Thoughts on Rangabati Coke Studio Version

A few days ago, I saw my News Feed flooded with posts with Oriya people, about something that happened in Orissa.

Now, this is rare.

If I had to draw a venn diagram of my life, social networking and youtube and internet would be three coinciding circles. If I turn the page over, my home state Orissa would be sitting idle.

It’s like a double life I’m leading.

And it is something that I have felt right from childhood. Since I didn’t study in Orissa, I realised it is never mentioned anywhere. It was almost a Hogwarts-ish place that only appeared during Summer Holidays. Or if a teacher found two of us Oriya guys pinching each other during the prayer session and resorted to a lazy comment such as ‘Aye, you Oriya rowdies. Shut up and keep quiet!’.

However, the last two days have been different. Thanks to Sona Mohapatra’s rendition of ‘Rangabati O Rangabati’ on Coke Studio.

Rangabati

*

Now, let me set a little context here.

Rangabati is not just another song. It has folk roots. But most of my generation in Orissa came across the song during drunken nights on a baaraat.

For someone who is very conscious of how he dances, Baaraats opened the floodgates into the world of wet streets and slithery naagins. Of a random stranger tapping me on the shoulder and communicating in that unique code that only another drunk can understand, the words ‘Kaho Na Pyar Hai’. And then, with gay abandon, I turn around and return the compliment with that step that the Bournvita-drinking superhero immortalised – ‘Kaha Na Pyar Hai’.

Baaraats made me realise that it is all OK.

It is OK to slip and fall. There’ll always be someone to lend you a hand to stand back up on your feet. (Else, you better do it quickly, or else those guys carrying tube lights on their heads will walk around you).

Baaraats taught me that there is no such thing as ‘I’ve had enough’. Even if your liver is overflowing, a little nudge from a friend settles everything in place.

Baaraats taught me that there was no point trying to act decent and Shareef when everybody around you was being Musharaff and Taliban. To let insanity take over.

Rangabati is one of the top Oriya baaraat songs.

Now, if you have any acquaintance with Baaraat songs, you’ll know that there is no scope for frivalities like Political Correctness in that particular genre.

Some of the other songs I remember from baaraats are – ‘Nabama sreni jhiata, chaati ku mo hot karuchi’. (That 9th standard girl, is making my chest hot).

Then, there’s the poetic trick that singers use – when you don’t know if he’s singing ‘hot’ or ‘hurt’ – since they both sound the same in the Oriya accent.

Then, there are philosophical musings – ‘Tu aagaru dekhila jenta, tu pachharu dekhile senta” (How you look from the front, the same you look from the back. A throwback to the ancient dual – Dwaita philosophy in Hinduism).

Then, there are those that cater to purely carnal needs. Those that invoke the importance of alcohol in a person’s life – Daaru daaru daaru daaru de daaru. Those that call out to people from other communities – Ekkada Ekkada Ra. Then, the completely surreal and abstract – Kau to bou ku nou (‘May the Crow Take Away Your Mother’).

In the beginning, I was conscious of what people might think. Worried that someone might take offence to such blatantly offensive songs being played at full blast outside people’s houses.

It was only later that I realised that people had developed internal antennae that helped them to tune out of the proceedings.

Since then, for me, there was no looking back (Unless the guy who was mixing the drinks was at the back of the baaraat!).

Among all these songs, Rangabati was one of the saner tunes. Just a folk song that people recognised and would raise their hands, and woot, and go back to dancing to.

*

When Sona Mohapatra released her Coke Studio version of the song, people lost their minds.

Some of them said she had corrupted the song. Some others said they preferred the older version of the song. Still others said they had problems with her pronunciation of the words (even though the lyrics are not mainstream Oriya, but a dialect called Sambalpuri).

I don’t get this.

I mean, Coke Studio has historically been a platform for songs to mate with other genres and styles. It’s not Folk Studio, for heaven’s sake. And yes, those two Tamil rappers seemed to have zapped in from nowhere, and were rather annoying, but hey, it’s just a song, man.

