[ Spoilers ahead ]
People who have a fascination for history and movies love nothing but an accurate portrayal. That’s the reason I was uncomfortable ever since I heard about Ashutosh Gowariker’s upcoming Mohenjo Daro. Though there are reasons to anticipate a good handling from Gowariker (Lagaan and Swades were brilliant stories before recent, relatively speaking, slouches), but do we really need a love story set in the times of Indus Valley Civilization? More so, is it artistically possible to create a believable love story? The people who can pull it off leaving the history intact and showing us ample amounts of the history are a rare breed.
When it comes to Anurag Kashyap, you sure can expect wonders. After all, this was post independence Bombay, a non-judgmental city throbbing with excitement, commerce, post colonial affluence, crime and scandals. This story deserved a Kashyap telling. That is, if there was a story. Gyan Prakash (writer of Mumbai Fables, the book that loosely inspired Bombay Velvet) chronicled the city from its inception to recent times, but there was no story. What Kashyap and his team set out for was to weave a story incorporating the elements from Bombay and shaping it up, desi noir style. Bombay Velvet does manage a story, but just about it.
Anushka’s Rosie Noronha is not a jazz singer that we can carry with us. Her portrayal was surprisingly shadowed by the other singer we see on two occasions. There were enough chances for her to act and express, but, save few occasions, she could just play herself. A better actor would have enlivened the scene when Johnny confronts Rosie about her pictures that some photographer had clicked, or the scenes where she tries to convince him to move away from Bombay. But Anushka doesn’t live up to it. I liked Ranbir Singh as Johnny Balraj and Karan Johar as Kaizad Khambata. But if one person has really delivered, it’s Amit Trivedi. The movie opens up with stimulating music and sets the tone. Throughout the two and half hour saga, the music doesn’t disappoint. The typical Kashyap action scenes come alive with racy music. Talking of the Kashyap, the chase-manhunt sequence near the end is something to watch out for. After a shootout, a heavy breath laden telephone conversation between Johnny and Kaizad is a gem. Such moments restore our faith in Kashyap, specially since the movie takes a long time to set the stage for climactic events. The violence and the gun shots are very real. Rare close-ups like that of a kidnapped Deshpande in a car in a dark alley are brilliant.
The issues of Bombay of the times (mill workers’ unrest, Backbay Reclamation) are pushed to the side in the attempt to show a connected story. There are glimpses of Fearless Nadia posters and mentions of Lloyd and Nariman. But these issues just seem to add colour to the story. In my opinion, they would have made strong plot points. But they reminded me of the constantly on-the-streets people of Ranjhana’s Varanasi – just a flavour, not the meat. Depiction of politics and the power play leave us wanting for more. Though the research and detailing is impeccable, a little too much subtlety is practised while showing off that research.
There are the other characters, like a hat sporting inspector Kay Kay Menon. The relationship between him and Johnny is a love-hate one, the kind that Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio played in Catch Me If You Can. Coincidentally, Hanks too sported a hat and carried a gun. In Bombay Velvet, when the Commissioner shoots Johnny, Menon’s character betrays helplessness. He is an inspector who believes in the system (partly; Kashyap’s characters are never that plain) and when he sees his senior killing Johnny for the “bigshots”, he is disappointed. Did he get accustomed to a living, breathing Johnny? I don’t know. The angle is explored only slightly and Menon plays his part well. Of course Spielberg delved more into it and that episode of Hanks reminding DiCaprio that the reason he called him on Christmas is because there was no one else to talk to is what legendary filmmakers are made of. Anurag Kashyap has been there, but this offering is not the best he is capable of.
Let me first declare that I live and work in an almost deserted setting. A place that makes me crave for McDonald’s burgers more than once every week. Irony is, I don’t really hate this place.
I ended up in this place few months back. First few weeks were spent in observation. Deep observation. I observed that occasionally we can find Thums Up or Sprite in one of the shops here. But far more widespread were some bright green or orange coloured liquids sold in glass bottles. Some cola they called it. I was amazed to see that people actually buy them.
Observation couldn’t continue long. It gave way to inaction, including a loss of thought or opinion. And one fine day as I was in one of those shops, I found myself eager to try one of those colas!
Life has sustained through the ages by one magic word – adaptation. That’s also perhaps the biggest irony.
Last time I was in Delhi I returned with a worn out leg. I had finished a half marathon and the aftermath included slight limping. That was November and in spite of the pains I would rate the trip as good. So when a friend asked if I would be joining his cousin’s wedding in Delhi I immediately agreed. It meant watching the World Cup finals in Gurgaon with beer in hand and friends on either side of me on the sofa.
My travel included few buses to Ahmedabad and then a flight to Delhi. By the time I reached Ahmedabad I was in a sorry state. A severe ache had gripped my stomach and I felt I would throw up any moment. I got down from the bus. It was 3:30 am and I could barely stand. I called a few friends who I thought may be in Ahmedabad. Turned out none were there that night.
