Author Archives: Hriday Ranjan

NaNoWriMo Day 2 Updates: Best Music to Listen to while Writing

I am taking part in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. An event where thousands of aspiring writers sit down to write the first drafts of their novel in a span of 30 days.

I have been attempting it for the last three years, but failing spectacularly (Imagine Manoj Prabhakar in a World Cup semi-final). I found that it was because I was ill prepared, and had no idea where my plot was going to take me. This year, I spent a few weeks in October getting my plot ready, diving my story into chapters, and developing the sub-plots in my head.

This seems to be working wonders, as I don’t have to sit down to think about what to write. I have a brief idea of what happens, so it’s only a case of how to write it. It reduces the burden on me to come up with an interesting story; all I need to do is focus on maintaining the flow.

If you’re an aspiring writer, I urge you to follow my Facebook page, where I shall be putting up regular tips, updates and follow-ups of my struggle with trying to finish my first draft in a month. If you’re not a writer, kindly bear with my posts this coming month. They will mostly be scrambled rants about the vagaries of trying to write. If you do not connect to the rants, I am sorry.

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#NaNoWriMo DAY 2

It’s the second day of NaNoWriMo, and the challenge really, was to sustain the josh of the first day. First days are beautiful and sunny and inspirational and all things Rocky Balboa. But it’s the day after that’s an acid test.

Assuming the average first draft of a book is 50,000 words, the average word count per day in NaNoWriMo is 1666 words per day. At first, the number seems daunting. But scratch a little deeper, and you’ll find it isn’t as unsurmountable as it seems.

On days when I’m well and truly stuck, I like to divide my day’s writing into paragraphs. Assuming every paragraph is about 200 words on average, I have to write about 8 – 9 paragraphs. Doesn’t sound so difficult, does it?

And if you further break it down, a paragraph usually deals with a single idea – a description, an action, a memory, or a set of dialogues. Which means that I have to trudge my way through 8 or 9 key ideas. And THAT, sounds extremely doable!

And so I sat down to write for the second day.

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But before I get down to the mundane events of the day, let me answer a question I’ve been asked related to writing.

WHAT SORT OF MUSIC TO LISTEN TO WHILE WRITING?

Most writers wouldn’t recommend listening to any music at all. However, most writers do not possess the focus of a coked-up squirrel, like I do. Which is why I need a distraction to end all distractions.

Also, in the world we live in, it has become harder to focus, tougher to push away our distractions. A ping from a friend, a forward from a relative, a buzz from an actor on Twitter – we are a ping away from distraction crumbling down like Kuki Sharda. (Dear God! I beg your forgiveness).

However, listening to music while writing is a tricky matter. Unlike running, or working out, or cooking – you can’t have music that pushes you forward. It cannot be music that makes you feel pumped up. It has to have a calming effect.

At the same time, it cannot be AR Rahman’s greatest instrumental playlist either. Great and evocative as they are, Rahman’s tracks bring with them a memory tucked away in the back of your head. They carry with them recollections and reminders and thoughts and feelings. Thoughts and feelings are distractions when you’re sitting down to write.

The song cannot have lyrics too, as the words of the song will mess with the words you’re trying to write. So that eliminates most music forms popular in our times. The music shouldn’t evoke strong emotions, its work must merely be to calm you down. To get your monkey mind to transform into a saint.

I tried a number of options – white noise, sound of trains and sounds of rains. And yet, none of them seemed to work. I tried elevator music – Brian Emo’s Music for Airports and Thursday Afternoon. They’re both fantastic albums, but they’re too elevator-y. Too bland, they invoke no inspiration, they inspire no provocation. Instead of egging me to write, I felt that the music made me feel like a crack addict who was tied to the metal bed in a psychiatric hospital.

It was after much searching through the underbelly of the Internet that I found my answer – classical music. Western symphony music has no lyrics, moves from emotions in a smooth manner, and makes everything seem grand.

Don’t believe me? Play Rossini’s overture to The Thieving Magpie the next time you’re taking a dump. Tell me if you don’t feel like it’s the greatest dump taken in the history of human civilization. I found a fantastic radio station – KDFC – run by the University of Southern California. They have playlists, request shows and mostly classical music that helps me to calm down, focus and type. I often find my fingers keeping tempo with the music, speeding up towards the end of the performances, and slowing down when the next one begins. I’d highly recommend listening to western classical music.

Before you accuse me of being an anti-national, here’s why Indian classical music didn’t work for me. I have listened to a lot of Indian classical music. The instruments evoke memories in me, and I cannot be completely detached to Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Zakir Hussain and Shivkumar Sharma. These beautiful gentlemen were a part of my growing years, and I needed something that was neutral and unemotional for me.

However, I would also highly recommend Hariprasad Chaurasia’s albums Morning to Midnight – Morning to Dusk, Pure Joy, and (for completely biased reasons), Hriday.

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Day 2 Updates:

I got back from my office at 9.45. Our cook had cooked meal-maker curry in the day, and had merely added daal to the menu. This prompted me to have a Masala Dosa in the office (a huge shoutout to the wonderful cooks who make the dosa in the Microsoft campus).

I reached home to find that the geyser (which was installed in the heyday of Bahadur Shah Zafar) had been repaired, and I took a shower. I rolled a joint, and sat down to jot down what I’d be writing today.

At 12, I began writing, going smooth till I’d hit 890 words. I found myself stuck with a particular question (What sort of food would students in the Mahabharat era eat?). I had a quick discussion with my friend, and the harmless question stretched on for an hour and a half.

By the end of the discussion, we had charted out the daily schedule for the Kaurava princes at Dronacharya’s ashram. We knew what they would do on regular days, and on holidays and festive occasions.

We had also created a menu for students in the Dwaapar Yuga, and what they’d be given to eat on holidays. By the end of the discussion, we saw that the time was 3.30. I wished my friend goodnight and sat down to write myself to sleep, managing a healthy 1682 words for the day.

Lessons learnt on Day 2:

  1. If you’re stuck with descriptions, carry an exam pad and sketch out the places, doodle out the exact details, and then proceed to explain them one after the other.
  1. If you’re finding it difficult to focus, classical music is a great option to resort to.

So, on the third day of November, I stand at 3315 words, and well into the second chapter of my fourth book.

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If you’re an aspiring writer, I implore you to take part in NaNoWriMo. There are wonderful fora across the Internet where authors sit and discuss, debate, and bitch about the world. All through this month, I shall be posting unsolicited advice, tips, and updates about my struggles to finish my book in a month.

