Monthly Archives: September 2013

irrfan-khan in lunchbox

The Lunchbox: Worth a Second Helping

While writing an article on genres in Bollywood recently, I realised that the only genres that work consistently are rom-coms and action.

The biggest hits have both, with only the concentration of the two making a difference.

The last two years have been promising, with smaller, smarter films being able to hold their own against big-budget brain rapists.

But while the new wave has mostly been moving, quirky, edgy films, there haven’t been many that have actually made an attack on the romantic genre itself.

The Lunchbox, by writer director Ritesh Batra is a romance that spins the genre on its head.

*

Thanks to all the awesome critics in the country, you probably already know the story of the film, so I won’t delve into the plot. It’s annoying to read all about the film before watching it, because you know what is going to be good about it, and what would disappoint.

However, allow me to rave about the performances, while trying to reveal as little as possible of the story.

What The Lunchbox does absolutely right is the casting. With Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Irrfan Khan in a frame, you have to be a Rahul Gandhi to mess up a film.

What Ritesh Batra does, however, is to extract much more from them than previously thought possible. And what a delight it is to see the two men together!

nawaz irrfan

It was heartening to hear whispers, and see people pointing at the screen when Nawazuddin’s name appeared in the credits. There is a certain arresting presence he has on screen, bringing in dignity to his role, in spite of playing any character that he does. It is the subtle things he does with his face, that elevate his performance to a sublime level.

In spite of all our stars gloating about Hollywood roles where elephants and cars have larger roles than them, it has been Irrfan Khan who has built any semblance of a body of work outside India.

irrfan khan

His films in India however, haven’t been totally fulfilling since in spite of his role, there is the usual Bollywood crap that goes with every film. Dramatic sequences, loud backgrounds scores, emotions that seem as real as Rakhi Sawant’s boobs.

In The Lunchbox, he is batting on home pitch. Through grins, glances, and grimaces, he expresses more than all our superstars, in an entire calendar year.

But the real star of the film (yes, in spite of the two men) is Nimrat Kaur.

The first time I had seen her was in the Dairy Milk commercial, as she licks chocolate off her lips.

nimrat kaur

 

Here, it is sensuality of the kitchen sink variety. The sweat on her forehead, the way her honeymoon dress fits her around the edges, the manner in which she plans and cooks her food – with the teasing touch of an undressing scene. It is a smoldering performance!

Without putting a foot wrong, Nimrat stands up to the men in the film with a riveting performance, thanks to the other fringe characters who make up her everyday life – an aunty living upstairs we never see, the dabbawalah who is proud of Harvard’s accreditation of his organisation, or a smoking cup of tea.

nimrat

*

The Lunchbox is a beautiful film. Without the loud overarching techniques our filmmakers use. It does not rain when there is a touching scene. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan doesn’t belt out an Urdu number when the director wants us to empathise.

It is more Lost in Translation than DDLJ, if you know what I mean.

So while Bollywood is trying to tickle your funny boner with Grand Masti, or trying too hard to entertain you with Chennai Shitfest, please go watch The Lunchbox.

And then treat yourself to a second helping.

Why I’m not Orgasming over Modi yet

It is undeniably heartening to see the response Modi has got on being chosen the PM candidate. Heartening that probably for the first time, someone from humble origins has come up to the top, waving a massive middle finger at dynastic politics. That there is someone whose main platform is development.

However, the frenzy on social media seems a little hollow, and half baked. He might have stellar records to back him up, but to speak of him as the panacea for all troubles might be a little too far-fetched.

If only!

If only!

And it is perfectly understandable why he makes the intelligentsia uncomfortable.

1. Polarised Opinion: Ever since Modi has been in the reckoning, the entire political discourse in the country has been reduced to a dogs vs. cats sort of argument. You are either a right wing fundamentalist, or a pseudo-intelligent, pseudo-secular Congress stooge.

Well, sorry to break it to you. But there are others too, you know. Those who are sickened by dynastic politics and yet might differ from your opinion. Those who want a sane discussion without being reduced to either one of the categories. The space for sensible dialogue has vanished. The Congress calls him Rambo. And Modi’s supporters say Amartya Sen is not Indian because he has a foreign wife. It’s all become a terribly off-putting farce.

