Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Bollywood Movie Remakes

March 7, 2012

I was completely disappointed with the remake of Agneepath and surprised that it became a hit. Well if you have read my blog about how I like my Bollywood then you will know that I am not much for melodrama or should I say mocktails. Agneepath came across to me like trying out a rich dark chocolate cake in a vegan style only to see it fall flat. (If done right, some vegan cakes are amazing!)

Let me tell you why. The basic story was a literal copy. However it lacked the thrill of retribution like the original where the angry young man vindicates his father’s wrongful death by becoming the underworld don of Mumbai, Vijay Deenanath Chauhan and defeating his enemies.

Okay, so the remake had a twist just like Farhan Akhtar’s remake of Don where the hero is the villain. Here Karan Johar made his victim the perpetrator. Apart from colossal loss of lives including his own there was nothing really gained at the end. And then there was Sanjay Dutt. I love this guy but I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry looking at his persona in the film. He was just an oversized “human” version of Gollum. Remember him? Sorry Sanjay but if you are a fan of “Lord of the Rings” I am sure you won’t be offended as Gollum was quite awesome.

Sanjay Dutt in Agneepath

Honestly friends, I am not much for remakes and that too of movies that are still fresh on our minds and still relevant for many generations to come. Think about it, do you really want to see Godfather again without Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro? Guess not. Do you really want to see Sholay without Dharmendra, Amitabh, Hema Malini, and Amjad Khan in those very roles? Now I am fine with parodies or spoofs. Yes you guessed it, I am a die-hard fan of Amitabh and I choose to overlook his lapses. 🙂

Anyway, the trend for remakes probably started with Devdas. Now this is a very old movie and I really enjoyed watching it again in the grandiose settings of Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Then came the remake of Don. But kudos to Farhan for giving a great twist to the story and hitting a home run with the masses and critics alike, including me (a critic among the masses). But what did not work for me is his choice of the actor. Shah Rukh Khan may have done well as Devdas but he failed in the first remake of Don. He desperately tried to copy Amitabh and failed. In fact Farhan should have completely stayed away from the original dialogues and scenes. Even Kareena Kapoor’s dance was disgusting and cheap when compared with Helen. So true, “See, Helen never looked vulgar while doing all those cabaret songs.” – Pandit Birju Maharaj, in Times of India.

My husband says to not compare and to look with fresh eyes. If so, then there should be none of the original scenes, dialogues and dance sequences. For example I was quite impressed with Shah Rukh Khan in Don 2. He was his original best.

Coming back to Agneepath, one thing that worked for me was Hrithik. He did not imitate Amitabh even remotely and gave a fresh take on that character. But I wish this was Farhan’s project because Karan Johar as always, got carried away by his super-duper love for melodrama which was disgustingly portrayed very well at the end. Spoiler Alert below!

If a body gets pierced with a weapon penetrating through and through, there is no way that one can survive. To top that if the weapon is removed from the body then one will bleed out completely within minutes. Yeah I know, I watch CSI too much but isn’t it common sense. Well, our wounded hero went on to fight for 20 minutes or more overpowering a man two times his size and even lynching him single-handedly. Really? Not even Rocky Balboa could have pulled that off. C’mon Karan! What were you thinking? Are you testing the intellect of average Indian public? Or, you thought the chikni chameli dance will blindside this lapse? Lucky for you it worked.

On one hand Bollywood makes commercial yet very realistic movies like Zindagi na mile Dobara and then we have movies that are so ridiculous.  This is yet another classic Indian paradox that afflicts our society, our minds and obviously our taste in films and film-making. My earnest request to all the directors and producers, please don’t make fun of Bollywood legends by making such poor remakes. Exaggerating of facts is fine but it should be within sanity. In fact please take creativity classes if you have run out of ideas or just take a walk into real India and you will get your script or even a fresh talent perhaps.

Adios Amigos!

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Is Bollywood sexist?

July 18, 2011

In the recent Aishwarya Rai – Madhur Bhandarkar controversy a fierce debate of whether Bollywood is sexist or not became a topic of our discussion with friends one afternoon and thus gave me a much needed topic for blogging.

More on this controversy a little later but first I want to share some scenarios with all of you to set the premise behind this allegation and leave the decision for you to make.