If you’re not an aspiring writer…I envy your life!  🙂

crackers-festival

Diwali Crackers ranked according to awesomeness (and Risk Levels)

I have been writing about Diwali over the last one week, and as expected, the discussions have all descended into a Hindu vs Muslim argument.

Honestly, I’m a little tired of putting forth my opinions and being labelled. There’s already been so much said on the subject, and the reader will mostly only take the opinion based on the ideology that they belong to, so it’s like singing a Qawwali to a cow.

While I’m an atheist and strongly detest anything to do with religion and religious rituals, I cannot deny that I’ve had my share of fun on Diwali. I cannot deny that Diwali is more than bursting crackers or creating an India-shaped hole in the Ozone layer. It is about families getting together. About joy, happiness, and explaining technology to family members.

Also, no matter what I say about crackers, I can’t change the fact that I’ve burst thousands of crackers in my lifetime. I realise that just because I’ve grown up and slanted towards a particular line of thought, I cannot expect kids of today not to burst crackers. That would be very uncle-y of me, and not something I’d do.

What I’d like to do, on the other hand, is to list out all Diwali crackers on the basis of awesomeness (and the risk involved).

So here it is. The definitive list of Diwali crackers, ranked on the basis of awesomeness.

  1. SNAKE BOMB:

This name is a misnomer. It is not really a bomb; and no prizes for guessing – it isn’t really a snake either.

The snake bomb (also called snake pellet/Evil Hajmola/Kill Grandmother Tablet) is a small, black button-like object that is placed on the floor. Light it with a matchstick, and nothing happens – only a thick, black line of soot comes out of the tablet, leaving a permanent scar on the floor, and in your heart. I always felt this was the Lifebuoy of crackers – that after all the crackers were made, this was coughed up with whatever gun-powder remained in Sivakasi. It has now been banned by the government, which came as a surprise to nobody.

RISK LEVEL: Zilch. Except that your grandparents might feel they gave birth to a degenerate.

 

  1. MAALA:

If the Indian government wishes to track black money, they needn’t run after Swiss Bank accounts. They need to place taxmen in colonies and track down the man who’s bursting the longest maala on Diwali.

The most annoying Diwali cracker in the history of Diwali crackers. If the Maala existed in the time of Ramayan, Lakshmana would have shot arrows straight through the hearts of the monkey army for lighting up maalas.

The Maala (which comes in varieties of 10,000 wala, 1 lakh wala and 10 lakh wala) is a ‘fuck-you’ cracker that serves no purpose but to display the wealth of its owner. The most annoying bit about the Maala (also called the ladi) is the fact that while it goes on for over 9 minutes like a thumri, all you can do is sit and wait.

RISK LEVEL: Make sure grandparents have had dinner, play Raina Beeti Jaaye on Sony Mix, and the begin lighting the Maala.

 

9. FOUNTAIN/FLOWERPOT/KUMPI

The flowerpot (also called an ‘Anaar’ by people who studied at Rishi Valley School) is symbolic of Diwali and is often the first cracker to get out of the way. It is easy, fun to watch, and like a human orgasm, is fantastic for a few seconds.

However, the reason for its low ranking is the fact that the Flowerpot scores very low on the Money : Chaos theory. You can’t direct it at neighbours, or use it to spook the guy next to you lighting up an Atom Bomb. The riskiest thing you can do with this is to hold it in your hand while lighting up, something Jackie Shroff did as an infant. In fact, Jackie Shroff came out of the hospital ward holding a lit up fireworker in his left hand (he’s right-handed). But more on that later, for Diwali is an occasion to celebrate other heroes.

Another reason for its particularly low ranking is the fact that it has become rather expensive these days.

RISK LEVEL: Breeze. Like watching Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham on Star Gold on a Wednesday afternoon.

 

8. CHAKRI

The Chakri is based on a simple concept – that if you wrap barood in thin strips of paper and tie them around in a circle, it will rotate and spew sparkling lights across. It has a fairly long wick and can be lit by people of all ages. The only problem I have with the Chakri (and hence, the low ranking) is the fact that it needs a lot of prep time.

Chakris need to be properly sunned in the afternoon, failing which they go through the scientific phenomenon known as ‘phusss ho gaya’.

RISK LEVEL: Just wear a pair of Paragon chappals.

 

7. BIJLI:

The Bijli Bomb (bit of a stretch to call it a bomb, honestly) is a value for money, efficient cracker that does its job. You can light it up before, after, or during Diwali – the Bijli is the French Fries of Diwali crackers.

When many Bijlis come together, they create the annoying maala, but as individual sticks, they are quite palatable. Proving that in the world of crackers, the adage holds true – ‘United we Terrorise, Divided we chill’.

The Bijli bomb can be enjoyed be oneself. Light a candle, light the wick of the Bijli, throw it away from you. Relight the candle.

RISK LEVEL: Mild surprise when grandmother is praying in front of the Tulasi plant, but no physical damage.

 

6. SPARKLER:

Non-exciting and completely vegetarian, the Sparkler is the only real surprise in this list. However, it has earned its place on the basis of solid facts. The sparkler is pretty much the first real cracker that anybody in their lives ever held. It is also the only cracker that every single member of the family could hold, loop around in the air for a few times, and then safely throw away to the side.

The sparkler is also used when matchsticks are too mundane to light up other dangerous bombs, and on the basis of efficiency and their ubiquitous nature, the Sparkler ranks high in the list.

RISK LEVEL: Very low. In fact, grandparents will smile, and give you their blessings. And some pocket money as well, if they aren’t my grandparents.

 

5. CHOCOLATE BOMB:

No fuss, does what it’s supposed to do, comes cheap, and looks like it was made from Minnie Mouse’s old underpants – what’s not to like about the classic Chocolate Bomb?

The Chocolate Bomb used to cost a rupee in my childhood and I’m glad to announce that it only costs about 10 rupees now (5 if you buy on Diwali evening). In fact, if Bajaj Motors released a Diwali cracker, it would be the chocolat bomb. Cheap, efficient, won’t last too long.

RISK LEVEL: It has a very small wick, and requires precision while lighting. Grandparents could throw their walking stick at you.

 

4. ROCKET

The perennial favourite, the ‘Rocket’ was such a legendary cracker that Chacha Chaudhry named his dog after this delightful essential household item.

Comes in attractive packaging, with tantalising pictures of Katrina K and Kareena KK. The rocket also scores highly due to its flexible usage. It can be lit up in various modes – fitting the complete range of sadomasochism – from the Arun Govil technique of filling a cool drink bottle with sand, to the ISIS approved method of holding it in your hand and pointing it to the neighbour’s window.

