attractive female character who often indulged in wild sexual escapades, for a long time, I thought it was the norm.

 

 

6. Harry Potter

harry potter

 

 

Class 9. I had been reading about Harry Potter in the Literary section of The Hindu. There were pictures of fat British kids standing in line for days to get their hands on the books, and glowing reviews of every one that came out.

But I had read Sidney Sheldon. What use would I have of such kiddy trivialities like magic brooms and flying witches? I smirked at anyone reading the books, walking past them towards the bathroom so that I could spend quality time with Lara Cameron.

I had fallen sick, and was required to spend a few days off school, lying on the bed in my room. I spent one day eating the bland food, listening to the prayers and recitations from the school building, bored out of my mind. It was then that I ventured out to ask a junior if he could lend me a Harry Potter book.

It was The Prisoner of Azkaban. I was reading it with hidden contempt, of course. But pages turned, into chapters, and as I read on, I slowly turned into a maniac. I devoured the book in two days, hiding it under my bed when a teacher walked in. I extended my fever by a few more days, going on to read the fourth book. I went back to the first and second, and then again to the third and fourth.

Harry Potter was the first time I felt the magical flights of fantasy that books could take one into. Agreed, I was a tad older than the target audience, but what are such trivialities in a magical world?

 

7. Letters to Penthouse

Silverberg pornographer

 

 

Summer holidays. Ladybird bicycle.

I had discovered a set of shops near the railway station that sold sinful books to innocuous teenagers as me. It had happened after I had run through all his books, shaking my head in disappointment as the many colourful, glossy covers failed to entice me.

It was then that the man nodded, and asked me to get into his shop. I crouched in, while he looked around nervously, and slipped his hand into a hidden chamber, and pulled out a set of books – Letters to Penthouse. 

These were sinful books of the sinful category. There was no going back from these, and you couldn’t even cloud your conscience with the fact that they were just portions of a larger story. Letters to Penthouse left no scope for imagination or redemption. And I had to read a book on the terrace, ensuring sweat (and anything else) doesn’t spill on to the already seedy pages. I then had to rush back to the shop near the railway station, give him the book, an additional 100 rupees, and another session on the terrace.

Dear Penthouse, 

I have been wondering if I should write to you for a long time. 

My name is Mary. I am 33 years old, with blonde hair, and…

 

 

8. Kafka on the Shore

kafka on the shore

 

 

Years passed, and books had become a staple in my life.

They didn’t thrill me in the manner that they did back in teenage. Books at this age were a part of my personality. It is unfortunate that by the time we get into college, we are unofficially segregated into two categories – book readers, and non-book readers.

I fell into the first category, spending many a day convincing friends to start reading. Read this book – Five Point Someone – it will change your life. No, really. I swear.

Books were no more an escape into a magical world, they were an excess. A luxury amidst the dust and grime of the world. I wish I could say I read a lot of books in this gap. But I didn’t. I read whatever was selling like hotcakes – from Dan Brown to Archer to Coelho. But none of them shook me up in the real sense.

Till I came across Kafka on the Shore. For those of you who haven’t read Murakami, it is difficult to put into words what he does. So I shall not venture into it.

It was the time I had gotten my first smartphone – a 3.2 inch piece of shit called HTC Explorer. When it wasn’t getting hung, it allowed me a few luxuries. One of them was Aldiko, with its bare basic graphics.

Kafka on the Shore is about a journey, and that is how I read the book. Travelling from Hyderabad to Kurnool, reading it in bus stands, railways stations, smelly buses, and back-breaking back seats.

As soon as I finished the book, I felt dark clouds of sadness. As we grow up, very few things move us. And you can tell when you have completed one such experience.

 

 

9. The Mine by Arnab Ray

the mine

 

 

By now, I had a blog that was fairly popular. I ha begun nurturing ambitions of writing a book myself. But I couldn’t bring myself to write about love and friendship – the two reigning forces in our literary world today.

I had begun reading Greatbong’s blog, and it was liberating to see another creature of the same species. Greatbong wrote precisely about the things I cared – crickets, films, politics, Gunda, et al.

