Sunday, September 27, 2015

Of Humans of New York

I love Humans of New York. I can read the stories of people all the time. Everyone is carrying so much pain in their hearts, but living their life with grace and dignity. The story of ordinary people like us is so inspirational. Sometimes, I feel like that the person is telling my story. I have wondered what if someday I run into Brandon Stanton, then, what will I say? I have been thinking a lot, and the answer I thought used to vary based on the mood I was in on that particular time. I don't why I felt like writing it today, given that I do not write personal posts any more. Brandon always says what advice you would like to give to a group of people. I would give advice not to any person but to my younger self of about eight-ten years ago. 

First advice that I will say is a little clichéd but if I can, I want to tell my younger self to not be afraid. Of your choices, of your opinions, of taking risks, even if it means standing all alone in the crowd. Sooner or later, things will work out, so, try to chart your own path. I wish I had the courage to follow my heart ten years ago. I was afraid then, but now ten years later, when I look back, I laugh at my own silliness, and have a sense of regret. The feeling of regret is far more worse than failure. Express your opinions with confidence. And, don't believe people who tell you money is not important in life. 

Second advice that I will say is make few friends, but make them for life. In every phase of life, you will meet people, make friends, but not all of them are going to remain friends with you for life. It is no body's fault but eventually distance will come when your college will end, when you will move to a different workplace, when you will move to a different city, when your friend will get married. So, be careful in what you share with them so that later you don't regret if you should have actually shared that. I lost three friends in the last three weeks, and I am feeling very bad about it. 

Lastly, I will tell that in this world, we are responsible for our happiness. No one is going to come and give you a gift of happiness. So, do whatever that makes you feel happy, even if it means watching movies all alone in the theater, going every Saturday to your favorite beach and playing with the waves, making the silliest of Dubsmash videos on Instagram, and learning to make a new dish for dinner. Remember, a little alcohol always helps :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tamasha—All The World's A Stage

Smartphones are addictive devices. You know how we used to wake up for a few seconds in the night, check the time, and go back to sleep. But with the advent of smartphones, we not only check the time, but also check Facebook and Twitter, for a few seconds before going back to sleep. The trailer of Imtiaz Ali's Tamasha came out today, and of course, I saw it at 04.30 AM with my eyes half open, and I have been thinking about it since then. Readers would know Imtiaz Ali is a favorite of this blog, so, naturally, when a new trailer of his film comes out, we would go all crazy. Using a clichéd term, the trailer is a beautiful one. It gives many interesting themes of the coming film, and I cannot wait to watch it. 

Ranbir Kapoor is Ved Vardhan Sahni. His office ID card says that he is a senior marketing manager. He narrates the story of a character called 'Hero' who is most likely inspired from his own life. Hero has studied engineering, and has been a pliant person all his life. He follows a daily routine. One day, Hero moves away to a far off place, somewhere between 'dil' and 'duniya', and finds a partner Tara played by Deepika Padukone. The trailer has a recurring motif and hints at some sort of a duality. Ved narrates the story of 'Hero', and when he later meets Tara, he introduces himself as 'Don', one of the most famous 'villains' of Hindi cinema. Thus, Hero has both the shades of a hero and a villain. It, then, makes sense that counterpart of Ved's Hero is Don. It is also worth noting that the character of Don in Don had two personalities—an evil one, and a good one. In Tamasha, it seems that duality is not only in present in Ved's story, but also in Ved's life. He has a daily job, but he also works as an actor in a theater group. The point of conflict between Tara and Ved seems to be this dual personality of Ved, where Tara is in love with the Ved whom she met in Corsica, while he thinks he was only acting then. Also, interesting is the presence of two names in his name—Ved Vardhan, and the way he calls Tara as Mona Darling. He says, "Toh main aapko Mona kahu ya Darling," which (at the risk of over-analysis) I feel that points that he cannot think that Mona Darling can be one person. This, again, is brought out in the conflict between him and Tara a few scenes later where he fails to recognize that he can be the person who Tara met in that far-off land. Shakespeare had said, "All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages." Life is a stage of drama, and we are all actors playing our respective parts. Or, in another words, this world is a tamasha, perhaps, that explains the film's title is also Tamasha, and the presence of many plays and stories in the film and the film's poster, including Romeo and Juliet, Ramayana, Mahabharat, Helen of Troy, Laila Majnu, Heer and Ranjha, Soni Mahiwal, Prithviraj Chauhan, and Aladin. The theme of duality is seen in the way Tamasha is written in two colors—red and orange. The continuous changing looks of Ved, from clean-shaved, French beard, and unkempt, at different stages of life point to the larger Shakespearean stage theme. It is the multiplicity of identities that seems to be the theme of Tamasha.

