Sunday, January 31, 2010

Phir Mile (Beep) Mera Tumhara

So, Phir Mile Sur Mera Tumhara is out, and nearly everybody has nearly unequivocally ripped it apart; but when somebody like KrishAshok tears into something, the funniest lines will have been written and the most appropriate analogies will have been drawn, leaving us less funny mortals to scrap for the residual raping rights. Anyway, the video has piqued me enough to unleash upon you unsuspecting readers another review.

There are two ways we can rate the new PMSMT- either by comparing it to the original MSMT, which we all acknowledge is an outright classic, or by critiquing the video itself. But as Linkin Park will inform you at 200 decibels and 300 words per minute, in the end it doesn’t even matter. The video- running an incredibly long 16 minutes- has its moments, but all the good work is undone by the halo effect, according to which we allow our impression about one aspect of an object to spill over to all other aspects; so the few priceless moments in PMSMT are overshadowed by nearly 12 minutes of unadulterated drivel. Allow me to elaborate.

1. The Intro & other good bits

The video started like a dream- Rahman playing a melodious classical piece on a snazzy little continuum keyboard, followed by Bachchan Sr kicking off the verse in front of the Gateway. Honestly, the start couldn’t have been better. The scene shifts to a beach where Shankar Mahadevan arm-twists the tune Hariharan-style, with Loy and Ehsaan smiling broadly and playing the keyboard and guitar respectively. Impressive, but would’ve been better if Ehsaan wasn’t frozen on one chord and Loy turned the volume up a notch.

Everybody who actually sang or played an instrument was good (with the dishonorable exception of Sonu Nigam and Bhupen Hazarika)- Pt.Shivkumar Sharma, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan & Sons, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Shreya Ghoshal, Yesudas, Bengali contingent, Gurdas Mann, Unidentified Marwadi Singer, the rock band, etc. Kavita Krishnamurti/y/hi/hy and co. were good too, but why were they in the middle of a forest? And why did L.Subramaniam’s son have to do the arms wide open thing? Subramaniamji, please call pest control and exterminate all traces of Shahrukh Khan from your house.

2. The Tamil bit

If you ask me what the best part of MSMT was (even if you don’t), I’d instantly say –and this has nothing to do with my Tamilianness- it was Balamuralikrishna walking along the beach singing his Isaindhal bit with a host of Tamilian celebrities ranging from Revathi and Kamal Hassan to Ramesh Krishnan and Srinivas finger-up-my neighbour’s-nose Venkataraghavan listening obediently. The way BMK intonates at the final Namm Isai still gives me goose bumps.

Circa 2010- Two well-rehearsed, well-dressed, well-exercised Tamil actors- Vikram and Surya- replace the balding, ugly, black patch-on-face BMK who just happens to be a fantastic singer. What we want to see of course is two actors, who probably need 25 takes to give a passable expression, charming us with their signature chest thumping and arms-wide-open poses while lip-syncing to a singer who discovered just yesterday he had a vocal cord. I’ll never forgive him for raping the final Namm Isai.

3. Bollywood ladies

MSMT had Sharmila, Tanuja, Hema, Waheeda, Shabana and probably one or two others mouth one line and vanish immediately. This time around, we have lengthy individual bits with the talking point being, as you must already know, Deepika being dragged out of her bed for the song because of which the poor girl couldn’t even wear a pyjama. So sad. The ladies’ bits were like having the trailers of their next films playing back to back. But I still fail to understand, why Deepika? Why Shilpa Shetty? And it was all so artificial, especially Aishwaxrya Rai making soft eyes first to the overhead electrical cables and then to the ants on the floor of the bus.

4. Shiamuck and Shobana

This bit was, well, hmm, let’s see…I can’t do justice to it- stop all current activity and head to KrishAshok’s blog. What he says is so true!

5. 2/3 Khans

It was nice to have a segment on sign language for the deaf and dumb. But was it really necessary to have a celebrity sitting in their midst? Why not have the caretaker of that lovely school instead? And if they had to use Salman why couldn’t he cover himself up? Yes, yes Salman, we know your biceps and chest are the only things visible from the moon- but this is a video on national integration, not a concert where you measure the cubic centimeters of saliva shed by the female folk. And besides, why caricature yourself? We laugh at you anyway.

And Aamir, O Aamir, he whose quality control sieve would not allow a fake moustache to pass through ,agreed to fuse Aati Kya Khandala and Mile Sur Mera Tumhara? The tune was bad, out of sur with the song, and had the kids –the object of that piece- languishing in the background while you-the savior of the tyrannical education system- take centre stage. Looks like Ghajini really hit you with that rod the other day, which is why you come up with names like Phunsuk Wangdu and now this.

