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Cruel… June 19, 2009

Posted by astralwicks in Cinema, Cricket, crime, india, Mass Media, Media, People, t20 world cup, victim, viewership.
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…every which way.

A man allegedly rapes a woman working at his house. The channels go berserk calling her a ‘naukrani’ or ‘naukar. The heinous allegation almost being mitigated by the social position and of the girl and the nomenclature of her profession.  The media of the biggest democracy in the world doesn’t extend basic courtesies to victims of crime. In this case however they extended the same to both parties. For so long considered the repository of all things promiscuous – the film actor now has proved that he or she is indeed a vile, licentious animal that preys.

The perpetrator of this crime – Shiney Ahuja had to strangely be barefoot. That is the rule in India. An accused can’t wear shoes. What do shoes and guilt have in common? No idea. Anyways he still has to be chargesheeted, the case fought and the sentence delivered – a long way from now, some years probably – but why can’t he wear a shoe or a chappal for that matter.

India’s loss at the T20 World Cup. Another instance of the mob fury. Cricket is a sport. Cricketers are not gods. You win some and you lose some based on your strategy. Like petulant schoolboys with no emotional anchor finding solace in somebody else’s victory, they came out on the streets and burned the captain’s effigy.

It is not the mob alone that is to blame. It is the incessant analysis and counter – analysis, by ‘I-know-better-than-you’ ex-cricketers, who have to justify their payments, who hype the match and then impute reasons where there are none.  The self-feeding hype machinery of all media has to strike a balance between reporting responsibly and viewership targets.


Rare Big B Photo June 27, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in Big B, Bollywood Archive, Cinema, Culture, Entertainment, Films, india, Movies, photography.
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Guys check this link out

K with Ray February 8, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in Cinema, Culture, Entertainment, film, india, Kishore Kumar, Satyajit Ray.
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Unfortunately I don’t know who took this photo but let’s call him/her ‘anonymous’. So…


Long Live Hindi Cinema February 6, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in Blogging, Bollywood, Cinema, Culture, Entertainment, Films, india, Political, Writing.
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In the 80’s this was how a regular Hindi film played itself out.

 Hero has a family…mother, father, sister.

 They live in Virpur, Shantinagar, Rampur etc.

 They are under the omnipotent feudal lord.

 They common villagers till the land, somehow scrape lunch and dinner and constantly have to protect their ‘izzat’, ‘jaan’ and ‘zameen’; that is self-respect, life and land, in that order. Self-respect is a tame word, in plain words they had to constantly be aware lest somebody owning allegiance to the feudal overlord rapes them.

 Eventually they were raped. The Hero, till the rape, an innocent man with ideals, goes mad with rage. His father by now had also been bumped off, the cattle killed and the land confiscated.

 The Hero, using all his skills of detection, finally manages to locate the culprit…the Villain of the piece is having a ball.

 He is surrounded by girls on all sides who are dancing.

 There is song, dance and wine all around.

 And the Villain is in very august company…he is with the Police Commissioner.

 This cliché was forgotten by me. I thought I had moved on. Assumed that times have changed. That these scenarios happen only in the Bandlands of UP and Bihar and now that I am in Mumbai, memory was no longer servile to itself.

 But all that changed after the MNS supporters attacked north Indians. As the city was burning, well, at least, simmering, and there was fear all around, Raj Thackeray was seen chilling with the Police Commissioner, at his daughter’s wedding.

 Long live Hindi cinema.





Cinemorph November 29, 2007

Posted by astralwicks in Arts, Cinema, Creativity, Culture, Entertainment, Films, india, Mumbai, Nostalgia, Personal, Reflection, Thoughts, Writing.
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Yawn. Let’s laze today. Well, I am writing, that means that I am not lazing. Wiriting is an exrcise, a job, sometimes painful, often lonely, sometimes ecstatic, taxing, boring etc etc. But more people in the world (I might be biased) think writing is nothing but a whole lot of posing. It is posing with hands on your head, tearing your hair or cigarette in hand looking at the smoke swirl, curl and disappear…looking for words, sentences, meaning and inspiration in the play of light and smoke on its heanvenly journey.