But it is difficult to even put across a point to Modi fanboys, because they will hear none of it. You have to be able to slit your wrist, take some blood, and apply it as a tilak on your head, or you are a Congress supporter, or a Communist.

A polarised discussion leads to nothing, except Arnab Goswami fapping away with pleasure, looking down at us lesser mortals.

2. Media Bashing: Another favourite pastime of Modi fanboys is to diss the media.

Yes, I understand that our nation’s media does not blow our minds away on a regular basis with its sensitivity, but isn’t it a little hypocritical?

Much of the hailed ‘revolution’ that has occurred in the last few years, has been primarily because of the media. The Anna Hazare campaign was promoted by the media, the media hounded the government on scams, and also had a major part in the push for justice in the Delhi gangrape case.

Also, much of Modi’s allure is because he handles media very well. Every speech of his is covered live by news channels, and even his speech in Hyderabad, where BJP has little presence, was beamed to the entire nation.

Also, the media has even made up facts, as shown during the Uttarakhand floods, knowing fully well that there will be gullible morons waiting to believe everything thrown their way. Also, when Modi was declared PM candidate, NDTV (which is spoken of as a sister concern of the Congress) flashed a banner asking people to send him wishes. Surely that’s not ethical, right? But why bother when Modi is being praised.

But God forbid, if the media reports anything against the guy, or so much as carries an opinion of a person who feels that the earth doesn’t revolve around Modi, god save them. They are damned Congress supporting pricks who probably party in Delhi with the crooks, right?

Very mature.

3. Bottom of the Pyramid:

Skewed statistics or not, Modi has undoubtedly succeeded in being able to use development as a political plank. The business class, the people of Gujarat, and people on Facebook are convinced about his abilities as a leader.

But governing a state and the entire country are two different things. While Modi’s popularity among the social media-savvy crowd of the country is unquestionable, there are no real statistics on his popularity outside Gujarat, in the lower middle-class sections of the society. And it’s an undeniably large number.

Also, most urban youth in the country don’t actually vote.

Here’s a look at the urban voter turnout in our top metros in the last municipal elections held there:

Source: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/low-voter-turnout-a-reality-for-big-indian-cities/230915-37-170.html

Source: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/low-voter-turnout-a-reality-for-big-indian-cities/230915-37-170.html

The game clearly lies in the rural and semi-urban belts. The biggest challenge for Modi would be to convert his popularity into people who cast their vote.

So instead of preaching on Facebook, how about you actually go cast your vote this time?

It's also a great opportunity to show the middle finger to Salman Khan

It’s also a great opportunity to show Salman Khan the middle finger

4. The big Muslim question:

There, I said it.

It is funny how if you simply say the word Muslim while discussing politics, people will growl at you and begin calling you names. I find it a little derogatory the way Muslims are discussed. It is always about secularism, or vote bank politics. As if Muslims are not normal people who might also want better amenities, better governance, and the same bloody things that a Hindu might want.

Now, the reason why media houses hound Modi with the same question, is because it is stunning to see someone as obstinate as that. Everytime he is asked about the Godhra riots, the channel is accused of being a pseudo-secular.

Firstly, no one is asking him to admit his guilt. But as the leader of a nation with multiple religions, would it cost the earth to even give a word of assurance? To express regret at what happened, and to assure that it won’t happen again? As the leader of the nation, isn’t that a tiny bit of what you’re supposed to do?

Another baffling explanation that is given is the example of how Congress caused the Delhi riots. What is this, a checklist? If they caused the riots, shouldn’t you aspire to be better than them? If you accuse them of playing the minority card for votes, are you being any different here?

But no. Try explaining this to a Modi fanboy and watch as he reduces you to an Android. Complete with the green suit and all.

5. The dirty coalition politics:

While the UPA had it better off with only four major allies, the NDA is a motley crew of parties who are as dependable as Rohit Sharma when it comes to keeping the government afloat. More alliance members means greater instability at the centre.

And since it is far fetched to imagine that a Shibu Soren might be having the benefit of the nation in mind, it will mean a terrible tug of war in four directions. Exactly the kind of thing that would make the industry high five itself and do a somersault in pleasure, eh?