At one point, Ved says, "Yahan se kai kos door, dil aur duniya ke beech." Somehow, it reminded me of Rumi's quote in Rockstar. "Pata hai, yahan se bahut door, galat aur sahi ke paar, ek maidan hai, main vahaan milunga tujhe," which means, "Away beyond all concepts of wrong-doing and right-doing, There is a field. I'll meet you there." This was the first line in Rockstar. In fact, Tamasha also seems to be inspired by another Rumi quote, which Imtiaz has hinted on the film's Facebook page. "Don't be satisfied with the stories that come before you. Unfold your own myth." This also fits with the film's tagline. Why always the same story? 

A picture i received during the shooting of Tamasha-Imtiaz Ali

With the exception of Aditi in Socha Na Tha, all of Imtiaz's female characters have two letters in their name, based on Devnagri script. After Geet (Jab We Met), Meera (Love Aaj Kal), Heer (Rockstar), Veera (Highway), now we have Tara (Tamasha). She is the star to Ved, who is surrounded by historical epics, and will bring some sparkle to his monotonous life. Like Geet's costume in Yeh Ishq Hai in Jab We Met, I have a strong feeling that Tara's lip-printed shirt in Tamasha will become a rage, and it will be one of the defining images of the film. 

A paragraph that I always write while blogging about any Imtiaz Ali film, on the element of journey. Whether it is Socha Na Tha, Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal, Rockstar or Highway—all his films involve a journey of a sort that includes travelling to different places, and these places could even be spiritual zones. In Tamasha, too, we see this element of journey where Ved and Tara appear to be a part of a drama troupe travelling different places. They are a kind of banjaras, not only acting for a story, but also playing the actors in the drama called the journey of life.

At one point, we see that Ved has a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, which I find pretty interesting. 

Deepika and Ranbir have a sparking chemistry. They look fabulous, and so happy together. The initial few scenes reminded me a bit of Barfi. Initially, I thought the film's story was similar to Mann. There was one scene which even made me shed a tear. Sometimes, the beauty of a sad scene is overwhelming. Oh, Imtiaz, how do you do it? We will be waiting for Tamasha. We will be thinking of Tamasha. We will be dreaming of Tamasha. Of course, we will be watching and re-watching Tamasha. Because, all the world's an Imtiaz Ali film, and we wish we could be actors in it. 

Dialogue of the Day:
"Wahi kahani fir ek baar, majnu ne liye kapde faad, maar tamasha beech bazaar."
—Ved, Tamasha

Some tweets containing what I already wrote:- 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dil Gira Dafatan—Of Good And Evil

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's Delhi-6 is a fabulous film. I have loved it every time I have watched it. It has so many layers, and so many metaphors. I have to write on it soon. Last night, I got an epiphany to listen and watch its songs. Delhi-6's music is one of A.R. Rahman's finest compositions. Arziyan continues to be on the must-play list of music lovers, but I really like Dil Gira Dafatan. Not only because of its soulful lyrics, but also because of its fabulous picturization. It reminded me a lot about Satrangi Re from Dil Se, on which I have written (link) that it is one of the most beautifully choreographed songs ever.