Bombay houses Bollywood. Bollywood makes films, lots of films. India makes some 800 odd films in a year. Films have actors, directors, producers, music composers and it also has writers. Also because they are the least commended or appreciated. I speak from both personal experience, hearsay and instinct.

Me and millions like me were exposed to films…mailnly in theaters and VHS. DVD’s are recent and I am 32. So we grew up with Tape, audio and video. I saw films and remembered some and forgot most. Some fight sequences, a stray dialogue and some characters. Very few films were remembered because of the writing skills. It was also because of my inexperience. Remembering the immediate, the pleasurable but not long-lasting.

One didn’t know or understand as kids why films of Bimay Roy, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Guru Dutt, Vijay Anand, early Yash Chopra etc left a lasting impression and not other films. I am talking of the so called commercial films. Even then the gut knew what was different in the films shown at 1.30 on sundays on Doordarshan. Films by the Indian masters and other new – wave directors from the regional centers.

It was something. But what was it? I couldn’t figure, but only sense.

Over the years after a gradual exposure to international cinema, my horizons were widened. Not just by films. Books and the written word began to weave its magic. It gained the pre-eminence that one gives to one’s mother. Words I realized were the nutrients, the ground, the soil upon which all meaning was constructed. In poetry, short story, novel.

The new art of the century, Film, was of course different. It was a coming together of everything else till that point and more. Meaning was constructed piece by piece by the simultaneous synthesis of picture and sound. The word existed. But the word was shaped and chiselled by sound, facial expression, light and shade, movement and other symbols that were already a part of our collective consciousness. The word was no longer the prima donna.

It was never the case in Bollywood. There are exceptions but…

Here it is the actors. They earn in crores. The director too earns in crores if he or she has given hits. The music composers too earn in crores. But the writer is still a beggar.

The early writers during the independence were still nurtured by ideology and rebellion. The middle years by growing disenchantment. The 80’s by nobody knows what and the 90’s by the noveau. All these films of course had words, many of them were hits and people still remember them.

But hits can get dated and the re-runs on the innumerable channels offers us an opportunity to test. Most of them fail. It jabs at one’s memory. I still remember the day when Shahenshah was out on the pirated circuit in Jamshedpur. All of us friends contributed and raised some 150…a princely sum in 1988 to lay our hands on the VHS tape for 1 run around 3 and a half hours. Or the day when another Bachchan starrer was screened during a family gathering. What a disappointment? One remembers the highs also.

Pulp Fiction, Blue Velvet, Space Odyssey, Blow Up, The Passengers, Z and many more.

Coming back to writers. I did my stint in Bollywood. Doctored scripts. Wrote and didn’t get credit. In the meantime I also saw some films that were well written. But the majority of them offer no hope. Why is that?

Saif was brilliant in Omkara. When I came to know that he was being considered, I was horror struck. The chhote nawab mouthing those lines and body language. I was surprised and so was Saif I suspect, at the mature consistency of the character. But see Saif in other films and you wonder…what a waste. Is he the same guy who did that? Well, commerce is what sustains us and let’s not bemoan.

What do we see around us? Slapstick comedies, action and romance. We watch films because they are made by a particular Brand…either the Yash Raj, KJO or RG Varma kind of films. Then we go for the actors. Shah Rukh, Salman, Aamir etc. Then the music etc etc.

When will we go because of the writer of the film? They say Salim – Javed did that to another era. But what would the pair have done if AB was not around? That’s a question worth answering. Was the symbiotic relationship between them a coming together of destinies, serendipity working overtime to make collaborations possible…la Scorsese, Paul Scrader, De Niro.

