Monthly Archives: December 2012

How I Knew Jab Tak Hai Jaan would be crap

Long before the film actually released, I knew that the film would be crappy. Just another pink, velvetty stepping stone into whatever SRK is planning to make of his career in the coming years.

And how did I know?

From the music.

The first song that was aired was the Punjabi number Challa. Sung by Rabbi Shergill, the voice seemed out of sync with Shah Rukh, who has been steadily serenading beauties with the voices of Udit Narayan and Kumar Sanu.

The music seemed to pique my interest for a bit, and then slid down into disappointment.

And moreover, the song featured SRK doing what I call the Guitar Bullshit.

For decades, Bollywood has fooled us into believing that heroes can play the guitar. Pull off legendary riffs, pick out heartwrenching ballads by the ear, and strum along to anthems.

final guitar

Shah Rukh, of course, is no stranger to music bullshit, having earlier done the Violin Bullshit, Flute Bullshit, and Drums bullshit.

So anyway, I went on to the rest of the songs, and one of the tunes seemed to grasp my attention for more than a few seconds. But then quickly slipped out like sand. Not one of the songs seemed to capture my attention.

Now, let me introduce my theory. It called ‘Rahman Knows’.

Rahman, whom many Indians worship as a living God, knows when the film is going to be good. He recognises the value of a well written script, and has a fair understanding of the film maker’s abilities.

It’s only a theory. But the sheer facts and numbers that back the theory can be quite surprising.

Over the years, Rahman has produced music that has been in line with the kind of film that is being made.

Rahman’s music for Hindi films can be broadly classified into four categories.

THE EPIC: In this category, it is a sureshot winner. The director is good, the actors are good, there is a good story, and the music, like the scale, is epic.

There are numerous instances of this. The theme as the last day of cricket unfolds, the track that plays when the minister is being killed, and the grandeur of the Mughal kingdom – the music walks hand in hand with the film, producing a profound effect, that only elevates the film to a different experience altogether.

THE INTENSE: Here, the story is intense. It is not your average soppy Hindi romance. The film might not be an epic hit, but it definitely has a story to tell. Rahman’s music for these films has also been like the films.

The music is not epic, but it is intense and soul-stirring. The heart thumping beats in Dil Se, or the smooth, tragic tunes of 1947 Earth. Or that bit of music, the theme of Bombay that is uplifting and depressing at the same time, Rahman’s music has been on par with the films, and the canvas that they were trying to paint.

THE AVERAGERS: These were films that treaded the line between sensible and your average idiotic Hindi film. These films had their moments, kept you involved, but were not something you would devote time to, after returning home.

If you look at Rahman’s music for these films, it will be like the films themselves. There will be a few good tracks, neither epic, nor intense. Just songs that occupy the large space between great and average. Songs that you would hum for a while, and then relegate to the back of your mind.

Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Ghajini, Pukar, Saathiya – the examples are endless.

And finally, comes the last category.

THE BULLSHITTERS: These are the kind of films that are made to squeeze out the superstardom from actors. The stories aren’t much to write home about, and the films are driven more by the status of the leads at the time, rather than the story of the film.

rahman

When these films are offered to him, Rahman knows. He happily signs on the dotted line, and makes the music.

And the music, is like the film. A shadow of what it could have been. Songs that will play on MTV for a few days, and 9XM for a few more, and then will live the rest of their lives on Youtube, that old age home where songs spend their twilight years.

Examples of this, again, are aplenty. The songs in Blue, then the most expensive film – starring Sanjay Dutt as a deep sea diver, but visibly pregnant by 7 months – are a grim reminder of what happens if you try to fuck with Rahman.

Then, there is Yuvvraj. And Kisna.

So when I saw the trailers of JTHJ, Shah Rukh holding the guitar and strumming away on the wrong chords, about Challa or whatever, I stood up, and stretched out my hands.

I took a deep breath, ran my hands through my hair like the man himself, and muttered.

Fuck you, I’m not watching your film.

Your film of eternal love and pain.

I shall partake not of your cup of love,

So no matter how much you cry,

No matter how much you ham.

I’ll sit at home and eat bread,

Jab Tak Hai Jam.

Jab Tak Hai Jam.

An Ode to the Buffalo

When I woke up, I realised I was going to be late. I rushed to the bathroom, to the horrible stench of someone saving water for the planet, and another guy singing in the shower. Since my room was at the end of the corridor, the sun barged into my room and onto my face in the morning, my natural, four billion year old alarm clock.

Breakfast was over in the mess, and the day had all the makings of a disaster. I quickly rolled a joint and smoked it, as the hostel began to get deserted. I ran through the empty corridors to the main road, to wait for a bus or ask for a lift.

I was running to the square, when I found, standing right in front of me, a buffalo.

It was doing nothing. Just standing in the middle of the road, and staring at me.

That was when I first felt the pangs of envy towards buffaloes.

***************

Buffaloes lead the coolest lives.

The buffaloes in the university step out around ten o clock, stroll in a line towards a lake called Buffalo Lake and sit in the lake all day.

I wonder what they do there. Do they worry about their future? Think about how they are going to arrange for food, or what to do during the winters?

They just sit there in the lakes, silently. The sun gets harsher, and they sink further into the cool water, merging into the stillness of the lake.

When the sun has set, they step out. There are cranes waiting to peck at them and take off the dirt from their bodies. They slowly head back to their homes.