Bollywood has several male actors in their 40s and 50s still playing lead roles alongside actresses who are barely 20. But one doesn’t get to see female actors getting this opportunity. Forget the age factor but the moment they get married and have kids their opportunities start to dwindle. Or does it?

Some examples of male actors are Salman Khan (45), Sanjay Dutt (52), Aamir Khan (46) and Shah Rukh (45). Just recently Jackie Shroff (51) has refused father roles. They all show their age but yet get meaty roles. In fact the only guy who looks fit and young despite his age is Akshay Kumar (43).

Bollywood Actors

Or, take a look at Rajinikanth (60), how he is in real life and how he looks in reel life –

Rajini

But for a lot of actresses, marriage and motherhood translates to early retirement from films. Some have chosen to stage a comeback much later when they are gray and old and take on “mother” roles while some don’t.

Then there is Raakhee who, despite age and motherhood received great opportunities. But then she surprised everyone by taking on the “mother” role for a lead actor (Amitabh Bachchan) with whom she had successful onscreen romantic pairing and since then her fate was sealed. The same goes for Hema Malini but at least with her it was not until her late 40s that she started playing more matured roles. Clearly this shows that Bollywood is not sexist.

Look at their counterparts from Hollywood like Diane Lane (46), Jodie Foster (48), and Julianne Moore (50), they are still sexy and they are still in demand. The key is that the Hollywood actresses understand what it takes to be successful in their profession and hence they get into all kinds of fitness and beauty regimen to remain bankable. Who cannot but get impressed with Meryl Streep even today.

Hollywood Actress

So if actresses don’t maintain their looks then why should the producers put their money on them? So is it really fair to say Bollywood is sexist?

Here is now a tricky part. What about Madhuri Dixit (44) and Sridevi (47)? They are still very beautiful and extremely fit. Why are they finding it hard to land a role?

I think it is purely a business decision. Rajinikanth is still in demand because the brand “Rajini” is imperishable.  But these actresses are out of touch with reality due to a very long break that they took from their career. Simply put their brand is no longer relevant albeit still popular. For example melodrama that was at its peak during their time has very little role to play in today’s movies.

So the second part to this conundrum is actresses taking a long hiatus from their career. Most Hollywood actresses remain true to their professions. Here are  more examples:  J Lo (42), Halle Berry (44) or Angelina Jolie (36). They had kids and they were back in form in less than a year looking as sexy as always. Their name, their body and their face is big money and they know that.

The only actress in Bollywood to have worked through marriage and motherhood is Kajol (36). She looks as beautiful as always although some fitness regimen will not hurt her. We might be at an early stage of change where our actresses don’t look at marriage and motherhood as roadblocks but just as a part of life while continuing to hone their brand image. A lot depends on the next generation of actresses (Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma, Priyanka Chopra, and Konkona Sen Sharma).

Now to the topic of Aishwarya Rai! I don’t think Bollywood or for that matter Madhur Bhandarkar is anymore sexist than Aishwarya Rai being completely unprofessional. A true professional will never walk out on a commitment. In fact I have heard of actresses being  dropped from projects because of pregnancy. Even Meryl Streep lost out on “Thelma and Louise” to Susan Sarandon because of pregnancy but it did not stop her from being a successful actress or from being a mother to 4 children.

I am happy Madhur is moving on. He is a great director and there are great actresses equally beautiful who can do justice to his script. He has nevertheless settled the issue with Aishwarya and now looking at Priyanka or Kareena.

It will also be interesting to see what Aishwarya (37) would do. Will she let the brand “Aishwarya” to fade away by following the footsteps of her mother-in-law or whether she will come back looking just as beautiful and stunning in a year’s time or will she stick to matured roles like many other married actresses like Juhi Chawla for one. Whatever it is she should not be forced into it either by family or the industry or the audience.

The day we start seeing female actors in Bollywood enjoying a success like Hollywood’s Meryl Streep or like our own ageless legend Amitabh Bachchan then yes we can stop debating on this issues. For now the case rests.

*Ages as referenced in Wikipedia

Happy Endings.

May 9, 2011

I watched a movie called “Royal wedding” last weekend starring Kate Middleton and Prince Williams. This real life event was almost like a movie because it had all the elements that make a romantic movie – Love between a prince and a commoner, the rise of a commoner into the royalty, princess bride, suspense (what will she wear, who will she wear, will she choose Diana’s designer and blah, blah), the regal walk down the aisle, the vows and all this excitement ending with a kiss.
.

