Thursday, June 2, 2011


When Ian McEwan got famously feuding once-friends Paul Theroux and VS Naipaul to shake hands and make up at the Hay lit-fest, it became a photo-op gleefully captured by publications that had nothing to do with literature, much less to do with any of the dramatis personae involved in the 15-year-old joust. But Theroux and Naipaul’s blazing row – over, what else, suspicions and women – had all the ingredients of the kind of salacious stuff that makes headlines across the world in distinctly unliterary publications. There were barbs, very public ones, and the two cerebral writers behaved like kindergarten kids. It was delicious.

What came out of it, apart from some well-documented tongue-lashing, was a book – Sir Vidia’s Shadow, Theroux’s revenge on Naipaul for trying to auction off a personally inscribed copy of his book dedicated to the Nobel laureate and his first wife. Sir Vidia’s Shadow, an ode to Naipaul’s “elevated crankishness”, though, is hardly the only product of a literary row. The good thing about cerebral fights is that they sometimes spawn stuff other than intemperate outpourings of a creative mind.

Take English poet John Dryden’s famed faceoff with fellow poet Thomas Shadwell. It resulted in Mac Flecknoe, Dryden’s mock heroic satire that was a not-too-veiled attack on Shadwell. Dryden and Shadwell famously sparred on their inspiration Ben Jonson and the structure and nature of comedy. Their differences were also political – one being a whig and the other a staunch royalist.

Had he been alive, Jonson would certainly have enjoyed the faceoff given how well he handled his own quarrels. He once invited critic John Sylvester to a repartee session. “I John Sylvester, Lay with your sister,” came the barb. Jonson’s reply was cutting, “I Ben Jonson, Lay with your wife.” “That is not rhyme,” said Sylvester. “No,” said Jonson. “But it is true.”

More recently, Salman Rushdie and John Le Carre had a delightfully bitchy slanging match via letters to the Guardian newspaper. Rushdie called his bete noire “ a pompous ass”. Back in the 80s, when Rushdie was in hiding after the fatwa on his life following the publication of Satanic Verses, the two writers locked horns on the question of freedom of speech and whether even literature needs to draw a line sometimes. It seems it all began when Rushdie trashed The Russia House in his review.

Years later, the quarrel resurfaced when Le Carre was left battling accusations of anti-Semetism in his writing. Le Carre wrote that his “purpose was not to justify the persecution of Rushdie, which, like any decent person, I deplore, but to sound a less arrogant, less colonialist and less self-righteous note than we were hearing from the safety of his admirers' camp.”

Rushdie replied, “I’m grateful to John le Carre for refreshing all our memories about exactly how pompous an ass he can be”….(his letter) “suggests that anyone who displeases philistine, reductionist, radical Islamist folk loses his right to live in safety.”

The pompous ass invective isn’t the only colourful endearment from Rushdie. When John Updike did a catty one on Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown for the New Yorker sometime in the mid-2000s, Rushdie retorted with a vicious  below the belt attack.  “Why, oh why, did Salman Rushdie in his new novel call one of his major characters Maximilian Ophuls?” said Updike. Rushdie’s reply: “A name is just a name. 'Why, oh why .. ?' Well, why not? Somewhere in Las Vegas there's probably a male prostitute called 'John Updike'.”

The review row is of course also as old as the hills. One of the most famous literary friendships turned sour also has a review angle. Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre were philosophers, thinkers and novelists. The two men appreciated the sameness in each other and after a slightly awkward introduction went on to become firm friends. Camus’ review of Nausea was both appreciative and critical. Sartre’s review of The Stranger, on the other hand, seemed to drip an “acid tone”. The joust, stuff of literary lore, has been captured in a splendid book by Ronald Aronson titled Camus & Sartre: The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel That Ended It (Chicago 2004).

