Friday, February 24, 2012


Every once in a while you come across a movie which stuns you. I hadn’t heard anything about this movie and doesn’t seem like many people have, despite this being the information age. Anyway, sometimes lack of popularity adds charm to a movie. Sometimes you like a movie more because you know not many have seen it or even heard of it. Whether this was the case with Amu or not, I’ll never really find out, but I’m sure as hell that the movie has left me stunned and completely charmed. With its superlative story-telling and truly captivating screenplay it turned what would be a hot and boring Bombay afternoon into something special for me.

Konkona Sensharma is good. I knew that. What I did not know is that she’s so good. The American accent but Indian upbringing has never been shown with such perfection in Indian cinema. The only actor I know who can literally speak dialogues with her eyes and evoke emotion without moving a single facial muscle. She’s beautiful, charismatic and truly brilliant.

The movie takes you on a ride of a lifetime, makes you feel closer to your own roots and enthralls you completely for 100 odd minutes. Unabashed usage of Bengali, Punjabi, Hindi and English wherever appropriate – no justification, and no sub-titles – very real and truly genius. The characterization of Delhi – Bengali and Sikh families based in Delhi - Delhi University – Shakespeare society - UCLA. It just can’t get any better.

I guess the movie was initially targeted towards Bengal – with primarily Bengali directors and actors, but it really should be one of the artistic and cinematic gems of India.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Architectural Infusion

I recently attended one of the Architectural Heritage walks as a part of the Kalaghoda Arts Festival. As a result I am more knowledgeable and slightly ashamed at my previous knowledge about the city I have lived in forever. Even more so because it was about the area in the city I rank among my favorite – the Kalaghoda and Colaba area. The walk started off at the Jahangir Art gallery to regal cinema and then back. Yes, that short, but still quite informative. This post is thus an endeavor to make other people like me learn a little something about their own city and a way for me to ensure I don’t forget my newly gathered pieces of information,which although very little, have power to impress.

The entire Kalaghoda area is designated as a heritage precinct. Some of the buildings in the region are listed and divided into grades – Grade 1, Grade 2A, Grade 2B and Grade C. Grade 1 buildings cannot be altered to any degree, except for restoration work undertaken after the permission of the Government. Grade 2A buildings are ones in which the exterior cannot be altered, although the interiors might be changed a little. Grade 2B buildings are generally reused for different purposes from which they were intended when built and changes can be made as felt suitable. You get the drift.

While restoration work has been done on most buildings, there are two guiding principles behind all restoration activity – minimal change and honest restoration. Minimal change is self-explanatory. As an example, if the sides of some wooden beams have been damaged, the entire beam is not replaced. Instead the middle portion remains as it is while sides are cut-off and replaced by say, steel joints. The use of steel joints explains honest restoration – the artists way of saying that he’s not trying to hide restoration by using wood itself.

The Regal cinema circle is probably one of the most interesting architectural confluences of South Bombay. It has six roads leading up to it with each road guarded by a building built at a different time and different architectural style than the other, yet blending beautifully into the skyline and city-scape of Bombay.

First is the Prince of Wales Museum, built in the early 1900’s. This building is of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. Indo-Saracenic architecture represents a synthesis of Islamic designs and Indian materials developed by British architects in India during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The hybrid combined diverse architectural elements of Hindu and Mughal with cusped arches, domes, spires, tracery, minarets and stained glass, in a wonderful, almost playful manner.

Next is the Royal Alfred Sailors home, built a little before 1870, now the Headquarters of the Maharashtra State Police. This building belongs to the Gothic Revival style of architecture. The building was designed by Frederick William Stevens who was an English architectural engineer and is responsible for some of the coolest designs in the Old Bombay skyline, most prominent being the Victoria Terminus. He also designed the BMC headquarters, just across the street. The Sailors home is crowned with a triangular structure with two statues of Neptune – god of the sea (symbolizing the sailors). These two figures were actually designed by students of the JJ school of architecture from that time.

Sailor's Home Building in 1870 -

The Sailor’s Home is followed by the most famous of Mumbai structures, the Gateway of India. Built in the early 1900’s to welcome King George 5 and Queen Mary this structure is awe inspiring and one of the prominent sight-seeing attractions of the city.