But that was another era. Will we again make arresting drama? And who are the subjects of this drama? Like Barton Fink…will we be able to make films that makes the common man / woman, his or her concerns to be the subject matter? Will we in our time see a new kind of cinema? At par with the Iranian kind? Simple but not simplistic, universal and relevant. Or will we be satisfied by the tag Bollywood spectacle, musical, a unique narrative form that takes on the might of Bollywood?

Are we scared that if we make a different kind of cinema then our way of story-telling will disappear? Is quantity our only weapon? A whole lot of questions so far and obviously no answers. But what the hell, I felt like writing.

No Smoking – A Review November 5, 2007

Posted by astralwicks in Anurag Kashyap, art, Blogging, Bollywood, Cinema, Culture, Entertainment, film, india, Movies, No Smoking, Personal, Reviews, Thoughts, Writing.

Finally saw No Smoking. It was a late night show that had 60 – 70 viewers. Some of them walked off during the interval. Some stuck around till the end. I was one of them.

Bad press has dogged the film and its director, Anurag Kashyap. Directors, critics, actors, distributors and the audience too to a certain extent dislike him. For various reasons – Anurag is an outspoken outsider who with his sheer writing skills has made a name for himself in the incestuous world of Hindi cinema. He has fought with his mentors, with his producers, actors, financiers, distributors.

He is the enfant terrible and nobody likes them ‘E.T’s’until and unless they become legends. Anurag’s is a strange case. He first came to everybody’s attention after Satya. Then because of his fall out with his mentor Ram Gopal Varma. The fallout was a classic case of two strong personalities not being able to see eye to eye on creative issues. Then Anurag branched out on his own. Paanch was the result. A bloody tale of friends betraying each other. The film is still to see the light of the day.

But it is a cult favourite. Largely because of the sadly unseen performance of Kay Kay. Otherwise the story is an oft repeated one. It is only Kay Kay’s performance that holds the film together. But Paanch gave birth to a legacy; to a persona that represented the lone outsider’s struggle to make it in the film industry; Anurag became a symbol. Of the uncorrupted idealist who pitted against insurmountable odds ranges gallantly and almost wins. It was in the failing that he became a successful icon.

He tried Gulal. And failed. He announced Alvin Kallicharan. Didn’t happen.

And then Black Friday happened. One of the best films to come out of India it again died a premature and tragic death – this time by the courts. Based on the Bombay blasts after the Babri demolition, Black Friday was cinema, documentary, history, analysis and to some a creative catharsis. It never saw the darkness of the theater. Tragic.

Fate has not been kind to Kashyap.

Meanwhile he earned his bread and butter and a penthouse writing good and indifferent films. In the meantime the legend grew. Of a maverick film maker who brooks no interference, takes on the high and mighty, tackles controversial stories, a maestro who while battling his personal demons was maneouvering the big bad world of Bollywood.

And then No Smoking was announced. About a nicotine addict who comes in touch with an underground rehabilitation centre…and things go wrong. I was kicked when I heard the one line. Right up his alley and who better than K to handle it.

And then one day in the month of feb-march 2007, I was surfing and came across ‘Cats Eye’ and things have been a bit different since then. I immediately realized that K’s No Smoking is a rip off of Cats Eye. But then I came down from the high horse and looked around…everybody was copying…Martin S did it with his ‘The Departed’ (paid for the rights) and so why not Mr. K, I reasoned. He might be better at it and spin it in his unique way, I consoled myself. And since then I have waited for the release of the film.

Initially I was aghast at John’s casting. But then I didn’t mind John A’s casting also. Good directors can do anything with a story, actor. So the weight of tradition, myth, legend, anticipation and Bad Press weighing heavy on my soul I entered the theater and watched No Smoking.

K is an inveterate smoker and his life is never the same again after he meets the head honcho of The Lab. Things go horribly wrong for K. And for Anurag K, the Box Office, the producers and well nigh cinema itself.

Here are the WHY’S of that.

Critics love to hate Anurag. They have ripped No Somking. Self – obsessed film maker, too arty, not for the common man, no message, hero smoking all the time, why didn’t it end half an hour after the film began!!! etc etc.

