Monday, November 27, 2017

Tumhari Sulu: Would Sulu be the same without her Ashok?

Greetings after a long time… neither did I watch anything that moved me as much to write home about, nor did anything significant happen that I felt like sharing here. You see, life as a home-bound guy doesn’t offer any major insight or even material to observe and mull over. Having been unwell and lost too much body weight, I prefer to stay indoors, eat my proteins and other nutritious miscellany without complaining much about the tastelessness of it and the pointlessness of life in general.

Disclaimer: This piece is NOT a review of ‘Tumhari Sulu’ – I am just writing this piece because of the unusualness of the character Ashok who plays the husband of the protagonist Sulochana aka Sulu. I don’t remember meeting a guy like him on celluloid in the recent past, even the distant past. I watched ‘Tumhari Sulu’ last Friday because Rani (my wife) plays the ‘Race Participant No. 1’ in it. My views about the film might be biased, so I refrain from writing about it.

The character ASHOK is perhaps a new arrival or a re-arrival in the Hindi film scenario but why stop just there? I don’t know anybody in my / our generation who is as unbelievably nice, almost unreal as Ashok – I felt like he has jumped straight out of the collective imagination of all the girls / women I know. As many who have watched the film have concluded, our man Ashok is the text book definition of an ideal man, especially in these troubled times that we are living in.

I also write this because of the discomfort that I saw on the faces of those male friends / acquaintances who had watched ‘Tumhari Sulu’ and were left visibly uncomfortable (for the lack of a better description) by this guy Ashok they watched on the big screen. While it was easy to celebrate Sulu’s journey from the lemon race track to the RJ console, it was almost impossible to pin down Ashok, his goodness or the fact that he took way too long to even consider quitting his job.

The scales seem to have tipped in our cinematic Hindi universe – in all these many decades toughest standards were set for women, the men had it easiest. Post ‘Tumhari Sulu’ men have to deal with this aadarsh dreamboat and most of them (including me) are feeling at sea, a turbulent one at that. As I channel my anger towards director Suresh Triveni, I just want someone to tell me that he is a FAKE – one can’t be like him, perhaps can only die trying, best of lucks while at that.

One thing is for sure - Sulu can NOT be the same without her Ashok. Does this make 'Tumhari Sulu' the sweetest-yet-most-empowering-female-empowerment-fantasy-family-drama ever made? You tell me in the comments; eager to hear from you guys.

*Main piece ends, personal indulgence begins*

One of the very few times when Ashok came close to being one of us screwed up men was when he got drunk and came home. Even then his demeanor was out of place – while I was expecting him to create a scene and pass out while venting out his frustration, he does what only an imaginary guy like him would. Ashok gets chided by Sulu, lets her wash & wipe his head, and perhaps cries himself to sleep. (Read on ONLY if you've watched the film)

For my own good, I re-imagined this scene, just to normalize Ashok in my book. This is the bar scene and the precursor to it, as it played out in my head:

Ext. Bandra Station – Eve

ASHOK has just entered the Bandra station to take a train back to his home at Virar. After the altercation at his workplace, he doesn’t look like his usual calm and composed self. There’s anger in his eyes that one gets to see in spurned suitors or betrayed soldiers.  As he tries to make his way into the first class compartment of the Virar fast, he seems like Sunny Deol on a rampage, but somehow fails to get in. While Ashok is waiting for the next train, a book vendor walks up to him and tries to sell him a ‘Rapidex English Speaking Course’ book – he gives the boy his angriest look and scares him away.

The next train arrives - this time Ashok has upped the ante and channelized his inner Hulk to ensure that he gets inside come what may. Once inside the packed compartment he finds himself standing next to two strapping young Bengali guys discussing their day in their mother tongue. By mistake one of the Bengalis steps on Ashok’s shoe, and that leads to a scuffle. Ashok vents out all the anger he had for his young new Bengali boss on both the Bengali stud boys and blackens their eyes.


Int. Dingy Virar Bar – Night

ASHOK has seated himself in a comparatively quiet corner at the noisy bar and is waiting for the waiter to show up and take his order. The waiter shows up with a glass of water and inquisitive eyes, trying to size up his next prey. Little does he know that Ashok is a regular at the bar.

Waiter: Kya leke aaoon sahib?
Ashok:  Lagta hai naya aaya hai. Ek Old Monk quarter aur soda…

Waiter: Baraf kitna sir?
Ashok: (signals for 3 ice cubes with his fingers)

Just then Ashok’s bar buddy Dharmesh BHATT saunters in as if he owns the place. He hands one of the waiters a Rs.500/- note and orders a large Smirn Off vodka. Bhatt then walks towards Ashok’s table and conveniently plonks himself there.