It’s somebody’s interpretation of the song. Something the person thought might sound good.

If you don’t like it, skip it. Watch something else on YouTube. Why spread venom and hate in the Comments section?

Also, in Syria, Islamic State is beheading men, women and children. In Pakistan, children are being shot while taking classes in school.

There is shit flying all over in the world.

It’s just a fucking YouTube video.

Let it be.

Or else, kau toh bou ku nou.

Seriously.

*******

Posted in Arbit Gyan, Television | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Dil Dhadakne Do – First World Armageddon

Farhan and Zoya Akhtar make films about First World Problems.

Dil Chahta Hai dealt with three overgrown college-goers dealing with life. Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara dealt with three rich Mumbai kids discovering their true calling through a trip to Spain. Rock On! dealt with a bunch of guys whose problem in life is that their rock band couldn’t click.

Not that I have a problem with it. I have made peace with the fact that a filmmaker will mostly derive from his/her own upbringing in life.

Which is why the Akhtars make films about South Bombay dudes and Anurag Kashyap makes films about factories, slaughter-houses, and gangsters in Bihar. Which leads me to think – if I ever make a film, it’ll probably be about cats and masturbation.

But getting back to the topic at hand, I don’t really have a problem with first world problem films. The Akhtars have always ensured that their scripts are tightly written. The screenplay exploits the conflict through sharp lines, beautiful locations, and music accompanied to Javed Akhtar’s lofty, if slightly dopey, lyrics.

Dil-Dhadakne-Do1 (1)

Sadly, with Dil Dhadakne Do, there is a feeling of Been There, Done That. A multi-starrer depends heavily on its characters, and unfortunately, the characters in Dil Dhadakne Do seem jaded, un-fresh.

Ranveer Singh plays a soft, rich youngster. Now, Ranveer Singh essentially has two voices. One – the loud Gunday voice, the second the raspy, soft Lootera voice. He uses the Lootera voice, and yet slips every now and then.

Priyanka Chopra and Anushka Sharma play feisty independent characters, both of whom we have seen in umpteen movies. And frankly, after you see Sharma bashing goons with an iron rod, this is going to seem a bit tepid.

Farhan Akhtar, of course, plays what he always plays. The urban, non-conformist, liberal cool dude.

It’s like yesterday’s gajar halwa that was kept in the fridge overnight. It’s still gajar halwa, but there’s something amiss.

Interestingly, it’s the seniors of the film who salvage the movie.

Parmeet Sethi and Manoj Pahwa, saddled with bit-roles, put in their best.

Anil Kapoor, who seems to have let down his narcissistic guard after all these years, shines in every single frame. But the star of the show is Shefali Shah, playing Anil Kapoor’s wife. Watch her in the scene where she stuffs herself with cake, and you feel a yearning for what the film could have been.

Sadly, Dil Dhadakne Do never manages to cruise over its troubled, haphazard script. It’s just another First World Problem film that Farhan Akhtar stars in.

But that’s ok, because he’ll grow a moustache and play Veerappan, and win awards for it.

***********

Posted in Film, Review | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

A Very Late Review: Tanu Weds Manu Returns

tanu weds manu returns

Not to sound picky, but there’s something about grammatically wrong movie titles that gets my goat.

Like a Sohail Khan movie released a decade ago named ‘I Proud To Be Indian’. I understand that the story, the production, the budget – is yours. But how much does it cost to add an ‘am’ in the middle. Or may be a comma?

The makers of this film could have named it ‘Tanu Weds Manu Again’, or ‘Tanu Weds Manu After Returning’. ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ makes no sense.

Right. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, here’s what I thought about the movie.

*

There are a few things Anand L. Rai gets bang-on in his films.

Casting, for one.  If one were to forget his first two forgettable films, director Anand L. Rai has a knack for casting people who fit the role, even though it might not seem right in the beginning.

Another thing he gets right, is the sharp dialogues. His films are laced with interesting lines, mouthed by interesting characters. Tanu Weds Manu is no exception.