Some critics have gone so far as to suggest that such films should not be made!

They are people who don’t want such film makers or stories to be attempted. That way the status quo on the stories told, the actors signed and the cultural stagnation will continue and they can celebrate. By making ‘NS’ Anurag has axed his own foot. But films can go wrong.

There are also another kind of critics who have praised the film. They have bestowed on the film’s hero and it’s director the kind of praise that you prepare much in advance, in anticipation of your favourite hero because you couldn’t become one yourself. So K, in this case, both Kashyap and the films hero become ‘the narciccist who ends up losing himself in his self – love, the descent into hell, purgatory, the Faustian exchange, the existential dilemma of a modern man who has to fight for the very thing that kills him, the allegory, the symbolism, the decaying city and its effect on the moral fibre etc etc.’

So in between unreserved praise and unbridled criticism lies the truth of the film No Smoking.

No Smoking’s premise is set, explained and plays itself out in the first 30 mins. After that what?…is a question that Anurag K should have asked right at the outset. We travel into the labyrinthine nightmare of K but John A is not accomplished as an actor to portray grief, helplesness, rage, desire…abs don’t act… is a fact. But Anurag like most men and women faltered…at the very first step. You take a non-actor in your film because that person guarantees the one thing that you have not been able to do so far…make a film and RELEASE it. John guaranteed the release.

So what about the other arty stuff that even the art house crazy fans have not understood. Symbolism, allegory, modern archetypes of decay, stagnation and death a la Baudelaire and Eliot and others. Where does Anurag’s descent in hell go wrong?

It goes wrong I think in the fact that Anurag has also become a victim of his own legend and myth. Just like countless others before him Anurag has also thought himself invincible. He made his kind of films – just like Yash Raj makes ‘their’ kind and Ghai makes his ‘kind’. Anurag also seems convinced of his own infallibility. I can and will make the films I want to make and anyways the audience is illiterate so who cares for them? It happens to the high and mighty and Anurag is the high priest of the Bollywood strugglers.

Is No Smoking a venture borne out of an over-confidence that borders on arrogance and apathy? I think it is. It is revenge film making…I can show you what I am capable of kind of bravado. An interesting premise that never had the material to last 120 pages deliberately force-fitted to an incompetent actor and the desire to see one’s film in the darkened four walls.

Brevity is the soul of wit…something that Anurag was good at is never to be seen in the film…in dialogues or in its length. What you witness is a smart – alec director busy with inside jokes that only he and his cronies know (common to Jhoom Baraabar Jhoom) and understand. Pretentious symbolism that Kashyap uses to pay homage to his own intelligence and literate self. And the conviction of a man sure of his own genius; sure footed in his complexity; complacent in his creativity.

There are others who will now suffer. Interestng scripts, concepts and directors will now be shoved aside because of K’s failure. That’s definitely tragic. For Kashyap and for others this time round.

Friday Fury November 3, 2007

Posted by astralwicks in Cinema, Culture, Diwali, Festival, Films, india, nation, Personal, Writing.
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3 BIGGIES this friday. 2 big films this friday. Sawariya by Bhansali and Om Shanti Om of Shah Rukh and Farha. And DIWALI – the festival of lights on the 9th. Who is going to burn the brightest? The filmakers have an enviable track record. OSO looks more promising according to WOM or word of mouth. But Bhansali can grow too…at the Box Office that is.

You can watch Hindi films at their best. Its masala at its best. Will the festival make us forget the negatives? Will we wink at bad acting, non-existent screenplays, self-obsession and laugh at all the money going down the drain. Me is cynical. Not the time I guess. Whatever we do we will burn money on the 9th.

Dard-e-Disco is the new teen anthem and the 6 packs…digital or otherwise is drawing oohs and aahs. What shall I do? Firecrackers!! As kids it was eagerly awaited. But now…the sound definitely hurts the drums. As kids the louder it was the better it was and now it is only COLOUR/SPARKLERS.

