Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dhadkan be-awaaz hai tere bina

Jeena mujhe ab jeene jaisa nahin lagta
Akela hona akela hone jaisa nahin lagta
Tanha pehle bhi tha ik zamaane mein
Ab tanha rehna mujhe achcha nahin lagta

Dhadkan be-awaaz hai meri ab tere bina
Zindagi se fariyaad hai mujhe tere bina
Tu na mili hoti toh aisa na hota shaayad
Ab kaise muskaaoon bata main tere bina

Dil ko mere ab sukoon kahin bhi nahin milta
Mere chaman mein koi phool nahin khilta
Banajar hai khayal saare, sooni galiyaan hain
Jaise kisi sharaabi ko maikhaana nahin milta

Dhadkan be-awaaz hai meri ab tere bina
Zindagi se fariyaad hai mujhe tere bina
Laut ke aaja jaldi se tu paas mein mere
Ya bata de kaise rahoon main tere bina

Tere paas hone ki baat hi kuchh niraali hai
Gehri-andheri raaton mein bhi Diwali hai
Khushi ka matlab jaana hai maine tujhse hi
Tere bina chaandni raat bhi meri kaali hai

Dhadkan be-awaaz hai meri ab tere bina
Zindagi se fariyaad hai mujhe tere bina
Phir se mil mujh ko tab dikhaoonga main
Kaise banjar hai mera gulistaan tere bina

Duur na ja mujhse kisi bhi wajah se
Bina tere itna adhoora hoon main    
Jaise koi naami shaayar bina ghazal
Bas sang tere hi aaj poora hoon main

Dhadkan be-awaaz hai meri ab tere bina
Maut se bhi parhez hai mujhe tere bina
Kuchh bhi achcha nahin lagta hai mujhko
Suraj ho ya chaand sab bewajah hai tere bina

Monday, May 26, 2014

Mukesh Chhabra: Kya karoon sab ko aati nahi mujhe film banani aati nahin.

From where I see the way Bollywood functions, the toughest job here is to be a casting director. If you happen to be Mukesh Chhabra, only God or the love of your awesome mother can save you. I had the fortune of meeting the casting whiz, Mukesh Chhabra approx two years ago.

It was a little more than just a brief interview meeting that happened at Chai Coffi for By the end of the conversation, Mukesh promised to cast for my debut film as a writer and I promised to write a film that he might like to direct some day. We were obviously unaware that it was just a dream. Something that happens at such networking places 34 times a minute.

That meeting or interview (call it what you will) meant so many things to me at so may levels.

Here I was sitting opposite a guy who had Anurag Kashyap, Imtiaz Ali and Raju Hirani on his speed dial, and here I was, a rookie nobody who just wanted to make or write films. Mukesh Chhabra is one mad man, one of those who might jump out of an auto rickshaw shouting that the bloody flight has caught fire or some such. You can't make sense of what he said or did. His sense of humour might get him jailed for all we know, but today is his birthday. One of the nicest guys you could meet at Araam Nagar, the doors of his office are always open, no matter who you are.

Having had the proximity to work from one of his office, I can say for sure that he has a gazzillion visitors. Right from those who came fresh from the gym or those who have just stepped out of the set of Nukkad or Buniyaad a decade or two ago. Everybody wants to meet Mukesh Chhabra, if only for a few minutes. Mukesh barely looks at them, as he knows that he will know who to cast for that unsuspecting role. He just knows his craft at the back of his hand. Don't even get me started about his team, it's simply awesome!

Many people come knocking at Mukesh Chhabra's office door… struggling actors, producers, directors and the entire gamut. Even writers like me. He is just a nice guy who doesn't seem to know when to say 'No'. He encourages everybody, he entertains fungi who don't even recognise him. Read the texts he gets on his mobile phone, you might feel suicidal…  The most talented folks who are now out of jobs think that Chhabra will get them THAT elusive break.

I am just feeling lucky that I got to spend some good time with Mukesh Chhabra. He is one of the few people here who ensure that you are not going hungry or you don't have enough money to spend on this Diwali, just because he spent one festive season with just Rs. 50.00 on him many years ago. It is his birthday today and he is known to fight for actors like Rajkummar Rao and make others come to the limelight just because he can.

The talents that he has discovered are now driving around in the fanciest cars in town and are getting awards that actors get when they perhaps are on their death bed.  On his birthday, I just wish that our brother, Mukesh Chhabra continues to get the love and the recognition that his hard work deserves.  While we continue to make jokes about misfit actors being cast for roles they do not deserve, Mukesh Chhabra is going out of his way, trying to cast the best of the lot.

