September 21, 2012

Ganesh Chaturthi and Bollywood

Mumbai on Wednesday welcomed its favourite elephant-headed Lord Ganesh.Mumbai, being the capital city of the State has a very strong essence of Marathi culture. Ganesh idols are brought in almost every household in the city. Lord Ganesha is very central to the Marathi culture, the mores of the native Marathis. Celebrated over a span of ten days, the festival of Ganesha paints the entire city of Mumbai in tints and shades of various colors. There is mirth, festivities and life filled in. Pandals are set up in every nook and corner.  For the city of Mumbai, Ganesh Chaturthi (Festival) is its finest public exposition that a city could aspire for, where whole of city congregates in their own way to celebrate the coming home of the Lord Ganesha.The influence of Lord Ganesha is profound in the bollywood and the cinematic representation of Lord Ganesha is quite familier in the world of Hindi cinema, though it needs to be underlined that in the Marathi cinema Lord Ganesha forms an integral part of cinematic exposition. Its like the most celebrated festival in reel. We can find so many films where Ganesh Chaturthi celebrated with full of zest. So, as the festival has already started from yesterday and the city  is in a festive mood, it would be a perfect occasion to go down memory lane and list out some films where the festival has been given eminence:
AGNEEPATH: The latest version starring Hrithik Roshan had a complete song, or sort of an Aarti devoted to the lord and it was a major turning point for the film, incidentally the occasion of celebration of Ganesh Utsav in cinema has been chosen to give a point of departure to the story.
AGNEEPATH: In the original AGNEEPATH it was Big B who celebrated the coming of Lord Ganesha along with Mithun Chakravarty with the song- Ganpati apne gaon chale. Indeed, for the local Maharastrians who live in Mumbai to make a living, Ganesh Utsav is the occasion which they still like to celebrate at the native place, and so the song perhaps was a tribute to this ethos.
DON: If the Big B has done it then how would Shah Rukh Khan not do it! So, he also bowed in reverence to this God in the thriller, DON. Here it needs to be mentioned that in the world of Hindi cinema irrespective of religious feelings, this festival is celebrated by all and sundry and the family of Salman Khan is a shining example of celebrating this occasion. Farhan Akhtar using the metaphor in his film could also be his tribute to the city where he has grown up, and the same could have been the case with Shahrukh Khan as well.
WANTED: Salman Khan's super hit film WANTED had the famous song, Yaha Bhee hoga wahan bhee hoga, Mera hee jalwa, obviously his family has been celebrating the festival for years, so he is aware about the Jalwa of Lord Ganesha.
HUM PAANCH: After Mohammed Rafi sang the song, 'Deva ho Deva Ganpati Deva', for this modern version of Mahabharata in HUM PAANCH this song has become a signature song associated with the Ganeshotsav in all the pandals that are set up on the eve of this festival in Mumbai and across Maharashtra and other parts of the country.
ANKUSH: The street festivities and the romantic liaisons, as also the fights between various mandals during the time of festivity to assert the supremacy, a sine quo non of the festival in Mumbai was for the first time shown in stark reality by N Chandra in ANKUSH. He also subtly had pointed out how the occasion also is a platform for blossoming of various love affairs all across the city.
BAL GANESHA: It took quite a long time to make a movie underlining the relationship between Lord Ganesha and children, but when it did come out, it was a super hit and therefore was followed with a sequel as well.
May be in this list I missed many other films but the festival which Bal Gangadhar Tilak started as a symbol of protest against the British Raj and to unite people has now become a festival that identifies the ethos, the pulse, the buzz and the vibrancy of not only for Marathis but for the film industry in reel life and in real life too. Looking at the lavish celebrations in both ways we can surely say that Bollywood takes pride to believe in oneness of Deva shree Ganesha  .
Happy Ganehsh Chaturthi!!

September 15, 2012

A sweet gesture..

