Of Summer and Its Addictions

Isn’t it amazing how every year, when summer comes on, people will point it out to you? They’ll hold their collar and shake it vigorously and say, ‘Yaar, it’s so hot, na?’

Like they’re just back from a 12 year vacation to Pluto and realised how hot it is in India in summers. It is summer, guys. It will be hot. Get over it.

 

I got over it long ago. Years ago, in my childhood, Bhubaneswar was notorious for ‘Sunstrokes’. It was the first time I had come across the word – sunstroke. I imagined that the sun would smile down warmly on a person, there would be a blinding flash of light, and the man would drop dead right there. Later, I learnt it is a heartbreakingly painful process. The person would first dehydrate, and then die as every drop of water in his body dried up, minute by painful minute.

But all of this wouldn’t affect me one bit. For I had just learnt how to ride a bicycle.

There are very few joys in the world compared to learning to ride a bicycle for the first time.

There is a sense of freedom, of joy, your bicycle being your horse, and of the world being your playground. There are no limits to your enthusiasm, your imagination, and the heat of the summer is but another obstacle – to be trampled upon and left behind.

And since I had just learnt the fine art of riding a cycle, I didn’t want to step inside the house. And so I was given a simple solution – Tie a wet cloth around your head if you want to step out.

The intention was to keep my head cool, wet and dehydrated. But what really happened was a combination of many things:

a)    Children and elders alike sniggered when I crossed them, a wet towel wrapped around my head.

b)    The cloth began to smell damp and funny after a point.

c)     The dampness around my head would result in me feeling dizzy after half an hour, and I would return to the house.

 

Again, this was a time when there was no internet, no cable television (since I was being honed to become a good citizen of the country), no cricket happening.

And all through the summer, I felt a strange thirst.For liquids. An insatiable need for liquid to run down my parched throat.

My hunt led me on to the roads in the afternoons. And the options in front of me were not very vast. And yet, I didn’t shy away from trying them all out.

 

Firstly, there was Sugarcane Juice.

Back then, it was just two rupees, and it wasn’t very difficult to flick two rupees lying around the house and run out to the shop. It was cool, sweet, and affordable.

But then, it had its problems too. You can’t have more than two glasses of it. If you did, you’d have a sticky, sweet feeling. Like your lips have been chapped together by a weak adhesive gum.

And then there were the health issues involved with sugarcane juice. Friends telling you that they’d seen a man keeping his sugarcane in a ditch to make it fresh and juicy. And another friend telling you that his cousin had died of food poisoning from sugarcane juice. Also, after two glasses, your body craved some water, or some salt, or chillies.

And so, I struck sugarcane juice out of my list.

 

Then came the Tender Coconut.

It is cool, and healthy. No one had any horrific tales to narrate about tender coconuts. They were just tender nuts that had a sweet juice inside of them. Problem is, I wasn’t the only one who had realised this truth. And this resulted in the price of tender coconuts rising not so tenderly.

It was five rupees when I was a child. And then in a few years, it was ten rupees. And then, it was fifteen rupees, and then twenty, twenty-five, and thirty. And me with my money nicked off from home, would never be able to catch up in that race.

 

Golas, I have never been fond of.

Firstly, I had only seen it in films and TVs. Of people sucking on golas and chuskis and having fun. In Orissa, we never really had golas for a long time. And when they finally arrived, what a massive colourful disappointment they turned out to be!

It was the same chapped feeling between my lips that I felt after having one. Also, it took about 20 minutes to finish one. Any quicker, and your jaws felt like a yeti had smooched you and run its tongue inside your mouth.

Golas didn’t do it for me.

 

Cool drinks, I was never fond of. Of course, I got enamored by ads and wanted to have a wonderful, bubbly, soft drink in the middle of summer – just like they showed me in those ads.

But every soft drink in the world is the same for me. I enjoy the first two sips and the rest of it seems like a punishment.