Royal Kiss

We all love happy endings because we all grew up reading or watching the fairy tales. How can we forget the beautiful quote from Cinderella “A dream is a wish your heart makes when you’re fast asleep. Have faith in your dreams. No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true.

I think this whole wedding was even more special because Kate was like one of us who married an actual Prince and she in her beautiful white dress looked almost surreal.

Royal Wedding dress

This real life movie also had some comic relief from the giggling Prince Harry all the weird hats. 

But this was not it. Last weekend had more happy endings in store. Before the weekend closed, we heard about the triumph over evil after 10 long years, the downfall of Osama Bin Laden orchestrated like a slick spy movie. The Navy Seals assumed the role of a group of super heroes who put an end to World’s most wanted man. Again, it reminded me of my childhood days. Haven’t we all grown up reading about super heroes and how good will always prevails over the evil?

I call the last weekend as a welcome oasis after a 2 long years of being in the doom. The Royal Wedding on one one hand provided an escape from reality while the OBL saga gave reality a ne wmeaning. These two events gave us a hope for better things to come, a hope to surge ahead and attain our goals and dreams and a hope for a turnaround. It sure was a weekend when movies and fairy tales descended into our real lives.

Here’s hoping for more such happy endings, cheers!

Happy endings

Bollywood Love Stories

November 22, 2010

Here are some of my favorite Bollywood love stories from the 90’s until now that really touched me and is quite relatable in many ways both personally and otherwise. These love stories are not the usual Romeo & Juliet kind where the love happens pretty easily but ends in a tragedy or sacrifice. And, I am not talking about Mills & Boon kind of love stories where the girl & boy hate each other only to find out that extreme hate is another word for love. Let’s just leave that one for the psychologists to analyze and figure it out shall we?

Well, the love stories that I am about to allude to are real, complex and mature. They are actually more common in real life but rarely shown in reel life. Okay, let me get straight into it and you will see what I am talking about.

1. Love that has no age-boundaries

The first movie that comes to my mind is Lamhe, a beautiful romantic love story written by Honey Irani made in the early 90’s. It left an indelible mark in my heart as a teenager when I didn’t know much about the matters of the heart.

The gist of the story is a young guy who falls in love with a woman almost a decade older than him but is not reciprocated. He grows up to be a successful entrepreneur but remains single. Years later he comes across this woman’s daughter who is now an orphan and living with his uncle. She is 25 years younger than him and he is shocked to see that she is a splitting image of her mother. Call it a twist of fate, the daughter falls in love with him. The movie expertly balances the emotional and the mental turmoil of the guy and his eventual realization of true love without making it awkward. 

Sridevi who was in her epitome of stardom plays a double role of the mother and then the daughter. In fact this is the only movie that I have actually liked her because she is restrained and subtle unlike her usual melodramatic acting style. Anil Kapoor plays the guy’s role with perfection. Lamhe is a Yash Chopra classic but unfortunately not a box office hit due to a lot of criticism about the age difference. Our society was still very conservative then.

Bollywood Love Stories

Fast forward to 2007, and here comes Cheeni Kum. Just like Lamhe, it is also an unconventional love story between a 34-year old woman and a 64-year old man. Yes, the age difference is huge making it too hard to even believe that a love like this is possible but the movie’s direction, story, dialogues and exceptional performances by Tabu and Amitabh Bachchan make it realistic. Actually, the chemistry between the two characters is so amazing that this huge age difference just becomes a mere number. And, this time the movie was well received and even liked thus showing how much our society has undergone a transformation since the 90s.

2. Confusing Infatuation with Love

A common affliction among teenagers and young adults! Loving the very first thing or a unique thing is quite common in that age and only later do we realize that really, what was I thinking! Well, Hum Dil de chuke Sanam made in 1999 by Sanjay Leela Bhansali sketches a story about a girl’s journey in discovering true love.

The movie starts off as a typical love story where the girl meets boy & boy meets girl and they fall in love. The boy is from Italy and for a girl who has pretty much not set foot outside her small village in India, she is filled with curiosity and a thrill to see this new person living in her house. Pretty predictable first half with songs but then it takes a twist. The boy is not approved by the girl’s father and is thrown out. Before things go public, she is married off to a rich man.