Dil Gira Dafatan begins when Roshan wakes up and sees the Statue of Liberty in Delhi-6. Then, he opens a door, and enters into a sort of a mysterious place. This is Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's utopia where there is juxtaposition of New York and Delhi, of Times Square and Chandni Chowk. It is difficult to say if we are witnessing the New York-ification of Delhi, or the Delhi-sation of New York. The line between reality and fiction is blurred as signified by the blurring of the screen during the length of the song. There is overlap of modernity and tradition, and of Western and Indian culture. At one point, Roshan is running but he is unable to move forward, while others around him pass by. Is he standing still or running away? Is this a dream or a reality? Even the past and present seemed to have merged, where Roshan's father and mother are sitting in the car with Ali Baig, just like the old times, but he also sees the present—Bittu and the other people whom he met in Delhi. This duality also in some ways point to his own dual identity, where he not only belongs to both India and the US, but also his lineage from two different religions, where he is the son of a Muslim mother, and a Hindu father. There are Ram Leela processions and hip hop dancers; the jalebi contrasts with the Starbucks coffee. The film is set in Delhi-6, the most likely place where there is likely to be a clash of cultures. 

This dual theme continues when we see Hanuman flying through the air. Hanuman is the lovable monkey god, who devoted his life to Rama and Seeta. At the other end, we see a reference to King Kong where Roshan (dressed in a black monkey mask) and Bittu are on the top of the Empire State Building. King Kong, a giant monkey, terrorized the city of New York and had climbed the Empire State Building. The entire film Delhi-6 is based on the theme of monkeys, where we see Hanuman during Ram Leela, and a mysterious kaala bandar in the second half. It talks that there is a good and evil in each of us, and Hanuman and King Kong depict that contrast. 

At one point, there is a man with a mirror and Roshan sees a reflection in it. The mirror theme is also present throughout the film where it conveys the message to look within yourself. But in also points to some sort of a wonderland, like Alice In Wonderland. Alice was able to a fantastical world by climbing through a mirror into the world so that she can see beyond it. It was Through The Looking Glass. Similarly, this is the ideal state where Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra takes us on the flight ROMPD6, where ROMP point to his initials and D6 refers to Delhi-6. The ROMP signify that this was his wonderland. This is where he wants his characters to be. Bittu was compared to a trapped pigeon in the song Masakkali; she is finally free as signified by the flight of the white pigeon here. This is the world where Roshan feels at home. It is his ideal hybridized state where he feels the most comfortable.  

In the mirror, Roshan sees Bittu sitting on a rickshaw. Then, he sees a portrait of Bittu being painted. Then, a few seconds later he enters the canvas, and there is no one else around except only the two of them. This painting has shades of impressionism, as that of Claude Monet.  

The lyrics by Prasoon Joshi are deeply evocative and beautifully explained. I love the line on seepiyon ke honth se moti chhalak rahe hain.

Dil Mera
Dil Gira Kahin Per Dafatan
Jaane Magar Ye Nayan
Teri Khaamosh Zulfon Ki Gehraaiyaan
Hai Jahan Dil Mera Uljha Hua Hai Wahin
Kho Gaya

Tu Magar Hai Bekhabar 
Hai Bekhabar
Dil Gira Kahin Per Dafatan
Kyon Goonj Rahi Hai Dhadkan
Jaane Magar Yeh Nayan

Sipiyon Ke Honth Se Moti Chhalak Rahe Hain
Ghazalon Ki Sohbat Mein Geet Bhi Behek Rahi Hai
Samandar Lehron Ki
Lehron Ki Chaadar Odh Ke So Raha Hai
Per Main Jagoon 

Ek Khumari Ek Nasha Sa 
Ek Nasha Sa Ho Raha Hai
Tu Magar Hai Bekhabar
Hai Bekhabar