Ahh.. one more Friday is here and the one more much talked movie is in theater to giving us enjoyment. But this time I am less confused as Ranbir Kapoor’s Barfi has already knocked the theater and as expected it charmed audiences. It was expected, though I haven’t seen, but make a sense of the movie through the promos and songs.  Thanks to Pritam, who has been hit with several allegations of plagiarism in recent times but with "Barfi!” the music director hits back at critics with a vengeance through the soundtrack that has eight numbers. I love the vintage flavor of Barfi songs, which gives a very happy feeling. And yes of course the expression of Murphy Ranbir, a cheerful young man who dances, cycles and charms his way through the village with not a care in the world. That he is hearing and speech impaired is conveyed through a song, without much melodrama. Very simple very original, also promises that the film will give you no “gyaan” (expressing opinion) and that it will tell you about “saccha pyaar” (true love).
Barfi! is one among a number of films in recent years to have a lead character with a disability and Priyanka’s character is de glamorized . Indeed, the image of the star is so tied to glamour that the act of playing a de-glamorized role is seen as an act of artistic courage. Ranbir’s skillful acting makes up the deficiency with his expressions and endless energy. Without a single line to mouth, Ranbir Kapoor expresses much more than any average actor could even dream of. The actor oozes of such continual charm that you can't help but fall in love with him. Every performance in the film is accomplished. Ranbir Kapoor is simply superlative with his career-best act. From his innocence, expressions, liveliness, pathos and ceaseless charm - he is outstanding in every aspect and wins your heart unconditionally.
The idea is surely not to seek sympathy towards the protagonist but to draw an attention that he is a perfectly normal guy and exudes more life than any all-right mortal. Barfi seems 'visually' stunning, 'smells' of freshness in every frame. So this week  I am surely on for it. What about you?

September 6, 2012

I am just so middle class

Just went through a write up of Director Shekhar Kapoor titled “I am just so middle class”. Needless to say I found myself nodding along to what he had  say. Yes, I am just so middle class too and I remain firmly in the middle class, both socially and financially, and the mindset, ergo, would be hardpressed to change. I am so middle class that I can bargain for right market price with raddiwala till I don't get convinced or buy vegetables with a doubtful mind may be the sabziwala is tampering with the weight and overcharging me or having a lots of clothes but still think twice before discarding when I find it is not in best but in a good condition. Well these are all middle class mentality but at the same time sensible also ,looking at zooming living cost today. But as Shekhar ji says Middle class is not always is a monetary judgement.Middle class is  how you think, feel and make judgements about other people, but mostly about yourself. So I am ending here and switching over to his write up :
I am just so middle class.
Middle class is not always is a monetary judgement. Middle class is  how you think, feel and make judgements about other people, but mostly about yourself.  Middle class in India is a mindset. A mindset that looks for stability over enterprise. Continuity over change. A fear of that which could cause society to change.
Middle class is a fear of borrowing money. An arrogance of being debt free. Middle Class mindsets is what banks survive on. Taking low interest interest deposits from middle class mindsets, offerring them a false sense of security, and lending to those not imprisoned by the middle class mind set. Never mind that they would never pay it back.
I have always been Middle Class and struggled with it. For a while after the success of my films I flirted with the elite. I felt like the ball in the Pin Ball machine, bounced by one elitist group to another , unable to settle, and finally thrown back to where I belong. Mostly because inside me I felt I did not deserve it. Middle Class meant that you did not deserve to be extraordinary.
That was certainly true in my generation. We still meet and talk about how the nation has changed for the worse. Moralizing at those who, rightly or wrongly, morally or otherwise, proved to be game changers.  In houses priced so far out of the range of anything we could afford now. For our parents built those houses when land was cheap and the speculators and real estate companies had not stepped in.  At that time having house simply meant that. I cannot remember talk about increase in property value and assets.
The middle class. It meant knowing you were consigned to a high moral ground but otherwise to ordinariness. That you would forever be a job seeker than a job creator.  That job creators in India were those that has thrown caution and morality to the winds. And actually turned out to be your employers !  Yet middle class meant seeking jobs in foreign multinationals, for their sins were unknown to you. They happened so far away that you assumed those sins did not exist.
 Middle Class also meant a certain frugality. The Mochi came to repair your shoes, and you did not own more than a couple of pairs a year. You were not expected to. Too many clothes were considered flashy and consigned to the so called business community.  In fact the business community was not even allowed to join the Delhi Gymkhana Club. Not till they became so rich that they bought their way in and pushed the Middle Class out !  The middle classes that rose in protest with Anna Hazare, were finally responding to the frustration of the nation changing beyond their comprehension.
I still struggle against my own middle class mindset.
Creativity to me is always a struggle to break my middle class boundaries and barriers.  When I look back at Masoom, I realize that I was looking at my middle class moralities. I did not even realize it then.
And I am writing this from Venice, where I am the Chairman of one of the Juries of the film festival. See how strong the middle class mind set is ? For I am not sure I deserve being here.
I am sure hundreds will disagree with me, as they should. For I hope they are right. But I do ask them.  Why is it that middle class boys and girls that went overseas were more prone to become entrepreneurs  and game changers than those that never left the shores of India ? Would I ever have had the courage to break the shackles of being middle class if I had not gone to London to study ?  Would I never have become a director if I stayed back in India ?
Who knows, but its a question I always ask myself.