Ice creams never worked for me in any which way. Whether it was the Chocobar, or the cups, or the Cassatas, or the expensive ones. None of them did anything for me. All I felt at the end of the ice cream was sticky hands, a sticky mouth, and a sweet aftertaste in my mouth that wouldn’t go even if I ate a live chicken.

 

Which left me with the only other option. Buttermilk.

Buttermilk is one of those things in life you cannot have any complaint against. It could be made thick or thin, spicy or sweet. It is healthy, inexpensive, and easy to prepare.

Needless to say, I was addicted.

But then, I realised that the dynamics of buttermilk-making had a larger role to play. It wasn’t as simple as taking buttermilk, adding spices, chillies, coriander leaves, some ginger, some black salt, and mixing them all together.

I realised that different places have different ways of preparing buttermilk. At home, they’re always overdoing it. They make it thicker than it should be, just to pander to some idea of ‘healthy, wholesome home food’, killing the end result in the process. And like mother’s hamburgers, mothers’ buttermilk is never the real thing.

Others would add too much salt, too less chillies, or not black salt at all. Temples would keep it satwik, adding no ginger at all. There were ‘jalachhatras’ – free water/buttermilk pots that were kept in the open, as a form of social service. These guys made the buttermilk too thin, in an obvious attempt to save money while saving lives.

When I was posted at the KIIT International School in Bhubaneswar, there was a stall that gave out free water and buttermilk. Even if it was light, it was delicious. And I shamelessly hung out there, having 5-6 glasses a day.

And yet, it wasn’t perfect for me. It was a little light, and come summer, I would begin my hunting for the perfect buttermilk.

Everywhere I went, I looked for the perfect buttermilk.

And everytime, I was disappointed. Vijaya, the state-run milk company in Andhra Pradesh wasn’t very good. It was too thick, as if the state was doing its bit to prove the purity of their cows and their milk.

Omfed, the state-run milk federation in Orissa skimmed over the chilly and ginger, making for a drink that seemed hollow in its taste. And I went from this place to that, looking for the perfect buttermilk every summer.

And then, a few weeks ago, I found it.

Jersey milk.

It’s a private company that has its operations in Andhra Pradesh. Like all other milk companies, its logo has a smiling cow as its logo.

It cost 6 rupees, and when I slit the packet open, I realised that my hunt for the perfect buttermilk was over.

Inside, stirred up in the perfect way humanly possible, was buttermilk, salt, chilly, coriander leaves, and black salt. It was so perfect that I didn’t even have to shake well before use.

And that is how I spend my summers these days. Hunting for Jersey Buttermilk in every shop, store, or mall that I come across.

And summer is hot, and sticky and sweaty and all of that.

But what do I care? I am addicted, and my fix costs me 6 rupees.

Posted in Bhubaneswar, Hyderabad | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Hey Indians, how about strapping some balls on?

In the last three overs of the Indian innings in the final, I knew a storm was brewing.

We logged on to Facebook to check out Yuvraj Singh’s Facebook page, and we found people trolling him. Some of the posts were really funny. We scrolled down some more, and then there were few that weren’t very funny, some that were poor attempts, and finally, some that really lacked in taste.

Which is why I wasn’t surprised the next day when I read the news of Yuvraj Singh’s house getting stoned. People wished that he had died of cancer, than to come back and play in the final.

*

Whenever such an incident comes up, there are two common explanations.

The first explanation for it is that we are an emotional people. That we love cricket as a sport, and it is the frustration of a people whose only bright spot in life and popular culture is films and cricket.

Which is an absurd explanation. If we were really passionate about the sport, we would know that a team sport is dependent on the entire team. If they scratched a little more, they’d also know that a team sport is dependent on a variety of external things – luck, strategy, playing conditions. And if they really had an IQ of 80+, they’d know that it is really difficult to hit yorkers outside the off stump.

The second is that it comes with being a sporting icon. When people love you, you enjoy the success, the grandeur, the fame and the wealth. If you go through the Ups, you also have to grin and bear the Downs.

Ahem, no?

Because we are not fucking Taliban??

Because we are a supposed civilised democracy in 2014?