Dil Gira Kahin Per Dafatan
Kyon Goonj Rahi Hai Dhadkan
Jaane Magar Yeh Nayan

Kushboo Mein Lipata Mausam
Teri Khaamosh Zulfon Ki Gehraaiyaan
Hai Jahan Dil Mera Uljha Hua Hai Wahin
Kho Gaya

Tu Magar Hai Bekhabar 
Hai Bekhabar
Dil Gira Kahin Per Dafatan

In an interview, Mehra has said that Delhi-6 was his attempt to remake Aks. Now, it all makes sense, the use of masks, the theme of evil and good, and the use of mirrors in Delhi-6, because Aks also dealt with these issues. The word aks means reflection. Delhi-6 might not be perfect, but it is heartening to see that a filmmaker has given a lot of thought to his film, which is so refreshing these days because everyone seems to be chasing the 100 crore collection at the box office without giving a thought on how to make a good film. 

I have to write a detailed post on Delhi-6 soon exploring some more wonderful recurring motifs and themes, including that of Ramayana in the film. Hopefully soon.

Dialogue of the Day:
"Zare zare me usi ka noor hai, jhaank khud me woh na tujhse door hai, ishq hai usse to sabse ishq kar, is ibadat ka yahi dastoor hai."

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Bombay Velvet—Of Walls, Cages, And Big Shots

Much has already been written on Anurag Kashyap's magnum opus Bombay Velvet. The film has been dissected to death, and there is not much left to say. I had watched the film when it had released, and I really liked it a lot, notwithstanding the opprobrium that the film was getting. I did not write about it, thinking I will wait for the DVD version to better analyze it. The DVD came out, and I watched it again, and this time, too, I liked it. But the problem is I don't know what to write. I am not adept at reviewing Anurag Kashyap's films, because of my severe lack of knowledge of Hollywood films, particularly, of the Martin Scoresese genre, from which Bombay Velvet takes its inspiration. Sir Rangan has already written a splendid review of the film, so, there is nothing new to write for a novice like me. I like to write on mainstream Bollywood movies more than anything else, and given Anurag Kashyap's penchant for indie films, I don't think I can do full justice by writing on the film. I cannot full explain why I liked Bombay Velvet, though trying to write a few points on the film below.
  • At one point in the film, a character says that Bombay was once called a golden bird, perhaps, that was the reason that throughout the film, there was a peculiar golden tinge. It was also given to distinguish the film's setting from the present day. Just as old photographs have a sepia tinge, the film wanted to reflect on the time passed by. 
  • There is a central theme in the film where the characters want to climb the social ladder, and become more powerful. This theme of power is not only reflected in their actions, but also subtly expressed using sexual references. Kaizad Khambhatta (a terrific Karan Johar) is gay, and is called a 'fruitcake' by his rival. He is married to a woman and has no qualms in using her as a honey-trap. His rival Jimmy Mistry (Manish Chaudhari) shares similar traits as Khambatta. He marries a rich man's disabled daughter so that he can take his money, and run his newspaper to advance his nefarious designs. If Khambatta is gay, Jimmy cannot perform in bed, as Rosie (Anushka Sharma) hinted at. In a way, both these men are lesser of men, as a sexual prowess is believed to be one of the essential characteristics to be a powerful 'man'. Then, comes in Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor). Khambatta looks at Balraj's penis and names him Johnny, a slang used for a man with a big cock. At one point later in the film, Rosie jokingly threatens to cut his penis, and says that he would clap like an eunuch on the streets. The irony is that Johnny might be adorned with an over-sized male anatomical part, but he has to work for effete impotent men, such as Khambatta and Mistry, to become a 'big shot'. The film's focal point is on a negative of a photograph of a politician in a compromising position with Khambatta's wife. Women are used as baits to trap them. These 'big shots' might be powerful but still they are weakened by one organ. Call it a co-incidence of fate, much before the film was released, Anurag Kashyap and Kamaal R. Khan were engaged in a battle of words related to a similar topic. Art imitating life, of life imitating art. It is funny how life works sometimes.