Enter Ajay Devgan who plays the husband who hopelessly falls in love with her while she remains cold, unresponsive and speaks only about her first love unabashedly. Usually an action hero in most movies, Ajay Devgan gives an incredible performance as a helpless husband. Anyway he makes a mission in his life to find his wife’s former lover and restore her happiness. Here is where I can’t help feel even now if true love can be this selfless? Or, is this character actually a master manipulator?

Spoiler alert, in their journey towards finding the girl’s former lover, the girl gets to know her husband and is moved by his undemanding love for her and starts to develop feelings for him. When she finally meets her former lover, she realizes how shallow her first love was. None other than the beautiful Aishwarya Rai plays the protagonist exquisitely portraying the subtle change as she grows from an immature girl into a matured woman realizing the meaning of true love!

Hum Dil de chuke sanam-Jab we Met

A more recent one on similar lines is Jab We Met. A young, spirited and a spunky girl, crazy in love with a guy, leaves her home, her kith and kin in hopes of settling down with him. She is more with the idea of love itself than really understanding the meaning of it. While on the run she helps a depressed business man on the verge of suicide to pick up the pieces of his life and start again. He is mesmerized by her effervescence and her take on life/love and falls for her despite knowing that she loves this other guy. Months later he learns that she was jilted by her boyfriend and had in turn become a recluse to avoid causing shame to her family. He reminds her of her old bubbly self and as she gets back to her true self she then realizes her love for him and what true love means.

Friendship = Love

Wake up Sid

Wake up Sid – This is my personal favorite. The movie is about a rich, young boy played aptly by Ranbir Kapoor who has absolutely all the material things that one can ever aspire to have but has no ambition in his life. He meets Aisha played by Konkona Sen Sharma who is an aspiring writer and knows what she wants in her life. Their paths cross and they become friends. Even though they are poles apart, they complement each other. He slowly falls in love with her but knows that she considers him a loser and he picks himself up but is scared to admit his love for the fear of losing his friendship. The movie ends with them clearing their misunderstanding and expressing their love. A priceless love story set amidst comedy and camaraderie directed by Ayan Mukherjee.

Hope you guys like these movies, they are realistic but at the same time are entertaining with great songs and I am sure it will resonate with a lot of you in some way or the other as love really has no bounds. It is a complex emotion where a few are lucky to find it quick and easy but for a few, it takes time. For all those who are waiting for a Mr. or Ms. Right, patience is the key. Love comes knocking at the door when you least expect it! xoxo!

Is Ranbir Kapoor the next Superstar?

June 26, 2010

Ever since Amitabh Bachchan was conferred the title of a superstar, all of us from simple viewers and fans like me to the media and the movie industry have been waiting for a successor to this prestigious Bollywood title. Every some years we have young actors showing a lot of potential but falling short somewhere. 

I still remember when Shahrukh Khan made his debut in Baazigar he played the same angry young man’s role which had catapulted Amitabh to a profound fame and glory unmatched to this day. Although Shahrukh’s retribution tactics was a bit more on the gray side than that of Amitabh’s character Vijay, Shahrukh’s screen presence and his charisma with women (or should I say the would-be mothers-in-law) were awesome. But somehow it was nowhere near Vijay’s devotion to his mother, his style of avenging injustice a la Robin Hood style and his romance with women played by timeless beauties like Parveen Babi, Zeenat Aman and the evergreen Rekha. Well, no wonder Shahrukh Khan stopped doing the roles of an angry young man and became a romantic hero more like Rajesh Khanna and created a separate niche for himself as the “Baadshah” of Bollywood. Befitting, indeed!

Amitabh Bachchan vs Shahrukh

Another contender for Amitabh’s much coveted title was Hrithik Roshan. I fell flat for him in Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, loved his raw emotions in Fizaa and was smitten by him in Lakshya. But something happened after that. He just decided to go the Sallu way, shirtless, bearing his 6-pack and showcasing his dancing skills more than his acting talent. Guess what, Shahid Kapoor stole his thunder as a dancer and the 6-packs are so common these days, even cuties like Aamir’s got one.

My husband’s bet was and still is on Abhishek Bachchan. He is very likeable, simple and fun, a true chip of the old block. But how serious is Abhishek? He comes across as an ambition-less lad lost in his father’s glory and now basking in the splendor of his wife. I know I am harsh but he has great potential and I hate to see it go waste. Just think about it, he does a great movie like Guru and then he makes five awful movies in which he is so silly that if I had a “delete” button, I would just keep hitting it.