The structure in 1911 –,_Bombay._1911.JPG

This is followed by Regal Cinema, built in the 1930’s belongs to the art-deco style of architecture. Art Deco, based on mathematical geometric shapes, is seen most prominently in Miami, New York, Shanghai and Mumbai. Interestingly, the Empire State building, Rockefeller Center and the Chrysler Building in midtown Manhattan all belong to this style of architecture, which began in Paris in the 1920’s. The Regal cinema was designed by Frederick Stevens’ son, Charles Stevens and the first movie was screened there in 1933, starring Lauren and Hardy. The cinema was interestingly also the third venue to host the Filmfare awards night.

The other two buildings guarding the regal circle are the Majestic MLA hostel and the National Gallery (Classic Revival) . The National Gallery leads up again to the Kalaghoda area which has some beautiful buildings such as the Elphinstone College, David Sassoon Library (Venetian Revival) and the Army and Navy building which now also houses Westside, a premiere clothing and apparel store in the city.

Elphinstone College

Army and Navy Building

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Fulfilling Childhood Dreams

This past month has been highly eventful, educational and enjoyable. I've gotten to see a lot of things I've dreamed of since childhood. After reading Randy Pausch's Last Lecture this is the month I'd been waiting for. The month in which I would fulfill some of my most precious childhood dreams. The list below somewhat summarizes my past month, and for people who know me it should be quite clear as to why I've called this post what I have.

1. German Film Orchestra performing Rahman live at NCPA, Jamshed Baba Theatre, Mumbai
2. Terry Riley Solo Piano Concert at NCPA, Tata Theatre, Mumbai
3. Golden Temple, Amritsar
4. Wagah Border, Amritsar/Attari
5. Jalianwala Baug, Amritsar
6. U2 coverband at Hard Rock Cafe, New Delhi
7. Republic Day Parade, New Delhi
8. Delhi 6 - Chandini Chowk
9. Delhi Metro
10. PVR Saket, New Delhi
11. Amber Fort and Palace, Jaipur
12. Jal Mahal, Jaipur
13. Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur
14. Hawa Mahal, Jaipur
15. Pink City Square, Jaipur
16. Ranthambore National Park and Tiger Reserve
17. City Palace, Jaipur
18. Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur
19. Umaid Bhavan Palace, Jodhpur
20. Jaisalmer Palace, Jaisalmer
21. Desert National Park, Jaisalmer
22. Wind Farm, Jaisalmer
23. Qutub Minar and Iron Pillar, Delhi
24. Lotus Temple, Delhi
25. Kingdom of Dreams, Delhi
26. Four Square (Play) - NCPA, Experimental Theatre, Mumbai
27. The Golden Dragon (Play) - NCPA, Experimental Theatre, Mumbai
28. Famous Last Words (Play) - NCPA, Experimental Theatre, Mumbai
29. Chokhi Dhani, Jaipur

And I got to relive KGP with my closest friends from KGP - three days of non-stop laughter.

Friday, January 20, 2012

I like to be here, when I can

January evenings in Bombay - as crisp as it can get
Feel the breeze in my hair as I watch the sun set
The sky turns blue to orange and then a deep red
"Mumbai beats New York", I had once said, and I say it again!
Marine Drive, Central Park or the Big Ben,
Sights and memories to cherish, but then
Bombay is home and as far as I may span,
I like to be here, when I can.
As I walk down the necklace before the sun sets
The children frolic as they run behind their pets
The oldies relax and breathe the fresh air
While taxis await to take them home to the wheel-chair
The lovers love and the loners stare
At the golden path the sun lays on the sea.
As free as a man can possibly be,
I walk down my favorite place in the world.
With each passer-by like a mystery would unfold
I connect the dots of their unrelated lives
Submerged in chaos, ambition, joy and strife.
The city I love, I must leave with only a smile and no grief
While I travel the world fulfilling selfish dreams
Bombay is in my heart and in my mind its set
Like every note and every beat of a song.
One day I'm bound to be back, back to where I belong
I will not tire, and I will not sweat
'Cause the journey home is never too long.
Bombay is home and as far as I may span,
I'd like to be here, when I can.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Background Music

Over the years, background music has increasingly become as important as the movie or play itself. (For me, that is).
Ever since, A.R Rahman was the only artist who had the power to move me with his background scores. Some people I'm sure have no clue as to what I'm talking about. Just watch (and more importantly listen to) the movie Swades once more, and you'll find out.
Now, though, there are many more artists focussing on background music. Its truly satisfying.
Amit Trivedi is one of them. And he's got this unique style in his background score. He actually uses poetry or 4 to 8 line songs, which perfectly suit the situation. Amitabh Bhattacharyya gives his music some captivating lyrics, and together they make the background music stand out as an intergral part of the cinematic experience.
I'll leave you with two classic examples, both from Wake Up Sid.