Of course any post on literary quarrels can go on and on. I haven’t yet mentioned the Norman Mailer-Gore Vidal faceoff or the Mary McCarthy-Lillian Hellman legal catfight. But then again, this is only a post….and I do need to keep some tidbits aside for my friends to enlighten me…so keep writing in and adding to the list I have mentioned here. I promise not to use this as a trigger for a word war…

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Mircea Eliade & Maitreyi Devi in 1973
 The idea for this blog came to me while browsing through the reams that were written – and the attendant zillion images clicked – during the just-ended Jaipur Festival. And no, it's got nothing to do with either Hartosh Singh Bal or his now famous face-off with William Dalrymple. While speed reading the goss that the festival threw up, I came across several pictures of the literary world’s newest IT couple – Orhan Pamuk and Kiran Desai. Their love story is so sizzling right now that Pamuk’s last offering, The Museum of Innocence  is already a best-seller in India, although Pamuk is a brilliant but notoriously difficult writer to love. I should know ….I read his My Name Is Red with fascination and awe but it wasn’t an easy read. But an Indian Booker-prize winning girlfriend can endear an author to our chattering classes like nothing else…he’s boyish and a Nobel laureate…she’s stunning and a Booker winner…heck they even have a house in Goa! They are, as my friend Reshmi so aptly described them, the Saifeena of the literary world. So what’s not to love?
Although strongest in India, the interest in the Orhan-Kiran love story is by no means a local obsession. The pair are trailed by paparazzi as they sizzle on the sun-kissed beaches of Goa and they get top billing at all literary events they grace. Yet, half a century ago, an equally celebrated love story fetched no eyeballs from western media. India, clearly hadn’t arrived back then and the star-crossed story of a Romanian intellectual and an Indian littérateur didn’t find too many takers. Two best-selling books and one failed film later, the Maitreyi Devi-Mircea Eliade romance has now been relegated to the scrap heap of history. No one remembers them, much less revisits one of the most touching instances of cross-cultural love. And the film, (Bengali Night) despite a very young Hugh Grant and a very nubile Supriya Pathak, generated more controversy than footfalls. It has been thankfully forgotten. If you still don’t know what I am talking about, you haven’t read Na Hanyate. Or leafed through Maitreyi/La Nuit Bengali. The first was written forty years after the second and today Chicago University Press offers the two as a ‘he said-she said’ package. Yet even a cursory read of the two – despite what’s lost in translation, from Bangla and Romanian respectively – leaves no one in any doubt whose account is of greater literary merit. Despite his erudition and fame, Eliade’s Maitreyi is nothing more than romantic rant, a semi-erotic rendition of his affair and the painful separation that followed.
Eliade & Maitreyi Devi, 1933
 Na Hanyate, on the other hand, is an elegantly-written, beautifully structured autobiographical novel. Unlike Eliade, Maitreyi Devi does not write simply to externalize her pain – for her the love and longing that lasted a lifetime was a ‘glimpse at eternity’. The book was an instant best-seller in Bangla and all the other languages it was translated to and even mainstream Bollywood borrowed copiously from it when Sanjay Leela Bhansali picked chunks of the book in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. It won an academy prize and is now considered a cult classic. Eliade’s Maitreyi too won him enormous fame as a novelist though his later works of punditry have completely eclipsed that early novel.

So what do these two literary couples – separated by nearly a century – have in common? Actually nothing. And that’s the point. Despite her renown in Bengal, Maitreyi Devi never managed to get the kind of respect that Western critics showered on Eliade. To them, she was always Eliade’s first love and the muse of his best-selling novel. Essayist Ginu Kamani chronicles some of those responses in her seminal essay A Terrible Hurt: “Many of the reviewers champion one book over the other, saying of Devi's book, for example: "one-sided," "self-absorbed," "anti-intellectual arrogance," (Carmel Berkson, "Lost Love in India", Far Eastern Economic Review, November 17, 1994); "Her angry response is naive, and rather Indian" (Ian Buruma, "Indian Love Call", New York Review of Books, September 22, 1994); "Maitreyi Devi could have done with some editorial help" (Isabel Colegate, "Love in Calcutta, His and Hers", New York Times Book Review, May 15, 1994); "a distracted meditation on emotional transcendence," "rambling and anecdotal, often slack in prose style," (Philip Herter, "Both Sides Now", St. Petersburg Times, May 8, 1994).