So, coming back to this superstar title, why is it so hard to get? Is it Amitabh himself who just keeps setting the bar higher and higher? Let’s look his career briefly – 

Amitabh Bachchan through the years

Superstar, Amitabh Bachchan

  • Amitabh started his career in 1970 with Saat Hindustani and bagged the best newcomer National Award. He then went onto win 14 Filmfare awards in various categories, 2 more National Awards, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shree. Still counting!
  • From 1970 to 1982, he gave us constant hit films like Zanjeer, Sholay, Deewar, Namak Haraam, Amar Akbar Anthony, Trishul, Don, Satte Pe Satta, Shakti and so many more. (He was also lucky that his only competitor Vinod Khanna decided to drop out of Bollywood to follow Osho Rajneesh. Otherwise who knows what the outcome would have been!) 
  • However, an unfortunate accident in the sets of Coolie led to a decade of flops for Amitabh but his image remained untarnished. Then came Agneepath in 1991! Bam! It resurrected his image. 
  • But he was not really young and went through another decade of flops and a lot of personal struggles. Best part about his career is that his fans never deserted him. 
  • With Mohabbatein in 2000, he totally re-invented himself and started playing the roles of a father and what a cool dad he became! 

There is no looking back since then. He played some very different and challenging roles in movies like Aks, Black, Sarkar, Paa, Rann etc giving him more awards, fanfare and fame. So, is it really possible for another human being to achieve this kind of success? But the title needs a successor. In fact, I was surprised when I heard this title being used randomly in the recent Filmfare Awards on everyone from Shahid Kapoor to Neil Nitin Mukesh who have not even achieved a quarter of what Amitabh has done. It looks like people in the industry have given up. But I am still searching for the next superstar.

After a long time, I am feeling very hopeful because of Ranbir Kapoor. A product of phenomenal genetic lineage (Neetu Singh, Rishi Kapoor and the entire Kapoor clan) and a perfect physical make up. He is gorgeous, period. And, he can also act. Phew!

A similarity with Amitabh is undeniable. Both are extremely tall and are not necessarily out and out handsome. Both are lanky with long nose and strange eyes but have some kind of a charisma to attract fans in big numbers and appeal to the young and the old. I know it’s too early to predict but hey, if anyone can get away wearing a pink turban and yet considered macho, it’s Ranbir.

Ranbir Kapoor vs. Amitabh Bachchan

In just 2 years or so, he has established himself as a great performer. But Ranbir better make up his mind on whether he just wants to be good-looking hunk dropping towels to expose his derriere or he wants to really become a superstar. His latest Rajneeti may have gotten him accolades but I was pretty disappointed. He just came across as too serious. If this was supposed to be a role of Michael Corleone, Abhishek Bachchan played it very well in Sarker. So, my friends, the field is wide open as it always has been but I will always remain hopeful even though I am a big fan of Amitabh.

Give me Bollywood straight up!

February 16, 2010

With the latest movie Rocket Singh, I think Bollywood has finally come of age with its screenplay and story line. It was simple, realistic, entertaining, believable and powerful giving a message of hope and change. It further fortifies its genre in Bollywood and such films are on a rise and also are successful. In just 2 years, we have seen similar movies like A Wednesday, Welcome to Sajjanpur, Dor, Wake up Sid and Mumbai Meri Jaan. Of particular point to note in the last one is that the media always portrays Mumbai and its people as resilient and strong and their life is business as usual the next day. I am sure to a certain extent they are forced to follow this perfunctory life out of sheer necessity. The movie exposed the raw pain, fear and loss that people experienced and how they cope with it. It was heart-rending.

I think Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra and the likes of them should re-think their usual larger than life, unrealistic dramas or should I say sagas that were quintessentially Bollywood for decades. It was painful for me to watch Kal Ho Na Ho and KANK and I am kind of fed up with Shahrukh Khan, Kajol and Rani Mukherjee. I call this a Bollywood cocktail, sweet and dramatic.