RISK LEVEL: ‘Stick it with the pointy end’, Jon Snow said, as he smiled at Arya.

 

3. ONION BOMB:

I don’t know if this bomb is still available and legal, but it was one of my favourites while growing up. The Onion Bomb had no wick to light, and burst on impact when you threw it with force against a wall, floor, or ceiling.

Shaped like an onion and looked like a garlic, I used it extensively as an imaginary cricket ball. I would draw wickets on the wall, take a run up and bowl fast (being careful not to pitch the ball short). On the other end, I would imagine Pakistani batsmen buckling under pressure (What can I say! Disturbed childhood). I also used it as grenades to fling at imaginary villains, as shown in the film Zalzala.

RISK LEVEL: Do not buy too many at one time and put them in the same bag. Do not put the bag on the floor with force once you’ve reached home. Do not put them in your pockets, as you might slip and fall. Do not ask your grandparents to cook you anything that involves onion or garlic.

 

2. GUN AND BULLETS:

Okay, I take back my words. The Gun and Bullets are the ACTUAL surprise on the list, but kindly give me a minute to explain my choice, M’lord.

While Diwali might be a festival that raises many questions on the socio-political spectrum today, this wasn’t always the case. Back then, Diwali only came on the news when people suffered third degree burns. And even then, I didn’t spend a lot of time fussing over bombs and creating imaginary lists in order of awesomeness.

There were two other boys in our lane and the three of us ensured we got decent guns in our pockets. We collected coins and pooled in the brown cardboard boxes that had rolls of red, barood-filled bindis in them. And then we set out.

An abandoned truck had been lying by the side of a road for a few years, and if you climbed from the back, you could open its doors and sit inside. The back was empty, and the great vessel that once carried sand and cement and chips was now a fortress. I spent many an afternoon hopping on to the truck, killing enemies while ducking Bullets, and holding dear friends as they died in my arms from bullet wounds…only to rush home to drink a glass of Bournvita and return as a new hero!! For, tell me O Partha, how can you remove the concept of Punarjanam from a festival?

RISK LEVEL: Barely any. Keep away from the dressing table and cousins attempting Medical/CA courses to avoid minor scares.

 

1. HYDROGEN BOMB:

The elder brother of the Atom Bomb, the Hydrogen Bomb is a large ball of destruction that is rolled up in green woollen threads and a shiny sticker to hold the wick in.

If the Atom Bomb is the gateway to the Dark Side, the Hydrogen Bomb is where things get real. Not every wizard who bought guns from Ollivander’s shop will step over into the dark green, Slytherin world of the Hydrogen Bomb. But the ones that do, will heed the call of the Death Eaters, and purchase boxes full of these potent crackers.

In Game of Thrones, Ser Beric Dondarrion lights up the Lightbringer sword and comes back to life, but it kills a bit of him every single time. As we know, everything originated in India, and George RR Martin was inspired for this idea from the great Vishwa RR Mitra, an Indian Maharishi. Much like the Lightbringer sword, the Hydrogen Bomb startles everybody, but particularly rearranges the insides of the person who lit it up. Other conspiracy theories say that it was invented by Tyler Durden on a particularly gloomy Wednesday afternoon.

The Hydrogen Bomb is all the more relevant in the times we live in. As we speak, Kim Jon Un and Donald Trump are threatening each other with Hydrogen Bombs of larger sizes, as Death Eaters around the world cheer with glee. It might be the last Diwali out there folks, enjoy it while it lasts!

RISK LEVEL: Grandparents could strike out your name from the family’s inheritance.

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So that is it.

That is ALL I know about Diwali crackers. I literally no nothing else on the subject. If I ever make it to KBC and Mr. B asks me ‘Haiiiinnnn…. Hriday ji, agla sawaal… Kaun sa Bharatiya neta ne ‘Lakshmi Bomb’ ko naam diya?’; I’d have to quit the game, for there is nothing more I know about crackers.

Some 10 years ago, I started this blog as a teenager, unaware that it would mean anything, unaware that it would open doors, that thousands of strangers would connect to it. But it has survived 10 years.

If this blog survives another 30 odd years, and some kid is reading it and looks back on our times, let them not think that Diwali was only a festival that brought on controversies, debates and confrontations on the news and Internet. Let them know that Diwali was a festival when people shared sweets, met their loved ones, got high, smiled, and laughed.

I am nobody to preach to you. Burst crackers if you have to. Don’t burst them if you don’t.

Stay safe! Happy Diwali. 🙂 🙂

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Featured Image Courtesy: www.hindugodwallpaper.com

‘The Lunchbox’ is an ode to loneliness

In the last one year, a strange practice has taken over my film-viewing habits.

Instead of hunting for new movies to watch, new stories to trip on – I have been revisiting films that struck a chord with me in the last few years. I like to rewatch them, go back to my review and opinions of the film, and see if anything has changed. If I still feel the same way about the film.

I found that I’m kinder to Imtiaz Ali’s films (Tamasha, Highway), and find myself having been overtly kind to a few other films (Matru ki Bijli ka Mandola).

However, the experience of watching a film without the urgent, binding pressure to review it, to pronounce a verdict; is a much better way to watch the film.

It was in this journey of re-reviewing films that I came across The Lunchbox a few days back.

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The overwhelming emotion that the film evokes, is that of loneliness. The entire film is an ode to loneliness – not the sudden, crushing loneliness of losing a loved one. But the slow, corroding loneliness that gets deeper and darker. Like the rods of old trains that have gotten rusted with time.

The look and feel of the film carries a minimalistic tone. The name, the trailer, and even the sets of the film evoke a feeling of overwhelming loneliness.

On the surface, the film is the story of Ila and Sajan. But scratch this fragile surface, and you’ll find that each and every character in the film is lonely. Each of them distinct from the other, and yet; each of them lonely in a distinct, different way.

There’s Nawazuddin Siddiqui. A man rooted in no family or home, a man who carries his kitchen with him in his briefcase. Who makes up an imaginary mother and feeds her memorable quotes. Who latches on to his superior in the office, bearing insults and jibes – striking up conversations from the limited matchsticks in his armoury. Nawazuddin is probably the happiest person in the film, finally pleading with another lonely man to join him on the happiest day of his life.

There is Ila – dressed in  sepia toned chudidars. A husband who doesn’t care, a father on his deathbed. She’s a housewife, a non-economic entity in the City of Dreams, surrounded by lonely people.