  • There is another interesting aspect in the film where geography mirrors some characters. Rosie runs away from her abusive teacher, and comes to Bombay. She is from Goa which was under the Portuguese control, and the Portuguese committed atrocities on the citizens, who wanted to get freedom from Portugal. In this way, Rosie and Goa share the same characteristics—beautiful, abused, captive, and trying to be free. At another point, the film says that Bombay was made by reclaiming the land between seven islands. Everybody wishes that Bombay becomes the Manhattan of India. Bombay banega mahangar. In this way, the aspirational vision of Bombay to become a metropolis mirrors Johnny's dream of becoming a big shot. Thus, both Johnny and the city of Bombay share a similar dream. It is, also, absolutely befitting that Bombay is also known as the city of dreams. However, both have to constantly fight to reach that dream but ultimately they will lose. Johnny is defeated by the Khambattas and the Mistrys, the city of Bombay is defeated by the nexus of politicians and industrialists. While Johnny is dead, the city of Bombay is sold to the powerful. Look at present day Bombay, where it is no longer called Bombay, it is Mumbai. It is home to the world's largest slum, and where the nexus of politicians and builders has taken over the entire real estate. It was supposed to be Manhattan and Shanghai, but the city can't even withstand a torrential rainfall. Bombay lies battered and defeated. No wonder Anurag Kashyap is leaving the city to move to Paris. 

  • I was also intrigued by the metaphor of a cage in the film. Johnny has this masochistic attitude where he goes and fights with a wrestler in a cage, and repeatedly loses to him. The cage and Johnny's repeated loss is a metaphor for the fight that a common man has to fight to become a big shot. Unless one is born rich, he is always stuck in a cage and is defeated like Johnny always used to lose in his caged-fights because, as the song says, "Hey aam hindustani teri kismat kharaab hai." This cage theme is repeated when Johnny says to Rosie that outside of Bombay lies a naked, starving India. It is as if Bombay is a cage that does not allow outsiders to enter in it easily. In the same, the club Bombay Velvet is a cage which only allows the rich and the powerful to come. In the final moments of the film, Johnny and Rosie are again trapped in a hotel room for days and they cannot go out because death awaits them outside. It is as if they are trapped in this cage, from which they cannot escape. The only way to come out is through the pipes on the walls of the hotel. There is the concept of walls and boundaries that the characters have to climb to get power, but the city of Bombay does not allow to do that easily. At one point, Johnny is dressed in the finest of white blazers, but just when he comes out of the car, his blazer gets torn and he had to take it off. Khambatta calls him a waiter when he saw Johnny without his blazer, a stark reminder that if you try to 'fit' in it, it won't let you do so easily. 
  • At another point in the film, a stand-up comedian jokes that since the English have already left the country, the communists are trying to fight the Englishmen, the people who speak English. We see this reference again later when Khambatta tries to break the friendship between Chinman (Satyadeep Mishra) and Johnny. Khambatta takes the reference of Jinnah and says that partition did not happen because Muslims wanted their own land, but it happened because Jinnah wanted to rule. If India had remained one, Jinnah would have never become President or Prime Minister. Just as English used the concept of divide and rule to create a wedge between India and Pakistan, the Englishman in the film, Khambatta, uses the same policy to break the friendship between Chinman and Johnny. Continuing this theme, I was curious that the name of the wrestler in the cage was 'Japani'. I am not able to come up with a convincing reason for it. At one point, Johnny remarks that one day he will bomb Japanese head. Was that a subtle metaphor for the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan, so could that mean Japani belonged to the forces of evil as Japan was called during the World War? Because eventually Japan lost the war; here too, Johnny wins over him in the end despite getting mauled every time before. Or could this be the reason? 

