Sunday, July 14, 2019

Mangoes in Films

Every summer, the king of fruit mango returns to satisfy the palate of the Indian people. Its return also restarts the debate on social media if it is overrated. Mangoes are quite popular in pop culture as well. They find a place in non-political interviews where Akshay Kumar asks the prime ministerial candidate about his preferred way of eating mangoes. Hari Kondabalu talks about the love Indians have for mangoes in his Netflix Specials. Katrina Kaif romances mangoes in her (K)amasutra ads in the gorgeous backdrop of Orchha. 
Like other things, Hindi cinema has also portrayed its love for mangoes in films. One of the earliest instances of mangoes in cinema is in Dadasaheb Phalke’s silent film Kaliya Mardan. The film depicted the story of Lord Krishna's victory over the snake god Kaliya. In a particular scene, a young Krishna is given a gift of mangoes which he gives them away to someone else. Thereafter, the screen shows a message that says that the particular act foreshadows Krishna's benevolent nature. The biographical film Mirza Ghalib showed the poet's immense love for mangoes. At one point in the film, Ghalib and his friends are discussing the merits of mangoes. Ghalib prefers them over sugarcane because they offer a contrasting tartness that balances the sweetness, while sugarcane is too sweet. He then goes on to speak a couplet in praise of the fruit. One of his friends points to a donkey who does not eat them when offered and says even a donkey does not eat mangoes. Ghalib cheekily replies that it is only the donkeys who do not eat mangoes.
In the iconic Sholay, Veeru (Dharmendra) teaches Basanti (Hema Malini) how to shoot mangoes in the grove as she needs them to make pickle as asked by her aunt. However, she realizes that he is more interested in physically harassing her and ends up admonishing him for his behavior. In Mere Apne, after the death of her husband, Anandi (Meena Kumari) lives a quiet life in her village. She has a small house and a mango orchard. When a relative asks her to move to the city, she refuses as she feels the mango trees have grown old with her and she does not want to leave them. 
Mangoes have been used to express love in many films. In Waqt: The Race Against Time, Ishwarchand Thakur (Amitabh Bachchan) tells his son Aditya (Akshay Kumar) that mangoes are known by their smell. At a later stage in their lives, Aditya is miffed with his parents as they want him to become responsible, so, he stops talking to them. Ishwarchand still sends mangoes to him through someone and tells them to not disclose the same to him. However, Aditya can easily guess that mangoes are sent by his father which he then goes to return to his father. Ayan Mukerji shares a particular fondness for mangoes. In both of his films, parents express love for children by bringing them mangoes. In Wake Up Sid, Sid (Ranbir Kapoor) loves mangoes. His mother (Supriya Pathak) brings a box of mangoes when she visits Aisha (Konkona Sensharma) when he starts living with her after a feud with his father. In Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor) comes back late to his house again and his father (Farooq Sheikh) who was waiting for him says that he has bought mangoes for him.
In Qarib Qarib Singlle, Yogi (Irrfan Khan) asks Jaya (Parvathy) about her choice of mangoes, whether she likes Safeda or Dusehri. Safeda mangoes are eaten after cutting them in pieces, while Dusehri mangoes are eaten after squeezing and slurping. But his recommendation is that the opposite should be followed as Safeda mangoes when slurped, they become divine. He says that she is missing out on the enjoyment in life if she has not slurped the mangoes. In a way, he is making her aware of the things she is missing out in life. Thereafter, he gifts a box of mangoes from his home garden to her on their second date. In Secret Superstar, Chintan (Tirth Sharma) brings Insia (Zaira Wasim) to his home and his mother brings them mangoes to eat which they happily enjoy. 