And now the new movie of Karan Johar, My Name is Khan! The story has too many issues. As the name suggests it deals with an innocent Muslim’s plight in today’s world if his name is Khan. This theme alone would have been a monumental movie actually. But oh no, there is a twist – a Muslim who is innocent and whose name is Rizwan Khan and he has a milder variant of autistic disorder called Aspergar’s syndrome. Okay, this condition can affect anyone so it’s still okay. But it wasn’t enough for our Karan. So, thre is another twist. Our protagonist now is a Muslim whose name is Khan and who is autistic and who wants to meet the US President and obviously does not know or ignores all the protocols. Yeah, you can say he is socially handicapped because of his condition but I say melodrama! Sorry Karan, that don’t impress me much!

Is this a desperate move of Karan Johar to win an Oscar? He tried with Kurbaan too but it did not create even a stir. The only stir was about Kareena’s bare back. 🙂 At least Shah Rukh Khan has yet again impressed the masses and I am seeing good reviews of the movie. I will definitely see it but am in no rush.

So, where does 3 Idiots fit in? Well, this is the in between genre. Rang de Basanti, Fashion, 3 Idiots etc are movies that carry a powerful message but are not very realistic. The melodrama seeps in somewhere. Rang de Basanti’s disappointing moment for me was the politician ordering the police to beat up the old woman and the crowd. That’s bizarre! Actually, any good politician will just do the opposite – befriend the downtrodden, blame it on an innocent bystander and seize the day. Right? I knew it I should have been a politician! 🙂 

Since I seem to be drawing a parallel here with alcoholic drinks, I will classify this in-between genre of films as the popular drink, rum and coke. Real deal but with a lot of fizz! God help me, I am sure everyone will think I drink a lot. Go figure!

One more example is the whole delivery scene and making of electricity in the movie, 3 Idiots. It was downright, shall we say, idiotic? I have started reading the book on which this movie is based on and Chetan Bhagat seems to have handled it much more realistically so far.

"Transition of Bollywood"

Anyway, at one time, I loved movies that had the larger than life romance, a rehash of the usual rich girl, poor boy and daddy the villain. Ah! I can never forget DDLJ. I loved the song sequences shot in exotic locales, in rain and of course the dream sequence of floating in the clouds. I sill love the songs but I can’t sit through 2 1/2 hours of melodrama anymore.

I guess a lot of us now want our Bollywood straight up, not even ice. Give us more movies that have hard- core messages in an entertaining manner keeping the melodrama to the minimum. So, producers and directors, can you handle it?

Best of Both Worlds!

January 8, 2010

This is in continuation to my previous post. So, I finally reached Bangalore, India. I always strive to blend into the local life although sometimes it is tough and I can’t help feeling out of touch. Things keep changing so fast from clothing styles to one-ways on roads and even the general landscape that it is hard to keep up. This blog of mine is devoted to showcase these new changes in India which may tempt a lot of us to actually go back which seems to be the trend these days anyway.

10 – 20 years ago when I was living in India, there were a lot of things that I craved for but could not get my hands on them easily. A simplest of examples would be Coca Cola. It was not allowed to be sold in India until 1993. Computer and Internet at home was unheard of. It started to show up in a few affluent homes only by 1999-2000. But internet was through the telephone line and the downloading speed was so slow that you could easily have a nap. Yawn!

Despite growing up in a conservative South Indian family steeped in Carnatic classical music, I was hooked on to western music ranging from Pop to Classic Rock to some Hard Rock and Country. Music of this kind was not easily accessible then. I remember hunting down music stores who had a good collection of this music and paying through my nose to have them record it for me in metallic audio cassettes. Same with movies! We would get Hollywood movies only after 3-6 months of its release in the US and not all the movies made it.

Western clothes and shoes for women were hard to get even in the metros where it was mainly worn. All we had were small exports shops. I am sure a lot of my friends in Bangalore just like me have shopped at VT (Victoria Terminus) and La Bamba on Brigade Road. (FYI -the latter still exists). Once I started to work, I would eagerly wait for an opportunity to go abroad to shop. Singapore and Dubai were the nearest cities for our shopping needs. How excited we used to be for the Dubai Shopping Festival and I recall how busy the travel agencies and airlines were during those times.

You know, I sometimes wondered why we had so many local brands starting with a B – Bata (for shoes), BPL (for home electronics), Britannia (snacks), Bombay Dyeing (textiles)! Sumeet blender and Ambassador Car were either an aberration or a relief from this alphabet! 🙂

By 2003, we started to see a few American brands in major metros. But it was only in 2006 the Indian government took a monumental step ushering in a huge change. It started allowing single-brand retailers to own 51% of their business operations in India. That paved the way for a lot of American brands to enter the market like Subway, Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Tommy Hilfiger, Subway and so many more on the way like Starbucks, Gap etc. My 5 year old nephew and I were so excited to see our favorite brand Crocs easily available in India this time.

