Friday, January 28, 2005

Run, run, run

I have been given express instructions to blog... so am doing it right away. Have been meaning to...

Why are Mumbaikars so thin/fit etc?
> The city is bustling with actors, models, and those connected with the glam world and they're paid to look thin; it's their job to look fit, so they do. And this sort of percolates down to everyone.
> Everyone is running. All the time. To catch the train, to catch a bus, to catch an auto, to catch a cab. To catch, to catch, to catch... See people getting on to the train and you'll think a marathon is in progress. And that's why so many people ran the marathon. For them it was just an extended daily run.
> The heart gets good exercise so you're healthy. Take an auto and the bumpy roads and the driver's speed will ensure your heart has a nice bumpity bumpity ride, and your BP will go up and down and your heart will get good exercise.
> No domestic help, only part time help so you do everything yourself. Keeps you fitter.
> You eat dinner and then go drinking. Proven to be much healthier than drinking on an empty stomach and then eating tandoori or worse, butter chicken at 2 a.m. at Pandara Road.
> Of course, you go shopping and everything is not a plus but a minus minus size, so if you want to fit into anything 'cool' you got to stay fit. Half the clothes have no beginning and no end so your body must be as fluid!!!!
Having said that I'm going to catch some lunch. Remember the keyword is catch.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Mumbai local

Hmmm...there is just so much I can write about the Mumbai trains, this in spite of the fact that I've hardly used it for two weeks. But unlike my initial apprehensions, it is not a ting to be feared or hated; it is indeed a wonderful experience, because it allows you at one go, to observe so many different people, from varied walks of life, ages and serves as a fantastic platform (pun intended) to absorb habits, peculiarities, quirks, and the like. Of course, it's also damn convenient. You can read, catch up on the papers, listen to music (most listen to the radio on their cellphones), sleep, chat with yr train friends or finish your week's shopping (fish, veges etc). But hawkers aren't allowed in the Ist class and to be honest even in IInd class I haven't seen any fish and vege sellers, only people seling newspapers, mags and sundry bindis and clips.
Anyway, one of my first reactions was that the world shown by Balaji in all its K serials (the managalsutra, sindhoor, sari world) is not alien to this part of the world at all. In Delhi you do not come across married women displaying any such visible signs. I can't remember any one in my last office, or the office before that, wearing a mangalsutra and sindhoor to work every day. Which is why it was so much easier to criticise the serials as ridiculous and unreal. But here in Mumbai, the majority wears it; it is definitely more predominant in Maharashtrians; and they wear their mangalsutras proud -- and long -- just the way they do in the serials. So the immediate environment is obviously influencing what's shown. And a lot of women wear gajra too. Every day. One of the first days I was in the train, I looked around me and I swear I thought I was in a Balaji set. Just interchange the train compartment for a gaudy studio set of course.
Abbreviations: to travel in the train there are some basics you must immediately understand. When you enter a station and see a massive board (similar to the one at the airport letting you know if a flight has arrived, is delayed etc), you have to learn to read it. This board tells you which train is coming to which platform and heading where.
If C is highlighted, it's going to Churchgate. If A is highlighted, Andheri. Bo is Borivili, and V (never take the V, my guides tell me), it's for Virar. The there's ST (I thought it was Santa Cruz) but it was short for CST (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, or VT), but since the board has space for only two alphabets and they cldn't write CS for fear of confusing it with C, they wrote ST.
Then there's the question of where you stand at the platform. First sign: head for the bunch of women. Next, notice the pillars. If the pillar is painted red and yellow stripes, it is the women's second class; if it is painted green and yellow stripes, it's first class (corresponding with the stripes on the compartments). Only the women's compartments and the two first class (men; women) are striped on the outside to aid recognition. Then, if it's a 12 coach train the first class women's is about 8 or 9 so head towards the end of the train; if it's a 9 coach (they announce this at the platform), then yr compartment will be 4 or 5 so stay towards the centre. It is all very calculating, mathematical and ingenious. And very interesting. Also remember, the women's compartments (Ist and IInd) are together but there is also a women's IInd class at the end of the train. I have on occasions bought Ist class and entered IInd. The stripes are confusing when it flies at that speed. There are trains literally every two-three minutes.
Then there are Slow and Fast trains, obviously the former don't stop at all stations and the latter do.
OK class over. Now here's a quiz. What does this mean?