Kiran Desai-Orhan Pamuk, Goa, 2011
Was Eliade’s formidable reputation as a scholar responsible for a section of the western intelligentsia trashing Na Hanyate? Would Na Hanyate have got a far more unbiased review if Maitreyi Devi had written it today, in the backdrop of India’s economic prominence? Would it have managed a Booker Prize perhaps? Would Maitreyi Devi then get the treatment she truly deserved, an inte-llectual equal of her first love? In post-liberalised India, Pamuk and Desai are literary equals. Sadly, Maitreyi Devi never got that chance.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Emigrating to Pondichery

The trouble with being 40-plus is that no one quite gets you. If that makes me sound like a teenager, then may be my life has come full circle. But truth be told, when a 40-plus couple take a life-altering decision, they face disbelief at best and derision at worst.

Our decision to emigrate from saddi Dilli – or shall I say apno Gurgaon – to Pondichery elicited all manner of reactions from friends, colleagues, acquaintances and strangers. So much so that we spent most of September, October and November explaining ourselves to anyone who cared to listen. The ‘let-me-explain’ mode continued via facebook all through December. The new year throws up more of the same…so by now, I know my ‘oddball reasons’ by heart. No small achievement for a 40-year-old trying to learn French verbs!

The commonest reaction has been what hubby and I term the ‘halo-ji angle’. “We are proud of the two of you…what a brave thing to do…takes so much conviction,” goes this refrain, making us feel like we’ve committed the biggest, most spectacularly stupid mistake of our entire, useless lives. Yikes, what have we done!!!!!

The other lot would offer snide solace. “Heard you’ve taken sanyas?” said one source. Not quite, I tried to explain, but he wasn’t listening. “Call when you need a break from religion…” Another friend of my hubby’s christened him ‘Baba’ while still others asked, in all seriousness, whether we weren’t too young to find religion. One friend hurrah-ed our quest for nirvana, saying he’s been trying to give everything up and live in the mountains for a while….The most damning though were those who called to ask, “Heard you guys are retiring? Is it true or did one of you get fired?”

That neither of us got fired or were taking sanyas didn’t seem to register on our social radar. People just assumed we were smoking some exotic herb growing in our backyard. One social acquaintance even wondered whether Pondichery offered good opportunities for real estate investments. And if we could help him get a nice old villa in the French quarter….

The best of the lot simply assumed we had a)had enough of the big city life b) were losing our marbles. Both assumptions were easier to handle because in a way they weren’t very far from the truth. In my case, I had to even field a Gestapo like inquisition on my choice of school for my baby – the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education in Pondichery – with one dinner companion asking me why ‘normal’ options like Sri Ram School or Vasant Valley weren’t good enough. Do I mean to say, kids who go to those schools don’t turn out right? Not quite, I stammered to explain. But I just like the idea of mine growing up in a different milieu. Why? Did I go to SAICE? Didn’t I turn out right, despite a lifetime with the Loreto nuns? Ho hum. I was silenced.