In Yes Boss, Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan) hatches a plan to spend time with Seema (Juhi Chawla) in Switzerland where he entices his boss Siddharth (Aditya Pancholi) with a lucrative business deal. He calls his boss and pretends to be a big mango businessman named Abus Aamwala looking for advertising agencies. He calls him for a meeting where they will identify each other by carrying two mangoes in their hands. Siddharth turns up with mangoes on the streets but Abus Aamwala never shows up and Rahul's plan, like always, succeeds. In Dabangg, Makhanchan Pandey (Arbaaz Khan) agrees to do anything for Chedi Singh (Sonu Sood) to get money for his father's treatment. Chedi Singh orders him to deliver a crate of mangoes to Dayal Babu (Anupam Kher). But, unknown to Makhanchan, there is a bomb in it. After he leaves the house, the bomb explodes, killing Dayal Babu and his workers.
In Badhaai Ho, Jeetender Kaushik (Gajraj Rao) brings a box of mangoes for his family which he does not share with either his neighbors or subordinates. His family members enjoy the mangoes while praising the Langra variety of mangoes. In Aashayein, a cancer-stricken Rahul (John Abraham) meets people from different backgrounds in the rehabilitation center. One of them is a young boy named Govinda (Ashwin Chitale) who loves comics and mangoes. After a health incident, Govinda offers Rahul mangoes becomes his aam vale dostIn Ishaqzaade, Zoya (Parineeti Chopra) loves to eat mangoes and calls her smile mango-sweet when she wants to something from her father. Himesh Reshammiya gave us a song Mango in the film Damadamm!. In the said song, he claims that he misses his lover like mango. 
Jab tum jaati ho,
I miss you, Baby, 
Like mango,
Oh ho, 
Like mango.
In the upcoming Meghna Gulzar film Chhapaak, Deepika Padukone will portray the role of acid-attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal. Reports say Deepika jokes that she agreed to do the film because of a scene where she gets to eat kairi (raw mangoes) with salt and red chilli powder in the film.
Mangoes have been used in films where they have been exported to other countries. In Cocktail, Meera (Diana Penty) arrives in London along with a box of mangoes. In Parmanu, the Indian bureaucrats advise the minister to stop the export of Alphonso mangoes to China after the neighboring country conducts another advanced nuclear test. Happy Bhaag Jayegi opens with an India-Pakistan conference where it is announced that India will start exporting mangoes to Pakistan. 
The town of Malihabad is internationally renowned for its mango plantations. There have been many instances where films talked about the mangoes from there. In Lakshya, Captain Jalal Akbar (Sushant Singh) is from Malihabad and asks Karan (Hrithik Roshan) if he likes mangoes. As per him, one can really enjoy eating mangoes only in a mango orchard. Akbar asks Karan and his friend Captain Sudhir Mishra (Abir Goswami) to visit his mango orchard. Fate, however, had different plans as Akbar dies in the war. Dhobi Ghat opens with Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra) introducing herself to a taxi driver where she says she is from Malihabad, the place known for its mangoes. Although it is not shown in the theatrical version, the film's script mentions that Arun (Aamir Khan) decides to visit Malihabad after he learns about Yasmin's identity. Shyam Benegal's Junoon was shot extensively in Malihabad and in the song Sawan Ki Aai Bahar Re, the women sing about rain and love while surrounded by the mango trees.
There have been other mentions of mango as well in films. In many films, a woman asking for raw mangoes was construed as a sign of pregnancy. In Love Aaj Kal, Jai (Saif Ali Khan) says that the lovers of today are the mango people, another term for aam aadmi, and their love stories are not immortal. These mango people want to live with their lovers in this lifetime. In Piku, Bhaskor Banerji (Amitabh Bachchan) compares the color of his shit with that of the mango pulp. In Bajirao Mastani, Maa Saheb (Tanvi Azmi) compares the life of royals to a mango tree. She remarks that even though mango might be the king of fruits, but it is the one that has to bear the most stones. In Bunty Aur Babli, Vimmi (Rani Mukerji) wants to run away from her house because she does not want to make mango pickle all her life. Films, such as Kairi and Mango SoufflĂ©, have been titled after mangoes. Other films, such as Quick Gun Murugan, Out of Control, and Paying Guest, have characters named after mangoes.
The above were only a few instances of mangoes from films. I am sure I am missing a large swathe of other such instances from films, especially, those from the seventies and the eighties. If there are any of the memorable mango moments, write about them in the comments. Till then, keep eating more mangoes and eat one more on my behalf.