I began weighing my options, and once again was brought to the fact I knew – I was not good at it. And then help came. Consty, whom I had called earlier, had talked to a friend to allow me in his house. The friend and his wife offered me all help that they could at that hour, including some pills. I felt a little better, but still couldn’t get rid of that pain.
I left them after an hour and headed for the airport. After the security check I rushed to the washroom and threw up. I thought I would be better after that but the flight was terrible. The 90 minute journey was like a roller coaster ride, turning and tossing wildly, to the agony of people like me. I had insisted for an aisle seat closest to the toilet, still I had to wait to use it. There was a group of about 40 people (uncles and aunties) who seemed to be trying their best to get noticed. For the first time I saw a queue for the toilet in the plane. All the aunties were eager to try it and the queue covered a quarter of the aisle! People with stomach aches should wait to use the toilet. No, they should not undertake the journey itself. Why travel when you are indisposed? After what seemed like ages, I got my turn. I asked the hostess if they had any medicines. They didn’t.
The ordeal continued in Delhi. Bhondu had come to receive me (he was late as usual). I went to his place and after few hours there I began to feel better. Eno and some sleep helped. It was time for the final match then. There was no beer, I could not take it after what I had been through in the past few hours. But there was no dearth of friends. Bhondu, Tattu, Ghalib, S9 and Shiwani were there. Later, Dilli was there too. We saw Delhi going crazy after we won the match.
Next day I had my share of beers before it was time to depart. As before, in spite of the pains, I would rate the trip as good.
“Do the kinds of things that come from the heart. When you do, you won’t be dissatisfied, you won’t be envious, you won’t be longing for somebody else’s things. On the contrary, you’ll be overwhelmed with what comes back.”– Morrie Schwartz
An alumni card is all that is left of my connection with the insti. Oh, and a fake identity card too. We had our convocation on 30th. It was grand! All of us managed to come for the event and celebration was in the air. 2010 so far has been mostly about valuing such rare moments. With the convocation, the week long fun that started with Mumbai trip ended. Now it was finally the time to face the things I was dreading since long.
This year has seen an abnormal degradation of life, personal and professional. With all the lessons that adversity teaches, I managed to survive the odds, and hopefully will manage to. Amidst all the losses, I am thankful for one last thing that I managed to keep safe within me – the ability to get high on little joys of life. Last night I was lying on a couch in a sleeper bus, heading to a remote place. At midnight, as the bus guys were engrossed in changing the punctured tyre, I opened the window. The vast dark emptiness and the almost deserted highway presented a charming picture. The cool breeze just added to the awesomeness. Realizing that such little things are the only occasions of sporting a smile is sometimes disturbing, but hope never dies.
I arrived at my destination this mornin. The heavy rains, the pot-holed roads, the rickety ride and the enormously heavy luggage did nothing to make me like the place I didn’t want to come to, for working on something I didn’t like. With very few gadgets to remain connected and a shimmer of hope, I sign out!
Musafir hoon yaaron,
Na ghar hai, na thikana,
Mujhe chalte jana hai,
Bas chalte jana.
Life has been on the move since I left Chennai last week. It started with a delay of 8 hours in reaching Mumbai. Ironically, this came when my faith in Indian Railways was on the verge of being restored; the feeling that trains no longer run late and all that. I guess something dramatic had to happen to enlighten me.
Though late, we (FKD and I) reached Mumbai amidst heavy downpour. That was when the first of the casualties found me. An important telephonic interview was ruined, and all of it can safely be attributed to the weather and the Indian Railways. Lesson learnt – it takes really little effort to move on 🙂
Few hours later when we reached Doodh’s apartment, the next loss was discovered. I had lost my laptop and external hard disk. I knew it was futile but still had a complaint registered with the police and the building watchmen. As others told me over the next few days, I was surprisingly upbeat despite the loss. Indeed I was. We were in Mumbai for a re-union of sorts and I didn’t want anything to ruin it for me.
We had an amazing time over the next couple of days (credits – FKD, Doodh, Antenna, Neta, Bhondu, Rasila, Danda, Jussu, Shruti, Sirisha). Interesting tales and exotic stuff made the rounds, as can be expected. Three days was too short a time to meet everyone in the city. There were many whom I couldn’t meet. On Sunday night, when India was glued to Sony Entertainment Television for catching the premier of 3 Idiots, I left for Baroda. When you are out touring, you are supposed to visit family too. So, Baroda for the sister who recently moved in here. She liked the big bag of chocolates I brought for her, but that didn’t dampen her demand for dresses by any count. And that led me to the place where I am often alleged to go to – women’s section of superstores. Later that night I experienced Inception for the second time, this time here with Neta and his colleagues-cum-roomies. The more you watch it, the more you are awe-struck with the beautiful way of depicting an out-of-the world concept and managing to have the emotional journey of the character the driving force of the movie.
I am still in Baroda, waiting for today’s share of fun. Next stop will be Mumbai for a couple of hours and then Chennai. Convocation beckons, and after the last three months being the way they had been, it sure will be a temporary relief to be on the stage receiving the much awaited degrees. And it will signal the new start, or the final end of this part.