The aunty upstairs is lonely, having spent 15 years tending to a paralysed man who has been staring at the ceiling fan for a decade and a half. Ila’s daughter is lonely too – her large, round eyes lack the boisterous exuberance of a child. She plays by herself, with a doll that he mother used to play with. Ila’s mother is lonely too, a wife with no tears to spare for her dead husband. Her husband is pursuing an extramarital affair at work. So disconnected is he to life that even though he’s been eating the same curry for weeks at stretch, it evokes a mere complaint to his wife. Her brother has committed suicide, his death hanging over them like a family ghost.

Which is why Ila clings on to that little connection when it comes her way. Which is why she checks if her daughter is around before opening his letters. Why she giggles when she reads them, and lies to Aunty about the brinjals she bought. She clings on to it, even if the feeble, gossamer of a connection is with Sajan Fernandes.

A man who doesn’t just look old, he smells old. A man who has resigned to life, and by extension, to death. Who discusses vertical coffins like it was an item in his grocery list. A man who gets his food from nearby hotels, who religiously performs his duties, and has nobody else in the entire world. As a child, when we would play cricket in the bylanes of my colony in Bhubaneswar, I used to wonder what sort of people didn’t return the ball when it fell into their compound. Perhaps there are Sajan Fernandes-es all around us.

Which is why Sajan grasps onto the gossamer too. The secret is a window of indulgence in the pale grey room that is his life. The terror in his eyes when the ceiling fan above him stops moving; the pride he feels when Sheikh praises his food. Sajan is a man who would meticulously cling on to a thread in a storm.

And when the two leads begin to connect, they do not discuss the bright, colourful joys of life. They do not connect over dreams of tomorrow, but over morbid themes – lung cancer, a woman who jumped off a building with her daughter, and the distance between two people who live together.

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Which is why when the film ends on a cliffhanger, you as a viewer feel neither ecstatic, or crushed, or moved, or elated. The last shot of the film is a group of dabbawalas, singing bhajans, carrying empty tiffin boxes back. It will be another day tomorrow.

Perhaps the two will meet. Perhaps they won’t.  

 

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Diwali pollution

A cracker of a decision

Sometimes, I wonder if there’s any issue we can discuss in India without giving it communal undertones.

And then, I remember that this is India and if I want to have fancy dreams, I might as well think of Aditi Rao Hydari on a bright summer beach. We might be the oldest existing civilisation in the world, but we discuss and argue with the intellectual maturity of adolescent grasshoppers.

Unlike what Twitter will tell you, the directive to ban the sale of firecrackers in Delhi and NCR does not stem from the Supreme Court being a ‘liberal gandu’. It was actually a petition signed by three kids from Delhi who believed that firecrackers were polluting the air.

And before you dismiss it as some childish dream by three naadaan bachhe, here’s some facts that will stir up the patriotism in you – India has a problem of pollution. 13 of our cities rank among the 30 most polluted cities in the world. We have the most number of polluted cities, and share this unique distinction with China, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Which means that we live in the most polluted region in the world, and if we don’t start acting up, shit gonna hit da fan, bruh!

According to other reports, 50 lakh kilograms of firecrackers are set to be sold in the NCR region, and 1 lakh kilos in Delhi alone. Which of course, has some benefits. For example, we learn new words every year. Like SMOKE + FOG = SMOG. After all, Indian culture is the best. Even if you pollute the fuck out of the environment, Indian culture will give you something back in return.

Most critics of the ban have a singular, solid point of defence. Why single out only Hindu festivals? Are you fucking kidding me? You’re going to be bursting 2 crore kilograms of firecrackers in one night, and you want a fucking pat on the back??

Funnily enough, most patriots nurture a strange notion that crackers are an integral part of Diwali celebrations. They actually believe that our ancestors from the Vedic age burst crackers on Diwali. What fertile minds! What vivid imaginations!!

So they must be thinking that the day Rama returned from Lanka after defeating Ravana, Vishwamitra and Vashishta went and bought some bijli bombs and started lighting up ladis along the road. That Narada went and brought some rockets and Shatrughana (since he didn’t have much to do throughout) made sure the crackers were dried in the sun the previous day!

And leading this pack of morons is the largest selling author of our country – Chetan Bhagat. It’s been five years since I’ve bitched about the guy, and I’m thrilled to announce that the dude has just got more and more stupid as the years have gone by. Mr. Bhagat has tweeted about how firecrackers are being targeted, and slaughtering goats is not touched upon. Bhagat is a funny man. All through the UPA regime, he fussed and cribbed about the government being a sellout by making policies appeasing Muslims. One would assume he would shut the fuck up now that his wet dreams have come true with a majority BJP government. But one must never underestimate the power of stupidity!

And that is the sad part about having any discussion in India today. You cannot broach any topic without some intellectually challenged dude like Chetan Bhagat questioning your secular credentials. I fail to understand how pollution has any religion. What is the religion of a child’s lungs? And which God rescues older people and children when they get asthma attacks after every Diwali?

I understand the skepticism in the minds of people. But it is not impossible. Smaller cities like Ranchi and Bhubaneswar have set up specific locations in the city where crackers can be sold. Some cities in China have completely banned the use of firecrackers – no exceptions, no by-laws. Even Mumbai has laws (at least on paper) that you cannot burst crackers on the roads.

Laws are the beginning of change. And when you fight the forming of laws, what change do you expect to see in the country?

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Unfortunately, Hinduism began as a religion that worshipped nature. Rig Veda, the oldest of the Vedas, is a collection of hymns that praise nature as gods. In India, we worship the wind, water, oceans, trees, and hills.

And yet, come any festival, and we pollute like today’s the last day on earth. Like tomorrow morning Kalki Avatar is going to arrive on his white horse and wipe out everybody on the face of this planet.

Diwali? We celebrate Rama’s victory by dirtying our roads, scaring patients in hospitals, and inducing thousands of injuries from fire wounds. Holi? We throw toxic chemicals on each other, and decide to also colour dogs, cows and buffaloes. Ganesh Puja? We hail the God of Knowledge by doing the dumbest fucking thing on earth – dumping him in water bodies. Durga Puja? We worship The Mother by laying her to rest in filthy rivers and lakes.

THIS is our culture. We are a nation that loves to pollute. That loves to spread filth and celebrate it as our ‘rich’ culture. Ironically, all the fools who support firecrackers will shut their mouths and follow the laws of the land when they’re in a different country. But when in India…

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I find it sad when I see teenagers and youngsters talk about our rich heritage. When I see them reason that we have been bursting crackers for hundreds of years – why should we stop now? 