Number of parties in the NDA

Vajpayee had to resign as Prime Minister for the first time after 13 days, and the second time after 13 months, following which the NDA successfully remained in power for its full term. Modi’s challenge will lie not only in getting to the top post, but keeping it tight up there, by fostering a strong bond among the alliances.

But like I said, there is only so much one can trust parties like Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

6. The Ugly Tangle of Religion:

As someone who abhors religion becoming a part of politics, I find the unholy tangle that the BJP is a part of, a little unsettling.

Much of the BJP’s actions are determined after consultation with the RSS and VHP. It is baffling how a religious organisation could have a say in politics when they do not even contest elections. But sadly, that is how it is.

Mention this to a Modi fanboy, and it will quickly be sidetracked, and you will be smothered with statistics and investment figures. Because nobody wants to talk about it.

And keeping the RSS and VHP aside, there are other smaller organisations that don the saffron colour to push their agendas. Bajrang Dal, whose members tick off February 14 on their calendars to have some fun. Sriram Sene, whose members beat up women from entering a pub. In Ranchi, girls wearing jeans could have acid thrown on them. How is this progress, again? Or change?

And with all the criticism against the UPA for being soft on terror, has Modi said anything about the Bajrang Dal? Members of the organisation have been involved in bombmaking on more than one occasion, even accused of planting bombs. How are they any different from terrorists? And organisations like Bajrang Dal and VHP are directly a part of the Sangh Parivar, which is the guiding body for the BJP.

Agreed that Islamic terrorism is a worldwide threat, but is this a comparison game?

If Modi really is the man for progress and a fresh thought, will he be able to distance himself and his party from its religious links?

Look at the amount of intolerance for films and film festivals, books and literary fests. And this is perhaps why most intelligentsia is against Modi. Not because they are people with low IQ, but because the rise of religion in politics means a direct threat to their work and lives.

And I would have said the same thing even if we were a Muslim country and someone coming to power meant more mob control for Muslims. It is a dangerous trend, mixing politics and religion. It is how elections in Pakistan are fought.
If Modi really has to impress me, he should be able to fight off the stranglehold that religious groups have over his party.
So there you go, those are the reasons why I am not orgasming over Modi, yet.

I hope he can prove me wrong on all the counts, and I would be his biggest admirer.

But till then, I don’t want to buy that Modi mask. Thank you.

MS Nokia

It was the year 2003.

India was bracing itself for a boom, there was an air of optimism, and India had reached the final of the World Cup. Sehwag was still a budding talent, and he was facing an evil black fast bowler with braids.

He flashed hard outside the off stump; and missed. Mohit Chauhan, sitting in the galleries, gets a call on his phone, and says, “Sehwag ki maa….”

Just as you think he is an irate fan, a little kid next to him flicks the phone, breaks the security cordon, runs into the pitch, and throws the phone to Sehwag. Sehwag reads the message, and smashes the ball outside the boundary.

“Come on India. Kar lo duniya mutthi mein….”

 

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

When Reliance Indiamobile launched their phones, it was supposed to be a revolution.

You pay Rs. 500, get a phone, and pay the rest of the amount in monthly bills. The Indian consumer waited, mouth watering and fidgety, like a tiger waiting for food at a zoo.

As it turns out, the only revolutions were the ones taken by the bill collectors, around the houses of the people who refused to pay. The company had to write off 16% of their revenues that year as Bad Debts.

But the Indian consumer had tasted blood. And there was no going back to the daal-chaawal of landline phones.

The ‘mobile’ had become a part of the Indian consciousness. ‘Missed Call’ and ‘Ringtone’ had been firmly entrenched into our lingo.

*

Personally, I got into the game very late. I was doing wonderful, life-altering jobs at the time. Like the call centre job that paid me 1000 rupees after six months. And the Customer Care Executive job at Reliance Mobile, where I had to do some background research into cell phones and different models.

When I finally got my first cell phone, it was 2007. The phone was a Nokia 2600. It was supposed to have a colour screen, but in reality, it was as colourful as Ishant Sharma is a deadly fast bowler. There was however, Bounce on the phone, and once I learnt of the magic number (787898), there was no stopping me. I looked into my phone every few seconds, typing messages, deleting them, and typing them again.