Bhatt: Kya Ashok bhau, last Sarurday aaya nai?
Ashok: Bete ka exam tha.

Bhatt: Itni jaldi exam khatam?
Ashok: Nahin aaj office mein lafda ho gaya… isliye.

Bhatt: Kya hua? Kaunsa buddha off ho gaya?
Ashok: Ye buddhe log se pehle lagta hai main off ho jaayega.

Waiter arrives with Bhatt’s drink, places it on the table and leaves. The men clink their glasses and begin their session after ordering some chicken tikka. Ashok lights up a cigarette.

Bhatt: Saala apna pav bhaaji ka dhandha mast hai…
Ashok: Meri missus boli hai Ola taxi start karneko

Bhatt: Ye ladies log ka zyaada sun ke nai lene ka bhau.
Ashok: Tum ko to bhau maloom hai na meri…

Bhatt: Tu ne hi chadha ke rakha hai sar pe.
Ashok: Aisa bhi nahin hai bhau...


Well that was my humble attempt to make Ashok a little bit of a d*&k like most of us men. Can all men be like him? Hell no! Should we try? Hell yes! Will it make the world a better place? Not a single doubt there! To conclude, I hope and pray that every Sulu finds an Ashok to fuel her fantasies, to stand by her in every race that she participates in and most importantly - feel like a 50-50 partner in their businesses (family or otherwise), even when it is actually not. Mr. Suresh Triveni, thank you for gifting us cinema lovers an experience that will always be cherished.

Love, Magik.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

We are all 'TRAPPED'

Note 1: God forbid what happened to Shaurya (A brilliant Rajkummar Rao) in Vikramaditya Motwane's 'Trapped' ever happen even to my worst enemy. Not that I even have friends to call my own in the first place, but you do get the drift of what I am saying.

Note 2: Bombay (Mumbai as it is now known as) is not a place that nurtures idiots. You earn your stripes by giving to the city, and in turn you earn your basic rights and other privileges.

Note 3: I never wanted to watch 'Trapped' - mostly because I am a happy guy talking about why I love the 'Rasam' or 'Garlic Naan' that Rani makes for me, far more than the 'Avial' she has perfected over the years. Eating ants and pigeons? AWAAKTHOOOO. That much anyone can imagine or see from what there is in the trailer already. Who pays to watch such stories? Well, I am one of those who do, if there are no dead insects, pests or birds involved. I even watched '127 Hours' - just saying.

The thing is that there's a trap - we are all trapped. Neither Bombay needs us, nor does Hindi cinema. Who are we? Why are we here? Is this because we are trapped? Who set the trap? Did we walk into it, perhaps like how Shaurya did in 'Trapped'? Why did Motwane make 'Trapped'? Did he want to liberate himself? Did Rajkummar want to taste blood? Literally or figuratively? I don't know. Should I bother to find out? Not my business, I think.

Watching 'Trapped' if you are in love with Bombay / Mumbai or the films made here, you will know that it is a HUGE trap. One doesn't even realise when we fall prey. It could be the keys to an empty room, the chance to date an engaged girl who might be getting married in a week or so, the chance to claim a piece of this city, however big or small,  as your own or even the privilege that you can expect an answer when you shout your loudest. The most horrific part of being here is that nobody wants to listen to you, as loud as you scream or shout.

Someone might hear you scream, but that doesn't mean anything - the noise of the city and the collective ones is so loud, he / she might just give up mid way. Most of the people here are tone deaf anyway. Hearing too much of radio does that to anyone of us. Perhaps the only way to drown out the cacophony of a city that doesn't even have the time to sleep. Just in case you do sleep, the sound of your dreams drown out anything else in the vicinity. You might not like this city, but when were you invited here in the first place? You came unannounced, so will be your exit.

If you don't belong here, neither the city likes you nor do the inhabitants.

PAV BHAAJI - the smell of it will remain if you have been in this city long enough. If very unfortunate, at worst you will savour the taste of Vada Pav or Dabeli long after you've settled back to the place that you came from, with or without the fortune that you came to make here. Can you shake up the City? Have you screamed loud enough? Did anyone hear you? Do they care? Do they want to see you again? The property guy who conned Shaurya in 'Trapped' knew his lessons way before hand.

This City has no place for fools.