  • Somehow, the movie kept reminding me of Varun (Ranveer Singh) in Lootera. At one point in the film, Johnny says that everyone in the world used him to advance their interests. He wants to be a big shot one day. Similarly, in Lootera, Varun had said, "Mera zindagi me istemaal sab ne kiya, pyaar sirf tumne kiya." Varun, too, wanted to create a masterpiece some day. Both Johnny and Varun have shades of Dev Anand in them, and both the films seem to be inspired by Baazi. 

  • One of my favorite lines in the film was when Jimmy threatens Rosie ans says that if she did not give him the negative, he will expose her. It is an interesting play of words if you think about it :)
  • Rosie is inspired from Lorna Cordeiro, and the film is dedicated to her. Every man she has met in her life abused her. Whether it was the whipping teacher, the shady photographer, or the cigar-chewing Jimmy Mistry, all the men she met in her life wanted sexual favors from her. It was Johnny who cares for her, and loves her. She says it was Johnny who taught her to hit back. There is a wonderful scene when the two engage in a fight. He slaps her, and then, she slaps him back. She even hits him with a chair. Traditional Hindi film heroines of the era took suffering quietly. In no particular connection, a poster of Meena Kumari's Main Chup Rahungi is shown outside a brothel. But, Rosie is not going to remain quiet, she has learnt to hit back.

  • In addition to Lorna Cordeiro, the film is dedicated to Samita Sinha. Anurag explains the connection with Samita here
  • My issue with Bombay Velvet was that there was no suspense created in the movie. In the sense, for example, when Rosie is supposed to be dead in the bomb blast, immediately, after that it was revealed that she was not killed but she ran away with Johnny. Then, what was the point of creating this elaborate sequence of bomb blast? Why does she go back to her own mock funeral? It could have been revealed in the end that she was not dead but the film does not create that element of mystery and drama. At one point, we see that Johnny is watching James Cagney's The Roaring Twenties. The film inspires him to become a big shot. We see Johnny watching the film in a theater and the scene of James Cagney being shot, after which he dies. So, we know this is exactly what will happen to Johnny, too, in the climax. These all elements took the away the film's suspense, and it became to drag in some parts. If one knows the history of Bombay, then, this would be a far more enjoyable film. For instance, the song Sylvia is inspired from the case of Nanavati and Sylvia. Having read Salman Rushdie's fantastic Midnight's Children, I had some knowledge about Bombay; however, for an uninitiated viewer, it could be a bit confusing. Some readers have commented that the film's original reel was nearly five hours long, but the editor cut it down, perhaps, that might be the reason for some of the disoriented sequences. If only, we could get the entire reel.

  • In terms of performances, Bombay Velvet is a far, far superior film. Karan Johar is a revelation. There is this mean and vile streak in him, as seen in his TV shows, and in that one scene in Luck By Chance. The film uses him perfectly. Ranbir is very good, but somehow, his hairstyle looked terrible, and it kept reminding me of his mother. Anushkha Sharma is not so good in the songs, it seems she was struggling in them. In contrast, Raveena Tandon is superb in the songs. Amit Trivedi's music is simply terrific. I love Behrupia, much more than Dhadam Dhadam.
  • In the end credits, the film reflects the ultimate irony. It says Nariman Point, one of the the world's premier business districts, is named after K.F. Nariman, who vociferously fought against the Reclamation. The other irony is that of all the people, the only honest person in the film, Inspector Vishwas (Kay Kay Menon), whose name means trust, doffs his cap as if paying tribute to a thief's struggle and his death. 

The film may not have worked for many, but the kind of criticism it received was somewhat unwarranted. Perhaps, it was the burden of immense expectations that became the film's coffin. At one point, we see that there is a Mark Twain quote in Rosie's diary. It says, "Do something every day that you don't want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain." And, that is the golden rule everyone should follow to do their duty. 

Dialogue of the Day:
"Hum sehra ki tarah, 
Tum baadal ho mera,
Baarishein dhoondti dhadam dhadam, 
Darbadar ghoomti dhadaam dhadaam."
— Rosie Noronha, Bombay Velvet

P.S.— Apologies for the bad writing :(