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.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

'Thank You For The Music'.......even if it's 80s stuff

Turning 40 has its share of side effects…and no I am not referring to a hormone haze just yet. What I am talking about is a creeping obsession with music that marked one’s school and college-going years. Never mind that most of it – heck all of it – was either sentimental pap or worse, synchronized noise. To our 40-ish ears that’s the sound of being young. Not youth mind you, just us being young. And it never fails to hit the proverbial right chord.

Now I don’t pride myself on my musical taste. I am not one of those who can casually say ‘I like my music eclectic,’ and then proceed to quote everything from Japanese jazz to African beats to prove my point. Indeed I get spooked by such blatant display of musical machismo. At the best of times, I prefer ballad rock (Eagles etc) and at worst ABBA. (Oh yes, while I am at it, I might as well admit that hubby and I watched the musical AND followed it up with the film…and loved to tell the tale.)

But coming back to 40-something music, it takes a special kind of ear, conditioned by a generous dose of sepia-tinted sentimentality, to cheer anything that was written or composed during the 80s. For the true-blue aficionados, it was the dark decade. But for us, growing up with over-sized tees/sweat-shirts, baggy MC Hammer pants, neon jelly shoes, shoulder pads and blingy accessories, 80s music, like its fashion, is an acquired taste.

I realized that when I attended my husband’s college reunion party recently. The tony South Delhi pub graciously played ‘our kind of music’ all through the evening and the crowd, all class of mid to late 80s, were on their feet, swinging and jiving to ‘You drive me cra-yey-yey-zy’! I was so inspired by the music that evening – given that on most days I can’t make head or tail of the lounge/techno stuff most pubs play these days – that I scribbled down my version of the top 20 all-time favourites from our generation. I think most 40-somethings will more or less agree to my list. If you don’t, please feel free to add your own…And hey don’t feel apologetic…so what if George Michael is now a junkie jailbird…back then, he was WHAM….

So here goes, in no particular order….
1.Sussudio/Another Day in Paradise: Phil Collins
2.Every Breath You Take: Police
3.Billie Jean: Michael Jackson
4.Uptown Girl: Billy Joel
5.Girls Just Wanna Have Fun: Cyndi Lauper
6.Eye Of The Tiger: Survivor
7.Total Eclipse Of The Heart: Bonnie Tyler
8. Walk Like An Egyptian: Bangles
9.Everybody Wants to Rule The World: Tears for Fears
10.Sweet Dreams Are Made of These: Eurythmics
11.Nikita: Elton John
12.Careless Whisper/Wake Me up: WHAM
13.Material Girl/Papa Don’t Preach: Madonna
14.Mamma Mia/Dancing Queen: ABBA
15.You Drive Me Crazy: Shakin’ Stevens
16.I Just Called to Say I Love You: Stevie Wonder
17.Hello: Lionel Ritchie
18.Lady in Red: Chris De Burgh
19.Right Here Waiting: Richard Marx
20:Dancing In The Dark: Bruce Springsteen

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's raining men? Nah!

Girls love to talk about men. In our impressionable years, its about the ones we snagged and those that got away, boo hoo. When we're in our 40s, it's about the ones we are aiming to snag for a favourite niece, younger colleague, cousin...(we're still too young to matchmake for our daughters so I'll let that be) and occasionally ourselves. Jane Austen was right, with some minor editing. Every young man in possession of his wits and a certain undecipherable charm currently called the 'cool quotient,' must be in need of a girl friend!

I should know. I plead guilty to this form of sexual harassment. For years I have tried to get a close single friend paired off, to every conceivable and some inconceivable candidates in our vicinity. Fortunately she's still gloriously single and about to turn 40 this month. Which should tell you something about my track record. It isn't great. But when did that stop Emma, pray?

My latest victim is my comely 25-year-old niece. I use her as much for a demographic study of her race (20-something inhabitants of youngistan) as to occasionally hone my skills as matchmaker. She loathes, in no specific order:
-Funny accents..namely those who turn opportunity to awe-ppaur-tunity and content to cun-taint
-Guys who think Stephen Spender is a management writer but can't quite place the how-to book he wrote (pardon her, she's an Englit type, she knows not what she wants)
-Shabby shoes, dirty toenails
-Bong men (except when they are family but then she doesnt have to date 'em)
-Conversations that begin with dude, babe and other similar endearments
-Men dripping brands
-Men who can't laugh at themselves and at her jokes
And finally...BOYS...too cute for their own good.

If a casual glance down that list makes you despair, imagine my plight. Only I realise our gen wasnt all that different in our men talk either. One close friend liked smart talk, another, a whacky sense of for me I had (and still retain) a weakness for the bespectacled of the species. My single friend likes 'em strong and silent. And a favourite cousin likes hers metrosexual -- pink shirts, peace beads, earrings, et al...So each gen to their gents...and as Aisha has proved at the boxoffice, sometimes even the best-plotted scripts go awry. I should know...I am guilty of that too.