So when I was in front of it, I wondered if the buffalo was thinking, “Look at them run about mindlessly. The most evolved species on the planet. Ha!”

**************

If cows are revered as the Holy Mother, the buffalo is the chilled out aunt who never asks about your marks. Buffaloes have no pressures to live up to.

They are not mentioned in mythology, or moral stories, have not been elevated to the stature of goddesses, and hence, aren’t worshipped. So they eat the same stuff, give the same milk, but don’t have to go through the bull shit of poojas and customs.

Another remarkable fact is the way buffaloes behave.

Cows are not like that. Sometimes they are calm and peaceful, but at other times, they are moody. Same with the bulls too. Years and years spent with Shiva hasn’t yet taught them to chill out.

Buffaloes? They are Rastafarians, them lot. Drifting along in a dream state between reality and consciousness, buffaloes give the phrase ‘chilling out’ a different meaning altogether. You will never see an aggressive buffalo in the history of mankind. Except of course, Mahishasura, the Buffalo Demon who was killed by Durga, bringing disrepute to his otherwise noble and affable brethren.

Ever seen a buffalo stuck in the middle of the road? You can honk, scream, yell, or throw water. The buffalo is not going to budge.

cool buffalo edited

For, buffaloes, you see, are an evolved lot.

They realise that all this going on time to please someone is all useless. In the long run, what matters is what you enjoy doing.

********************

I looked at my watch; it was 10.30.

As I stared at its face, I saw that the buffalo knew. It understood.

“Fuck it,” I said, “I am rolling another.”

I walked to the rocks nearby, sat down, took out my cigarettes, and plugged in my headphones…

Tricky Ponting

I discovered Ponting the same time that I discovered Sachin Tendulkar, which was the same time I discovered cricket.

Outlook had released a special World Cup edition in 1996 which had articles, pictures, and profiles of all the teams. Ricky Ponting was featured as a young, aggressive batsman who could change the match with his strokeplay.

Of course, after the World Cup, Sachin shot to astronomical levels of achievement, and was quickly hailed as the greatest of his era, along with Lara and Akram. Ponting’s rise wasn’t meteoric – it was a carefully crafted road that would take him to the pinnacle of world cricket.

Comparisons with Sachin are inevitable, and I am sure Indian fans have begun flooding blogs, websites, and YouTube with ‘Sachin is better. Jai Hind!’ sort of remarks. Both of them got recognition around the same time, they both started young, and had boyish looks and an attacking style of batting. But Sachin and Ponting travelled diverse paths to the same destination.

Sachin was destined for glory from the beginning. He was a lotus in a dirty pond full of mediocre cricketers, so much that his singular achievements in a team game gave the nation a sense of pride and achievement.

Ponting broke into the team that already had a range of stars. From David Boon to the Waugh brothers, to Taylor, Ponting had to cement his place by shoving away bigger stars. He had to fight for his place.

While Sachin was the Arjuna – a mix of skill and character, always ready to take the right path, Ponting was like Karna. Supremely confident of his abilities, and audacious enough to stick to his own decisions.

While one was soft-spoken, polite, and politically correct, the other was brash, rude, and fiercely confident.

May be how they came into the teams, also chartered the course for the rest of their careers as well.

You would never find Ponting smiling and walking up to a batsman who was hit. You’d never find him sharing a friendly banter with an opposition bowler. None of that smiling, good-natured bubble gum romance that makes for great Cricinfo articles and biographies.

Cricket was a war for Ponting. A war that had to be won by gritting your teeth and fighting it out. If a ball went near him, he leapt at it. If a ball was pitched short, he shuffled across and hooked it over the boundary. There were no smiles, no mercy, no joy in celebrating the spirit of cricket. It was a bloody war!

It was no surprise that, like most Indians, I hated Ricky Ponting.

I hated his guts. I remember famously telling my classmates in school that I’d support Pakistan in a Pak vs Aus match. That was how much I hated the guy.

Of course, Ricky Ponting cared two hoots about how much I liked him.

He went on to become the captain of the Australian team in all three formats, compiling runs at home and abroad, and for about a decade, epitomising Aussie aggression for the rest of the world.

And then, the 2007 tour to Australia happened.

India was a resurgent side, a healthy mix of vintage class and new found aggression. Australia was simply Australia. Ready to fight till the last breath, no matter how ugly the situation got.

I remember being crestfallen that series. Umpiring decisions were awful, the third umpire was not referred to, a stupid, career-threatening charge was slapped on Harbhajan Singh, and to hammer the final nail in the coffin, after the match was over, I remember Anil Kumble standing on the field for the customary handshake, and the Australian team looking at him, and walking away.

It was the worst series I had witnessed in my life. Also, the highest run getter in the series was Sachin, for whom my respect shot up manifold.

When Ponting pushed Sharad Pawar off the victory podium, India seethed (Of course, two years later, when some random guy slapped Sharad Pawar, India cheered. But that’s another matter!)

My hatred for Ponting kept growing through the years. I couldn’t stand the smug expression he carried on the field, and off it.

They say that a villain’s greatest achievement is if the viewer wants to leap on to the screen and kill him.

As an Indian, I hated how Ricky Ponting thought of nothing but victory. Everything else was secondary.

As an Australian, may be that would have been the very reason I would have loved the guy.

May be that’s what makes Ricky Ponting great.

ponting