Well, times change. And we would be idiots not to change with it. Do you still wear dhotis, write letters in post cards, and travel in horse-drawn taangaas? Then what’s the problem in acknowledging a problem that is real, and getting worse by the year?

What is the reluctance in accepting change, in understanding that we cannot as a nation keep on polluting our air and rivers? What sort of a intellectually warped nation have we become that we cannot even see beyond our flaws as a nation?

What IS this culture that we keep celebrating??

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(Featured Image courtesy Flicker)

Rajiv_Gandhi_International_Airport

Tripping in airports

The last week was spent traveling, and as I navigated through cities with my blue oversized Wildcraft rucksack, I reveled in the joy of tripping in airports.

As a writer and comedian, traveling to other cities has become a constant attempt to come up with observations. Some of them are rather mundane (did you know that vada pavs across the country are exactly the same? I mean, there are no variations at all, it’s exactly the same).

But some observations were genuinely interesting. For example, I noticed that you could gauge how much the women of a city trusted their city, by looking at their Tinder profiles. In Hyderabad, I find women usually build walls around themselves on their Tinder profile (Not interested in hook-ups. Swipe right if you want to go traveling together).  In Mumbai, I found women quite open about their likes and dislikes, their choices and needs. In Bhubaneswar, easily the most conservative among the three cities, I found women on Tinder putting up absurd excuses for meeting (Swipe Right if you want to take part in Ekamra Walks on Sunday morning 9 AM!!). 

But keeping forced observations aside, most of my time was spent tripping

It has been a custom for the last few years. On the day of the journey, I panic, stuff stuff in my rucksack, and make sure I’m sufficiently toked before getting to the airport. It helps that the Hyderabad airport is forty kilometres away, and give me a very ‘Swades’ feeling. Of staring into the distance and pondering over the many myriad meanings of life. I plug in my earphones, fire up a clichéd playlist of travel songs, and stare philosophically into the sky.

I took my first flight about seven years ago. And in spite of having to travel around as a comic, I am blown away by the experience every single time. I love the hustle and bustle, the feeling of success everytime the guard with the machine gun checks my ID and lets me in.

I grew up on train nostalgia, but train journeys are simply not the same anymore. They are noisy, dirty, chaotic, and I have a constant fear that a terrorist is going to blow up the railway station. So I trip on airports these days.

So I trip in airports these days.

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I understand that the primary job of an airport people by airplanes. But if there was a second reason, it seems like they were built to let people trip. Long white corridors, abstract paintings on the walls, music playing through speakers, sights and sounds, smells and flavours.

I find children and old people to be the only ones who still revel in the joy of an airport. The children are fiddling with things, getting yanked by their parents, pointing and wanting stuff. The older ones are curiously judging everything, asking their guardians for tips on navigating the gigantic technological glacier they’ve been trying to ride. Everybody that’s not a child or old, is simply jaded. Music is playing in their ears, but their eyes are glazed. The frequent travelers have no time to wonder, no need to marvel.

I wander through the outlets, buying nothing, and judging everything. ‘Achha. 11,000 ka shirt. Wah! Tera baap khareedega, saale!’ I wander through the food counters, looking at the menus, their prices and imagining I’m in the future where a plate of idli costs 350 bucks. I wonder if these shops would then be shooting other stoned passengers like me into the future.

There is a mild panic before the Security Check. I don’t know why, but it’s always there. I have had nightmares of being stopped by the security guards because a friend stuffed some weed for me in my rucksack. The police stop me, and I run, and then they shoot me down.

None of this happens, and I feel victorious after my boarding pass has been stamped. You remember the satisfaction in school when there was an investigation going on for a crime, but you knew you had nothing to do with it, and were being unusually cocky about your confidence? Something like that.

*

But more than anything else, it is the thrill of being in the sky that gets to me. I once did acid on a flight and I felt like I had died and God had approved of my membership into the gated community called heaven. No matter how many times I fly, I make it a point to look out of the window and gasp at the enormity of it all.

Of being able to sit and write out a blog in the sky.

As I sit down to type out this blog, we have taken off and when I look to my right (and past the man who looks at me and my shabby hair with suspicion), I see clouds of white in skies of blue. Bright blessed days and dark sacred nights.

The announcements have come on, I need to close my tray. I return the Cello Gripper ball pen to the air hostess, close my note book and slip my tablet and keyboard into my bag. In the time that it took me to write this blog, I, Veda Vyasa, have travelled from my Karmabhoomi to my Matrubhoomi.

*

And that is why I trip in airports.

And that is why I trip on airports.

BHU protest

Why are Indian educational institutions such Concentration Camps?

The recent protests by girls in Benares Hindu University, and the police crackdown on them, speaks volumes of the horrific tradition that Indian universities follow – that of locking women up ‘for their own safety’.

I once dated a girl from BHU for a while, and the stories of restrictions she narrated were horrific. Girl students must report back to their hostels by 6.30, walking with a man is frowned upon, wardens have to be informed for something as frivolous as collecting a parcel – it’s fucking ridiculous.

And this is true of campuses across the country. The one unifying factor of Indian higher education is the blanket of regressive rules and laws imposed on girls on campuses. These rules are set under flimsy pretences such as ‘avoiding indecency’, providing a ‘conducive atmosphere for studying’, and ‘avoiding distractions’. But if you scratch a little deeper, you’ll find all these reasons are a bunch of bullshit.

The restrictions are manifold.

In some universities, there are rules about dressing. If there are no uniforms prescribed, there are unwritten rules about students wearing jeans. Most colleges have separate seating for girls and boys, some even have restrictions on hanging out in the canteen together. Benares Hindu University, one of the oldest universities in the country, frowns upon a boy and a girl even walking together. As does Aligarh Muslim University. IIT Madras has rules regarding male-female interaction after certain hours of the day. In the IIT-churning coaching institutes in Andhra Pradesh, if you are caught speaking to a girl, a call is made to your parents!

In every university I visited in Gujarat, girls are locked up inside their hostels (sometimes as early as 7 PM). Boys are given an extension up to 9.30, after which a security guard takes over. The security guard is often the least qualified, yet wields the most power in such campuses.

I myself studied in a Boys’ Boarding school where even the attendants and cooks were male.  Interaction with the other gender was considered a primal sin. It is only when I left the school did I realise how much of a misfit I was. I couldn’t speak to girls, developing cold feet, fumbling around for words, something that took me years to undo.