On this awesome day, I just hope that Mukesh Chhabra wakes up to his higher calling. Will Mukesh make films? Will he continue to cast brilliant actors for awesome roles? Will he break out from being a casting director to something that will get him more glory? I have no idea. I am just rooting for a mother who wants her son to be a lot more famous than the prodigies her son has just discovered. I still remember Chhabra's mother recently telling me, "Beta, woh khud ko chance kab dega?"

It is all about being honest to the moment and your craft and that is what I learned from Mukesh Chhabra. He gave me the inertia to type 'The End' on the script that I was writing, but our journeys are different… who knows…   Thank you for being there, maalik…

Let us make that film some time soon…


Monday, May 19, 2014

CityLights: Some thoughts after watching the film

It was a first for me. The trailer of a film made me cry. It was that of Hansal Mehta's forthcoming film, CityLights. There was a connect and a solid one at that. A couple from a village migrating from a village to an urban landscape and dealing with the problems that come along. I am still talking about the trailer, not the film. For those few people who follow the blog know my love for Bombay, for the rest, read on… you'll know too. Now about the film:

My parents came to Bombay many decades ago, with a few bag full of clothes, utensils and some dreams in their eyes. I came into their lives a few years later. The strongest memory I have of me with my father is of him carrying me on his shoulders, running across a huge park, to take me to a doctor as I was unwell. Dad could have easily borrowed his friend's Bullet, but apparently I was too critically unwell. He ran the fastest he ever could. He saved my life. Baapu, I love you, yaar!

This is the thing about Bombay, if nothing else, it gives stories to people. Like one of my friends who had biked it all the way to Bombay from Mhow (MP) just to get Salman Khan's autograph. Did my friend get an autograph? Not just that, he got Bhaijaan's cap too, that he was wearing that eventful night. Bombay makes dreams come true. No matter how big or small. People come to Bombay, as if she was their mother. They know Bombay will take care of them.

"Yahaan koi bhookha nahin sota"

Just a few years ago, my best friend Amjad's brother, Umed, came to Bombay. He was a farmer in Rajasthan. Amjad got Umed bhai here so that he could do more than just farming and give his son, Zeeshan, a decent education. I saw Umedbhai in the character portrayed by Rajkummar Rao. Umedbhai, son of an army officer who chose to be a farmer, and was forced to come to Bombay to do more in life. Umedbhai usually sat on his haunches. Watch CityLights and you'll see how Rajkummar has owned the character Deepak Singh.

The new girl Patralekha, who plays Rajkummar's wife Rakhi, has done an equally great job as well. There is a scene in CityLights where the lead pair sit and cry about what life has done to them. That is inexplicably brilliant and made me cry enough to almost completely wet my shirt collar.  I think that was the moment I ran out of tears, as I couldn't cry during the rest of the film. My eyes were dry. Sometimes I wonder why filmmakers remake films, because almost everybody in Bombay has a story to tell. No matter what genre you are looking at…

In all fairness, I have my share of concerns or complaints with CityLights, but what shines brightest is the protagonist, Rajkummar Rao. The way he owns his characters, there are very few here who could have done that. This fabulous actor reminded me of Umedbhai, addressing people as 'Maalik' or 'Hukam' and sitting on his haunches, as if that is the most natural way to sit. Umedbhai once told me, "Bhaai, ek-do saal mein paise bana ke main waapas gaon chala jaaoonga."

A few months later, he did. Despite the fact that he wanted everything Bombay had in store for him and his young son. He just packed his bags and went back to his village in Rajasthan.

I always believed one can never leave Bombay, but Umedbhai did. He was too much of a simpleton. Just like Deepak Singh in CityLights. Some people can't survive Bombay, but some do. Perhaps this city isn't for everyone… CityLights is the story of a guy who, just like my father and Umedbhai, came here, didn't fit in and packed their bags and left one day, never to come back here again. My father still remembers every street and area in Bombay, which has obviously changed now.

Note to self: I should save these stories for my own version of this film's sequel or some such. 

Every time my father visits Bombay, he has stories tell me about this magical city. Sometimes I think he still wants to live here, but he is scarred, because there is a price to pay for choosing to dream, or to dream bigger than your boots. Baapu is now happy in Indore, he has sworn never to relocate to Bombay. But I still think he loves this city. I am sure he does. The way he fondly talks about Bombay, he perhaps wants to come back here… But he has learned his lesson the hard way.

Bombay is not for everybody. Not everybody is a dreamer. And sometimes, some dreams are too meagre for Bombay to make 'em true.  Not everybody can deal with Bombay.

I love Bombay.

"Yahaan koi bhookha nahin sota"

If you've missed the trailer of CityLights, here it is:


Disclaimer: This is not a review of CityLights, just some random thoughts...   

