Sunday, October 31, 2004

Fall back, but don't retreat

Its that time of the year. Daylight savings. The clocks get set one hour back this morning. A lot of people feel good about it. The underlying logic is that they have gained an extra hour of sleep, added a modicum of seconds to their time-cramped lives. I disagree. It makes me sad. Let me explain. I am a very light sleeper. If someone three miles away were to drop a plastic spoon on a carpetted floor, it would wake me up. It is a slight exaggaration ... the spoon could be metal as well, but you get the picture. I got up at 9 am today, despite sleeping close to 2 while watching 'The Last Samurai'. I tried to conjure up the fatigue of the week, the thought of going to office tomorrow, the dullness of the weather outside to stay in bed just a little longer. Nothing worked. Here I am, sleeping 6-7 hours on a Saturday night despite not wanting to get up. Didn't add an hour to my life, I ended up subtracting it. It is only 8, thanks to the adjustment. Now, not only have I slept very little and am feeling very groggy, I am also suffering the ignominy of getting up at 8 on a Sunday morning. I thought that was reserved only for festivals where your parents would expect you to get up early, take a shower and get dressed, so that they can tick those items off their to-do list.

Anyway, it is just a few hours to go for my cricket match. I play for the American Recreational Cricket League ( Funnily enough, there are no Americans playing in the league. Only people from the Asian subcontinent and a few Brits and Aussies. It is a must-win match for us, so I hope everything goes well. I am also enjoying my shift from being an all-rounder to a wicket-keeper. The in-house joke is that because of my name and my capacity to fumble catches, I am best suited for the job. (For those who don't follow Indian cricket, the ex-wicketkeeper is a kid name Parthiv Patel who has the same initials as me, is a left-handed batsman and is a Gujarati)

While it started as a joke, I got really irritated with all those daily mails about good matches for me (or my name twin). I am really not interested in 'gujjugrl', so I went ahead and changed the e-mail id to a blackhole. Too bad for the blackh0le.

Done with morning miscellany. Let me get back and do something more fruitful with the 'extra hour' that I have earned.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Right envelope, wrong address

I got two mails from All right, all right, its Same difference. The first one thanked me profusely for creating a profile on and informed me that my profile is under screening. As I recovered from my sudden good fortune and took in the impact while reading through it to decipher this story, the mystery unraveled. They even provided me with a unique id (I was almost in tears of gratitude by that time). I realised then that there was a second treat waiting for me. The next mail informed me that my profile had met their terms of use and it had been activated. Activated, isn't that a great word? My self-esteem just went up a notch, my pride got re-activated.

I rushed to the site and duly entered my id .... and discovered myself. Here's who I am : verbatim "my self parth pandya, male, 29years old, from baroda, i very confident, smart, fun-loveing, and hard worker man, my occupetition business&agent, i like someone good life partner, my hobbies cricket, movies, free time reading knowledge book, ....more, i always happy, i am modernet persons, and very cool & freeminded,"

But wait, I am not 29, i am not from Baroda, and I am definitely not a 'modernet' person. How could it be? If its in e-mail, it has to be true, right? Could it be that the 'hard worker man' just typed in the wrong address? Could he be my 'name twin'? After all, we have matching hobbies. I do like 'cricket, movies, free time reading knowledge book'. If only I could match his other qualities.

I am distraught, and appalled that the million proposals that he will get will dump themselves in my inbox. No, this travesty cannot be allowed. I'll go and promptly change this data. But where to? How do I know his real address? I can only pray that when he doesn't receive any proposals one week down the line, he'll realise that something is wrong, and promptly accesses his account. Till then, I'll have to bear the burden. For those who think this whole post is a big round lie, you should know that I can't possible lie. After all, that's not part of my profile, is it?

Friday, October 22, 2004

Ragging fire, child beer .... all in all, a wonderfull post

"Ragging fire causes havoc in Andheri East". Came across the headline on a website and it had me in splits. Hoarding and headings in India can create moments of unintented and unbelievable humour (of course, the guy whose house must have got burned might not agree with me). Ever read a shop advertising 'child beer' or dropped your clothes off at the 'londry' ? If so, then I am not alone and neither are you.

I am wondering if that's what Shiv Sena had in mind when they went to town (pun intended, and Mumbaikars will get it) painting the shop hoardings written in English, in black. With such 'funtastic' spelling, what impression would Aamchi Mumbai put forth?