After reading the universally rave reviews, I got to watch the film very late in the day. And I’m sorry to say, I wasn’t blown away by it or anything.

I know the usual argument. That it is better than your average Bollywood fare. But somehow, over the years of watching, analysing, and writing about cinema, that lame description doesn’t cut it for me any more.

Tanu Weds Manu does the classic Bollywood trick of raising your expectations and slamming it down on your head with a gigantic Thud! at the end. I had problems with Manu’s choices in the film, but I’ll get to that later.

Deepak Dobriyal is a fine, fine actor. But I’m tired of seeing him as the hero’s sidekick. He has done it in OmkaraTanu Weds Manu, and this one again. But if you’ve watched him in Teen They Bhai, or Shaurya, you’ll know he’s capable of much, much more.

Kangana Ranaut is undoubtedly the hero of the film. She reminds you of the time when Sridevi would make films with less famous actors and carry the film on her shoulders.

Having perfected the crazy-girl-with-big-heart role, Kangana nails the fiesty, if slightly cranky Tanu. As someone who has found her immensely watchable from her very first film, I am scared if it will get tiring after a point.

Which brings us to the second Kangana in the film – Kusum.

Tanu was probably an exaggerated stereotype on purpose. Because when Kusum comes on screen, she steals your heart. Ranaut puts so much into the role, that you forget it’s the same person at one point. Kusum is vulnerable, attractive, strong, and steals your breath away.

And when Manu (Madhavan playing the nice guy, a role he’s been playing since he was a sperm) has to choose between the two, is when my problems with the film really begin. Why would he choose the crazy, psycho, alcoholic Tanu when he has gone through the pains of getting married to another lovely girl?

I’m not trying to be Mohan Bhagwat here, but let’s do a comparison.

Tanu is moody, clearly dim-witted, critical and caustic, and uses men in her life because they are attracted to her. She also walks about the streets at night after getting drunk, and eats chow mein, which a Sanskari Indian girl shouldn’t do. 

Kusum on the other hand, is independent, caring and mature. She doesn’t shy away from fighting for her love, and most importantly – is superfantastico, smoldering hot. She’s so hot, she makes Tanu seem like a loud, insecure starlet in comparison. Then why would Manu choose Tanu over her?

I failed to put my head around this.

Ah! Because, love.

Love is supposed to be blind, and biased, and doesn’t need to follow logic or reasoning. I’m hardly an authority on love. Like Mahishasura, most of my decisions are driven by lust.

Love might be blind, and deaf, and HIV positive, but all that love bullshit is what ruins Tanu Weds Manu Returns as a finished product. If Manu chose Komal, I’d have been impressed. But with its present ending, the film is just about Meh!

I am waiting for the director to release a third part – Tanu Weds Manu and Returns with Komal. 

#Threesome

#SorryIKnowThatsATerribleThought

#KarnaPadtaHai

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Posted in Film, Review | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Review : Bombay Velvet

Long before Anurag Kashyap became the cult hero that is today, I have been supporting and defending him.

I watched Paanch around 2007, and it was the same year that my ex girlfriend mentioned that she wanted to watch Black Friday. It was a phase when I would watch Shah Rukh Khan movies, and I scoffed at her poor taste in cinema.

Black Friday changed the way I looked at cinema. It was the first film that shook me in the real sense. Ever since, I have defended Anurag Kashyap in debates and discussions. I loved No Smoking, though I’m still yet to put a finger on why. I watched Gulaal twice, and felt a strange pride when the four others in the hall applauded at the end.

Somewhere along the line, DevD released. Though it was clearly not his best work, it shot him into pop-culture hero-dom. Anurag Kashyap today is the face of the indie movement, he is the voice of freedom of expression in films, and seems like a sane voice who is finally getting his due. For millions of viewers, Anurag Kashyap is a ray of hope in a tunnel that is filled with shit every Friday.

And so when Bombay Velvet released, and got panned by everybody, I wanted to go watch the movie.