I have often wondered why we need such restrictions on our educational institutions. I have spoken to the wardens, guards, and students; and most of them have reconciled to the fact that this is how things should be. This is how things were 50 years ago, and there is no point changing such stuff.

It’s all deeply regressive.

Firstly, the most common excuse given is that such rules are enforced to avoid distractions for the students. Scratch a little deeper, and what they’re actually saying is that if they keep the two genders away from each other, they will probably concentrate on their studies better.

It’s sad that even after 70 years of independence, we still behave as if education happens only inside classes. But ask any great, any topper, and they’ll tell you that the real education that an institution offers, is what you gain from the atmosphere. From talking, interacting, discussing, and debating. But like most things in India, we have 60 year olds deciding what is right for 20 year olds, and then shoving their crap down their throats.

Also, look a little deeper, and you will find that interactions with the other gender are frowned upon because primarily, the Indian society sees two people of opposite genders capable of just one act – sex. I have seen guards on campuses walk up to couples and question them about their motive. For all you know, they might have been friends just talking about a movie. Or even youngsters who want to fuck each other – what is the big deal?

For all our evolved thinking and Vasudaiva Kutumbakam (Universe is One Family) logic, we haven’t evolved enough to assume that a boy and a girl could do anything else but fuck. That is how we think. And that is why we impose such rules.

Thirdly, segregation never works. It is a stupid, short-cut of an approach, enforced by idiots who have no clue how the real world in 21st century works. Look at the state of women in our country today. Strangely, as we continue to raise our voice against rapes and molestations, we refuse to look beyond the reason for such incidents.

It is not as if Indian men suddenly starting raping women on the streets. This is a culmination of decades of upbringing that told Indian men that women were different, were weaker.

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Which is where education plays such a vital role. Education makes you look at the other person with respect. An education brings out qualities in people that go beyond their looks or gender. It brings in mutual respect, equality and trust. The more you segregate students on the basis of gender, you are simply enforcing existing ideas – that every guy is a threat, every girl is vulnerable.

It is sad that even after all these years, our elders haven’t woken up to the reality of the world. That their idea of education is still one dimensional – get a degree, get a job. Everything else is a distraction.

Even though we all know that it is regressive, nobody raises their voice. We go about our lives, hiding in dark places, scrambling for cover when the guard appears, a whistle in mouth, a stick in hand.

We continue to let ourselves be shepherded around. Like cattle that need to be driven to our homes. Ironically, we are a nation that celebrates Devi the goddess. We celebrate with friends and family, with relatives and children. And yet, in real life, we want our women to be locked up, protected, their wings clipped.

Even more ironically, the protests at BHU were against the molestations that took place on campus. In Modi’s constituency (Bhakts triggered! :D), students are lathi-charged when they protest sexual violence. It’s hilariously tragic. Dudes drive up to your campus and molest a few girls. The girls protest against this and get lathi-charged by the police in the night. Achhe din, achhe raat.

But don’t worry about that. We are getting Bullet trains, Demonetisation was a success, keep your women indoors, and link your Aadhar to PAN.

***

(Featured Image courtesy: NDTV)

Newton-Full-Movie-Box-Office-Collection-1st-2nd-3rd-Day-Worldwide

‘Newton’ Review: Rajkumar Rao is a frikking chameleon

Actors in India usually take years, decades even, to string together a half-decent body of work. Take the works of any of our superstars, and you’ll be able to name 2 – 3 good films in a career spanning three decades. If there was a way to calculate the ratio of films : critical acclaim, Rajkumar Rao would sit comfortably on the top of the heap. In fact, I dare say he’d be alone there.

In a mere seven year career, Rajkumar Rao has somehow managed to star in films that have won critical acclaim across media. In an industry that thrives on mediocre crap, like flies that continue to hover over a pile of shit – the man has managed to carve out a truly unique body of work for himself.

Whether it is Love, Sex aur Dhoka, or the mildly porny Ragini MMS, Gangs of Wasseypur 2, Kai Po Che, Shahid, Queen, Aligarh, Trapped, or Bareilly ki Barfi – the man seems to have an agent up in Neptune. Someone who can zoom out, look at the larger picture, and offer him scripts that are out of this world.

Newton is a film of a man at his peak. A man confident in his choices, a man assured of his prowess. Most actors change their look, their hairstyle, their body shape – to get into a role. But they are most actors. Rajkumar Rao just shakes his head and slips into the role. Like a chameleon camouflaging into the background. Like a snake shedding its skin and adopting a new one.

It is frankly impossible to imagine any other actor pull off the role like Rakjumar Rao does. As the earnest, idealistic Newton Kumar, he knocks it out of the park from the first ball. We have all met such Newtons in our life. Those who refuse to back down, those who are persistent enough to make you yank your hair out in frustration. The drama in the film is neither loud, nor bawdy. So much so that your sympathies as a viewer see-saw between the Rao and the terrific Pankaj Tripathi.

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Newton is also a statement on India’s General elections.

We have all quoted the numbers, felt pride in being the world’s largest democracy. And yet, is the entire process so homogeneously harmonic? The film explores these fault lines, carved deep into the palm of the world’s largest democracy. The risk of conducting elections, the farce of choosing leaders to change our lives. And at the centre of it all, the director chooses to adopt a non-patronizing view of the tribal population, for whom the elections are just a bureaucratic hassle. Like linking Aadhar Card with PAN is for us.

Newton benefits from a fantastic ensemble cast. The solid Sanjay Mishra opens the innings with a quick cameo, only to return to the dressing room and leave the match to Rao and Tripathi. As Aatma Singh, the leader of the battalion assigned to deal with Newton’s crankiness, Pankaj Tripathi is in fine, fine form. Supporting him is the fabulous Raghubir Yadav, who has put on weight, but still pulls off a fine role. Special mention here needs to go to Anjali Patil, the actor who plays Malko. Not once does she step overboard – her full lips, her eyes, the cynical attitude towards the forces – this is an actress who is probably as cranky as Newton, but with lots of tact.

And at the centre of it all, is Rajkumar Rao as Newton Kumar. Watch him as he blinks while looking away, as he mutters, sighs and grits his teeth. As he runs away from the security forces, or as he explains the rules of voting like his life depends on it. Rajkumar Rao’s most heroic act of the film is in how un-heroic he makes it all seem.

Credit also to director Amit Masurkar, who whips up a story as idealistic, as uncompromising as the titular hero. The film is proof of how might tighter, how honest our films would look if we grew the balls to castrate the fluff. Newton doesn’t claim to change your life. In fact, the film works like a scientific theory put forth by Isaac himself – it works with scientific precision, is to the point, and is effective.