4. Sonu Nigam and the super heroes

So we are 13 minutes into the song and have already ODed on Bollywood; the song is already on the edge of the precipice with one foot over the edge and the suicide speech into its 13th minute- time for a Bollywood-style rescue and a classic finish? Or a kick to the butt and subsequent freefall? The latter. The wrecker-in-chief is Sonu Nigam, who tried to look hep in is new hairdo but was really George Harrison-meets-poodle. The man has a lovely voice and doesn’t need to wohohowohoho like the anti-talented Anu Malik. Anyway, that was the least of the problems considering what was to follow.

Sonu sings for Messrs Shahid Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor, and – drumroll- Shahrukh Khan who are present at an empty stage, an arbit hilltop in an arbit jungle (unless it the place YSR’s copter crashed or Veerappan entertained his hostages, I don’t see the significance of the location), and the magnificent Worli Sea Link respectively. The problem with this segment was that the tune was raped beyond salvage, neither Shahid nor Ranbir merited a place in the video, and SRK did his arms-wide-open ™ again. As KrishAshok said, if Gabbar was alive, “he would take those hands and spare us all.”

5. And finally

After 15 minutes of B/K/M/Tollywood and seeing varieties of celebrities in varieties of clothes with a variety of postcard backgrounds, our sportsmen and women possessing mediocre credentials such as Olympic medals and World Championships make a slideshow appearance- many of them were actually running in the video- symbolic perhaps of their running to the producers to find a place. The video was wrapped up with a token few seconds of our Armed Forces- the guys directly responsible for every breath we take.

6. Conspicuous by their absence

MSMT premiered in 1988. In the ensuing 22 years, what have been India’s biggest stories? A liberalized economy characterized by the blossoming of first generation (NRM), second generation (Ambani and Ambani), and nth generation (Ratan Tata) entrepreneurs; a demi god felling people around the world with a piece of blunt wood and going by the mysterious initials of SRT; a couple of tennis players who collect Grand Slams like SRK collects Filmfares; the Green Revolution attaining critical mass; and a scientist and visionary par excellence who also happened to be the most loved President of India- a post which, till then, was just the fastest way to collect frequent flyer miles. But none of these icons have made it to the video because, come on admit it, they have ungainly pot-bellies and cannot do a rockstar impersonation like Shahid Kapoor can.

7. Final thoughts

Sequels are rarely well-received; especially when the original is still so fresh in our memories. Probably a 15-year old who has been watching Friends and Aaj Tak ever since he’s learned to flush the toilet will like it; for people like me who grew up with DD, it’s impossible to watch the video without bias; so I didn’t try. When you call the song Phir MSMT, you had better be prepared to stand up to comparisons. The old video had celebrities sharing screen space with each other- not only did this save time but also symbolized unity in a way. The celebs were only part of the picture and you could almost not notice them at times (I only recently realized it had Om Puri). The aam aadmi mouthed a number of lines- who can forget that Malayali on the elephant singing Ende Swaramum or the Bengalis milling out of the train with Tomar Sur Moder Sur playing in the background? PMSMT sadly needed a recognizable face for every segment, and every celeb needed exclusive air time; no Amitabh-Jeetendra-Mithun style camaraderie here. I wouldn’t blame the celebs for this- Mile Sur is a legendary video, and nobody will turn down an offer to be a part of it; hell, even Aamir agreed!

Moreover, MSMT was crisp at 6 minutes and even though it featured a number of languages, the flow was beautiful- you always knew you were listening to one song. Here, there were too many breaks- total breaks; it might as well have been 8 different songs some engineering kid merged on Windows Movie Maker on a lazy Monday morning. The only perfect transition was Zakir Hussain-to-Bengali group; that was well done.

I’d say shoot the damn video again; let AR Rahman and Amit Trivedi compose it together so that we can at least shut our eyes and listen to a good song.

Breaking News Update- Raj Thackeray has threatened to pull all posters of the song off Mumbai’s walls and ban its release. His party objected to Marathi being featured in the 12th minute and getting only an 8-second coverage, a gross underrepresentation for a state that contributes 15% to the national GDP. When he was informed the song began in Mumbai and featured the sea link, and that the song had no posters and was released on TV, the MNS, in an official reply said, "Jai Maharashtra".