And so when he announced that his second book was to be in the genre of horror, I was intrigued. This genial Bengali chap, who wrote about fluffy things, could he pull off a horror?

And boy, was I surprised. The Mine is a delightful book because it plays to no galleries. It is horror for horror’s sake, and yet it isn’t the creepy manor in eerie cottage sort of American horror.

The Mine, apart from keeping me glued, gave me some hope for Indian writing. And I don’t mean the posh-ass Amitava Ghosh, Vikram Seth writing. I mean the ‘Oye, that gandu is writing a book, it seems’ sort of writing.

The Mine is a bold book, and one that gave me confidence to think beyond a campus, a girl, and a love triangle.

 

10. Xanadu Nights by Hriday Ranjan

 

xanadu Nights

 

 

My albatross.

The one thought that is a ripple of pleasure, and a pang of guilt.

The one struggle I plan to get rid of by the end of this year.

Please buy the book (when it does eventually come out).

Sorry for the KLPD.

I hope you understand.

Posted in Childhood, Growing Up in the 90's | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Dear ToI, You Deserve The Slap You Got.

The recent ‘OMG Deepika Padukone shows cleavage’ controversy was mighty cathartic for me.

A newspaper is the first thing I look at in the morning, and the pain I felt every morning, for years, is indescribable. You hold the newspaper in your hand; you want to see what’s happening in the world. A supplement slips out on to the ground, with an article ‘Bips’ dog fucks Sushmita’s cat’. The rest of your day is shit.

The first newspaper I ever read was The Asian Age. They were gossipy too, but back in those days, even gossiping was done with class, I guess. At school, when I began to read the newspaper for cricket, it was The Hindu.

In my +2, I got to pick my own newspaper.

The Oriya newspapers were all printed on re-recycled paper, their pages greyish, their images blurred. Among English newspapers, The Hindu would arrive in the evening, so fat lot of good that did me. The other papers – The Indian Express, The Telegraph, The Statesman – were all published from Calcutta and carried news from there. The Times of India had a desk of their own in Bhubaneswar, and also, their pages were colourful and glossy.

And so, like a monkey that goes for a jangly toy, I chose The Times of India.

Shifting to Hyderabad meant a rekindling with The Hindu, and in spite of all its problems, it still is a better newspaper to read. They say ‘Tell Me Your Company, I’ll Tell You Who You Are’. I would say, what newspaper a person reads is also a parameter for me.

“If your window to the world is a sleazy money-minting newspaper, I wouldn’t credit you with much.”

- Judge Judgerson.

1. Gimmicky: The Times of India, especially if you read the mobile version, hits you as extremely gimmicky. Their headlines put the Sen in sensational. And what can I say about their entertainment articles!

All ToI entertainment articles are written in a certain way. It’s like the editor got a bit of news, it’s placed on the table, and the sub-editors are asked to make it as KLPD-ish for the readers as possible.

                                   ACTRESS CAUGHT TALKING ‘DIRTY’!

by Anjali Fakesurnamewali

Bollywood heartthrob Simran Shetty got ‘dirty’ on Wednesday while promoting her film ‘HairBrain’.

During the media interaction, the smouldering actress was asked what was her favourite city. When asked what she liked the most about Chandigarh, she said that it is the cleanest city.

She went on to add that all other cities should take steps to keep their cities clean and recycle their waste. Hmm, we wonder what made the actress to talk ‘dirty’ in public. Her fans sure want to know.

2. No Respect for Privacy of Any Sort:

While it preaches about the representation of women and stuff in its editorials, the entertainment section seems to have Shakti Kapoor as Chief Editor.
If Aishwarya Rai turns up at Cannes (which she does, every year), our brothers at ToI will publish an article saying ‘Aish’s hottest dresses at Cannes’. Shweta Basu was caught in the prostitution racket, there will be an article called ‘Actresses who were caught in sex scandals’. Out of which there will be two genuine cases, the rest would be ‘allegations’.
And not content with having people surf through such tripe, ToI ensures that they earn money while they are at it. So each of those articles will be in the form of a slide show, so you keep paying a little bit of your internet costs to educate yourself.
 