Come to think of it, what really did he do? Did he fix a match? Did he pursue and hack someone to death? He had a bad day at work. In the way that you and I do. Now when your boss asks you to come meet him, do you stone his house and blacken his face?

Na. He has power over you.

'Kya gaandu log ho yaar, tum log?'

‘Kya gaandu log ho yaar, tum log?’

*

That is the second thing about the mob frenzy.

Have you ever seen anybody stone the house of politicians? What about N.Srinivasan – the guy who has been accused of running a betting racket? Or A.Raja? Or Suresh Kalmadi – that other Indian who was really passionate about sport?

Or the police officers who roam the streets like modern day Razakars? Or the builder who built that shitty road outside your house? Na. No, sir.

You know why? Because they are powerful. Because if you try to get near their house, their bodyguards will punch you till your small intestine becomes your large intestine and your liver becomes a dier.

*

And so we always choose the easy preys. Actors, authors, cricketers, social workers, and women in pubs. Those not powerful enough to defend themselves.

If somebody was watching from Uranus, they’d shake their heads and laugh. Ek toh all the 100 crores of us follow only one goddamn sport. A sport that only eight other countries play. Bangladesh toh simply does timepass.

It’s sad in a pathetic way.

Posted in Cricket, Politics | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Thoughts on the T20 World Cup

In a few hours, a two month tumultuous relationship between Cricket and Bangladesh will come to an end.

Once again, India will play Sri Lanka. It is probably a testimony to how much the two play each other, that I have more knowledge on Sri Lanka’s bowlers than our own. One assumes the two teams play each other so much that they barely consider each other opponents anymore. Probably warring cousins of the same family.

Also, as a picky, disgruntled, judgemental viewer, I have many a bone to pick with the tournament.

Firstly, why another tournament in Bangladesh? The crowds are sparse, and the ones that are there wave Bangladeshi flags in a New Zealand vs. Netherlands match. And their government goes ahead and bans its citizens from waving flags of the opponent team. Which is a regressive step many would argue. But let me subtly remind the reader that India pressed sedition charges against a few students who supported Pakistan in a match. And after all this, Irony came into the picture when they started playing K’naan’s Waving Flag on the loudspeaker.

Which brings me to the music. What is with Bangladeshi music? Blood is fighting to burst out of my ears when their songs play on the PA System. Not only are they loud and tacky, they completely drown the voice of the commentators. And to add to the terrible songs, there is an announcer in the stadium?

Who is that guy, really?

You’re watching a match, ignoring the people who’ve painted themselves as yellow tigers, and then you ignore the songs, and think fondly of Ravi Shastri and his cliches, when the guy with the mike starts off -

AAAAAASHAKALAKASHAKALAKABOOMDHADAKASHAKALAKAKIKORCHHEEEEEEE- and the entire stadium goes ‘Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy’.

If Tony Greig was alive, he’d walk up to the guy, tap on his shoulder, and deliver a resounding slap on his face.

And if the noise and the songs isn’t too much, there are the unwanted statistics. If you look at the coverage of this tournament, you’ll find that as a viewer, you’re bombarded with statistics.

Let’s assume Virat Kohli has come on to the pitch.

On the screen, you’ll find numbers describing his total career stats – like any other tournament would. But then, the goodies start to flow out.

kohli against pace-spinkohli off side-on sidekohli overs 1-10kohli strike rate in 1st inningskohli choice of abuse                                                           (Since October 2012)

 

I understand statistics give a context to the game, but seriously, all these statistics? They rob the match of any meaning whatsoever. And yet, one fears these are things that will stay. Because information is power. And India has all the power in cricket. And with great power comes great electricity bill. When will the goddamn match start, damn it, I’m going nuts!

 

*

 

The other thing about this tournament is that Dhoni is back.

During the Asia Cup, the team felt hollow. What Dhoni brings into the team might be contested by his haters today, but you can see the large gaping hole when he isn’t in the team.

The guy is probably among the Top 3 finishers in the game, has a calm head, has improved leaps and bounds in his wicketkeeping, and yet people will find something to crib about all the time:

‘Saale ka daadhi pak gaya, behenchod. Kyun khel raha hai woh?’