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday, December 25, 2009

Teentho Idiots- Reviewed

An Aamir Khan film is one of the most anticipated events in India, next only to Sachin's x thousandth run and yth century. It's amazing to see Aamir's physical transformation from the almost-bald concrete-abbed Sanjay Singhania, who could break steel rods by sneezing on them, to the charming 22-year old with well-coiffed hair and a body frail enough to justify time spent in an engineering hostel mess. Rajkunod Chorani and Aamir Khan seemed strange bedfellows, but I'm glad to report that 3 Idiots has achieved the rare honour of becoming the first movie to be praised on this page. Not that I haven't liked movies before this, but I'm stuck on 13 posts for the year since October, and have to make this exception to stem the rot.

The movie is about 3 engineering students studying in Imperial College of Engineering- an institute with more applicants per year than the IITs and a worse selection ratio than Ramaiah. It is an engineering equivalent of Mohabbatein's Gurukul in that it is headed by a self-righteous control-freak (Boman Irani as Viru Sahastrabudhhe, or Virus), but one who spews equations instead of sanskaarparampaararitirivaazniyamanushaasan. It is your typical engineering college where students focus on grades and jobs, and are tested for their gigabytes and not creativity. Enter Rancho (Aamir)- a creative kid who has the engineering nous to electrocute seniors peeing outside his room and deliver babies with vacuum cleaners. His best friends and roommates - Farhan (Madhavan) and Raju (Sharman)- consistently scrape the bottom of the class while he goofs around, plays pranks, gets in trouble with Virus, but still manages to top the class thanks to his ingenuity.

The movie keeps alternating between the present -where years after college, Farhan and Raju are desperately looking for Rancho, who disappeared before the rest could catch their airborne graduation topis- and the past, which shows their experiences during college. In the course of four years Rancho manages to do the following-

1. Peeing senior electrocution and vacuum cleaner baby delivery
2. Screw up his rival-in-chief Chatur Ramalingam's Teachers Day speech by replacing chamatkaar with balaatkaar. Subsequently CR challenges him to come back to the same spot he's now standing at 10 years later and see who's more successful.
3. Break Kareena's (Boman's daughter) engagement using pudina chutney and an expensive watch
4. Create an inverter powered by car batteries
5. Make a helicopter fly
6. Drive Boman crazy
7. Save Sharman from suicide and subsequently flick question papers from Boman's office to help Sharman pass
8. Distribute free advice and convince his buddies about the therapeutic powers of chanting Aal Izz Well
9. Irritate Kareena, fall in requited love with her
10. Convince Madhavan to ditch engineering and take up wildlife photography

and much much more.

Eventually, the friends track down Rancho, who it turns out, is not Rancho but Phunsuk Wangdu - a hot shot scientist who runs an alternative school in Ladakh. The real Rancho (Javed Jaffrey) is using PW's B.Tech degree; watch the back story yourself, I'm not writing a bloody book on 3 Idiots. And in the vein of a good commercial movie, Kareena runs away from her wedding when she knows Aamir has been traced.

I loved the movie for a number of reasons. It was earnest, like all Rajkunod movies are, and had a number of laugh-out-loud moments. It reminded me of my engineering days and had some cracking lines like- It's bad to see your friend fail but worse to see him succeed (I know Greatbong has written the same, but I swear this is the only thing I've pilfered). It was not high on moral values- watch the scene in Sharman's house when Aamir and Madhavan torn between deciding whether to console Sharman or his grieving mother, choose to eat matar paneer instead; and which mainstream movie would show you a bunch of engineering students actually playing midwives delivering a baby on a TT table? If Yash Chopra had ever read this script, he would have been aghast at the sanskaarlessness of it.

The movie was also a back-handed slap on the Indian education system, which really does not encourage original thinking. I can relate to it, because I am one of those same high grades - job in US - MBA - (probably) I-bank guys Aamir was talking about. You have the occasional maverick like Aamir, but given the pitiable funding for research in India and hence the bandar-chhaap faculty, most end up chasing the pot of gold instead of enjoying the process of learning. The director's style of passing on this message did seem clich├ęd and needlessly melodramatic at places, but was generally humorous.

Madhavan was good as the nice, easygoing guy who never managed to rise above the last rank. What I liked is they showed him as a normal yuppie guy unlike the stereotypical image of a last-ranker who would be neck deep in ganja and daaru and be in "bad company" and do "bad things". Kareena was cute and did well whenever Hirani realized he was paying her too much to just Zoobi Doobi around. The funda of her running away from her wedding was a little stupid, but then, this was always going to be a feel-good film, which was fine by me. The guy who played Chatur was good as was Boman Irani, who managed to pull off the authoritarian director quite well. Aamir, ever the maverick, pulls off his bit quite nicely. He could have called this Taree Aasmaan Mein with him playing the grown up Ishaan Awasthi or Taare Underground with him playing the young Nikumbh; the role was really interpolated from these two. But the real star for me was Sharman Joshi, who was excellent as the kid under pressure from a poor household. This should be a career changing role for the guy, but given it's an Aamir movie, he might not get the attention he deserves. Still, hats off to his performance.