 
 
3. No Moral Compass Whatsoever: 
 
When the Times Group got into entertainment, it wasn’t in the GEC category, it was the entertainment section, in the form of ‘Zoom’, perhaps the most useless channel in the history of useless channels. For a group that claims to be the largest media conglomerate, encompassing TV, print, radio, and news, the quality of the channel seems like it has come from the Ramsay stable. 
 
Zoom leaves no ambiguity in what it wants you to do. Zoom – Isko Dekho. Isko dekho aur hippopotamus jaisa IQ pao. What passes off as ‘news’ on the channel would make even our sleazy brothers at TV9 – another torchbearer of sleaze – go ‘Yeh toh bada ToI hai’. Take for example this news about scratches on Deepika Padukone’s back. Which by the way was the reason for rising crude oil prices in the Middle East. 
 
 
 
4. Paid News: While the terms is freely thrown around in political battles and random bitching about the media, paid news is a highly problematic phenomenon. And our brothers at ToI are leading the way. You’ll regularly find articles called ‘Advertorials’ singing paeans about a company, institution, or personality. While it sounds like an oxymoron – how can ‘news’ be ‘paid’ for? – reading the Times of India first thing in the morning is a sureshot way to end up in an asylum. 
 

And in spite of the rather lame justifications for it, paid news is not the only problem. The front page of the newspaper is filled with ads for toothpaste, real estate, and underwears. And who can forget the fiasco they created when they entered Tamil Nadu. For those of you who live on Uranus, here is what happened.

The Times of India was entering Chennai, traditionally the stronghold of The Hindu. In true ToI style, they released an ad depicting The Hindu as a newspaper that puts people to sleep.

 
The Hindu reacted in stellar style, delivering one of the greatest bitch-slaps ever delivered, with an ad that showed Times of India for what it really is – an encyclopaedia of who dated whom. 
 
 
5.  Coverage of Rape/Violence News: In spite of parroting lines like ‘We shouldn’t shame the victim’ and other such rhetoric, the Times of India has its own unique way of reporting stories pertaining to rapes and molestations. Every story will have an image of a woman crying out, or covering her head in shame, or screaming in fear. These graphics stand out, adding further sensation to the stories, which aren’t really reported with much sensitivity. 
 
times of india

Every story has an image like this.

 

So here’s the deal, dear Times of India. You might be the largest read English newspaper in the country, but that is more due to the spectacular spawning rate we Indians maintain. It is hardly surprising that someone like Arnab Goswami heads your TV channel. Reading your newspapers feels like entering his brain for half an hour every day. 
 
If you really take pride in being the largest read newspaper in the world, grow a spine. Act like the largest read newspaper in the world, not like a sleazy daily version of Manohar Kahaaniyan. 
 
I am glad someone gave it back to you. You really had it coming. 

***

Posted in Arbit Gyan, India | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Reviewing Fanny

I always thought Indians would connect to Finding Fanny. The men, at least.

Since the time we turn 18, much of our energies, talents and thoughts are expended on chasing pussy.

Now that I have made the customary first joke so that you open the link, here’s the review.

I have been mostly ambivalent towards Homi Adajania’s films. Being Cyrus was mildly interesting, but it didn’t blow my mind or anything. Just about tickled it with a feather, probably. Cocktail was problematic on different levels.

Finding Fanny, right from the first scene, makes it clear that it isn’t going to pander to you. You have to sit through the man sitting three rows behind you slurp on his Coke and say ‘Slow hai, behenchod’.

The film takes its time picking itself up, which could either pique your interest, or leave you bored. At the risk of doing a Rajeev Masand, who has a spectacular knack for revealing important plot points, let me try to summarise the plot.

Or wait, fuck it. Why should I?

*

Finding Fanny Movie Cast Poster Wallpaper

One look at the trailer, and you know there are interesting things in store for you. A cast of Naseeruddin Shah and Pankaj Kapur is a coup on any given day. The others – Dimple Kapadia, Deepika Padukone, and Arjun Kapoor – are merely playing catch up with the senior pro bros.