While pretty much everybody was skeptical about our decision, reacting with disbelief, incomprehension and occasionally even derision, some responses were just plain over the top. One member of our extended family called our alternative living plan ‘shocking’. “There has to be more to this than what you’re letting on…you’re just not telling me the whole truth,” she said. Lest this spawn an entire cupboard full of imagined skeletons, I hastened to add that neither of us had lost of our jobs, nor was there any problem with our immediate family…this was purely a lifestyle choice. “But you’re throwing away everything you’ve achieved in these 17 years in Delhi,” she ranted. “Are you mad?” I tried to reason with her saying that it was a little bit like emigrating to London. We were doing this because we were convinced that we were moving to a better quality of life. “But London is the West…you’re not emigrating, you’re giving up Delhi for some la la land,” she insisted and then drew her own conclusion, “Is it because you don’t want the fact that your child is adopted to get around?” I gave up…
To be fair, some people came up with fairly acceptable objections. One friend noted that growing up in Pondichery would mean a lifetime of sheltered existence for our baby. Would she be able to face the real world when she grows older? Yet another said, “The school does not offer any certificates…what if she wants to get into the regular stream mid-way?” Yet others assumed, rightly, that I would miss the frenetic, news-hungry days in the Delhi Bureau. “We’re giving you a year tops,” said one colleague. “After that you’ll be back. Pondichery is too quiet for your liking.” Yet others remarked, ‘It’s good you’re not selling your Wellington Estate flat in Gurgaon. That way you can come back anytime you want.”

A select few, though, actually got the idea. They told us, they loved the idea of a gentle pace and gentile milieu, a small town where everyone knew everyone else, of colonial architecture and great seafood, of spirituality and a liberal, creative ambience. They said they were tempted to follow suit and would start building their nest egg. But till then, they would miss us. To them, I say, we miss you too guys. And hope you’ll emigrate to our alternative world really soon. That, by the way, is also my new year resolution. Bonne Annee to all….

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Language Timothy!

Language Timothy!
If that catch phrase made you smile and you recognise it from a reasonably awful BBC tele series called Sorry! you belong to my generation. And this blog post will make a lot of sense to you. So what, you may ask, does an 80s TV series have to do with being forty something? Actually a lot.

I must confess that no matter where I stand chronologically, I am seldom at a loss for words in any situation or age group. But of late, my usual gift of the gab seems to be deserting me. In other words, I, ahem, don't understand the lingo that I often hear around me.Sample this: a younger colleague mailed me this liner: "Tis tru...da distans hav increasd....bud dats soooo sad na....1s v ver der n delhi 2gether 4 a couple f dez...thoz ver gud tymz..."

I mailed back asking her to translate into English and she called to explain. You see, it seems my kind of language is simply no longer cool. What I once thought was sms-lingo is now the common stuff for people in their 20s...and I am not even talking about the strange dialect that teenagers talk. Recently Emma Thompson attracted widespread reactions -- both favourable and otherwise -- when she asked school children to please speak entire words and sentences. Emma had a point -- it may be cool to speak your own lingo and it also has the added advantage of making no sense to people like me (the parent trap that is ) but the danger is you could grow up spouting no language other than gibberish. My best friend Reshmi has a catch phrase which I use liberally simply because it is quite evocative -- young people these days are inarticulate in multiple languages. One young man, cool dude former colleague, fits that bill completely -- he speaks English, Hindi and Bengali and is completely incomprehensible in all three! Ask him to explain something and he will flit from language to language leaving you both exhausted and exasperated. Phew!

The West's problem of teenagers taking a word and turning it into something quite different or liberally sprinkling 'like', 'awesome' etc in their speech is a little different from our language limbo. Reason: English as we speak it is a little bit different from the way Brits or Americans do. Remember the opening chapter in Yann Martel's Booker Prize winning Life of Pi? India, he wrote, is a curious place where railway booking clerks will demand that you don't bamboozle them into anything.....Martel has a an Indian journalist writing in English I often use words which would be more comfortable in Jane Austen's Victorian England than in 21st century India. Words like bemused and leery are seldom if ever found in newspapers in the West...the English language in UK and the US is much more casual compared to our more formal usage.

Nor is this peculiar to English alone. My friend Prasanto Roy, who just came back from a trip to Quebec, noted not without irony that the French speaking people of that region don't feel comfortable talking to snooty Parisians in French! If they do, they get a reply in English. Parisians are notoriously accent conscious -- not unlike Bengalis who turn up their noses at the cockney Bangal that migrants from east Bengal tend to speak -- and any non-Parisian accent is non kosher. But the problem with the outpost lingo is that it's stuck in a time warp and often sound quaint and outdated to the mother country. For instance, Prasanto informed me, the Spanish say parking but Mexico has continued with estacionamiento....