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Sararah

The Brouhaha Over Sararah

(A sanitised, edited version of this article was published in last Saturday’s Bangalore Edition of The New Indian Express Indulge. If you live in Bangalore, please buy the paper and read my humour column called Urban Bourbon. Thank you. God bless you and your neighbours!)

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I love how the Internet throws up new things that blow our minds everyday. Our minds, in that sense, have become like Pakistani schools – keep getting blown every other day, over something or the other.

So it wasn’t much of a surprise when Sararah – the anonymous messaging app – took India by storm in the last few weeks. Hidden outpourings of love, revelations of decade-old crushes, and spiteful messages were passed off with aplomb on Facebook.

A few friends revelled in the newfound attention, some others were shocked that people on the Internet could be so rude (Hahahah!), and the third kind decided to answer anonymous questions on a public platform.

However, I remained oblivious to it all. I don’t fall for this kind of shit anymore, saar! I know that these fads will pass. That behind every ‘Hey, you’re cute’, there are a hundred ‘Babzz ur a sexxy. Show boomps’. I recognised Sararah for what it is – a fad. One that would create a storm for a while and then move on like a gentle cloud.

But as I sat in my room wasting precious herb and pondering over the philogophical implications of fads, something struck me. The lifespan of fads has gotten shorter and shorter over the years. The fads of our childhoods lasted for at least half a decade. Trump cards, magnetic stickers, and Add Gel pens consumed a good part of a decade. For me personally, fads had their own superlatives – fad, fadder, father’s slap.

Ooh, and it makes me wonder. Our parents probably had to endure fads for whole decades. Imagine playing marbles for 20 years of your life! No wonder my father turned into Floyd McGregor every time I asked him money for marbles. It also explains why Shatrughan Sinha wore a leather jacket for 20 years. Why Jeetendra wore white shoes, inadvertently playing a tennis player in every movie.

Which is not to say that I have been immune to fads. No, sir!

My entire life is a dark memory lane of fads. I wore the Salman Khan Tere Naam hairstyle to school, and even the school cows ignored my presence. I wore bell-bottomed jeans and embroidered woollen T-shirts that Sohail Khan wore in the movie I: Proud to be Indian. I bought a jumper after watching an episode of Friends, even though I used to look like a mosquito.

But the icing on the cake was when I decided to get myself coloured streaks. Three of us best friends bought ONE pack of hair colour (burgundy – because why not?), and applied it on our hair. We forgot that the three of us constantly hung out together, went to the same college – on the same bike. We ended up looking like the Mirinda Men on methamphetamine.

Which is why I have become immune to fads. For eight years, my Facebook DP was a pair of worn out chappals. I only changed it when I realised I hadn’t been getting any Tinder matches for three years straight.

I didn’t fall for Pokemon GO either. I had the app, and it showed a Charmeleon (or Dandasaurus, or whatever the fuck those creatures are called!) sitting right in my balcony. But my 2G connection didn’t let my Pokemon GO anywhere. Later of course, Mukesh Ambani launched his own version – Reliance G-O, where he found small telecom companies and ate them up, literally putting the ‘tata’ in Tata Indicom!

All this explains why I refused to participate in the shallow shag-fest that is was Sararah. I lay down on my bed of arrows like Bheeshma, and watched my Kaurava friends fall for the hype one after the other. I don’t need Sararah. If I need honest opinion, I merely need to ping one of my exes. The honesty in their opinions could force me to take 13 years exile, including one year in disguise!

So don’t bother me with Sararah and other such wasteful trivialities. Like the old saying goes, ‘Don’t walk up to Jackie Shroff and talk to him about iPhone X’.

FU

To Those of you who presume I am biased against Telugu cinema

After my last blog on Arjun Reddy, I received a number of mails and complaints from readers.

I was accused of being biased, and harbouring stereotypical ideas about Telugu cinema. That I was some jobless blogger who smoked three joints and went on a rant.

Firstly, I have a day job now, so fuck you! Secondly, I honestly wasn’t trolling or ridiculing Telugu cinema without reason. Most of what I said holds true. Nearly every Telugu film fits into the 5 Song Design Sandbox. Most Telugu films star heroines who can’t speak the language. 95% of Telugu films are exactly how I described them in the blog.

The blog was also accused of being the flippant views of an outsider shitting over the Telugu film industry. Here’s the thing – I am not really an outsider.

I speak Telugu, and have lived in Andhra and Telangana for more than 17 years now. I have grown up watching Telugu films and even Telugu soaps (Antarangaalu…ting-ting-ting-ting, ting-ting-ting-ting!). I am a huge fan of Jandhyala and his movies with Rajendra Prasad and Naresh. My teenage years were spent in listening to songs of Venkatesh movies, and early RGV films from Shiva to Kshana Kshanam. My M.Phil topic was the rise of Telugu diasporic filmmakers who created a new genre of films in Telugu cinema. I have written and performed shows in Hyderabad for years now.

What I’m trying to say is, FUCK YOU!

 

I was also accused of being a biased outsider who carries the stereotypical bias that most North Indians carry against South cinema. An entire paragraph in a hate mail was dedicated to how ridiculous Hindi cinema is. And I agree wholeheartedly.

Bollywood is the scum of the earth. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know I barely review Hindi films anymore because I can’t sit through them. I watch a maximum of two Hindi films a year and immediately spend money on Hyderabad’s best psychiatrists and psychologists. In fact, if there’s one film industry worse than Telugu cinema, it is the incestuous shit-fest that is Bollywood.

So, at the risk of sounding repetitive, FUCK YOU!

It is not a random rant. Why did I write it, then?

Because I genuinely feel most Telugu films that release around the year are shit. In fact, most films that release in India are shit. We are so caught up in our formats of intervals (where fat kids go stuff their fat faces with sandwiches and Coke), or musicals (with playback singers, and actors who couldn’t be bothered to hold a fucking instrument correctly!) that we have been blinded to our own bullshit.

But more than anything else, I wrote the blog because the Telugu film industry has no honest critics to talk of. Read the review of any Telugu film, and you get articles that are as interesting as an Encyclopedia Britannica page on cacti. People who call themselves critics churn out reviews that are as shitty as the films themselves – ‘Film is good. Dances are nice, fights are terrific, actor is good, loka samastha sukhino bhavantu’. Fuck off!

The Telugu film industry deserves film critics. Recently, a film critic Mahesh Kathi (who has worked in cinema, and studied Film Appreciation), was given death threats for criticising a film starring Pavan Kalyan. Are you kidding me? Death threats?? Is this fucking Syria?