Watching Finding Fanny is a reflection of the difference between great and moderate actors. You see Dimple Kapadia act out a scene, just managing to walk the tightrope, in a laborious, onerous manner. And then Pankaj Kapur turns to her, smiles, and waltzes through his scene.

Deepika Padukone is skating on thin ice throughout the film. There are scenes where she spins around in a beautiful routine. And then there are others where her shoe is stuck in a soft patch of ice. But that could also be because I watched the Hindi version and when there is no link between lips moving and sound coming, I feel ill at ease.

What Padukone manages spot on, however, is to look smashingly pretty throughout. Which also makes you wonder, when someone is so naturally pretty, why do other directors paint her face till she looks like an Anime vamp ?

Arjun Kapoor, the actor who last gave us the heartwarming 2 States – The Story of My Two Expressions, puts in an honest effort. But there isn’t much you can do when your face doesn’t emote too much. He looks stoned all through, which might not be such a bad thing since he is [random Goan generalisation about Goa, hash, hippie, peace yo, cool brother, Boom Shiva].

*

Most of the reviews I hear from people said that the film didn’t move them enough. Which makes me wonder – are we constantly looking for films to move us? For films to shake the foundations of our emotional core in three hours? Look at our biggest hits, and most of them are epic, grandiose, larger than wife.

Finding Fanny might have its problems, but just the fact that the casting team did their work right, should give you enough reason to watch the film.

Don’t go in looking for the film to transform your life. One, it’s stupid. Two, if a three hour film can transform your life, you shouldn’t be walking into theatres. What with Arbaaz Khan directing Salman Khan in an Sohail Khan production, you might be a threat to society around you.

Finding Fanny is bold, and it is cheeky, and it expects a friend of you, not a devotee.

In a way, the film is like ordering food in a Goan shack. The cook steps out every half an hour, smokes a cigarette, and then walks back to the kitchen. When you ask him how long, he smiles.

The food finally arrives, slowly, swinging from this side to that.

How much you enjoy it depends on how hungry you are.

***

Posted in Film, Review | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

My new favourite state.

I have a new favourite state, and I do not mean ‘intoxicated’.

Himachal Pradesh.

Having spent the last two weeks in five states – Goa, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh (see what KCR did there?), I have arrived at the conclusion that Himachal Pradesh is undoubtedly the most beautiful state there is in the country.

Granted, a few of you will say ‘Kashmir’, but Kashmir has other issues, and I would rather spend my time speaking to Shiva than meeting him in person. And so it is with the confidence and the deep knowledge of someone who has spent exactly one single day in the state, that I declare Himachal Pradesh as my favourite state.

Which takes me back to the seedy Social Science text books that we learnt from in school. When I think of Himachal Pradesh, the images that came to mind were – Apples, boys and girls wearing cute traditional gowns, and … ahem, nothing else.

Another point in HP’s benefit was that we had spent the previous two days at Punjab. Which, by the way, was a KLPD of Sabu-ean proportions.

Now, think of everything that I knew about Punjab – lots of fields, lots of Rajs and Simrans, pretty girls, dhabas with friendly Punjabi men serving delicious tandoori chicken, etc.

However, Chandigarh was a gigantic disappointment. Primarily because of everybody’s insistence to go check out ‘Sector 17’. Sector 17 apparently has the hottest women of Chandigarh frolicking about like Biblical princesses, and everybody we met spoke about it.

Now, I am no greek god and cannot claim to have wooed women merely by my looks, but I have always wondered what is the point of the exercise. What does one do at these places where there are pretty women around?

We don’t live in a culture where we can walk up to women and ask for their number. Even if you did, there’s a good possibility the woman might shriek, and Ramu Kaka from across the road might smash your head to pulp, while asking if there are any female members in your house.

In such a scenario, what does one really do at Sector 17? It’s not like one can have intercourse merely by staring at someone. I am yet to meet a single man who stared at a woman till she came, and then flushed, and slipped him a note saying ‘It was great. We should stare at each other again. Here’s my number.’