Language, unless we're talking Sanskrit or Latin, is an evolving species. So it's okay to let it transform, include new words and phrases, even new trends -- remember Bangalored! -- but the trouble with my generation is that we're still used to complete words and sentences. The curse of cursive English? U bettr bliv it!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

At the risk of sounding repetitive I am returning to my Bollywood theme once again. For the last time. My list of rom flicks drew a whole flurry of responses and one of them, from my friend Moupia, got me thinking. In an effort to add to my list, Mops essentially drew up a roster of memorable romantic scenes! I realised that although the scenes sometimes made the film often the magic lasted only for those few minutes. So don't be surprised if this list does not entirely match the rom flick roster. Here's my pick of romantic scenes  (somewhat hobbled by the availability of pictures on the net). I'll kick off with one that makes the grade either way -- Dilip Kumar feather caressing magical Madhubala in Mughal - e-Azam. Divine. 
 It's Madhubala again with crazy Kishore Kumar who croons 'ek ladki Bheegi Bhagi Si'....cute, teasing and sexy in black and white. The chemistry is there for all to see and the scene transforms Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi from a laugh riot to something more profound.......
 Like Madhubala, Rekha is my all time favourite when it comes to smouldering passion. Third on the list of memorable romantic scenes is Rekha's Justojoo Jiski Thi number from Umrao Jaan. Heart-breakingly beautiful and a perfect blend of poetry and passion, Rekha sparkles in this one as indeed she does right through the film. Asha Bhonsle's voice captures and pain hauntingly.
Kabhi Kisi ko mukkamal jahan nahi milta...kabhi zameen nahi milti, kabhi asmaan nahi and longing in Silsila, the crackling chemistry between Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha make this a classic but this scene towards the end, where they realise the futility of their passion in snow clad Simla is brilliant.
Almost matching that is Dev Anand's loving and losing act in Guide....the far from perfect lover and his far from ideal muse make a sizzling pair...particularly in this scene when Dev seeks redemption in Waheeda Rehman's arms....Awesome....

 At the risk of sounding blasphemous, I will admit I don't much like Raj Kapoor. But this scene from Barsaat, later immortalised in the RK Films logo, is something else. There's everything here -- pain, passion, complete surrender, heart break and chemistry.....
You may well ask why I included this moonlight sonata from Chaudavin Ka Chand in my list of mushy scenes but it's sheer poetry. The old world shayiri, the Muslim social backdrop, the brilliant music and of course Waheeda's magic....I don't belong to that era but I still cant help crooning 'Chaudavin Ka Chand Ho..."
This one is so well-beloved I dont need to explain why I have included it. But look closely -- this aint the mustard field scene from Dilwale Dulhaniya le Jayenge. This is the scene where Shah Rukh takes a break from his tomfoolery to ask Kajol what happens if she falls in love before she gets married to someone she's never met.... Suddenly the fun and games melt to make way for matters of the heart....not to mention the now famous 'palat palat palat' scene.... Just as moving is the rain-drenched waltz between SRK and Kajol in  Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. No music. No great bods. No fancy costumes. But it's heart felt and it works.