September 4, 2012

An Era Ends: A.K. Hangal -- 1917-2012 - Communist, tailor, actor, purveyor of senescent charm

A self-confessed “late bloomer in the Hindi film industry,” AK Hangal went for his heavenly abode on Sunday. It is another loss for Bollywood as with him an era ends. A.K Hangal originally named Avtar vineet Kishan Hangal was known for his a lifelong struggling. He spent three years in jail in Karachi. Hangal had taken part in a rally to protest the hanging of Bhagat Singh. “I clearly remember the day Bhagat Singh was arrested, and the day he was hanged. Pathans cried and everyone walked the streets chanting ‘Bhagat Singh, Bhagat Singh’,” He was proud of his earliest associations with the Left. The authorities released him on one condition — that he would leave Pakistan and settle in India. Which he gladly accepted – “mera dil hamesha Hindustan mein hi tha, aur main har dam ek sachcha Hindustani tha, dil se”, he often said.
A couple of write ups about him, say his first role was in Basu Chatterjee's Teesri Kasam, playing Raj Kapoor's brother. And some other say “Shagrid” which confused me, since I do not remember if Kapoor had a brother in that film! But what I learn that Hangal's scenes were deleted in final cut of the film. However that couldn’t take away Hangal saab’s ability on screen.
Left-leaning, a member of the Communist Party, he spent many years working for the Indian People’s Theatre Association. Life’s ups and down made the situation such that at one point of time he had to take up a tailoring job to make ends meet. Like everything else, he excelled at it. Born in Peshawar in 1917, his life started to struggle from then: "My earliest memory is that of my mother. It was late at night and I was fast asleep. They came and woke me up and dragged me downstairs. I must have been about four or five years-old then. I saw them crying and I looked at my mother lying there. She lay calm and still. As they were all crying, I too cried. That was the last time I saw my mother. "When the crying stopped, my sister took me upstairs and put me to bed. Mother had not been well for some time, and her brother, following the advice of some old women in the family, had taken her to a daee (midwife), who could not treat her effectively, and mother died." – Excerpt from Hangal's autobiography.
Once he was dubbed anti-national by right-wing forces in Mumbai for attending Independence Day celebrations at the Pakistan Consul-General's office. He was boycotted by filmmakers and remained out of work for two years. Although things returned to normal, the incident left him deeply hurt. He complained: “I had come to India leaving behind everything in Karachi yet was dubbed a Pakistani!”
 Though films brought him stability and a degree of respect but it did not gave a smooth life. He was in dire need of money. The film industry did step up to the man's needs and helped him but it is unfortunate that, the glamour world to whom Hangal saab had given his best, couldn’t gave his proper place that he made for. A couple of years ago the actor was unwell and he could not afford to pay for his medication. The Hindi film industry genuinely seemed shocked and stars like Aamir Khan, Jaya and Amitabh Bachchan and Mithun Chakraborty stepped forward to support the veteran actor. And finally an odd gesture although in good intention designer Riyaz Ganji had Hangal walk the ramp in a wheelchair. This was quite disturbing. How a man who was in over 200 great movies could be in so bad situation that he couldn’t afford money for his treatment? , Unless as what I suspect he was paid very little money for his work. This leaves in mind that Hindi film industry is driven by the star system, (note. Bollywood's yesteryears superstar Rajesh Khanna, who has left behind a huge property worth crores) while supporting actors do not have the power to run the system to their advantage.
Remembering him, he was always the sweet, polite, gentle older uncle, father, domestic help or a man of principles. His performances were flawless in each film, but for a man who came from such a rich tradition of theatre, the Hindi film industry really did not give him much opportunity to shine, to be bright, exceptional and a surprising actor. Instead the industry, not known for taking risks, pigeonholed him and used him in the same form again and again.
Though it is customary to mourn the passing of a beloved actor, we salute you for your immense contribution to Bollywood. You left a “sannata” , a place that can’t be filled by anyone.  R.I.P Hangal Saab.
From his vast repertoire of work, we list some of his most memorable performances.

1.       Sholay
2.       Bawarchi
3.       Abhimaan
4.       Garam Haoa
5.       Namak Haraam
6.      Kora Kagaz
7.      Badaltey Rishtey
8.      Lagaan
9.      Teesri Kasam
10.   Aandhi.