I wanted to like the movie, and write a passionate blog about how everybody else who didn’t like it were basically idiots.

I wanted to like Bombay Velvet. But like the prettiest girl in class, Bombay Velvet didn’t give a flying fuck about me. Bombay Velvet is so caught up in its own trip, in being pretty and trippy and grand and epic, that I had no other option.

*

bombay velvet

For a film that has four writers, two editors, and three accomplished directors as producers, Bombay Velvet fails on so many levels, you are reduced to tears as an earnest fan.

Sample this. Ranbir Kapoor doesn’t get a single line till 25 minutes into the movie, and Anushka Sharma 40 minutes into the film. I understand that these are creative calls that the director takes, but how am I supposed to empathise with the leads when I feel nothing for them?

And Anurag Kashyap has consistently given us characters that we fell in love with. Whether it is Baba Bangaali in No Smoking, or the spectacular Nagma Khatoon in Gangs of Wasseypur, or Ransa Singh in Gulaal, Anurag Kashyap has a knack of creating stellar characters.

The leads in Bombay Velvet seem too caught up in their own trips. It’s as if they realized that this is their moment. That they’ve left behind the world of Yash Raj and have broken into the indie scene. And that’s enough.

*

Bombay Velvet is utterly disappointing. Not because it fails as a film. But because it pays you no respect as a viewer. You could plug in and listen to your favourite song for all the film cared.

The film is plagued with lazy writing, sloppy editing, and doesn’t give a fuck about you as a viewer.

And that is very hard to come to terms with.

I am waiting for Anurag Kashyap’s next film. I know it will be better.

Anything will be better than Bombay Velvet.

Posted in Review | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Movie Review – Piku

Personally, I have never been a huge fan of Amitabh Bachchan.

I couldn’t connect with his 70s ‘Angry Young Man’ image. I have watched Zanjeer, Kaalia, Deewar, and Don, and thought he was terrific in them. But ever since I have started actively following films, Amitabh Bachchan was just a caricature.

He would do the same role – the powerful patriarch with the powerful voice – over and over again. Every single director who signed him would give him a different version of the same role.

Black was a shitty film with terrible acting. Sarkar was just RGV fusing his AB and Godfather fetishes into one dimly lit movie. Baghban made me want to pull my hair out in frustration, and then reach for my neighbour’s.

Piku, surprisingly, does away with the AB frills.

In a film that stars tall actors, Amitabh Bachchan towers over the others in every way possible. Given a role by director Shoojit Sircar that lets him stretch his hands out and have fun, Amitabh Bachchan slips into his character and stubbornly refuses to step out of it.

*

piku

Piku talks about parents, but chooses a path that no other film earlier has dealt with.

We have been shown films where parents are sacrificing, idealistic, loving and caring. But no film has ever touched upon one important aspect of Indian parents – that they are stubborn. That they refuse to budge from their standpoint, even if times around them have changed, even if their children are a different generation.

Our scriptures expect us to respect our parents just because they are parents. Matru Devo Bhava, Pitru Devo Bhava – we are told. I have always been baffled by this idea. Anybody can marry and have kids. It requires no special skills. How then does the simple act of reproducing elevate you to the level of a God?

There is no nice way to put this. But Indian parents are selfish.

And Piku brings this point out beautifully.

I will leave out the details so that you can go watch it (if you haven’t already), but let it suffice to say that director Shoojit Sircar finally paints a realistic picture of Indian households. And the transitional pains we face on a daily basis. The wide chasm between age old morals and the hustle-bustle of the modern world and its demands.

Deepika Padukone barely puts a foot wrong. Surprisingly, Irrfan Khan seems like the weak link in the film. His newly found English accent is a little difficult to come to terms with, especially since he speaks his Hindi lines in the same old Vodafone Chhota Recharge kar lo voice. And his English lines (A’right) seem a little forced.

Minor hiccups if you aren’t a picky viewer, because Irrfan Khan does more with his eyes than his voice. Moushumi Chatterjee is spot on as the party-popping Bengali aunt, as are Raghubir Yadav as the doctor who attends to AB’s idiosyncrasies.