Okay I know most of you will groan when you see this one. Maine Pyar Kiya was so cheesy that its hero was later compelled to do a spoof called Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya. The costumes were terrible. The dialogues cheesy and the plot improbable. But for our generation it was defining romantic flick.So much so that SRK had to spoof the "Dosti mein no sorry no thank you' line in Om Shanti Om.
Puppy love aside lets return to another all time favourite...Kabhie Kabhie...this scene in snow clad Kashmir with a dewy Rakhee and a mooning Amitabh is great stuff...particularly since it's juxtaposed with the wedding night scene between Rakhee and Shashi Kapoor with the same number playing in the background. Good stuff.
This one is Rekha and Amitabh again in Mukaddar Ka Sikander. The two sizzled  so much that the original romantic track between love lorn Amitabh and shrewish Rakhee seemed improbable. The Salame Ishq number is an all time favourite as the duo teased and sparkled on screen.Finally, this heart-breaking scene from Bazaar is my all time favourite. It's haunting. It's passionate and it's perfect. Farrukh Sheikh and a gamine Supriya Pathak look young, vulnerable and oh so beautiful. The score is just as haunting. Always makes me cry.  

Monday, October 25, 2010


My last post about Kaliyug in general and Shashi Kapoor in particular got so many people talking that I realized there is little more to us than Bollywood and cricket. So who am I to question our national character? And why shouldn’t I delve a tad deeper into what keeps us entertained both on and off screen.

So here’s my take on movies, magic and mush….yup I am talking love stories here. The kinds that make you smile to yourself and reach for the popcorn. Or wipe a hurried tear and reach for more popcorn. The funny thing is no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t come up with too many recent blockbusters that relied solely on the power of mush. Heck, new age Bollywood was even making films called I Hate Luv Stories. The mush masala that kept the dream machine humming through the 70s, 80s and 90s are now moving to a different beat. Is it me or is it me? Is my generation that last one to believe in syrupy sweet scripts? Is Gen Y just too kewl to be in love anymore? After all love stories, at least the real ones, can get messy and tear-stained. And very often they do. Is the 20-something generation shying away from love in their search for laughter….hmmmm point to ponder.

Meanwhile I have put together a list of my favourite love stories on screen. This is an entirely subjective list so please feel free to agree or disagree…..

Bollywood Top 10 Love Stories
1.Silsila: Rekha, Amitabh and Jaya make up the ultimate triangle. Cracking chemistry
2.Umrao Jaan: Rekha as the heartbroken courtesan is unforgettable. Great music, great lyrics, great ambience.
3. Kabhie Kabhie: Love and longing across two generations. Amitabh, Shashi and Rakhee sizzle in this classic though the Rishi-Neetu-Naseem triangle is a bit tiresome
4.Wake Up Sid: Now this is new age romance…cool and non-conformist like Ranbir Kapoor’s mismatched socks
5.Doosra Admi: Great love triangle with Rakhee playing the older seductress with élan. A mature take on puppy love
6.Lamhe: Another film that was ahead of its time…it’s perfect Mills & Boon material. And great music too.
7.Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge:This one is so well-beloved that I just had to include it. Who can forget SRK and Kajol in the mustard fields
8.Kuch Kuch Hota Hai: DDLJ meets Sleepless in Seattle, it’s a tear-jerker right through
9.Jab We Met: Great chemistry between Kareena and Shahid…funny and heart warming
10.Mughal-e-Azam: What can I say…has Bollywood ever produced anything to surpass Dilip Kumar caressing Madhubala with a feather…

Hollywood Top 10 Love Stories
1.Casablanca: Humphrey Bogart says ‘Here’s looking at you kid’ and we all reach for our hankies
2.The English Patient: Great book, great film…perfect casting and of course Ralph Fiennes
3.Sleepless in Seattle: Soppy, predictable but never a let down..this Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan classic always tugs at the heart-strings
5.You’ve Got Mail/The Shop Around the Corner: I love both versions…the hate at first sight and love later angle never gets stale
6.Breakfast At Tiffany’s: Holly Golightly and her impossibly naïve take on love and life….purrrfect.
7.Atonement: I don’t much like Keira Knightley but she shines in this one. Though I must say, at the risk of sounding predictable, that the book is better
8.Roman Holiday: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn and a Vespa…this is classic romance.
9.Pretty Woman: Cinderella meets Prince Charming on Sunset Boulevard and it just gets as soppy and sweet as you can imagine
10.Notting Hill: Hugh Grant tells Julia Roberts, ‘We’ll get you cleaned up and back on the streets in a non-prostitute way’…funny, quirky and very watchable