And yet, nothing seems to affect the guy. Being the Captain of the Indian Cricket Team is a very stressful position. Just a little less stressful than being RahulG’s speechwriter. But it is very stressful.

And Dhoni has mastered the Art of Not Giving a Fuck.

Indian skipper MS Dhoni shown not giving a fuck in a Press Conference

Indian skipper MS Dhoni shown not giving a fuck in a Press Conference

He has the World Cup and the Champions Trophy with him. In a few hours, he’ll be vying for the T20 World Cup. If he fails, people will bay for his blood. If he wins, they’ll share selfies on Facebook with a cute cat and get 150 likes.

*****

 

Posted in Cricket | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Advertising – Or how it would be in real life.

Dear reader, I haven’t been able to post anything since I have been busy with my book. :)

Please watch the video (even if majority of it is just Blank Screen) to get the jokes. If you are easily offended, kindly stand up, bend down, and stuff your head into your ass. Very relieving, trust me.

 

 

 

deols final

 

Ravi-Shastri-Cricketer-001

 

Sachin-32

 

arnab-goswami final

Posted in Arbit Gyan | Tagged | 1 Comment

Queen : Makes Yashraj Look Like Kanti Shah

Disclaimer: If you haven’t watched Queen, please go ahead and read the review. There are no spoilers. I’m not Rajeev I’ll Screw Your Film For You Masand.

Kangana-Ranaut-in-still-from-Queen-Movie-Stills-Pic-1

*

In the very first shot of Queen, we see yellow and orange garlands hanging from walls, women singing and dancing, children running around, and people in such glittery attire that they could light up the Mohali Cricket Stadium.

I groaned.

I had seen this is in every Yashraj film I had watched since I was a sperm.

 

It’s nice if you begin with no expectations at all and things start looking up from there. Of late, one aspect of Hindi films that has irked me is the whole ‘establishing the premise’ that films indulge in. I mean, we are shown trailers, and we are not anteaters, and we have decided to watch the film – why not get on with it already?

Queen thankfully avoids that, taking little time to establish. Even then, it is thankfully in flashback scenes peppered through the film, providing layer after layer to peel off.

*

All through its length, the film is walking a tightrope.

The film is saddled with situations we have seen over the last few years. The Indian abroad facing a cultural clash has been done in countless films. The lack of English has been done in English Vinglish. And the Coming of Age has been done by Ranbir Kapoor in every film since he was a sperm.

And yet, Queen hops along merrily, reminding you of the kid on a rainy day, jumping over puddles on the road, while the grown-ups next to him hold their clothes and flock to the footpath.

I have never been a fan of Kangana Ranaut. Probably because nearly all the films I have seen her in, has her play a psychotic, disturbed character. In Woh Lamhe, Fashion, Raaz 3, Tanu Weds Manu, Gangster – she was always the shrieking, screaming, disturbed girl. Half way through Queen, I wouldn’t have been surprised if she looked up at the skies, slit her wrists, tore her shirt and ran through the streets of Paris.

Thankfully, nothing of the sort happens here. Her character shapes out beautifully, making you realise that there couldn’t have been a more apt name for her. Certainly no Anjali or Simran would do.

Kangana Ranaut has already received rave reviews for her performance, with Raja Sen proclaiming her to be the future. With a carefully etched out character, Kangana Ranaut (to use a Masand cliché) sinks her teeth into the role, making it her own.

When she cries, she goes all out. When she dances, there is no grace. There are enough unflattering, no-make up shots of her to ensure a few of those awards pop up at her house.

But the performer of the film for me was Rajkummar Rao. In a short span of two years, the guy has built up a sizeable amount of good work – and not a single role has a shred of the other. Something that’s credible in an industry where people debut with films like Moron Of The Year.

Playing a wannabe, aspirational guy who’s too consumed by himself to even appear caricaturish, Rajkummar Yadav is spot on every time he comes on screen. It’s yet another effective performance by the man, who’ll probably only be recognised by the industry when (like Naseeruddin Shah), he is 50 and has done an embarrassing item number called ‘Soye Soye’.