However, there is a definite charm associated with the travesty of the English language by the ex-colonites(especially the commoners). The Americans have already butchered and simplified the English language to suit their needs, why don't we do the same? Look at the Queen's language. Words like desi, paani-puri etc. are part of the Oxford dictionary. Language is a tool for contemporary expression. By its very nature, it is transitionary. Back in India, the current generation has swept in a new lexicon, and made it really popular. I didn't think I'd hit upon the definition of Hinglish on Wikipedia. Apparently we are not alone. There's Spanglish and Greekish to keep us company. My Hindi is either interspersed with English or Urdu words, and even when it isn't, it is not pure Hindi. It is Bambaiyya Hindi, which thanks to Hindi films, is a nationwide phenomenon. Personally, I like purity in a language. I would love to speak chaste Hindi, or Gujarati or even English (the killer American filler words, 'like', 'so', 'whatever' make an appearance in my sentences once in three days :-( and that is dissapointing), but I have to be really conscious about it.

Anyway, if anyone has any other interesting 'titles' to share, please do so. Till then, 'Happy BonVoyage' (spelt verbatim off a poster outside the Hyderabad airport)

Monday, October 18, 2004

I am Navratrilova

Stumped you, right? No, I am not changing my surname because I am a great fan of Martina (which I am by the way). Read carefully, very carefully. Its 'Navratri-lova'. Yup, I am talking of the nine day festival dance-a-thon. Now, I was born with two left feet, and I came to terms with it pretty early in my life. Discotheca was not my preferred place to be, I was more concerned with the bibliotheca.

However, the Gods up there must have been smiling on me. Someone invented the Dandiya. I finally found a dance form where I knew exactly what to do with my hands. Baby steps, five in all, and once the smile of triumph crosses your face, you move to your left with a heart brimming with pride to meet your next challenge. For all the ineptitude that comes when I try to shake a leg to other beats, somehow the rhythm of the dandiya beats stirs up some nascent dancing abilities in me. Maybe it has to do with my Gujarati genes.

Navratri is a big thing in Bombay (which I am told compares poorly to the scale in Ahmedabad and Baroda) and I fondly remember going every year to play Dandiya. However, I could never muster the courage and confidence to do garba in my life. It is too complex, and there is only a limit to which a person can be allowed to look graceless while dancing. The inhibitions surrounding doing garba that I had were one too many.

However, I decided to conquer these demons when I got a chance to do garba in my first year at the Texas A&M University. It was totally graceless and totally enjoyable. Of course that was the simple two-clap. This year, I graduated to the rather complex 8-step. I can do the first 6 ok, but turning round to land on my right foot (literally) never works for me. I did garba this weekend and caused a couple of accidents with people tripping and falling over me. But I prevailed, no major casualties were reported, and I am happy to announce that I have climbed the Everest.

I digressed. The post wasn't about my ability to do garba. It was about the fact that I love Navratri. I love the beats, the music, the dancing, the good dancing, the bad dancing, the Gujju clothes, the smartly dressed people, the Gujarati garbas that I know, the crescendo that comes at the end of a round of dandiya, the calories that I burn while enjoying it and the excitement that I feel every time I step onto the dance floor. I hope you see now why I am a 'Navratri-lova' (I am stating this a second time so that someone would care to compliment me on the smartness of the title :-))

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Buland Bhaarat ki Buland Tasveer ... in Boston!!

I was on the east coast this weekend on a short trip. Beautiful fall colors, beautiful red-eyes (mine after the night long flight) and of course beautiful Boston (or Baastan, as the locals pronounce it. It was great to finally see a city in America with some history. You know, they actually have references to the 1700s. Boston is a nice city, with the quaint mixing with the modern. It is especially reflected in the architecture of the buildings. The subway is easy to get around in, and I even spent a little while in Harvard (sorry MIT, shall visit thy campus next time I am there) . There is so much weight associated with the name Harvard. You almost expect geniuses pouring out of each street (four years in the US have wisened me, but I would have believed that 10 years ago). Hell, even my office-mate is from Harvard (or Haavard, keeping in sync with the right pronounciation)I have never posted any photos to my blog, and trust me, my first one is going to be a blockbuster (its a deep pun, good for you if you get it). Ladies and gentlemen, here is the most unexpected piece of beauty in the most unexpected place. Buland Bhaarat ki Buland Tasveer --- Hamara Bajaj!! Its the Bajaj Chetak in Boston downtown.

Chunnu-Munnu ke paapa ki sawaari Posted by Hello

While on the topic of unexpected Indian things in unIndian places, here's one more that I saw in Boston downtown.

Bustling Bhindi Bazaar in Boston (how's that for alliteration?) Posted by Hello

While on Bhindi Bazaar, for those who aren't aware, there is actually a gharaana in Hindustani classical by the same name. The most famous product of that gharaana is known widely and has also found a mention in my blog (easy for those who have actually been reading it :-))

Friday, October 08, 2004

The Fear Factor

It is the peak of the election season in the US, and it is impossible to escape the impending sense of occasion that seems to be hanging all around. This one seems to be one of the most closely contested election, and in a larger context, very important for US and indeed a large section of the world.