Not surprisingly, Sector 17 contained other chutiyas like us, who had gone to ogle at the pretty women.

The next thing on my list was to eat at a dhaba. The kind of dhaba they show us in Bollywood movies – a cot on the outside, trucks whizzing past, a cold beer by the side. Turns out, ‘dhaba’ is a generic word for restaurants.

The ‘dhabas’ are just restaurants with tables, chairs, and annoying posters of babies laughing for no reason. Determined to get the true Punjabi dhaba experience, we went to a dhaba on the outskirts, by the way, which had cots laid out in the front. Gurdaas Maan invited us into ‘Sethi ka dhaba’.

Once inside, we realized what a massive fan of Gurdaas Maan the owner of the dhaba was. All along the walls, were pictures of Gurdaas Maan singing, Gurdaas Maan dancing, Gurdaas Maan playing cricket, Gurdaas Maan being Gurdaas Maan.

The food of course, wasn’t much of a disappointment. And in my extremely short stay at Punjab, the food was the only saving grace. Which also makes you realize, that the food being passed off as ‘Punjabi’ food in Hyderabad is not really Punjabi in any way. It is an extremely poor attempt at replication – like Aurangzeb trying to pass off as Pope Francis.

Tired of all the disappointments that Chandigarh handed us, we decided we must visit Himachal Pradesh.

*

hp

Himachal Pradesh, my friends, is pretty.

Everything in Himachal Pradesh is beautiful. The mountains, the houses on the mountains, the people who live in the houses on the mountains. The hash smells like someone stole it from Shiva’s chillum. The stray dogs look like they came off a shoot in TLC, women look pretty without looking like Sonakshi Sinha. Babas look like they are on a BBC documentary, roads look like they belong to a different era.

Even a gutter in Himachal Pradesh is beautiful.

Because, Himachal Pradesh.

It is commonly believed that to enjoy HP in all its beauty, one must carry Shiva along. However, what they don’t tell you is that just by himself, Shiva is not much use. One also needs Lakshmi, and Durga.

And armed with Lakshmi, Shiva, Durga, the three of us stood near the mountains and turned around to see the mountains change colours every few minutes. We watched as clouds formed beautiful shapes, we listened as birds and trees and streams came together in a beautiful symphony.

As we zooming down the zig-zag roads, and our Punjabi driver was educating us on the amazing therapeutic effects of opium, I said goodbye to Himachal Pradesh.

Probably my opinion is coloured in pink because my stay there was extremely short-lived. May be there are people in HP too who scratch their balls when they see women, and shit by the side of the roads.

But I wasn’t there for long enough to see them.

And that is why Himachal Pradesh is my new favourite state in the country.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Movie Review: A Kick to Your Brain

At the onset, I understand what I am against here.

Writing a review for a Salman Khan film is a futile exercise. Like being Bappi Lahiri’s dietician. Nothing you do is going to affect anything in real. And yet, one has to go about one’s life with these pressures.

kick poster

Kick is a remake of a Telugu film of the same name, starring Ravi Teja.

For those who aren’t acquainted with the Telugu film industry, a short background. Of all the film industries in the country, the Telugu film industry is the most nepotistic, caste-ridden one there is. All actors in the industry today are either sons or grandsons of actors. It is a dog-eat-dog world that is difficult to get into, and if you manage to get in, impossible to retain your place.

Among the Gandhi family that the industry is, Ravi Teja is one actor who made it on his own. There is a colony in Hyderabad – Krishnanagar – where all the strugglers of the film industry reside. Everybody from hawkers to auto drivers to cooks to waiters – everybody who resides in the colony has celluloid dreams in their mind, with just one actor to look up to – Ravi Teja.

In many ways, Ravi Teja’s films symbolise his struggle. He is always the crass, loud, goofish guy who manages to woo the smooth, svelte heroine. His lines take double entendres to a different level, his songs have triple meanings, he gets away with squeezing the girls’ lips, pinching their navels, and pressing their boobs.

Somehow, in his own weird way, Ravi Teja manages to pull off all that he does.