And finally something from Tollygunj….don’t snigger…it’s home to Satyajit Ray…
1.Charulata: Madhabi and opera glasses….brilliant stuff
2.Chokher Bali: Aishwariya, angst and a great story
3.Japanese Wife: A beautiful haiku, certainly Aparna Sen’s best
4.Paroma: A feminist theme with a romantic sub-theme
5.Dadar Kirti: Period piece with good acting, good music and a literary storyline

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kalyug Ka Generation Gap

One particularly humid Sunday after not long ago, I got a call from my excited mother. “They are showing Kalyug…catch it on channel XXX,” she told me. Now I am a huge fan of Shyam Benegal and an even bigger fan of the film. A taut script, the utterly gorgeous Rekha and the oh-so-handsome Shashi Kapoor greying at the temples made for perfect viewing. After the film, I called my mother back.

“Wasn’t Shashi Kapoor looking absolutely delectable in that scene when he faces off with Anant Nag in front of the entire family?” Mum asked, echoing my feelings entirely. Just then, her phone rang…it was my grandmother. Mum put her on the speaker and I could hear Dida repeat what we were saying to each other minutes ago: “Do you remember the scene where Shashi Kapoor bends himself into a foetal pose after discovering his lineage? Wasn’t he brilliant?”

There’s a reason I am invoking this story. Three generations of women drooling over the same actor is no longer unusual today. Pretty much everyone drools over John Abraham and roots for SRK’s Rahul avatars. But my Dida was in her 80s back then and my Mum in her 60s. So here were three women with two decades separating each of them bonding over the same film and actor. Generation gap? What generation gap?

You could, of course, dismiss the whole thing with the usual Bollywood-breaks-all-barriers explanation. But actually there’s a bit more to it than just that. My niece and I, with roughly two decades between us, both like the same sort of films. After Sonam Kapoor’s Emma act in Aisha, we both gave the desi Sex And The City effort a thumbs up. But for entirely different reasons. For my niece it’s a perfect chick flick; for me it’s a brilliant comedy of manners on Delhi’s class snobbery – the Lajpat nagar versus GK II and GK II versus Jorbagh oneup(wo)manship.

Like everything else, gen gaps are also changing with time. This generation – we shall call it Gen Y for lack of any other catchy phrase – don’t have the same angst that we laboured under. But that doesn’t stop them from bonding with the 80s crowd on music, movies and more. In my earlier blog I listed my 20 favourite 80s numbers. Surprise surprise!  Several of my 20-something friends (aforementioned niece included) said the numbers were among their all time favourites! Including the likes of Beat It and Final Countdown. Okay so MJ has been, ironically enough, resurrected by his death but Europe? Are we missing something here?

My best buddy says Gen Y is so clued into what’s happening around them that it often offers the 80s crowd some common grounds to share feedback. For instance, a particularly incisive article on how over-burdened French students are finding it difficult to articulate their erudition drew comments on Facebook from her son’s 20-something friend. She’s studying in France and agreed with the premise of the story, adding that despite CBSE’s brain-dead straightjacket, her school still taught her to speak her mind. And that has earned her accolades from her current teachers.

As for films, today’s superstars – unlike Shashi Kapoor’s generation – have turned ‘wide angle appeal’ into a strategy of sorts. When I interviewed Shah Rukh Khan for ET Now last year, I asked him this question. ‘My 60-year-old Mum, 40-year-old hubby and 25-year-old niece are fans’, I told him, ‘and I am sure my three-year-old baby will grow up to be a fan. How do make sure your appeal pans so many generations?’

‘I am working you Sen,’ joked SRK, “I noticed you left yourself out.’

If you’re a superstar in 2010, you can’t let any demographic get away. Kapoor’s generation had it easy, it seems. All they needed to do was grey gracefully at the temples J.