Thursday, May 8, 2014

HAWAA HAWAAI: Some random musings

"The dream is not that you see in sleep, dream is which does not let you sleep."
Dr. Abdul Kalam (Former President of Republic of India)

Further simplified: 'Kuchh sapne soney nahin detey...'

I have always considered myself somewhere between a drifter & a dreamer… a drifting dreamer perhaps. After the first reading of Paulo Coelho's Alchemist, I fell in love with the word 'dream' for life.    I am just back from a screening of Amole Gupte's 'Hawaa Hawaai' and I don't remember crying my eyes dry before this. I am not attempting to review the film here, just jotting down some thoughts that triggered my tears as I watched the film.

Hawaa Hawaai is not just a simple story of the underdog. This story has more layers than the normal makeup, a Bollywood actress puts on before doing an item number. The film is inspirational, motivational and heart wrenching. It is also the story of overgrown kids and vulnerable adults. I have been waiting to watch Hawaa Hawaai since the first poster came out. My immense respect for director Amole Gupte's previous outings (Taare Zameen Par & Stanley Ka Dabba) added to my enthusiasm.

Barely five minutes into the film I was hooked by the simplicity of the film. The kid Partho Gupte can make the most evil heart melt like ice-cream in the Bombay summer. The lady who plays Partho's mother was another ace casting decision. The kids who played Partho's best friends were unbelievably funny! The music by Hitesh Sonik added to every mood and frame of the film. This is perhaps all I wish to tell you about the film. Now my random musings…

My first defeat as a dreamer:

When I was in school I was a loner with self-esteem issues. I was never into sports, but thanks to a rule in our school, the boys were made to play one sport. What sport would a loner choose? You guessed it - skating. I dreamt of being a skater. While I got the most basic model of skates (basically the cheapest), most of the guys who chose skating had the best fancy models with fluorescent wheels and the works. I already sucked at skating and looking at the other kids whiz past me shattered my self-confidence like never before.

I quit skating eventually, but those fancy skates… sigh. Hawaa Hawaai brought back those memories of an inept me in the skating rink making a colossal fool out of myself. I remember making a Reebok logo on my canvas shoes back then to look cool. It (the Reebok logo) looked as fake as Deepika Padukone trying to pass off as a Madrasi in Chennai Express.

"Tere raste ke sapnon mein mere sapnon ke raste lag gaye." 

The above is a line from Hawaa Hawaai. That one line made me burst into tears thinking about my years spent at Bangalore waiting for my kid bro to complete his MBBS. A simple line brought back the memories of about four years sitting in a cubicle writing headlines to sell cars, mobile phones and other random miscellany. Sometimes you have to put your dreams on hold to let your dear one chase their dream. I swear to God it was worth every moment when I saw Kirtan get his MBBS degree amidst his friends & my cousins clapping away to glory.

Saqib Saleem & Anuj who (effortlessly & amazingly) play brothers in this film reminded me of all the time I spent with my kid brother while he was completing his MBBS in Chennai.

Is your dream just YOUR dream alone?

It has been a while since I have given up other sundry (practical) pursuits (like earning money to buy my home & a car or two) to make my own film/s. I remember the first time I told my parents about wanting to be a filmmaker, they didn't understand. It took me about two-odd years to convince them about my stupid decision of choosing to remain broke for the next few years. Given the fact that almost everybody in my family earns top dollar, it must have been tough for my parents to defend my choice.

Then it happened one day. My phone rang. It was my mother. She sounded very happy. She asked me, "Your never told us that you made a film." I was shocked, because other than a few stupid short films, I hadn't made anything as yet. Then she told me about me having made a film called 'Dhobi Ghat'. I burst into laughter! It was my namesake, Aamir Khan's wife, Kiran Rao, who had made the film & my mother mistook it to be my first film. We had a hearty laughter over it.

But that day I realised that my dream to become a filmmaker wasn't my dream alone. Everybody close to me shared that dream of mine. They all wanted me to be a filmmaker.

My first victory as a dreamer:

I had signed my first film as a writer. A rookie writer out of nowhere had come to the city of dreams and taken his first cheque as a film writer. It was a magical moment, one I will cherish even on my deathbed. I had written a lot of stuff before, right from obituaries to corporate films and some short films as well, but a full length Hindi feature film? NO. NEVER. NOT.  It was a daunting task. It took me a lot of egging on from Rani, lot of staring at the blank word doc and a lot of self-loathing.

If my email address is anything to go by, magik worx… you bet it does. One fateful evening I wrote the two most-coveted words  for a film writer - The End. I had written my first full length Hindi feature film. A lot of credit for that goes to Rani as well.

I re-lived my first victory when I saw the finale of Hawaa Hawaai.

I cried again.

Please do try & watch this beautiful film by Amole Gupte. Also, please spread the word.