But finally, Piku belongs to a 70 year old man. A 70 year old man who has finally found a reason to stretch his hands out and have fun.

***********

Posted in Film, Review | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Something Creepy That Happened to Me Recently

At the onset, let me clarify that I am not among those who throw around the word ‘creepy’ easily.

If someone asks uncomfortable questions, I don’t call them ‘creepy’. I am also perfectly fine with people with serial-killer smiles. I am also completely at home with reptiles, gore, and horror.

With the disclaimer done, let me begin at where it all began.

*

I am freelancing at an office these days, and from the campus I live in, the journey is an excruciating 20 kms ride through the most crowded road in Hyderabad.

To avoid it, I take a detour through the Mumbai Highway, taking the steep road from Dargah to Film Nagar. Unnecessary details, I know, but allow me to go on.

The road I am talking about is a steep slope with curves like Sunny Leone’s, exciting and dangerous at the same time. Across the road lies the pristine Whisper Valley, where lights glimmer like fireflies once the sun has set. It used to be a beautiful location once, but with all the waste from corporate hospitals, the place could be rechristened Stayfree Valley.

The road is a true test of the fitness of your bike.

If you have a fully functional Bullet, you will love the ride.

I, unfortunately, ride a fucking Discover.

My bike is like me – lazy, sluggish, shabby, and reluctant to try anything risky. It croaks and groans every single day, as I hum my favourite tunes, praying that the clutch wire doesn’t slip out of my clutch.

On this particular day, I took a turn from Dargah and was beginning to take the slope, when I saw a little kid stretch his hand out for a lift. He had a school bag on his back, and a tiffin box in his left hand. His face glistened with sweat, and shone with the excitement of going home.

Having never owned a bicycle or vehicle earlier, I have firmly believed in the Brotherhood of Lift-givers. I can’t remember a single time I have denied someone a lift (except when a lady is waiting in her room, pissed off with me for being late).

I duly pulled up next to him, and asked him to hop on my bike.

*

On regular days, I like to strike up conversations with the people I offer a lift to.

Some of them are eager to talk, others hold back as much information as possible. Some are thankful for the lift, and go through the entire conversation with a plasticky smile on their faces.

That day, I was in no mood to talk, so I kept listening to songs on my phone. ‘What are you listening to?’ I heard the kid ask.

I wanted to tell him about ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, explain the epic tribute of love and friendship by Pink Floyd. But I chose not to. I told him I was listening to some songs, and asked him what he studied.

He told me he was in Class 8, and we continued on the road through potholes, speed breakers, and cops waiting at tricky corners for a biker to goof up. As my bike coughed and shrugged, the kid held on to me tightly.

*

Every time I turned, I felt the boy’s hand tighten around my waist, and it made me uncomfortable. I kept silent for a while, and adjusted the rearview mirror to look at him. He was looking at the world below him, a mix of wonder and amazement writ large on his face.

‘What a world we live in,’ I thought, ‘that even the touch of a little boy makes us feel uncomfortable’.

The slope got steeper as we climbed up the road, as the boy loosened his grip and tightened it again.

And then, I felt it. Slowly, his hands slipped down to my thighs, ever so slowly, till he found my crotch.

I froze. My mind was blank, my face flush with embarrassment.

I thought up things to say to him – ‘Don’t do that’, ‘You shouldn’t be doing that to people’, ‘Who taught you to do that?’

But my mind, like Sehwag on a crucial final, just refused to budge.

His hands were now firmly on my crotch, as he rubbed his hands like I was a girl and he was masturbating me.

We rode on, till we reached his destination.

He looked straight at me in the rear view mirror, smiled, and gave my cock a final tug.

‘Thanks, bhaiyya’, he said, and hopped off the bike.

I turned to see him, his bag weighing him down, his tiffin box held gingerly, his dark skinny thighs in the summer sun. He looked this way and that, and darted across the road.