And Kick was his biggest hit.

 

*

 

Now, the problem with someone like Salman Khan doing a Kick, is that it will always be a sanitized version of the film. And then there’s the fact that Salman Khan does no real acting in his films.

He is simply waltzing around, mouthing lines, making faces, raising his eyebrows, and taking off his shirts. He is probably the only actor in the country (and perhaps in the world) who has no need for a script, acting, and direction.

"Director ne bola 'Kick karte hain', maine kick kar diya."

“Director ne bola ‘Kick karte hain’, maine kick kar diya.”

If you made a three hour film of Salman Khan eating biriyani, it would still make 200 crores in three weeks. But anyway, since one has to review the film, let us get into the act.

*

 

Kick is the story of a guy who always wants a kick in life. Someone who goes out of his way to do things in different ways so that he gets an adrenaline rush from it. We all meet such guys in life; we just choose to call them assholes.

Along his weird antics, the hero (Devi – again, Salman Khan waving a middle finger to humanity’s need for naming people according to their gender) meets and falls in love with a girl. In typical Indian film style, he impresses her by doing a string of illegal things. He first bashes people and breaks property in a café. When he is arrested by the police, he goes to the police station, breaks furniture, and even strips the inspector to his underwear.

But since this is India, he goes viral on YouTube and the girl falls for him.

 

*

 

This goes on for a bit, till the girl is fed up with him for quitting jobs. For not ‘settling down’ in life. Salman being Salman, says ‘Fuck it’ and goes on to become a thief.

Not just a regular thief. But the suave, cool, kick-ass thief of the Dhoom 3 kind. The kind of thief who looks at 3D projections of plans and maps on his table, and zooms in and pushes them across screens.

Then, Randeep Hooda, who is probably going through some bad times and has signed up for the film, is engaged to the heroine and needs to catch a dreaded thief called Devil (10 points for scripting!!).

The next one hour contains some bizarre shit, thanks to extremely lazy writing. At this point, let us stop and appreciate the genius of the scriptwriting. And who has done it? Chetan Fucking Bhagat.

For all his bravado about writing, and his cribbing about not getting his due in the west, he fails to fill some basic plotholes. Take for example the scene where Devil is stuck in a river, with police surrounding him from all sides. In the next scene, he is in India planning his next heist? What happened in the middle?

Guess we’ll have to wait for a book titled ‘9 Ways I Had A Love Story and Change the Country’ to find out!

 

I slept off in the last 20 minutes, so I have no clue what really happened. But there are a few things that I noticed. Not that either of them are new to this film alone.

  1. Loud Background Score: In spite of nearly seven decades of churning out musicals, Bollywood is yet to understand a background score. In most films, the background score is a loud rendition of the songs of film, in slow motion. In Kick, the background score is like a hungry 2 year old on cocaine, blaring into your ears, making you want to turn around and stab him in the heart. Thrice.
  2. Hero-Villain Phone Call: Every Hindi action film has a scene where the hero calls up the villain/cop and has a long, dramatic conversation with him. The two of them are mouthing absolutely absurd lines, and each line is followed by a metal tune. Here is a sample:

 

Villain: I’m going to catch you. Be ready to listen to the music of death HAHAHAHA!

Hero: The wind cannot be caught, the sun cannot be burnt.

Villain: I like your confidence. I like how you talk, I will like how you die. Kim Kardashian has a nice ass.

Hero: Dog! Scoundrel!! You don’t know who you are talking to! Red is the colour of Chacha Chaudhry’s turban. I am rural, you’re urban.

Villain: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, How I Wonder What You Are.

Hero: Jai Mata Di, Let’s Rock. Jai Hind.

(so on and so forth)

 

*

 

Kick, true to its name, is a kick to your senses.

It is a kick to critics, to writers, and to cinema in general.

And yet, it will go on to earn 200 crores in 27 minutes. It stars our biggest star, and has been written by our greatest writer. And the director is a long time producer – another kick to all aspiring directors out there.

Go watch it if you’re into sadomasochism.

Posted in Film, Review | Tagged , , | 18 Comments