But kids will always like more of sound and fury. I also didn’t know or didn’t pay attention to the scared animals all around me. Dogs and cats definitely have a horrific time. So do mice am sure. But now I get rattled.

Age is catching up or maturity or cowardice. A bit of everything I guess.

Sholay Ka Satya August 24, 2007

Posted by astralwicks in Cinema, india, Ram Gopal Varma, Ramesh Sippy, Satya, Sholay.



0n the 31st of August a Hindi film is about to hit the marquee that is being most eagerly awaited by different people for different reasons.


It is Ram Gopal Varma’s ‘adaptation’ or ‘re-interpretation’ of the 1975 classic ‘Sholay’. If you are Indian and you don’t know ‘Sholay’ then probably you don’t have a mind, memory etc. That is the veneration that the film generates. It was Ramesh Sippy’s tribute to the spaghetti western.


During the days of the cassette tape one of the most prominent displays was enjoyed by the double tape of Sholay. With the two heroes Jai and Veeru on the sidecar – scooter and Garam Dharam trying to strangle Gabbar with a half-log as the two sides of the cassette jacket.


The nation remembered most of the dialogues of the film and they still do, 30 years after the film. Speaks volumes about a film, book, music or a relationship. It’s an enduring affinity between the film Sholay and the film-goer.


And Mr. Varma is trying to re-interpret it. Gabbar is now being played by Bachchan himself. The groovy ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba’ has been ravaged twice, first in Aap Ka Suroor and now by Mr. Varma. We all have to wait how the film fares. It can’t match up to the original we all know. Some or most of us are waiting ‘how bad can it get’? Will Mr. Varma be able to recreate the old magic. Why answer the question?


What has happened to the guy who gave us Raat, Shiva, Satya and 1st half of Company. Others would have more names but anyways…Satya will be his Sholay. Is anybody trying to remake Satya?


Viva Cinema August 9, 2007

Posted by astralwicks in Antonioni, art, Bergman, Cinema, film festival, friends, London.

Antonioni and Bergman died on the same day. It was not co-incidence of course, but a great era came to an end. Quietly and peacefully. Two film makers from Europe who saw the great war, the great crime and the great appetite.

I haven’t seen all of their films. L’Aventurra, Blow up, L’Ecclipse and The Passenger of Antonioni.

L’Aventurra was a revelation. I had seen the film on VHS during one of the many film festivals that we friends used to organise. 30 films in 5 days kind of thing. We could keep our eyelids from betraying us and we watched some great cineme.

It was during one of those film binges that I had discovered Aventurra. I found it slow, ponderous and beautiful. I slept in the morning after a surfeit of film. At around 11 that morning a friend of ours visited and wanted to watch a film. Aventurra got played again. I was awake by then and then started watching it again. The small boat with the lovers on it sailed and then the girl gets lost and then something happened. I left the room and felt elation.

I had understood Aventurra. Through and through would be a presumptuous statement but Antonioni’s lifelong obsession to delineate the ‘architecture of relationships’ suddenly was made visible and accessible. Love, guilt, sin, loss, reconciliation and redemption of the characters became my own love, guilt…redemption.

Similarly with Blow-Up. Vast desolate colorful sexy lost loathsome playful grim gray murderous London. Where is the ball? Ah the mime shadow play of a herd painted and Dionysian. I watched it a second and a third time and had to give up and say that this onion is for an eternity. There is still The Passenger…another shocker. Antonioni’s films for me are as ferociously intelligent and condemnatory ultimately holding a speck of redemption as the aphorisms of Nietzsche.

Bergman, the playwrite from Faro who went on to make films that is as potent as any literature of the world. I was scared watching my 1st Bergman – obtuse, religious, symbolist, theatrical…came across too much like a pedant.

Wild Strawberries was cinema and much more. So were the others that I have watched. Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Autumn Sonata, Persona and Fanny and Alexander. There are more to be studied and fallen in love with.


Thank You