*****

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Yo, What’s Your Beef?

In the continuing absurdity that is Indian politics, another chapter was written two weeks ago when the Maharashtra government banned the sale, consumption and possession of beef.

And this has confirmed my staunch belief that religion mixed with politics is a recipe for disaster. As with every stupid government decision, behind every decision, is a hollow, fuck-all logic.

The most common reason stated was that it is hurtful to Hindu sentiments, as the cow is a sacred animal for millions of Hindus.

Firstly, Hinduism isn’t a monolithic religion, it does not have one scripture, one set of rules, or norms. And yet, sadly, all the great upholders of religion on social networking sites seem to follow a certain, media-created idea of Hinduism. One that was woven out of mythological serials on Sunday mornings and Amar Chitra Katha comics.

For if any of these idiots actually read any scriptures, one finds a huge number of references to non-vegetarian food. That it was consumed, written about, and celebrated in a million ways. Yet, for all our pride in our ancient roots, and the wonderful diversity that Hinduism enjoys, we choose to abide by (and shove down upon others’ throats), a particular streak of carefully-chosen Brahminical Hinduism.

They told us that this is what the religion is – encapsulated thousands and thousands of years of a vibrant, unique way of life into a set of Dos and Donts – and like blind sheep, we choose to abide by it.

Then, there was the second logic thrown around.

Why can’t we ban beef, when other nations have banned pork?

Which is such an idiotic logic, that you feel like stuffing a seekh up their ass.

Just because other regressive nations dictate how their citizens should lead their personal lives, why should India do it too? Why are comparisons always made with UAE and Dubai and other regressive states? Why can’t we aspire for higher?

Which is an interesting thought. If you analyse any pro-Hindu dumbwit, you see a pattern. These guys hate Islamic states with all their heart. And yet, they will stand by and applaud as India gets reduced to exactly that – a pseudo-Islamic state that believes it has the right to decide what is right for the people.

And all the supporters of the ban are the same set of people – Hindu, upper caste/class, vegetarians, and BJP supporters. Idiots who drank from the well and now want to spit the wisdom down your throats.

But trying arguing with a BJP fanboy!

For some reason, BJP fans are the most aggressive, intolerant sort on social media networks. The Communist will meander about the discussion and then put up a link to a Rumi poem. The secularist will keep disagreeing, avoiding anything outlandish, for fear of coming across as intolerant. The Congress supporter is still hiding his face in shame. But the BJP supporter!

Arguing with a BJP supporter is like playing Tug of War with an ox. After a point, you look at yourself, wonder what the what the fuck you were thinking, and let go of the rope.

And so obsessed are BJP fanboys of their leader, that they will go on about him on social media when he does something right (I’m not a fanatic, and he IS doing some things right, won’t deny him that).

But when his government does something stupid, the BJP langots simply vanish into thin air. Question them about it, and they’ll share a picture of their dog pooping on a plate of Upma.

And vegetarian animal rights activists will add to the debate with their asinine logic of global warming and animal rights violations. Because it is fine if you slaughter buffaloes, but not cows. Go Mata, go!

What we forget is that beef is cheap, nutritious, tasty food for billions of people. Yes, it is sacred for some Hindus, but so are other animals. In some communities, even onion and garlic are considered unholy because they grow underground (yet another fuck-all logic!). Do we go around banning it?

Why do we have to stoop as low as the extremists?

In many ways, Hinduism is among the most tolerant religions in the world. Why can’t we celebrate that, revel in its diversity, and let people choose what is right for them? Why do we have to stoop to the levels of …ahem…You Know Who?

India doesn’t need to do shit like that, man. Grow up!

And the ruling party imposing rules pertaining to personal life is a dangerous trend. In many…*cough cough*…religious countries, we have seen how disastrous it is for the social fabric of the nation.

And where does this cycle of banning what we don’t approve of, end?

rahul-gandhi

mamata-banerjee final

baba ramdev

kalki avatar fridolin froelich

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , | 18 Comments