So screw you, Pavan Kalyan fan who wrote an angry mail to me. The article wasn’t biased at all, it was honest. Go get an IQ test done, go home, close the door and windows, and jack off to Tammudu at your home, you dumb piece of shit!

Thank you!

Loads of love,

Hriday.

Arjun-Reddy-Review

My Thoughts on ‘Arjun Reddy’

I have lived in Hyderabad for 7 years, and have only reviewed two Telugu films.

Why? Quite simply, I think the Telugu film industry is among the dumbest film industries in the country. With such expansive budgets and reach, the films churned out are primarily made to masturbate the ego of the stars.

Also, if you look at our neighbours, films in Tamil and Malayalam continue to push the bar year after year. Even the Kannada industry, which was a poorer cousin to Tollywood for decades, has woken up to the ingenuity of people like Rakshit Shetty.

A sign of how honest Telugu films are can be gauged by the fact that none of the Telugu heroines actually speak the language. Why would you, if your role is primarily a Telugu adaptation of 50 Shades of Navel? Also, stardom and following of Telugu superstars is on the basis of their caste, literally putting the ‘caste’ in ‘casting’ director.

I watched Arjun Reddy a week after it released, after reading the review by Baradwaj Rangan – undoubtedly the best film critic in India. If you wish to read a review of the film, kindly read his review here – I couldn’t do a better job than the man himself. What I have however, are a few stray thoughts on the film, and my answer to the question if Arjun Reddy is going to change Telugu cinema.  

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It doesn’t take too long to notice that Arjun Reddy – both the film and the character – have no fucks to give. Arjun the character bashes up his opponent in a football match, then explains to the dean that he’s going to leave the college.

Arjun Reddy the film doesn’t bother with an Intro song, or any of the 5-song formats that Telugu cinema is stuck in. In fact, it blows my mind how most Telugu films afford to waste 30 minutes of screen time on senseless songs! Neither does Arjun Reddy the film bother with glorifying the hero. The hero here, is supremely flawed.

It is to Vijay Devarakonda’s credit that he manages to steer clear of the tropes that pass off as acting! In a film where he’s on screen for 95% of the running time, he’s fire! Vijay breathes the role, and his training in theatre shows in his subtlety. The earth doesn’t shake when he’s angry, a vein moves in his neck. Which is the other shocking thing about Telugu films. I find it weird how star-sons get into films without having done any theatre work. It’s like playing Stick Cricket on your phone, and then being called to represent India. But Vijay, is prepared.

Take the scene where he confronts his Dean. He does not sprout world knowledge, but the shallow, egoistic world-views of a 22 year-old at his peak. When he orders the heroine to sit in the first bench, it is with the swag of a college bully, not once bothering to soften the role for the politically correct, extra-sensitive world that we live in. Or the scene where after shooting up heroin, he wets his pant. Vijay charts territories that no Tollywood actor would dare to – scared as they are by the brainless gits who call themselves fans.

 

A Sinful Indulgence

Director Sandeep Vanga handles the film like an acid trip. Riding the highs and sinking into the lows. At over 3 hours, the film does seem like an indulgence, but is indulgence a bad thing? Would Tim Burton be who he is, without his psychedelic extravaganza? Would the works of Baz Luhrmann, or the magical-realism of Marquez hold their own without the indulgence? Indulge is not necessarily a bad thing.

This is a man in love with his story. In a world running around formulaic palettes, Sandeep chooses to marry his scenes to a delightfully eclectic background score by Radhan. When Arjun sees Preethi for the first time, a Carnatic song plays in the background. Louis Armstrong (whose posters adorn the artwork of the film) breaks into What a Wonderful World at a funeral. There are scenes that are six minutes long, characters etched out even though they have nothing to do with the plot. Take for example the delightful Shiva, who runs a clinic in Maula Ali and caters to Muslim aunties. Or his even more delightful father. Or the maid who doesn’t respect Arjun’s dog, who’s named after the love of his life. The director is tripping on a drug he created from scratch!

 

Miss O. Ginny

Is the film misogynistic? I don’t think so. Arjun Reddy as a character is, for sure. But he’s a character. It’s like saying Game of Thrones promotes incest because Cersei and Jamie celebrate a different kind of Rakshabandhan.

But that’s who Arjun is. This is a man who shouts at his father, punches his brother, insults an old friend on a whim – how can he be sensitive to women? Making him sensitive would have been politically correct, but cinematically lousy. Also, if you see interviews of the actor and director, you’ll know they are aware and educated, brought up on cinema from around the world. Painting Arjun with misogynistic shades would have been a risk, but they end up staying true to the character, instead of stooping to political correctness. This isn’t Balakrishna slapping and pinching a heroine’s ass for no reason. Kilgrave, Patrick Bateman, Faisal Khan – all share misogynistic traits, but that doesn’t make them any less brilliant.

 

The Grudge Part 1

If there’s something I hold against the makers of the film, it is the shoddy writing of Preethi’s character. In a film full of strongly written roles, Preethi is no more than a sex-doll. We know nothing about her apart from the basics. What are her likes? What are the conflicts that gnaw into her?

While we are given more than an hour of Arjun moping in misery, what happened to Preeti? While Arjun was skipping through jobs and banging actresses, Preethi had to leave her husband, her parents, stay alone, work, and carry a baby.

The film had a fantastic opportunity to sculpt a wonderful Telugu heroine for the first time. A real, breathing character with emotions and real dialogues. And yet, the film squandered it away. Also, the final act of ‘purity’ put me off. When the protagonist decides to go back to Preeti, it is his first act of maturity, the first time he mans up. And yet that is softened by the big reveal in the end. Perhaps it wasn’t necessary. Perhaps, in a film trying to push boundaries, that could have stayed. The idea of ‘purity’ is an absurd, Vedic-age concept that sticks out like a sore thumb in the film. But these are small pickings in a film that has balls the size of boobs.

 

The Question

So, will Arjun Reddy change the Telugu film industry?

I have my doubts. I had similar hopes after Pellichoopulu a few years ago, but as long as children of superstars continue to star in films, the future is dim. As long as caste decides an actor’s popularity, as long as the next big star-kid is called Stylish Energetic Young Bubbly Star, Telugu cinema is doomed.

But it is heartening to see Arjun Reddy play to packed theatres. It is a stray ray of hope in an otherwise dark cave inhabited by unruly beasts. Go watch it if you’ve given up hopes on Telugu cinema.