References:
1. Kaliya Mardan (D.G. Phalke, 1919)—Link
2. Ten memorable food scenes from Hindi cinema—Link

Other Reading:
1. On Elevators In Films—Link
2. On Autorickshaws In Films—Link
3. On Gifts In Films—Link
4. On Diaries In Films—Link
5. On Books In Films—Link

Dialogue of the Day:
"Kehne ke toh aam phalon ka raja, lekin sabse zyada pathar sehna usi ke naseeb me hota hai."
—Maa Saheb, Bajirao Mastani

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Long Time No See

I was thinking that earlier I used to write on different topics from daily life in general. Somehow, today, I started missing having that conversation. These days, I feel like I have nothing to write on or when I have something, I forget what I was supposed to write on. They say in The Lunchbox that we forget the things if we have no one to tell them to. I guess that is another reason that I have not much to share here as I have noticed a general decline in interest in reading here. Also, there are other things which I am going through but am not able to share here for the fear of being judged. In Jab We Met, Geet says, "Kitni badi bevkoof thi main," when she thinks about her life when she was young and did what whatever her heart told her. I feel the same if I write about them. Showing vulnerability is a difficult trait these days. 

Life has changed a lot in the last few months. It has been quite eventful. I visited India in January of this year for sister's wedding. I met all the relatives after almost seven years. I was a little excited to meet them but you know I felt no one was as excited to meet me. My cousins and others, everybody formed their own groups and they were busy on their own. Almost all of them have got married and are busy in their lives. Once you are away from people, they learn to live without you. It was the instance I actually realized that a lot has changed. I did not enjoy the trip as much as I had hoped I would. I really started missing Seattle though I have nothing exciting there as well, except for my routine life. Not many friends are left in Delhi. The ones that are left were not there. Additionally, my family has moved to a new house and it was the first time, I saw the house. Even that felt new. We had been staying in the old house for nearly thirty-five years and I saw that old house from the outside. I felt that some part of my childhood memories is gone forever. I almost had tears in my eyes when I came back because the trip changed everything. People. Friends. Houses. And my own self. And, there is so much pressure to get married now. I don't see myself in that stage but the everyday pressure is a lot. Really.

I completed five years at my work. Five years is a long time. It has not been easy for an introverted person like me as every day requires a lot of stepping out of comfort zone. When I joined, I thought I won't survive for five weeks. For my future, I have taken another risk by moving to a slightly different role. It involves a lot of traveling and it is making me scared again on whether this thing will work for me. But I will do my best. I really hope the reason I took this works out. 

I was talking to someone recently about the craving for physical desire. This was not a cheap conversation. I have been reading and thinking about it as well. I feel that nature has created this whole aspect in its living creations that they crave someone else's body. Desire is such a strong feeling that it makes one weak. The whole act of sex is beautiful in its conception. Two bodies form the most intimate bond. It is fascinating to me. Seeking out mates. Pheromones. 

In terms of movies, there have been so few movies this year that I want to write on. They are all making biopics these days. And, the ones I end up watching are really overhyped. Like Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota. I miss watching a good romantic melodrama with the colors and the emotions. There is no excitement at all given the kind of movies that are coming in the remaining part of this year. Also, not many people are reading my posts of movies. At least two years ago, there were many hits even on average movies. But these days, the number of hits is so low which further reduces the motivation to write. Of course, it also points out that my writing quality has declined as well :( I almost decided to not write anymore. What is the point? Crippling self-doubt is the worst feeling. I had hoped to do so much with writing but alas! People are not reading posts of unknown bloggers these days.

Sharda Ugra wrote a piece on being single by choice. It is written wonderfully. Do read it. 

I was feeling a bit lonely today. I did not know whom to talk to so wrote this. Might delete this later as I said earlier, vulnerability is not easy these days. Hopefully, someone will understand. Will write more later. 

Prayers and wishes for everyone. 