My next phone, the Nokia 2310 had FM radio on it, and I would spend the nights listening to a horny RJ whisper into the mic at night, Love ka keeda…love ka keeda….love ka keeda. Everywhere I went, I carried my headphones with me, listening to everything the FM channels had to say, as Himesh Reshammiya quickly climbed up the ladder of success.

But the times were changing. There was a demand for music on the phones, and pictures and videos. Disillusioned as I was, I strayed.

I chose a Samsung phone, back when all they made was phones with annoying ringtones. The phone was terrible. It crashed every few hours and I couldn’t type a long message without it getting deleted.

One night, it got stolen. But I lived on, confident that the thief would knock on my door and return it saying, “Dude, this phone sucks. You keep it.” He didn’t.

My next phone was a Nokia 5130 Xpress Music. By now, the situation was shaky. My needs as a consumer had increased manifold. I wanted to have lots of songs on my phone, a few videos, some games, and a memory card.

My phone was chugging along grudgingly, but if I wanted to delete lots of messages, it would hang. It was difficult to digest, being a lifelong Nokia fan. That a Nokia phone could hang, I felt like hanging my head in shame.

When this phone breathed its last, I stopped using a cell phone for a year. It was the most blissful year of my life. I read a lot, hung out with new people, and smoked copious amounts of pot.

By the time I bought my next phone, it was a different era altogether. The era of a phone being a minicomputer. And my humble phone, the Nokia X2, struggled to keep up. It was a tortoise in a race course, stopping every few meters to cough and sneeze.

MS Nokia

It did play music, and the battery, like all Nokia phones, lasted for the span of an entire K-serial, but that wasn’t enough. It did have GTalk, but calling it GStutter would have been a better option.

For the first time, a Nokia wasn’t good enough. It was struggling to maintain its position, like Amitabh Bachchan in his Lal Badshah days.

And I bought a smartphone.

And once you buy a smartphone, it is a never-ending spiral. There is no peace of mind. Just when you work out the best phone in your budget, there will be this new phone that does everything your phone does, and masturbates you when you’re bored. A never-ending spiral that goes on and on.

 

 ***************************

 

As Nokia is sold, it is not difficult to understand why the brand was such a rage in India. Like Bata, the other brand that is surprisingly not Indian, it epitomised the Indian customer’s needs: sturdy, long lasting, cheap. It could run for days in a country when power was not a daily commodity. It provided communication and safety, and in the worst case scenario, you could throw the phone at an assaulter’s head, and be guaranteed of a hemorrhage!

Much has been said of India’s rise in the last twenty years, and if there is one success story that cannot be denied, it is the mobile revolution in India. Our one, true success story.

And while the Congress keeps attributing it to Rajiv Gandhi and Sam Pitroda, the true champion was this Finnish company that made phones that Indians could relate to.

 

And today, when the world is flooded with phones that can do everything under the sun, and some over the moon, I am reminded of the days of yore.

When the first thing you saw on your phone were those two hands connecting to each other. And the next hour would be spent in deciding the ringtone. When a little, blinking snake was my companion in times of boredom.

When Missed Calls became the Morse code of a generation, and in spite of the ‘condom covers’ on phones, they kept spawning endlessly. When the only thing you needed on your phone to look cool was that sticker at the back, which glowed when there was a call coming.

To the time when I would wait for the sticker to glow, to send a flash message. To set my favourite song, reinterpreted in monophonic tones, as my ringtone. The secret indulgence of setting a separate ringtone for my girlfriend, so that I would know when it was her calling.

To the time when the words ‘incoming’ and ‘outgoing’ made a world of difference. Running to a shop, buying a small card, scratching it frantically, squinting into it, dialing a number, and smiling.

To the times of virginity, and first loves.

 nokia 3310

 

It has been a long, eventful journey, my friend.

You have been taken over by a company that is not really known for its aesthetics, but reaches out to the most number of people in the world. Much like you did, at one time.

I don’t really know if I am going to use you again. But when I look at the ‘Low Battery’ message on my phone, I think of you longingly.

You were a good friend.

***