It’s rather sad.

*

Queen’s greatest achievement is that manages to hold its footing on such a dangerously slippery track. That the heroine doesn’t walk into a salon in the middle of a song and come out looking like a runway model.

That you don’t feel a large tin drum on your shoulders when you walk out the film.

Posted in Review | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Wish He Was Here…

India – Pakistan matches, for some reason, do not carry the intensity that they used to in the older days.

In an age where every movement, every expression, every word is captured, there seems to a be a blanket of civility over the proceedings. I doubt we will ever witness an Aamir Sohail vs Venkatest Prasad ever again.

I don’t know if it is a good thing or not. For one, the Pakistani side in general seems a lot weaker on most days (I know I am writing this after a loss, but you get the point). Secondly, the losses don’t hurt much these days.

In earlier days, every aspect of an India – Pakistan match was dissected, deconstructed, replayed, review, relived. Now, you simply walk up to the other room and roll a joint. It’s simply not the same.

And so all through the match today, with one eye over the proceedings of the match, my thought drifted away in another direction.

Openers.

*

If you’ve watched Indian cricket for about a decade, you’ll notice that the beginnings of Indian innings are a lot more tense these days. Now rewind to a few years ago, and you’ll remember that the beginning of an Indian innings was met not with anxiety, but anticipation.

Sehwag’s entry into the team was the last piece of a gigantic puzzle. We had a side stocked with seasoned campaigners – people who had honed their skills for years, winning accolades, gaining in experience, till our Middle Order was pregnant with batting greats. But yet, one felt that something was missing. The army needed a vanguard.

Somebody who could be at the front, someone who could cock a snook at the opposition. A person who could terrorise the opponent right from the start. A Mel Gibson in our Braveheart. 

And that man was Virender Sehwag.

For the cricketing world, caught up in its little traditions and customs, Sehwag was an alien thing. More often that not, one sensed the discomfort the commentators felt while he was at the crease. For, if there was one man who could make the wisest of commentators look foolish, it was Sehwag.

He would poke at deliveries on bouncy pitches, slash hard at deliveries that left his body. The commentator would launch into a long extempore about the importance of footwork and technique on foreign pitches.

And right then, he would slap the bowler through the off side. A whiplash that made such a clear ‘TOK’ sound that you knew would end with the ball crashing into the stands. And then he would do it again, reducing the renowned commentator into a bumbling, embarrassed fool.

Yes, we had the genius of Sachin Tendulkar, and the bludgeoning power of Dhoni, and all the class and style of Dravid and Laxman, but ask anybody in India, and they’ll tell you that there wasn’t anybody as entertaining as Sehwag.

When Sehwag came into the picture, Sachin was already a God. But Sehwag posed no threat to the legacy of Sachin. Admittedly having modeled himself on Tendulkar, Sehwag was soft-spoken and rarely said anything. (Apart from the now legendary quote - “All played well, except the Sreesanth.”) When he features in ads, he seemed shy and reserved.

And very soon, he took over the show from Sachin. For the first time in years, Sachin had someone who could shift to fifth gear at ease, and he could work his way to another century.

Sehwag, inadvertently, was also responsible for the ‘Sachin is a selfish player’ accusation that Sachin haters make against the man. Having grown up with cricketers who slowed down their innings when they neared the 90′s, it was an acceptable habit. Till Sehwag happened.

Sehwag would slash and cut and punch and butcher his way to the 90′s. And then when at 94, while you were expecting him to slow down and take a few singles, he would step out, whack the bowler over Long On, and then raise his bat to the Dressing Room and smile. We as a nation had never seen something like this.

Of all the shots I have seen him play over the years, two will remain firmly entrenched in my mind. One is the murderous cut on the off side. Sehwag would shuffle and scuffle outside the Off Stump, and the bowler would give width on the Off Side, and WHACK! the ball would race the fielder to the ropes. The second would be his backfoot punches, modeled no doubt after the man at the other end.

Watching a Sehwag innings was like going on a date with an attractive serial murderer. There was an edginess to it, a nervous excitement.

All through his golden years, there were the technical problems. Numerous commentators pointed out the flaws in his batting, remarking that he had to change his game over the years. Every ball he missed made him look obsolete, confused. And yet, at the back of our minds, we never thought it was a serious threat. For he would pull one across the ropes and all would be well with the world again.

Perhaps, like Sehwag, we as a nation took his talent for granted. Took it for an akshaya-patra that would keep spilling over with riches. And then, it happened. His shots were either too late, or too early. His batting, built on the foundation of an impeccable Hand – Eye coordination, had Merv Hughes sized holes in it. 

I don’t know if history will remember Sehwag as a good player or a great player. I remember Gavaskar talking about the difference between the two. Both of them have good starts to their careers – records, success, fame. But as the body starts to age, the great ones tweak their game, making small changes that keep them going, in spite of their bodies slowing down.

Perhaps Sehwag gave as much respect to such theories, as he gave to the bowlers at the other end. Till his last tournament, he maintained that he would play his natural game. He didn’t say it with arrogance, he didn’t seem stubborn about it. He seemed like he knew no other way to play.

 

*

 

There are a few things I have against statistics and numbers in sport. While revealing a lot, they conceal quite a bit as well. No amount of statistics and averages can truly demonstrate the impact that Sehwag brought to the team.

There are no numbers that measure fear. Fear in the eyes of the bowlers the world over. The utter bafflement they faced as they saw this man lift his bat and strike the ball like it was the climax of a revenge saga.

Numbers will never reveal how he mutilated the opposition. That even a 30 from Sehwag would demoralise the best attacks of the world. There are some things that even Mathematics cannot quantify. Sehwag’s batting was one of those.

By the last few innings, Sehwag was a changed man. In his earlier days, he was never the most aggressive or outspoken. He could be found talking to the keeper and laughing at Slips during his heydays.

But in the last few days, he seemed distraught. His shoulders drooped, his stance shaky. It was like he was asked an Out of Syllabus question in the Board Exam. I remember him coming to Cuttack for a Ranji match. In an interview with a local channel, he seemed bored. He spoke about the game, about Sachin retiring, and then rambled on about a school he had started, where children are encouraged to pursue sports along with their studies. It was hard to see him like that.

And now, when I watch Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, it is like being in an arranged marriage with a person who has already suffered three heart attacks. There is no excitement, just fear.

I know Sports doesn’t work on emotions. I understand that physical and mental toughness matter more than anything else. I also understand that the same sport that elevates mortals into Gods, brings them crashing back down to earth.

But for reasons very personal to me, I wish Sehwag is somehow able to stage a comeback. And for one last time, I see his bat slice through the opposition. And hear that ‘Tok’ sound.

Just once.

 

 

 

Posted in Cricket | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

No way!!

Disclaimer:

  • If you haven’t watched Highway, please go ahead and watch it.
  • If you have watched Highway, go ahead and read the blog.
  • If you like Jackie Shroff, you’re cool.

highway-movie-still-15

Right from the trailers, there was no doubt what Highway would be about. Stockholm Syndrome, the scenario when a hostage falls in love with his/her kidnapper.

So clearly, it was just a case of how, and not what.

Highway is a difficult film to ease into. The first ten minutes are montage shots of a truck going through different terrains, and a marriage video where women are selecting sarees for the wedding.

And then, the girl gets kidnapped, and taken hostage.

Journeys have been a leit-motif of Imtiaz Ali films. Jab We Met was about a couple who discover their love for each other over two journeys. Love Aaj Kal spoke about the journeys we need to embark on, for love, illustrated through parallel stories from two generations. And Socha Na Tha was…err…the beginning of Abhay Deol’s journey in cinema.

Now, this is where the problems in the film begin. The girl is kidnapped, and suddenly, she realises that she’s actually enjoying it. Enjoying the grandeur of nature, the open spaces, open air and the smiling sun, and other such first world luxuries.