Dialogue of the Day:
"Tum to life me bahut serious they. Kya fayda hua. Bahut bade problem me toh tum bhi phas gaye na."
—Geet, Jab We Met

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Photograph—Memories of Time

Nearly six years after The Lunchbox released, Ritesh Batra turns letters into pictures in his second Hindi film Photograph. The film is the story of a quiet Miloni (Sanya Malhotra), who as her name also suggests, is an academic achiever studying to become a Chartered Accountant in Mumbai. On a trip to the Gateway of India, she meets a photographer Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) who asks her to get a photograph clicked as years later, it will remind her of the sun in her face and the wind in her hair. Circumstances lead to a situation where Rafi asks Miloni to pretend to be his girlfriend for the days his grandmother (Farrukh Jaffar) is in town. She agrees and an unlikely bond develops between them. 
Miloni and Rafi belong to different backgrounds yet they are similar in some ways. They both are living their lives for others. They are obedient pliable people who have followed whatever has been told to them. Miloni always acquiesces to her parent's choices. She wears what her family thinks looks good on her. When she is asked about her favorite color, she is unable to answer. Rafi, too, is living for his family. He is working hard to pay the debt of his house in his village. He was the one who bore all the expenses of his sisters' wedding. He cannot say no to his grandmother's wishes. At the post office when he sends the money order, the lady at the counter also advises him to sometimes keep some money for himself instead of sending it all away. Apne liye bhi rakha karo, Rafi Bhai. In a wonderful scene, while chatting with his friends, he says he told his grandmother, "Dekh Daadi," after which his friend starts mocking his assertiveness and then Rafi corrects that he said, "Dekhiye Daadi." Dekh becomes dekhiye. Even in her absence, he feels shy about being authoritative. When he finishes his letter, he signs it off as 'aapka accha vala bachcha'. At one stage, he even tells his grandmother that he has to go pee when he is at the restaurant. He does do anything without telling her.
Miloni and Rafi's obedience, perhaps, will soon turn into rebellion if they took their relationship to the next level. They belong to different religions and social classes. She is a Hindu. He is a Muslim. She belongs to an upper-class family. He is struggling to make ends meet. Like it happened in the films of the seventies and the eighties, their differences will eventually give rise to opposition from their family members. People already taunt Rafi and make offensive comments for choosing a girl who is different from him in every way. He is a gulab jamun while she is a rasgullaPhotograph does not show us their future and it cleverly ends with Miloni and Rafi chatting outside a cinema hall when they go for a movie. Rafi says that the stories of all the movies are usually the same; their life will soon turn into a movie as well, but the film is primarily focused on building their unlikely relationship.
One interesting thing that is clearly visible throughout the film is the repeated focus on the feet shot of the characters. This is most evident in the case of Miloni. Whenever she seems to be nervous, there are shots of her twitching her feet. It is hard to discern the exact meaning of these feet shots; it can be only be conjectured. As Miloni does not articulate her thoughts and prefers to be silent, the film uses these feet shots to indicate her nervous state. When she is watching a film with Rafi, a rat jumps across her feet making her squirm. When she speaks to Rampyaari (Geetanjali Kulkarni), Miloni asks about her payal as she also got a pair from Rafi's grandmother.
The world of Photograph is not different from the one in The Lunchbox. To start with, the title of the two films is in English. Old-school elements, such as letters and pictures, form the crux of the stories in them. The two films are uniquely Bombay films. Loneliness is a supporting character of its own in the two films. Chance encounters lead to unlikely friendships and undefined relationships in both of them. An accidental delivery of a lunchbox leads to an epistolary romance between Ila (Nimrat Kaur) and Saajan (Irrfan Khan) in The LunchboxKabhi kabhi galat train bhi sahi jagah pahuncha deti hai. A chance encounter at the Gateway of India leads to a pictorial romance between Rafi and Miloni.
In terms of film style as well, Ritesh Batra uses similar tropes as he did in his first film. The Lunchbox opens with a shot of two trains running in opposite directions. Photograph opens with a shot of traffic going in opposite directions. In The Lunchbox, there was Deshpande Aunty whom we never get to see but only get to hear her voice. There was Ila's father whose body we only get to see from the outside. In Photograph, Rafi sends a money order from the post office and there is only the voice of the lady that can be heard. She knows him well but we do not get to see her. The lady in the bus who asks Miloni if she is on the billboard is again an invisible face. When Miloni's teacher is introduced, his face is shown only when the scene is about to end. During the scene where a potential suitor's parents come to see Miloni, the faces of all people are blurred except that of Miloni. There is more a focus on voices rather than faces. 
In The Lunchbox, Ila writes that Deshpande Uncle kept looking at the fan all day long as he believed that his life was in it. Deshpande Aunty purchased an inverter to make sure the fan never stopped running. The sight and the sounds of the ceiling fan are present throughout Photograph as well. Scenes are shot from the perspective of the fan. Tiwari Ji committed suicide by hanging himself on the fan. 
