Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Dil Dhadakne Do: The World Beyond The Fa├žade

The film opens with the daughter of a wealthy Punjabi couple, miffed by the fact that her name was not on her parent’s twenty-fifth anniversary invitation. The kind of thing that should annoy the fuck out of the daughter, given the world she and her family comes from. From the point go we are told it is a story about ‘Richie Rich’ style children, and their parents, the creators of the kind of world they all now inhibit. And the broader, yet really minuscule society, they belong to. At the heart of it, the film is on the breakdown of a family’s relations, just to keep up with the social pretentious facade they have built around themselves. A satire based around parents treating their children as trade-able assets - of the kind one builds business partnerships and empires around. And the very conflicted response to that by their children – young adults, who are conformists and rebels in equal measure.
Zoya’s craft is innovative by half a step, to say the least. As she directs a tale in familiar Bollywood’s ever so grand fashion, there is a multitude of layers to watch out for. The characters etched out are stereotypical to the extent the north Indian wealthy folks are expected to be, but at the same time minutely subverting the norms of the ‘elite club like’ culture they are drawn from. The film invites its audience to ponder over the heavily paradox and hypocrisy laden lives the characters live - something Zoya to her credit, has added a great deal of nuance to. Even the ‘voice over’ is not used as a tool to forward the narrative but throw light on characters and their relations. There is some fine editing skill at display, especially the use of transitions to end awkward conversations or scenes. There is no time wasted in actually saying out-loud, what is al ready being shown on screen. It is because of these craft elements the film comes across way more subversive than the formulaic Bollywood style - surface level feel of the movie. With heavy use of following shots - the camera movement highlights Zoya’s unapologetic interest in showcasing the grandeur on display. And she makes sure that at no point the characters make a departure from the world they are from. Some sequences with a lizard on the wall style camerawork make you feel the director has matured a fair deal in just the span of three movies. What emerges is a craft that is very Hindi cinema like, yet so much more watchable than many of its contemporary counterparts. Though the film could have done with less use of close-ups and trimming the screen-time given to songs, which rarely add to narrative progression.
This is a movie likely to boast a very high grade on average cast performance, even though some characters excel more than others. Priyanka Chopra displays control in a fashion that she single handedly makes the film so much more watchable. There is a fair amount to appreciate in Anil Kapoor and Ranvir Singh’s performances - who come across as refreshingly natural. The weakest link in the film has to be its dialogues, penned by Farhan Akahtar, which make you cringe a little in your seat, every now and then. But the most satisfying takeaway from the film is seeing a director grow up, and you cannot help but ask, what will she produce when she finally decides to give up the tools of popular commercial filmmaking, and just be left to her plain observational elements?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Election Prime Time


There could be so much going on during the last phase of an Indian election, it is like watching a mega saga with a trajectory of narratives. Or so it seems like on news television. But there are few thrills like a Sunday afternoon of post election analysis, of just about any Indian election. That's where most of the fun and well, some clarity is. 2013 December poll results for Delhi assembly were no different. While some cheered for transitions of agitators to legislators. Some could not stop giggling, in anticipation for the last run of the empire, almost on it's way to fall apart. But for AAP, that victory somewhat provided a reconciliation to the three year long movement in and with this system.

And about a year later, Delhi election becomes fascinating not just because, it can claim to be a city that hosts a real diverse mix of people. And evidently their clear preferences (even undecided) about their political choices. But because somewhat of the timing of the election and somewhat because of the range of actors and non actors you see in this election; for whom Kejriwal's fate in this election might matter as much. Be it Lalu-Nitish and Mulayam, or Mamta, Left and Mayawati, they all would be keen to know that can the winning momentum of Sangh backed, Modi-Shah lead - style of campaigns be stopped at this stage, by a substantially different kind of campaign by AAP, and the latter's  lose monopoly over setting the agenda. And to that extent BJP gives it to AAP, and brings in a 'clean' administrator for it's CM candidate. Who comes from the same Delhi - Anna and Co. milieu.

I would see that as a first major shift  in BJP's electoral policy stance, since Modi took office. Where they pick a CM candidate before the election, setting their own already struggling Delhi party on fire. Another first is that Modi and his governance-development lead campaign won't be the focal point in an election they are contesting after May 16th last year. And seems like Modi doesn't want to indulge in anything that remotely lowers his popularity - with Obama visiting and ah, the Budget Session. (And what if a PDP-BJP alliance announcement might be just round the corner?).

I hope to see some Modi-Bedi rallies before the election, and BJP would fiercely try to establish Bedi as a stronghold enough, who can talk of improving government functioning and delivery. Believing that her ultra strong 'policewala' image would be in line with the strong administrator CM image, BJP wants to reflect. It's totally Bedi's game, in how she understands the nuances of being in BJP politics, and putting that to use in this seemingly AAP-ised environment. It comes across she has tirelessly studied Modi and his rhetoric conduct, and news tv will make it look like - "How to be a leader in 2 weeks."

If BJP manages to get a majority, it would  establish the credibility of Shah to have demonstrated to his critics inside the BJP and Sangh, about his ability to experiment and still win. While if AAP pulls out a stunner, (demonstrating a clear majority gallery of AAP supporters and their empirical thrust behind sadak-bijli-pani issues) and still falls short of a majority, 10 Janpath would be closely watching those possibilities. But for the major Delhi middle class, the aspiration vs our 'pressing needs reliever' narrative will be the major debating point.

 With more than three years of political agitation and instability, Delhi seems to have taken a toll. The spectator outside the fence is as curious about the results as some of the players. If pollsters may seem to demonstrate cluelessness, then this election could be a fun case study. Both AAP and BJP want to test their constituencies - both vastly different.  If some in BJP would be seeing it as a referendum on Modi's time in office, some in AAP still believe that that major chunks of our populations, "desolate from that kind of fluid wealth distribution, will consolidate". With all that AAP is, Nitish would take lessons from the fate of Kejriwal.

The Delhi 2013 Vidhan Sabha's election aftermath is such that the political repercussions of the 2015 February elections, have become a referee call on the arrival of another regional party in North India. While in the other camp - "It's the first time I am cooking without doing my own grocery." Oh how much we miss the good old anti-incumbency. Whatever may be the results, Delhi and it's politics will continue to resonate the feel of 'post agitation ground days' for a while.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Unki Diwali

Woh bazaar ki aakiri gali ke peeche
Basti ek uss pehle kachche ghar mein
roshni lagi thi
Din bhar gol dabbe mein gol gol laddu rakh
Us halwai se poch lena
 aaj raat ghar kahan jayega?
Koi savaari chodte chodte
raat na jaane kis nashe mein guzar dega
Woh maikhana aaj bhi khulega
Raddi wale se yeh light khareed kar laga dena
Yeh jagmagati raat
naa jaane kitno ko naagavar guzregi
Aaj sheher mein woh Diwali mana rahe hain

-srijan 23/10/14

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Saffron got Cool

3 am, sitting outside a roadside maggi/cigarette stall with a friend. Mild winter hue in the air, half torn, giant dark orange coloured trucks passing by. Neon-marked hoardings of a local private engineering college, simmering with rain washed roads. The Grant Trunk Road. 

I shout from the passenger seat right out of the window, 
"yaar ek mild lao.."
My friend half annoyed, "abey yaar.. mild mat piyo yaar.. doo regular lao"
sanjay, the stall owner, giggling, asked, "aur kuch chahiye bhaiya..?"
"bass yaar.. aur sunao? kya haal..?"
"wahi sab.. Akhilesh ko aana thaa, toh iss chakkar mein sadak ki saari dukaane hata di.. mera bhi bohot saaman barbaad ho gaya..!", Sanjay exclaimed in a depressingly low tone.
"parr woh toy aaya hi nahi naa?…", I remarked. 
"nahi aaya bey.. saala pura sheher sajaa tha uske liye aisa lag raha thaa.. parr aaya hi nahi.."
"kyon nahi aaya..?"
"..yahi toh baat hai bhai.. sapa hai.. kuch bhi karo.. madame ne mana kar diya hoga.."
"… haah.. aur master...kiske liye vote karoge iss baar?"
"modi bhaiiya.."
"aaahaaa… iss baar modi bhaiyya ki sarkar banegi.."
"… haan bhaiyya.. modi bhaiyya ko aane do… ab doo daam liya karunga maggi ke.. 25 aur unke liye 35…"
"….abey mama log aa gaye..(a respectful reference for police men)"

Sanjay, a 16-17 year old maggi/cigarette seller. A popular over night place for medical college students and local car drifting insomniacs. Police jeeps on patrolling duty during night hours, stop often. Eating for free, not missing a chance to ruffle them up once in a while. Sanjay has to tip them off a little then and now, and he gets to keep his stall. Recently two zonal cops put him behind the lock up for two days. He told us, he was using a stolen phone, that recently one his regular late night customers had sold it to him. That guy has not shown up since then. 

Sanjay works all through the night, making endless maggi and bun-omlettes. His entire family works at his stall. Father attends to the customers that park right in front of the stall, and prefer the service in the car. Mother taking care of the cigarette 'gumti' stall, while simultaneously taking care of boiling tea on the little stove. The above mentioned conversation took place in late september, last year. The family moved from Banaras to Kanpur three years ago, and came to echo the surging ground swell for the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi. But much before this kind of ground support for Modi could be witnessed on the streets in the Hindi heartland, BJP's district units were tirelessly at work. 

Having stayed in Kanpur for 18 long years, my idea of Ganesh Chaturthi was limited to its dramatic representation in movies and soaps coming out of Bombay. This year, the narrative was testify-ably different. On the day of the festival, the entire city was blocked by hundreds of processions moving towards the banks of Ganga. Every corner street was marked by a separate group of men and women, carrying their own little 'Ganesha.' The city traffic was brought to a stand still. Most of these processions were marked by a fringe of young men, raging to Salman Khanised DJ music, throwing colours on anybody and everybody as they went along. 

How in this world a Maharashtrian festival become so popular up here, in this interior Uttar Pradesh hinterland? It's not that surprising an avenue in today's world, given how a 'Spanish Tomato Festival' became a regular event in Bangalore, after being featured in a popular Hindi movie. But these many people celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi? Hundreds of them, all over the city. Stopping by a little cluster of mud walled houses, 'gulaal' drenched men sat outside their houses. While talking to some of them, one of them indicated, "money had been given out, for them to arrange for all the festivities. Lots of money, in lots of different 'bastis'. It is an Hindu festival after all…" 

Talking to another group of rather excited young men, while they danced freestyle to ear drum destroying, swanky tunes, coming out of rented speakers. As their procession moved ahead, blocking one of the centre crossroads of the city, I managed to hang onto three of them. Half interested in my questions, one told me, "it is Hindu power show… our time is coming. Modi will come this time." 
Profane slogans, addressing to the rabid lovers of Hindutva, could be found painted on discreet corners. I found some deeply provocative ones, painted all across the walls of 'Shamshan Ghat', a river side cremation place for Hindus. Just almost a month after the Muzaffarnagar riots, the social fabric of the city was not at its best. Kanpur, like many other UP cities, has had a distressing history of communal violence. Though, no signs of violence were reported as of yet, Kanpur, much like other UP cities, was making a case of top down polarization. 

I visited Kanpur again during my winter break, by the end of December. The momentum seemed to have changed a bit. Roadside conversations with BJP supporting men, were way more Modi centric. Unsaid communal tensions had subsided, and the popular discussions featured Arvind Kejriwal as much as Modi, if not more. Talking to a local BJP MLA, who then, was a probable for getting the Lok Sabha ticket from Kanpur. He told me, it is going to be tight. The muslims will vote for the incumbent Shriprakash Jaiswal. Accusing the latter of bribing Mayawati in 2009. When Mayawati, replaced the local BSP candidate, a popular Muslim leader. Resulting in an almost complete swing of Muslim votes towards Congress. Kalraj Mishra was strongly rumoured to be the other candidate, who could be given the ticket to contest from Kanpur. The earlier mentioned BJP MLA remarked to me, "He is also asking the party for the ticket. Lets see. He's not a real people's leader."

By almost end of March, Modi was finalized to contest from Banaras. Murli Manohar Joshi, having to making way for Modi in Banaras, was asked to contest from Kanpur. Early on, in his campaign in Kanpur, Joshi was greeted with protests from factions of local BJP men. There was a certain dissentment being reported from Kanpur, relating to the non local nature of Joshi, topped with his image of a non performing Member of Parliament. Though, many supporters believed, candidate was a non issue. 'People are going to vote for just Modi.' And Joshi was a prestigious candidate, they said, inflating their sense of city-hood pride. With Shriprakash Jaiswal and M.M. Joshi, it was set to be one of the most anticipated contests. 

Just as Kanpur was about three weeks from polling, fresh communal violence erupted on the occasion of Ram-Navmi. Strange events, strange happenings. March 16th will tell, if Kanpur accepts a migrant candidate from Banaras, Joshi, much like a migrant Sanjay. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hua tha kuch kal

Aankh khuli toh dustak par akhbar roll hua pada tha
Utha kar dekha
bayaan-e-haal kuch ajeeb hi lag raha tha
Meri kachchi neend ke sapne, 
surkhiyon ki tarah pehle panne pe bikhre thay..
Halki halki si hawa kati ghaas se khelti, 
thand ka aaghas kar rahi thi
Pichli raat ki baarish ki narmi
abhi bhi akhbar ke panno mein mehsus ho rahi 
Yeh bhari sardi mein bhi baarish hoti hai bhala?
Panne palte, chai chadhai
Raat ki bchi aadhi cigarette ash tray se utha kar
Stove ki daabi aanch se jala hi raha tha
Ki nazar 4th page ke gumshuda column pe chapi meri photo par gai..
Abhi toh nahi mra hoon main yaar..
Ek kash liya,
Hawa mei dhuien se bante shape ko dekh hi raha tha
Ki yaad aaya..
Kuch hua tha kal raat ko shaayad..
Patthar chale thay chowk pe
Saham gaya tha sabb kuch minto ke liye
Jaise pata nahi kitne barson ki aag chupa kar rakhi ho
Aur taash ki ek chaal ki tarah,
kisi ne ek hi baar mei saara daanv chal diya ho
Hua tha kuch kal shaayad
aag bhadki dono taraf se
humle hue, ghar toode
raakh ka dhuan baadal ki tarah chaa raha tha.. 
Tasveerien dhundli dhundli si hain
Ek badnaseeb patthar ka impression abhi bhi hai sir parr..
Pata nahi kya hua tha
Kisne kiya tha..
Humein kya pata..
Yeh sapne aur reality ke beech banta mera never-ending illusion..

Monday, March 10, 2014

Oh Kanpur!

"Yahan sab maalik hai bhaiya, 
apni marzi ke maalik"

"Sholay picture mein asli maut kiski hui thi?
Ek cheeti ki, gabbar kuchle thee usko"

"Woh nahi khaali chillum, 
usmein toh kapde ka sauda hai 
yahan toh.."

It's these ambiguous bizarre conversations, that would make up the most of my time in Kanpur. As time passes by, and I'm no more living there for most part of the year, it's these remaining-faded conversations in my head that make up my my relationship with my city. Even after spending hours talking about Kanpur with friends and folks from the city, I still struggle to make some definitive sense of the place. But I tend to enjoy that. I can get up and think of it as the financial capital of the most fucked up Indian state or on some days the most underrated Indian city or if nothing, definitely the maddest North Indian city, but well mostly, Kanpur feels like a live movie, where I'm a part of it too, playing my own character everyday. And the movie keeps evolving! Abnormal becomes normal, or maybe it's just me, looking for these things. A struggling city post the closing down of textile mills or a city post the economic and telecom revolution, from scores of out of work mill workers to a maggi-wala playing angry birds on his tab. You can look for your Kanpur depending on your ease. It might seem like any other mid size city, where collective dreams are more than collective resources, a deficit that will never cease to exist. But beyond the industrial, political or even the foodie Kanpur, there exists another Kanpur. A city with all its eccentricities, its pride, its norms, its failures, its patriarchies, its divide, way more loving - way more absurd!

Just for fun! 


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

evolving mind

main kehta hoon tum sab saale fickle ho
moment-moment pein dimaag badalte ho
phir kisi ne mujhe shisha dikha diya
tab se evolving mind ki baatien propagate karta hoon