She’s been manhandled, felt up, gagged, made to sleep in a dumpyard, and yet when she wakes up, she starts talking animatedly.

Here, as a viewer you are wondering: ‘What’s wrong with her? Why is she talking so much?’

Just then, Alia Bhat stops and thinks aloud, ‘Hey, what’s wrong with me? Why am I talking so much?’

A few scenes later, the police are searching the truck, and instead of escaping, she chooses to hide inside the truck. At this juncture, you as a viewer are wondering, ‘Is she going mad? Why didn’t she escape?’

As if on cue, she thinks aloud, ‘Hey! Am I going mad? Why didn’t I escape?’

But in true Bollywood style, these are minor hiccups. As we all know, when lauvv has to happen, lauvv will happen.

And so when the trucker tells her that his mother used to sing him songs as a kid, she tells him, ‘Tum mujhe kaafi cute lagne lage ho.’ To put this in perspective, it is like Scarlett Johansson sending me a friend’s request, and then commenting ‘Oooh, so sexy you are. Proud to be your friend, ya!’ on my pictures.

*

As befuddled as the viewer, is the poor trucker. Randeep Hooda, playing an intense and brooding man for the absolutely first time in his entire career, fails to understand what’s wrong with the girl.

[INSERT ERIC CLAPTON VIDEO: ‘COCAINE’]

 

The basic premise of the film is so contrived, it’s hard to empathise with the protagonist. In  today’s India, when how we treat women is such a large issue, when sparrows have gone extinct in Delhi in the presence of burly men, would a girl really be enjoy being kidnapped?

Not only does the heroine fall in love, she goes one up, and experiences what I like to call the ‘Bollywood Heroine Chhota Sa Ghar Complex’.

Whenever a rich girl in a Hindi film gets kidnapped, or stranded, she will want to have a small house, away from the rest of the world, just her and the hero - their small house of happiness. An adult version of the House-House game that kids play.

And so the two find a house, and start living in it. She cooks him Maggi, sweeps the house, and prepares a bed for the two of them. And then, shit hits the AC. So our trucker guy, who has killed three men, kidnaps women from roads, and carries a gun in his bag when he travels in a bus, refuses to go into the house. So transformed is the man, that he doesn’t want to make the sexay time with the girl.

I am sure this happens in the People’s Republic of Karan Johar, but in our world, it is simply too far-fetched to believe.

The point about her having a troubled past seems hollow. She could have spoken to her father. He is shown as a sensible, caring person, the only cruel thing he’s ever done is to give her an anaesthetic against her will.

Imtiaz Ali, slowly but surely, has become the King of Unexplained Angst.

In Love Aaj Kal, the hero is torn because the girl he loves (who also loves him back) is getting married to another man. He refuses to do anything about it, and then lands there a week after the marriage.

In Rockstar, our hero is angsty because he whisked away his lover, who was another man’s wife, to the Himalayas. In the Himalayas, he gets the terminally ill woman pregnant, and then is angry when she succumbs to the complications.

And in Highway, a kidnapping serves as a coming-of-age for the woman, who rebels against her life by choosing to live with her kidnapper, who hasn’t even acknowledged his love once, but has threatened to sell her to a brothel twice.

‘Is this love?’

‘Maine na jaana….chutiya banana….’

*

The other problem area for the film is Alia Bhat’s acting. Saddled with a role that requires an intense portrayal, Alia Bhat flares her nostrils so violently, it would make Hrithik Roshan run and hide behind a curtain.

And AR Rahman is barely used in the film. Most of the film consists of silent, long shots. When you have Rahman, why not use Rahman? It’s like having Tendulkar on your side, and opening the innings with Venkatpathy Raju.

If Socha Na Tha was a breath of fresh air, and Rockstar was a gust of angst, Highway is a farcical fart. A terribly disappointing film that sets an unrealistic premise in front of you, and doesn’t help you unravel it.

Watch Highway only if you can get high on the way. There are some shots of beautiful snow-capped peaks that you wouldn’t normally get to see on YouTube or National Geographic.

***

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