In The Lunchbox, Saajan writes that he spent his whole life standing in trains and buses, and he will have to stand even when he is dead as there are no horizontal burial plots left and only vertical burial plots are being offered. There is no rest even after one leaves the world. This finds resonance in Photograph where Rafi's friend Zakir (Saharsh Kumar Shukla) comments about Tiwari Ji, "Latak ke bhi chain nahi milta Mumbai mein." No one gets peace in Mumbai, not even in death. The door of Rafi's house opens upwards making it feel like he is living in a box. A woman jumps along with her daughter and commits suicide in The Lunchbox; Tiwari Ji also hangs himself and dies in Photograph. Some other sequences, such as making of roti/papad, and mirror scenes are also present in both the films. Delicious mouth-watering food also makes its presence in the two films. 
The search for a utopian land continues in Photograph where Ila's desire to move to Bhutan is mirrored in Miloni's desire to live in a village. The quest to find the elusive inner peace by living in Bhutan due to its adoption of Gross National Happiness is similar to the thrill of farming in the villages. Miloni connected more with people who came from villages, whether it was Rampyaari or Rafi.
Hindi film music also plays its integral part in both films. The Lunchbox's protagonist is named Saajan evoking memories of the movie Saajan (1991) which also had two characters Pooja (Madhuri Dixit) and Sagar (Sanjay Dutt) communicating through letters most of the time. At one stage, Ila is also listening to Mera Dil Bhi Kitna Pagal Hai from Saajan. In another scene, the young boys in the train sing Pardesi Pardesi Jana Nahi from Raja Hindustani (1996). Likewise, Photograph's protagonist is named Rafi after the legendary singer Mohammed Rafi. His song Tumne Mujhe Dekha from Teesri Manzil (1966) plays during the scenes of longing between the two characters. Rafi writes a letter to his grandmother where he mentions that the name of his (imaginary) girlfriend is Noorie which comes to him when he is listening to the song Aaja Re O Mere Dilbar from Noorie (1979).
Recently, noted film critic Baradwaj Rangan wrote a thoughtful article on the importance of exposition behind the narrative events in screenplays. He says that the audience cannot be expected to answer 'Why?' by extrapolation, especially, in mainstream films. While Photograph's aesthetic is different, the issue with the film is that a lot of stuff happens behind the scenes. The film neither shows us a crucial event nor does it give an explanation for some changes. Events, such as Rafi's grandmother coming to visit him or the confrontation between Miloni's teacher and Rafi, are also shown ex post facto. For instance, Miloni agrees to play Rafi's girlfriend but the film never explains her reasons for the same. Miloni's character is inert at places which makes it difficult to read her motivations. It is as if the extremely quiet daughter of Ila from The Lunchbox who hardly spoke one or two words grew up to become Miloni. 
The film's pace is, at times, languorous. Scenes have a long take. There is roughly a minute-long shot of Miloni when she is sitting on a ferry. Some of her scenes with the maid are repeated. Yet, there is some poignant calmness about the film. One can feel the loneliness of the characters. The bond between Miloni and Rampyaari is beautiful. I heard the name Rampyaari after really long, which is also my late grandmother's name giving me a moment of nostalgia as well to remember her. The performances are splendid with Farrukh Jaffar in terrific form. 
As recency plays a strong role in memory, I was also reminded of Zoya Akhtar's Gully Boy at places while watching Photograph. The two films show Bombay quite differently. Gully Boy has an intrusive gaze towards Murad's house in the slums, while Photograph shows the same with a certain restraint. Characters of Safeena (Alia Bhatt) and Miloni can also be contrasted. Safeena's desires were repressed by her overbearing parents that led to her using violence to channel her aggression; Miloni is also feeling suppressed but it is not clear as to what is causing her to retreat into a shell. The love story of Murad and Safeena was somewhere in the middle; their future is uncertain. They will go onto face objection soon. Likewise, the story of Miloni and Rafi ends somewhere in the middle where their future is unclear. They will also have to face challenges ahead. Similar small scenes also are present in the two films. There is a scene in Gully Boy where Safeena is waiting at the bus stop; a similar scene is seen in Photograph where Miloni is waiting at the bus stop. 
Nostalgia drips in almost every frame in Ritesh Batra's films. The Lunchbox depicted old TV shows, such as Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, video cassettes, radio shows, and letters. Photograph shows Campa Cola, softies, kulfi, ice gola, kaali-peeli taxis, money orders, and post offices. "I think we forget things if we have no one to tell them to," the wise Saajan had written to Ila after taking a trip in an autorickshaw that passed through the alley where he grew up as a child. Perhaps, this explains why Ritesh Batra incorporates these nostalgic elements in his films. And, in the process, takes us all on a path where we also relive our childhood days along with him. After all, nostalgia feels even sweeter if there is someone to reminisce and recollect the photographs of time that is not going to come back again.
Trivia:
1. Rafi says he is from Ballia which is also the same village where Nawazuddin Siddiqui grew up.
2. One of Rafi's friends is Amarjeet Singh who played the role of the iconic plumber in Kapoor & Sons
3. Nimrat Kaur has been credited with Hindi dialogues adaptation.
4. In addition to the old songs mentioned above, the film credits Tere Baap Ko Maine Dekha Bandra Station Pe from Do Aankhen Barah Haath. This song and the clip is shown when Rafi and his friends go to eat biryani at Ruksana's house. 
Do Aanken Barah Haath
5. Movies that can be seen in the cinema hall—Do MatwaaleSabse Bada Hatyara, Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke, and Judwaa Number 1
Cutting Scissors:
Other Reading:
1. The post on The LunchboxLink
2. NGK, CCV, Kaatru Veliyidai, And The WHY Question In Mainstream Cinema—Link