I did not follow the election campaign in 2000 as closely. I had just landed in the US and my world started and ended with my graduate school. A lot has changed since that year, and this time I have made it a point to follow the events more carefully.

The most striking thing about this election to me is that it is being fought on 'the fear factor'. If you don't elect us, you'll be dead is the simple message sent out to the Americans by the Republicans (Cheney said it literally in a rally too!). Issues like healthcare, economy, schooling, taxes have all been swept under the rug. The only deciding point for an American voter seems to be: which of these men can keep America safe? I don't blame them. Michael Moore brought that point out very well in the documentary 'Bowling for Columbine'. The American media has built a culture of fear. One look at any news program confirms that. They especially highlight crime and war in all the newscasts, speak in unbelievably grim tones and give a general impression that the moment you step onto the road, you are likely to be killed by a terrorist or a mentally deranged person or a sniper or some one else. You get the picture? When there is a slightest hint of a danger, the newscasts highlight how some paranoid Americans are building underground bunkers in their houses, or storing ration for a long haul, or buying gas masks. It will make you feel as if that is the reaction of an average American to crisis.

Compare and contrast this to news coverage in India (that is the only one that I can compare with). Is there a lesser danger or terrorist attacks in India, or is there lesser aggression by the ones wanting to destabilize the country? No. Even a city like Mumbai has seen tons of bomb blasts. But do the newscasts play on that all the time? No. You can't live in this fear all your life. You could step out of your house and get run down by a car, for all you know. Do you put your life on hold while worrying about that possibility? If anything, you can blame Indian news for a degree of apathy, but not an attempt to instill fear.

What scares me are the two options available to Americans. On one hand, you have an existing President whose administration LIED their way into a war and gave the terrorists a reason to unite. Not only that, they refuse to acknowledge the ground realities and carry on as if they were right and are doing well in this 'God-given' right. Now, the contender. Forget the fact that he dilly-dallies around the war. Now, he seems to have decided that it is the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. He talks about killing the terrorists and bringing the troupes back at the same time. Huh? Are you giving the terrorists a time-table that they need to look at to survive? He talks about getting other nations to participate in policing Iraq. If is the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time, are the other countries foolish to send their men to die?

What a mess!!! As scary as it sounds, it can only get worse from here. If these are the two choices America has, then really, God Bless America!! Do I sound like I am instilling more fear here? :-)

On a different topic, read this excellent article on opinion polls in America.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Bride and Preju-dicey

I spent a lot of time yesterday reading reviews of Bride and Prejudice on the Internet. Unfortunately for me, the movie released in UK and India, but I will have to wait till December (I believe) to get to see it on the big screen in the US.

I was curious about the fate of this movie for two reasons: Can the Bollywood style of film-making be exported to an audience alien to it? Can Ash Rai succeed in opening the doors for other Indian actors?

I have seen Brazilian, Italian, German, French ... in short, movies from different countries. We are so far apart in our style of film-making and our movies from them that you can almost see daylight between the pillars. As an non-Indian filmgoer, it is much easier for me to watch a French movie if I am used to, let's say Hollywood productions. However, the 3 hours+ 6 songs formula is completely opposite of anything I may have seen till date. It is like an arranged marriage at best. Your Indian friend/aquaintance introduces to the a Hindi movie, you sit through the first one shifting uncomfortably in your seat, smiling politely yet trying desperately to enjoy it, and wondering what prompted you to go for it. Some like the colors, some like the music, some like the costumes, some like the dances and others find it amusing for the loud dialogs and overt sentimentality, but for most, it takes time to make the adjustment and enjoy the experience.

How does one win such an audience? I think the answer lies in baby steps. Don't show them a DDLJ outright. Cook up a bhaji like Bride and Prejudice. Make it in English, have some American actors, inject Indian values, Bollywood philosophies, music masala and you have the right Anglo-Indian movie ready to serve. Let them get used to the conventions of our movies: the songs, the emotions, the lack of kissing scenes, the group dancers, the heavy dialogues etc. Then ... take the best of Bollywood talent, a universal story, damn good music and attack the west. I think the reception to that would be much better.

To get back to my two points: Yes, our style of film-making can be exported to a 'receptive' audience (I have already explained how we can make the audience receptive to Hindi films). About Ash. I started off as a fan since her 1994 Miss India days. There were two unchanging facts about her then. She was exceptionally beautiful and she couldn't act. The two truths still hold. Unfortunately, she is the only poster child we have whom we can export to the West right now. The only known 'face' on the international map. As brilliant as Tabu maybe, she may never make a dent in Hollywood for lack of recognition and marketing. When Ash Rai went to Cannes, it was embarassing to see her with people who had such a body of work behind them. All she had was the Body. However, I still want her to succeed. The more of India and Indians that appear in mainstream Hollywood movies, the more the chances for Indian actors to make inroads elsewhere.