Ruthi hui hai tu,
Ek pal mein maanegi,
Dil se hamesha hai bacchi
Aye zindagi tu bhi,
Mere hi jaisi hai
Dikhti sayani, hai kacchi.
Bura mood leke
Baithi Kyun hai tu
Ungli meri, chal thaam le
Jahaan mai chaloon, wahin tu chale,
Jahaan tu chale, wahin mai chaloon....

Boondon ke motiyon mein ghul ke ehsaas aaya,
Waqt se nikalke lamha dil ke paas aaya.
Chhoo ke guzra tha par dil ko na mehsoos hua,
Ab jo dekha toh woh lamha dil ko raas aaya.

Kyun, yeh tay..kar na paaoon re,
Dil ki baat mai hawa ke zariye pahuchaaon re
Ya khud hawa pe chalke jaoon re
Tumse pyaar hai yeh khul ke,
Kyun kah na paaoon re
Shabd woh kahaan se laaoon re!

I wish God had made us so that our life and its events had a background music playing in our ears!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Inflection Point

There is no better way to describe this part of my life, and the lives of the people that surround me. There are some who have finished their studies and are beginning to take up their first hard-core jobs. There are others who are leaving their jobs and going back to studies to some of the best campuses in the world. The points of inflection are by no means restricted to career alone. They span personal life, marriages, engagements, family commitments, bonds, promises and geographies.

Change is never easy. But change is also inevitable. We are in that stage of our lives in which only uncertainty is certain. But the uncertainty is accompanied by hope and excitement which is the essence of life.

Having recognized this fact, there is possibly no better way I could have encountered this change. Because this inflection point, as opposed to the previous one in my life in 2004 when I first went to IIT Kharagpur, somehow seems much less lonely. In some way or the other, I’ll be accompanied by some of my closest friends from all stages of life. And I’ve waited long to write this, but leaving alone again would not have made me even a fraction as happy as I am now and not just for selfish reasons.

I leave Bombay, I leave India and I bring an end to what I consider to be the best two years of my life. All with the hope of seeing more of the world. It is important to recognize the right time to leave a place. Leave before you start disliking it, leave before you start forgetting the happy memories and leave while you’re still loved.

But…everything can’t be so perfect, right? Life always gives you some lessons. Having gained so much, and being so comfortable with what’s going to follow comes at a price. I’ve probably lost the most amazing thing I once had and it’s pretty much irreplaceable. Then again, what makes it alright is that there is really nothing I could have done to prevent it. I lost it to the ego of a place in the other side of the country. Just makes me realize that unconditional friendship is probably the rarest thing on earth and perhaps also the most short-lived.

This comes with the best of wishes. God bless all on this point of inflection.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Play Review: Ismat Aapa Ke Naam, Part 2(9.5/10)

Rarely has a ‘part-two’ lived up to the bar set by a superlative ‘part-one’. Ismat Aapa Ke Naam Part 2 is one of those rare part twos. I knew I would enjoy this play even before stepping into the Experimental Theatre at NCPA, but I had not imagined it matching up to Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah’s top notch work in Part 1.

This play too is a collection of three of Ismat Aapa’s hilarious and heart breaking short stories – Amar Bel, Nanhi Ki Naani and Do Haath, recited and performed verbatim by Manoj Pahwa, Loveleen Misra and Seema Pahwa respectively. The stories have the wonderful Urdu and Lucknow-style Hindi feel. The characters, costumes and the language create the atmosphere which rekindles the experience of watching Part 1 to perfection.

Manoj Pahwa does a superb job in Amar Behl. Only a person as “healthy” as him would be able to pull off the comic impact required!

Lovleen Misra is energetic and enthusiastic playing Nanhi ki Naani. The story has a RK Narayan feel to it, wherein the author simply spends the whole story building the character of the Naani. This story is very different from the five other Ismat Chughtai stories that I’ve come across (in part 1 and 2).

The “show-stopper”, though, is the incredibly talented Seema Pahwa in Do Haath. She puts up an absolutely remarkable performance, makes you laugh till your stomachs hurt and makes you wish you were a theatre actor. Her comic timing is impeccable, so is her command over language and pronunciation.

Amongst us who watched the play, three of us had seen part 1 and were glad we did part 2 too and the guy who had not seen part 1 only has more to look forward to.

PS. I sent my parents for this play the very next day too.