Dialogue of the Day:
"Latak ke bhi chain nahi milta Mumbai mein."
—Zakir, Photograph

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Update

I have been really occupied with a lot of personal stuff like moving houses which is leaving me with limited time. I am working on a post on Ritesh Batra's Photograph. I will update it soon. Don't forget me. :)

Dialogue of the Day:
"Kuch log ret par likhe naamo ki tarah hote hai, hawa ka ek hi jhoka jinhe uda deta hai."
—Meghna, Dil Se

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Trivia Post 11

1. The same hand movement scene in Zoya Akhtar's films—Gully Boy and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.
 2. In Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, the villain wears a shirt that has all the famous actors and characters known for their villainous roles. The shirt has Gabbar Singh, Pran, Gogo, Ranjeet, Prem Nath, Bob Christo, Amrish Puri, and Lalita Pawar. I will buy this. 
3. Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota deserves a detailed post just on its references. In one scene, the registrar of the marriages is named Kundan Shah after the director of Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa which is one of Vasan Bala's favorite films. 
4. Tara's feelings in her relationship with Ved depicted through the window in Tamasha.
5. Smoking in the toilet in NH-10 and Shuddh Desi Romance
6. I love The Namesake
7. In Malaal, there is a poster of Titanic, a sign of another doomed love story. 
8. Gajraj Rao in Bandit Queen and Dil Se
9. Konkona Sensharma's characters in Life In A Metro and Page 3 are cheated on by their boyfriends in the exact same way and they find out about it also in the same way.
10. Lyrics similarity:
"Paon rukne lage, raah chalne lagi."—Chup Chup Ke, Bunty Aur Babli
"Main thehra raha, zameen chalne lagi."—Suraj Hua Maddham, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham
11. Same scene in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's films—Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Saawariya
12. Peele phool in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.
13. One perfect shot—Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.
14. Ek Hasina Thi.
15. Shah Rukh Khan's belief in ek tarfa pyaar changes from Dil Se to Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
Dialogue of the Day:
"Dare hue log aksar alfaazon ke peeche chhupte hain."
—Tahir Taliyar Khan, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil