Wednesday, December 31, 2008


It is a question I ask myself :

Can I look back at 2008 fondly?

For very good reasons, I will.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A must watch for everyone!!!

              I spent the entire Sunday afternoon lazily watching re-runs.I managed to squeeze in Memento as well. You can call it the Ghajini effect. The English version was a million times better. Somehow, we lack the subtlety to make/ re-make a movie like Memento.I saw Mumbai Meri Jaan for the fifth time that day. This movie is a very intelligent take on the 2006 Mumbai train blasts. The movie is based on the aftermath of the ghastly attacks. It traces it’s path through five common men.

I loved the characters in the movie. Tukaram Patil (Paresh Rawal) is a policeman who is due for retirement in a week and has done little in the 35 years of his career. He colleague, Sunil Kadam (Vijay Maurya), is disgruntled with the system and is frustrated at his helplessness and ineffectiveness in bringing about a change.

Kadam’s leave is cancelled because of the blasts. Maurya is paired with Tukaram Patil for the routine patrol following the blasts. They come across a bar that is operating beyond the scheduled time. Kadam marches into the bar and orders the patrons to leave.

“Aaj Shehar main bomb phootey hain aur tumlog ko beer peeneka hain? Chal nikal!” Bombs have exploded throughout the city and you guys want to drink beer?

Tukaram Patil calmly walks into the bar and demands a  bribe from the bar owner. He asks the owner to give the money to Kadam. Kadam storms out of the bar.

“Patil Saheb mujhe ek baat batao, yeh shehar main Bomb blast hota hai..mera chutti cancel hota hai.. lekin sahab ko raatko beer bar chalu rehta hai, voh chalta hai?”  Sir, they (his superiors) cancelled my honeymoon plans because of the bomb blasts yet allow the beer bars to operate beyond the time limit, is this fair?

Paresh Rawal answers, “Abhi Bomb Blasts ke baad tum yeh beer bar bhi band karega, toh Mumbai main ‘Spirit’ kidhar se aayega?” After the bomb blasts,if you close down the bars as well, where will Mumbai get it’s ‘Spirit’ from? (Pun intended)

                 It was one of the most memorable scenes in the movie. Apart from Soha Ali Khan, the movie has some really terrific performances by Kay Kay Menon, R. Madhavan , Paresh Rawal and the best perhaps, Irfan Khan.

Irfan Khan plays a tea vendor in the movie. Personally, he is unaffected by the blasts but the feeling of being left out by the city’s elite, he find a way of retribution by making hoax calls to the Police. His Tamil-accented Hindi is a revelation and though he does not have many dialogues, he is the most expressive in the movie.

                 I frequent malls a lot. We shop, dine at malls. Until this movie, I never gave thought to how left out an ill-educated, tea vendor would feel in a mall. Irfan Khan did that with a few incoherent mumbles.

In the end, Paresh Rawal says, “Mumbai ke mills gaye, hartal bhi khatam ho gaye. Aur ab toh, Mill ki zameen par ek bahut badha, alishaan mall khada hai. Par kabhi kisi garib, bechare aadmi ko uss mall main dekhta hoon na, toh lagta hai ki uske mann main toh yeh hartal abhi tak chaalu hai.” With the mills, the workers’ agitation also died. And today, there is a luxurious mall in it’s place. But whenever I see a poor man in a mall, I realise that he still agitates, silently.

 The movie depicts the human side of the cops and it ends up endearing a much maligned lot. As the proverbial stone thrown upon an anthill, the film depicts the aftermath of the incident, traversing individual journeys of five worker ants, amongst the millions that belong to the colony, towards normalcy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

In Pursuit of Ghajini...

    My cell phone was rang and I finally woke up. My friend wanted to watch Ghajini. He said that we’d go to the local theatre and see the first show. It was a rare day-off that I got from office. Which meant I was free for 4 consecutive days including Christmas and the weekend! It was rare indeed! 

My head was throbbing. I was reading Papillon till early morning. It is a gripping book and I was up till 4.00 AM. Well, so I was the rudely woken up by my friend for Ghajini and I agreed for the movie. Part of my morning routine include signing in on MSN, G-talk, checking my mail , Facebook and Orkut scraps. In 20 minutes, I managed to hurt a very loved one through some routinely insensitive stuff.

“What a way to begin the day!” I thought. My phone was ringing. My friends were ready and waiting for me. But my mind was occupied elsewhere.

I came down and met Rohan. He said that we weren’t going to the local theatre but to a Mulund. The theatre was not exactly the plush malls that one generally goes to but it was a tad better than a grindhouse. These were the movie theatres that were killed by the multiplexes. It is a welcome change sometimes. Not having to pay ridiculous prices for popcorn enticed me more. I mounted the bike and we sped towards Mulund.

We reached the movie hall. Akshay was just back from the ticket counter. He bought two tickets for him and his friend. When it was our turn to buy the tickets, I realised that we were penniless. I have this crazy habit of not carrying cash with me and the grindhouse didn’t accept cards. I asked Akshay to go into the movie hall and said that I’ll join them in about 10 minutes.

I was in the ATM when I got Akshay’s message. It said, “Hey, it’s Rab Ne... and not Ghajini. I’m sorry please go to some other theatre.” I was surprised. He did not even see the hoardings and neither did I. My sister had gone to see Rab Ne bana di jodi and she fled before the interval. So, I and Rohan..oh sorry! Rohan and I (I’m trying to be a nice person.) went to a nearby mall to watch Ghajini. I was wearing slippers and was dressed like an urchin.  I had by now realised that my morning was exceedingly brilliant. I called another friend to join us.

The movie, was brilliant in patches. I was disappointed with Aamir Khan. It had a gripping story but the sloppy camerawork and the jarring music made the experience almost unbearable sometimes. Some sequences were good enough to draw a collective gasp from the audience but the real opinion of the 3.5hr marathon was when people hurriedly left the movie hall when it seemed like the epic was about to end. But to be fair to the movie, it was unfairly panned by the Mumbai Mirror. Maybe we expect too much out of Aamir Khan or I watch too much of Rajeev Masand. But the fact is, though I did not entirely love Ghajini, I would not dissuade others from watching this movie. Asin was a revelation and her character was wonderfully etched. Jiah Khan, thankfully had a miniscule role.

                  My morning wasn’t entirely wasted but it was not ideal either.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Enter Desi Racial Profiling..!

     My entire Sunday evening was spent scouting for a flat in Airoli for my friend and colleague, Amol. He stays in Ghatkopar and wanted to move to New Bombay for the tranquil it offered. I am not too knowledgeable when it comes to real estate, but we were scouting for the flats nonetheless.

  We were at an agent’s office to get some more details about one particular flat that sounded promising. The agent started with his customary talk about how it had almost all the features that a buyer would want and how it offered an amazing peace and tranquil despite being very well connected to the town.

  Suddenly, he asked “Can I know your name, Sir?”


   “Amol what?”

  “Amol Ghanwat.” Amol replied.

  “Ok. Are you Marathi?” He asked.

  Amol nodded.

  The agent looked at me.

“Ayyappan Pillai” I replied. I need not explain my origin. My name says it all.

Visibly relieved, he said “Well, the reason I have asked your names was to know if you were Muslims.

I had guessed it beforehand.

“We don’t sell flats to Muslims anymore. He continued. “Upar se instructions hain” I am acting upon instructions.

“Earlier we were free to sell flats to anybody. But aajkal yeh sab bahut strict ho gaya hai.” Nowadays, it has become very strict.

I don't know from whom he received these instructions from. Was it from the Police, the Builder or from some Real Estate Agent’s association, but it was for the second time in the day that I came across racial discrimination. Now, let me tell you about the first event as well.

          This guy is my close friend. He is a Muslim. We live in the same housing colony and have practically grown up together. That morning, he went to buy a new SIM card for his mobile phone. We knew the local BPL dealer very well.

“Devji, by what time will the SIM card be activated?” He asked.

Devji replied, “Around 9.00 PM”

“9.00 PM is too late, can’t it be done sooner?” My friend said.

“No.It is very difficult”

“What yaar, I know you can do it in an hour. You have done it so many times!” My friend persisted.

“I still do it in an hour. But for you, I can’t. See the name on the application.” He said. “But aajkal yeh sab bahut strict ho gaya hai.” Nowadays, it has become very strict.


                  My friend stiffened. He was rudely reminded of his identity. That of belonging to a beleaguered community. Little did I know then that I’d listen to the same words later in the day again.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Before Sunrise...

I missed a rare family outing this week thanks to a screwed up schedule that I have been following for quite some time. I saw the movie ‘Before Sunrise’ recommended by a friend long back.

         The movie reminded me of some really cherished moments that took place earlier this year. I would like to take this opportunity to tell my friend that those moments are ever so precious and are relived almost everyday, in bliss. :)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

An evening...for Mumbai...

“This isn’t a crowd that has been paid to attend. They all have come on their own. I love them, yaar!” I heard someone say.

I turned around. It was a young man’s observation. He was on his toes, looking admiringly at the people ahead. “It’s unreal!” he continued.

My cell phone rang. It was Neha, an office colleague. “I have reached Ghatkopar.. where are you?”

“I am near the Gateway” I replied. I was unsure if she heard that.

“I am near the Gateway. Call me when you reach CST.” I shouted again. She had already hung up.

       I was near Tendulkar’s when the people ahead stopped. I thought someone was about to address the crowd. I soon realised why had we stopped. Everybody was chanting “India.. India.. India!!” It was deafening but better than any music that I’ve heard.  The chants gained momentum and people started clapping in unison. It was slow and rhythmic, the clapping. I could sense the anger of the people in those loud claps. I too, was clapping hard. I looked around, I saw many people crying, clapping and chanting simultaneously.


                We resumed the walk. People had lined up on both the sides of the road. They were egging us on with loud cries of “Vande Mataram”

“Bharat Maa ki Shaan hai.. Mumbai meri Jaan hai!!!” I looked in the direction of the voice. It was a strikingly beautiful girl who was shouting at the top of her voice. She and a group of collegians were distributing placards and candles to the ‘protestors’

This event was organised through SMS, Orkut, E-mail and Facebook. I got an SMS and I had expected about a few hundred people to be present. It turned out to be the biggest leaderless rally in India. The event was devoid of political presence and organisers. This was clearly the sentiment of the Citizen.

         “Politicians and Dogs not allowed!!” Screamed another banner, reminiscent of the legend that the Taj was built as a result of a similar racial discrimination. I reached the Gateway of India. I looked at the Taj. It was still the same magnificent building, but people were not looking at it admiringly, the expression was of curiosity, horror and anguish. The building now stood as a grim reminder of the worst terror Mumbai has faced. There were some 20 odd lights that were turned on, in stark contrast to the thousands we’ve been used to see.

People were thanking the cops around. The cops too, were emotional and some were shouting slogans with us. Opposite the Gateway of India, a small group was shouting Anti Pakistan slogans. A very old  man asked them to sing the National Anthem. They obliged. Then they did more. They started singing “We shall overcome”. I was immediately reminded of a friend who said that the song, when sung in chorus fills one with energy. And here it was, hundreds of people singing the song in chorus. I was at the front, singing, my voice quavering. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment, I saw faces, lit by candles,  smiling and singing, some crying and singing, some singing for the first time in their life and some, simply awed by the scene. Behind me was a statue of Shivaji Maharaj, the Warrior, upon his horse, looking at his people proudly, probably for the first time.


People singing “We shall overcome”


                 As if reading my thoughts, I saw another banner “ Thank you Mr. Terrorist for having united us like never before.”

           There was no shoving or pushing, something that is so characteristic when it comes to the crowds of Mumbai. The Police were being polite too. I reached the Regal Cinema. The scene there was no different. No politician was spared. The PM, the CM, the Home Minister everybody was flayed. I was happy for the politicians who chose to stay away from the rally or they might’ve been lynched by the crowd.

“Mr.Cheap Minister, We accept your resignation” I burst out laughing. I felt like hugging that person.


                      The life behind Taj had already bounced back to normal. Bade Miyan, the Kebab shops, the roadside book vendors were enjoying brisk business. I reached Leopold’s. It was packed with patrons, with people waiting outside the bar to grab a quick drink. For Bombay’s sake.

                             I chose McDonald’s. McDonald’s employees were a harried lot. They were not used to serving tens of thousands of customer’s in a span of two hours.

I tried calling Neha for the umpteenth time and finally got through to her. “Where are you?”

“I am near Regal Cinema. The Phone lines are jammed.” She replied.

“I know. Come to McDonald’s, I’m waiting”

By the time she came to McDonald’s, It was time for us to leave. We took a walk back to the CST station. And I chose not to tell her about the bomb they defused there earlier that evening…