C 11.04 F 03

he he
heading to Churchgate, leaves at 11.04, is a Fast and is expected in 3 minutes. (I know I didn't tell you the last bit earlier; had to leave some suspense.)
Cheerio

Monday, January 17, 2005

Seeing SRK

I saw Shah Rukh Khan last night. And it was really exciting. Not because I am a fan (I am and I'm not) but because it happened oh-so-suddenly and unexpectedly.
We were driving to Carter Road for coffee but found the Cafe Coffee Day outlet shut so decided to head to Bandstand (Bandra seaface), and I just joked that let's go to Mannat (SRK's house) and maango mannat. And lo and behold we near his house (it happens to be on the way to Bandstand) and there his gates are open, two-three men are signalling a car to come out, and we're sure it won't be him because the last time I saw his gate open one measly Santro came out. And it's amazing because every evening there are people waiting outside, some with digicams to get a shot of the star. We of course did no such thing, but just happened to be passing and out comes a silver S class BMW with SRK at the wheel. My friend and I were squealing like teenagers I think. He was wearing black, puffing away a this cigarette and had his hair falling sloppily across his forehead like it did in the Darr and Baazigar days. He's also much thinner (could tell but just looking at his face) than he appears on screen.
What was exciting was to see him drive out at 1.30 a.m., doing his own thing, leading his own life. As a journalist I am sure I will see/meet him at some point, in fact I have had opportunities earlier but never ended up going. But there it's always a persona, gelled hair, cultivated tone, typical answers, a star. Nothing like the thrill of seeing one of the country's biggest stars in their own turf, being themselves and just doing their own thing. No one bothered about coffee after that!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Review of Naach

OK correct me if I'm wrong. Now I didn't see Naach just when it released so I have no recollection of what the critics said. All I know is that when I saw it last week (intended as a post-prandial laugh riot, thanks largely to Antara Mali's contorted positions and Aby baby's cute as hell smile and everything else (relax I still love the deadly Dutt), Naach turned out to be not so much a laugh riot, but an interesting study into Ram Gopal Varma's mind. I saw it with Gaurav and Ayesha (who has told me I must mention her name) and I couldn't help but thinking that to the discerning eye (and no I am not trying to say I am a discerning viewer; oh hell, whatever), it seemed to me that RGV was making a case for himself in the film. For his art, for his passion, for the way he leads his life. Critics who thought this was an Abhimaan remade have got it so wrong (at least, according to me). I don't think the movie was about Abhishek and Antara and ego clashes or their love stopry (of course on the surface it was), but about an artist trying to tread the thin line between commercialisation and sticking to his/her brand of art. Struggling to pay mounting rent bills but hoping to walk with her/his head held high by not stopping to do any work that comes his/her way, simply because it pays. And, it was about an artist trying to solve that inner turmoil: whether to pander to audience needs or to give the industry something original, fresh, creative.
Antara Mali is RGV. The man who has chosen to walk a path that's quite different from Bollywood. Who's stuck to doing songless films, which may not sell, but not betrayed his style. To whom technique and passion go hand in hand, and who has not let audience tastes dictate his films, but who has always strived to expand thought processes by doing avant garde films.
Naach to me is RGV telling the whole world: buzz off. I did it my way, and I struggled, and I went through my turmoil, and I lost friends, and I lost relationshps, and I didn't make money, but I stuck to my guns. And here I am, successful and doing work my way (even if that means slapping interns and not paying them, as alleged by a recent article). So follow your dreams, stick to your passion, and the money, the fame, the world, they'll all come around. As will Bollywood, and the audience...
And in the end it's all a naach... but while you and your neighbour may want to do the salsa, the ramba or whatever Shaimak Davar and Ashley Lobo teach these days, RGV will just keep inventing his own little naach to make the world dance at his fingertips...

Hello

Hello blog. And hello blog friends. It's only been 11 moons since I last sat on the net but it seems like a hundred. I am in Mumbai now, and needless to say it's been one helluva little-less-than-two-weeks.
For starters, here are some initial observations on the city, jotted down neatly (not quite) by yours truly on Day One, standing by my huge windows (which do not overlook the sea). I wrote them in my planner precisely for the blog, lest I forget. Here they are verbatim:

At the airport: cab guy refusing to take a guy out of line because a lady was waiting ahead of him. IMPRESSED

Gypped by cab guy (250 bucks from Santa Cruz airport to Santa Cruz) - NOT IMPRESSED

Building looking airy and better than expected. IMPRESSED

Pan stained neighbour (sorry make that pan stained mouth neighbour). NOT IMPRESSED

Pan stained neighbour friendly and helps with suitcases. IMPRESSED

Other side neighbour stops, says hello. IMPRESSED

Tough talking building lady secretary who allows small cartons to be brought up in the lift and then later shouts at packers not to stall lift: hmmm... NO COMMENTS

I think my blog shall be filled with lots of these entries. So read on. In the meantime, my review of Naach in another blog.