What hasn't changed in 15-odd years, though, is how much time girls spend talking about guys...those in their lives, those out of their lives, those in and out of their lives. And then there is the eternal love for the artistic type (guys, if you can sing, strum a guitar, splash some paint on the canvas or generally act dark and brooding as sensitive souls are wont to do, you're in clover). Not to mention the disdain for 'safe guys'. Heck even Deepika Padukone sniggered at a 'safe' Farhan Akhtar...who in their right mind would want a square squire? Till, you actually walk down the aisle with one, you'll probably do a Padukone.

But the most enduring complaint of all times is, 'Where did all the good ones go?' My niece says the sexiest ones are 'older' and 'mostly taken'. My friends, the single ones that is, say the same. When we were doing the dating drill, we said pretty much the same thing. Moral of the story: It hasn't rained men in a long long time....' 

Maybe they all took a one-way ticket to Mars...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Size does matter when you're shopping

If you're forty plus like me -- and never intend to wear white shoes and white pants like Jeetendra to endorse the age-defying powers of some ginseng derivative -- you'll totally empathise with this post. And the feelings behind it. As for those who don't even know what the heck I am talking about....this was way before your time baby. For the longest time, life to me has been a four-letter word spelt S A L E. Now I am not your regular wallet-clutching, credit-card-flashing, brand-brandishing Sex-And-The-City stereotype of a shopaholic. But I shop when shopping is required and very often when it is not. The latter situation mostly arrives when assorted malls go into discount frenzy-- before summer, after summer, during monsoons, before festivals, after get the idea. For some strange reason, it has been hammered into my poor, impressionable brain that SALES rain real bargains. So come sale season, and I find myself turning into a mall rat, lugging bagfuls of stuff for me, he and baby...
This year though, things were a tad different. He and baby got their share of white shirts and more white shirts and pink frocks and more pink frocks. But me? Aha...therein lies a blog.
I have always believed that just like every girl has a dream man waiting for her out there, she also has a dream store waiting out there. All you need to do is stumble upon it and're in clover. Want something to wear to your office party...snazzy enough for the evening but nothing that will make you look like a tart? Try your dream store. Want the perfect pair of jeans which hug hips as well as waist? Ditto. Want a sweater that actually makes you look slim? Its a no brainer...
For my contrarian friend that dream brand is Wills Sport. For my best buddy it's Bailou. For me...well, I am not so sure any more. For the longest time I thought the kind of clothes I like to wear are middle of the road enough to get me a wide range of choice. Not any more. This sale season has convinced me I need to be at least 10 years younger and 10 kgs lighter to even try to wear some of the stuff on offer. Where are those beloved cowl necks, tie necks, classic cut shirts and dresses? Instead the shop windows were groaning with the kind of tween fashion that looks good only on Kareena Kapoor. Even classic dresses like the ones in Sisley or Mango are for women roughly half my size. The fashion world, it seems, has relegated me to the frump heap of history. Neither age or spread is on my side.
Stores like Bizarre, once a favourite haunt, now offer stuff that's too cool to wear to office. Unless I suddenly turn into an incurable pub hopper -- a bit difficult with a two and a half year old at home -- those balloon tops with metallic details round the neck would look completely out of place in my wardrobe. Skinny jeans look stunning on the skinny...but otherwise it's a fashion nightmare. Flowery chiffon dresses are too girlie to wear if you're on the wrong side of 35...for a 43 year old they are a definite no no. Three quarter pants are okay -- comfy and functional -- but there's no way you can make them look stylish. And my current staple -- slacks and tunics -- are available in too few size options for anyone beyond a respectable size 10.
Get the idea? It's suddenly as if the whole world is designing and stocking clothes for size zero 18-25 year olds. Granted they are a very visible consuming class but what about the well-heeled, professional 40 somethings who like their saree and Indian wear but mostly stick to semi casual stuff as workaday and playaday wear? Will no one spare a thought for us folks?
Even the palettes are so cutesy and young I feel embarassed to even try some of those clothes on. Ever since I turned 35, I have been proudly wearing red lipstick as a mark of coming of age. It's my calling's how I tell the world I am no wide-eyed ingenue but a woman of the world...I have been there, done that and even worn red lipstick! But show me stuff on the store shelves that can go with red lipstick and I'll buy you a coffee. With tequila shots on the side.
My only option is to stick to the tried, tested and boring trouser and shirt routine which is 21st century fashion's take on the Mao suit. It's unflattering. It's functional. And it's ubiquitous. The other option -- jeans and a tee -- looks good on you if you are 20 something and can carry off semantics like 'It's Raining Men' emblazoned across your chest or if you're a cross between Jen Aniston and Sarah Jessica Parker. I am neither so I steer clear of 'em tees.
So there you sale sojourn this year ended with me buying myself my favourite kiwi sorbet ice cream...two generous scoops and a cone to keep me company. As for all those cool dudettes lugging bagfuls or stuff, I tell them...well you cant wear red lipstick with that any of that. Unless you're Sonam in Aisha...but that's another blog.