So what about Bride and Prejudice? At the risk of making a conclusion without having seen the movie, I can state that it will be a moderate commercial and critical success(based on the extensive number of reviews that I have read). However, it would be foolhardy to expect another hit like 'Bend it like Beckham'. If it were to garner reasonable acceptance with the non South-Asian audience, I think the movie would have done its bit.

P.S. > Ash Rai in a saree is God's gift to mankind(pun intended). However, she never has the same impact in Western clothes. Can anyone proffer an explanation besides the fact that Indian clothes rock?
P.P.S> My attitude isn't one of need for recognition from the non-Indian movie masses, but one of conquering the world, and having confidence in our abilities, inline with the new India in an increasingly culturally diverse world

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Hand it to me

Have you ever noticed what people do with their hands in photographs? The whole arm, from socket to fingertip. Not their heads, or their feet, or their jutting paunches. Just hands/arms. Most of them are at a loss. There is a ungainly shuffle after which some simply fold their hands, only to find the other three in the frame doing the same, some leave them in suspended motion so awkwardly that they feel like ropes hanging off your shoulders, which others would simply stick them into their pant pockets while the rest try to find a shoulder to hang them on. Truly, there is no good solution to this problem. What do you do with your hands when someone really asks you to stand in attention? (Isn’t that really the drill behind the photograph?) The longer it takes for the snap to be taken, the funnier your pose becomes. If you are with someone very close, use their shoulders/waists/palms to dock your hands. But that need not be the case all the time.

Actually, I found the same issue when I tried my hand at acting. I'd be on stage trying to enact a character waiting for my turn to speak my lines while the other characters ramble on. In a sudden moment of realization about where I am and what I am doing, the first thing I’d worry about are my hands. What do I do with them? If I am supposed to stand still, where should they be? I know it is not a unique issue because I have seen others struggle with the issue when I used to direct.

Random observation, but thus and no farther will my thoughts go this morning.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Mighty Khan storms Bollywood in Tezaab-The Acid of Love

Move over Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman. The latest addition to the ‘Khaan-daan’ is here. Introducing : Mighty Khan!! Is it a name, is it an adjective? No silly, it’s a grammatical miracle!!! With a name like Mighty, how far are you from toppling the big guns!!! I can already see the new mantra in Bollywood: “Mighty is righty”. Think about casting Mighty in a mythological where the court announcer goes “Aa rahe hain shaktishaali Mighty kumar” which when ably subtitled would be “Entering the court is mighty Mighty”

Enough from this Mighty groupie about what could be. Let’s talk about what “is”. Mighty Khan is making his debut in ‘Tezaab – the acid of love”. Thank you. I had no clue about the acidic tendencies of romance. Now I know what someone means when they sing “Seene me jalan ….” when lost in love. It’s bloody brilliant. The sequel could be ‘Ksharavishishta – the alkaline side of love’ (feel free to correct my translation). Am I looking forward to it or what?

Of course, even Mighty Khan needs a waist to wrap his mighty hands around. That thin waist belongs to Miss Shruti Sharma. Shruti is a former Miss India, and after making the perfunctory statements about admiring Mother Teresa, she is promptly doing her duty towards the poorest of the poor – by entering Bollywood and entertaining the masses. I don’t know why people think it is hypocritical. It makes perfect sense. Of course, the missionaries of charity shouldn’t expect her resume anytime soon.

For those whose interest has been sufficiently aroused, please see a trailer of this movie (please note that the file is 5MB in size). Now to the rant. It doesn’t take a genius to look at the trailer and figure out that it is another remake of ‘Unfaithful’. If Miss Mallika Murder Sherawatwas not enough, Miss Sharma, suitably aided by Mighty, take the risqué factor to a new level (no risk here). I have defended the formulaic Bollywood output for years now, and could still hold a lively argument on the topic. But this kind of titillating output in every second movie that comes out is disgusting. If you thought this trend is going to end in a nude scene in Hindi movies, well, it has already happened (Miss Janaki Shah in a movie called Shaque … don’t even get me started on the premise of the scene!!) There is a place for erotica in Indian cinema, but it should be a niche area and it should be done tastefully. This isn’t the way!!!

Oh well, the post got heavy at the end. If anyone from India is reading this, do inform me if you see the exact same promos or a toned down version on TV (I know internet sites don’t have censoring, hence the question)