Friday, March 24, 2017

Khoob ladi Anaarkali jo Aarah waali rani thi

This blog is dedicated to a friend I once had some two decades ago. I don't remember his full name, his first name was Suresh and he would proudly introduce himself as 'Sures, Bokaro Steel City se'. He was our roommate, I shared the room with Sures and another friend Nikhil who was a bully who came from a place called Behraich in Uttar Pradesh. While Sures had come to Bombay to learn multimedia, Nikhil was here to start his event management company. The only things common about Sures and Nikhil is that they both worked very hard, and both were hustlers of the highest order.  

Today when I look back, for me they were the reason I never wanted to have anything to do with anybody from up north. I almost used to look down upon people from that region, and used to avoid them like plague. It was a promise I had made to myself - till the time I got to know much after falling in love with Rani, that she was born in Aarah. Much to my horror, Rani one day proudly announced, "Aarah jila ghar ba, kaun baat ka darr ba." Oh yes, Rani works extremely hard, and is a hustler too. Now that the hustling works in my favour, I have made peace with my Rani of Aarah origins.

If you've been following me on FB / Twitter, you'd know that these days I am extremely cynical about the state of Uttar Pradesh in the last few days. Not too far away from U.P., there's Aarah in Bihar, which seems to be dealing with its own demons. After watching Avinash Das' debut film, 'Anaarkali of Aarah,' I can only say that this place has perhaps been through worse already, or may be not - I am far too disconnected to even distinctly differentiate between UP & Bihar. I recently watched two well made docu-shorts about things that happen in Bihar. It perhaps prepared me for what to expect from 'Anaarkali of Aarah.' Watch the videos here, I think you'd love it too:

And this:

One of the highlights of 'Anaarkali of Aarah' is that it grabs you by the cojones and takes you into the lanes and by-lanes of Aarah so deep, that you can smell the shit by the roadside and the smell of the cow dung on the floor. From what I have seen in this film, I swear to God, I will never ever go to anywhere near Aarah or Bahraich. Other than the spirit of the people living there, especially the good ones depicted in the film, I didn't find the place welcoming at all. May be it operates in its own parallel universe, where the bad is good and the ugly is worshiped.

All this, and I have just begun. Hey wait, all that you need to know about this courageous work of art before deciding to watch the film, can be seen in the trailer:

Each and every performance in 'Anaarkali of Aarah' is pitch perfect, and will be remembered forever. Special mentions for Pankaj Tripathi, Sanjay Mishra and Ishtiakh Khan. A HUGE shout-out to Rohit Sharma for the spectacular music - if not for the music, the film might have not worked half as much. This is perhaps the strongest film made about women empowerment, and strangely makes 'Pink' fade in comparison. In this film there's no daddy figure to rub in the 'NO MEANS NO' message. Why do you need a daddy, if the daughter is strong enough to convey the message herself?


P.S.: Dear Swara, may God bless you, and give you more power to portray characters that are so ordinarily extraordinary and insanely empowering, genders be damned. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Who will clean up this mess?

Yesterday started off as a normal day - catching up on the news, preparing for the day ahead - you know, the usual. We stay at this lovely apartment, 'Versova Kiran,' at 4 Bungalows, MHADA. The only thing that's not lovely about this place is that it overlooks a micro mini Dharavi. It has been a little more than one year and we have made peace with the fact that they exist. Yesterday noon all of a sudden, two bulldozers, a dozen cops or may be more barged in and razed a major chunk of the allegedly illegal hutments to the ground. It was by far one of the most bizarre visuals I had ever seen. 

Throughout the day we kept a watch on the proceedings, much to our shock. The biggest shocker that struck us was the reaction of the people living there. Other than a group of few loud men and women who were yelling at the cops, the rest seem to be okay about it. As if they were prepared for this day - I don't know if they were warned or not, but they were gathering their belongings and walking around as if it was business as usual. We saw so many of them laughing and recording the visuals on their smart phones. We for sure wouldn't react like that if it had happened to us.

Another thing that caught our eyes were the belongings of these so-called poor people living in this slum - some had air conditioners, and kitchen equipment which were better than what we have. It made me wonder are they really poor? My wise mother-in-law said that these people have rented out the flats they have been given by the government so that they can live off the rent that they get from there. I found it hard to believe, but I have seen it in some films, so...

 By around 6:00pm the cops and bulldozers were gone, and the people living there had already started piecing their shattered huts back - only that they didn't have roofs, at least not for last night. Basically what we have now is a bigger mess, as they have occupied other half of the road as well. All I am asking is, what will happen next? Will these people be displaced for good? Who will clean up this bigger mess created by whoever came up with this new 'surgical strike' or whatever that was?

Trust me, it's an ugly visual. Hope sanity is restored soon.

Will update this blog, and keep y'all posted.