The one real weakness was the music which was so bad we all left for a collective restroom break when Zoobi Doobi played. Other than that, it is a highly recommended movie. Watch it for the humour and the performances. You'll come out saying Aal Izz Well.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Brief Timeline of Wake Up Sid's Release

Disclaimer- All real names & events in this post have been modified to suit the content of this post. The content of the post itself is completely fictitious.

August 2009- Wake Up Sid slated for release on October 2nd

September 29, 2009- Indian Watchmakers Association alleges the title literally undermines the ability of alarm clocks. Asks the producers to make it a period film or change the title. Matter sub-judice; release delayed.

September 30, 2009- Organization of Fanatic Buddhists protest against the title for insinuating that Siddhartha, the enlightened, is yet to wake up.

October 7, 2009- Producers change title to Grow Up Siddle; kill two birds with one stone. Movie redubbed to replace Sid with Siddle; music CDs pulled off shelf, title song rewritten, new CD on stands on October 20. Movie to be released on October 23.

October 20, 2009- Complan protests against the title's implication that an adult has not yet grown up in a country where their product makes palm trees of everyone. Matter sub-judice; release delayed.

November 20, 2009- Title changed to Siddle Grew Up; the coming-of-age scene re-shot to show Ranbir drinking Complan. Movie slated for release on November 27.

November 25, 2009- BSP workers ransack Dharma Productions office claiming Maya, and not Siddle, grew UP. Matter sub-judice; release delayed.

December 10, 2009- Title changed to Get Mature Siddle. Dubbing redone; movie to be finally released on 18 December

December 16, 2009- 20 Indians attacked in separate incidents in Australia. Peter Siddle's family objects to their son being asked to get mature. SM Krishna rushes to Australia. Release delayed.

January 2010- Title changed to Get Mature Da. Whole sections of the movie re-shot. Movie to be released in April 2010.

January 2010- DMK objects to the use of a Tamilian nickname for a Hindi-speaking actor. Demands Rajnikanth be cast and the movie be made in Tamil, or the title changed. Jayalalitha jailed.

February 2010- Producers inform DMK that it's the Bengali Da.

February 2010- TMC objects to the use of a Bengali word for a Hindi-speaking actor. Demands Buddhadeb Basu's resignation.

March 2010- Producers play safe; change title to Get Mature Vikram. Re-shooting pushes release date to August. Ranbir changes name to Ranbeer for better fortunes.

July 2010- Tharoor tweets "Why the obs'sion wth a ttle? Wht abt the content? If a nme meant evrythng, Gandhi wld be considered dirty."

July - August 2010- Massive protests nationwide against Tharoor's tweet for denigrating Gandhi. CNN-IBN's new poll- Was Tharoor right? (Y/N)

August 2010- Mahesh Bhatt announces his next project Get Mature Shashi, a hard-hitting story about Twitter, sex, and drugs.

August 2010- Karan Johar sues Mahesh Bhatt for piggybacking on his movie. Mahesh Bhatt counter-sues Karan for using his nephew's name without permission. Karan Johar informs him Vikram is a common name; says "You throw a stone, you hit a Vikram".

August 2010- Karan's comments hurt sentiments of Tamil actor Vikram's fans. Vow to build him a temple with all the stones thrown. Demand the movie not be released in Tamil Nadu.

August 2010- Karan makes peace with Vikram's fan club. Decides to delay the release date to October 2, 2010, exactly a year after the original release date.

Semptember 30, 2010- Association of Violent Gandhians (AVG) protests against protagonist of a movie releasing on October 2nd having beer in his name. Demands the release be delayed to October 9. Ranbeer changes name back to Ranbir. Movie to be released on October 2.

October 2, 2010- Movie released among much fanfare.

October 2, 2010- Raj Thackeray demands Bombay be changed to Mumbai in the film. Also demands all commercial establishments shown in the movie be pixilated or rewritten in Marathi. Movie pulled off the screens in Maharashtra. Karan Johar protests saying he issued an apology last year; says “I thought only the public has a short memory.” Political leaders unite across party lines protesting this insult of the aam aadmi; demand the movie be banned all over India.

October 3, 2010- Karan Johar stops the film's screening worldwide; passes the baton to Anurag Kashyap for his expertise in late releases.