Fast forward to 2009 and you will see that India has done a complete turnaround. With the economy booming despite the crisis in the western world, people have more money to spend and more people are getting hooked to urban way of life. But you can’t help notice that the old world charm existing side by side –

* There are malls everywhere housing not only American brands but also “desi” stuff.

* Cars have become a necessity now and almost all the brands that we see here are being driven there along with some unique ones designed for Indian roads.

* High-rise buildings and apartments are coloring the landscape everywhere. But can you really ignore the slums?

* The simple chai and coffee “addas” of my times co-exist with Coffee Day and Barista Coffee parlors.

* You have retail chain giants like Food World and Reliance but the small time vendors like Subamma angadi are also doing just fine.

* The wine industry is booming now and what a range of red wines and some of them as good and crisp in flavor as the Californian wines! Best part is they are from local vineyards that have mushroomed in the last 2 years.

* There is organic food now in India. There are not just stores selling organic vegetables that are locally grown but you also get jeans and tops made of organic cotton.

One of the main reasons a lot of us came here to the US was to enjoy the best of both worlds. As you can see the Indians in India are doing the same. On one hand they can be sporting foreign brands from head to toe and eat at Subway and love pizza but they can never divorce the masala dosa, Ayurveda or Yoga! They might watch all the Hollywood movies and be up to date with gossip but the ring tone in their cell phone would be the latest Bollywood song. Women who would never dream of wearing anything but the noble salwar kameez are comfortable wearing long tunics on jeans or leggings.

All this has happened in spite of the government. If the government had played hand in hand with this incredible change at every step, we would not be seeing a pathetic infrastructure barely supporting this progress.

This change is not only intrinsic but also global. The US companies are now doing a global launch of their new products as opposed to launching just in the US first. I can now go watch Avatar and so also my friend in India on the same day and we can talk about it in Facebook! I love it!

India today is a beautiful blend of the east and the west, the old and the new creating a unique identity for itself and I salute this new brand India!

 Jai Ho!

Traveling for 20 hours or more by air!

December 21, 2009

Most of you know by now that I recently flew to India to spend some time with family. It’s always great to meet up with relatives and friends and even greater to shop and to gorge on some mouth-watering food which we miss so much here.

But the thing that I really hate about going back home is the long air travel. By virtue of my location, it becomes even harder as I only have one airline option to fly directly to Bangalore, India. But being from the travel industry, I am not too keen to fly that airline as they are notorious for poor baggage handling and lately their crew goes on strike often.

Once during our previous trip, our baggage didn’t come and the airline staff was right outside our gate waiting for us. Before we could react, they handed us cash for necessities and told us that the bags would come in the next flight. Cash is good, really good. It makes you even smile at them. Then the form makes its appearance where we have to list all the valuables and the net worth in each baggage. It hits you then, “what if I don’t get the bags…oh, my favorite pair of jeans, my expensive sweater and all the gifts I got for family. I know the money they give will cover everything but do they really understand how much time and effort I have spent shopping for those best-fit jeans?

Psst! I didn’t lose those jeans. 🙂

So, my only other option was to fly out from major airports like Denver, Chicago, LA etc depending on the airline. I took my friend’s suggestion and tried Singapore Airlines, loved it and have been flying with them since 2006.

So, my first leg of travel was to fly to LA and it takes about an hour and a half. There was a short layover of 3 hours in LA. But by the time you go to the international airport, stand in line to get your boarding pass and go through security, trust me, you will have no time to kill. Because, LAX airport is worse than an airport even in a developing country

Okay, the next leg in my journey was from LA to Tokyo which is about 12 hours. Since it took off at noon, you really can’t fall asleep. That’s why I am glad to be on Singapore Airlines as they have the best in-flight entertainment. They not only have the latest movies but also some episodes of popular TV shows, non-stop music, games etc.

I watched 3 movies back to back on my own personal monitor. The first one was “Julie and Julia”, loved it. The next one was “The Ugly Truth” with the dashing Gerard Butler. You know, I just love his Irish accent and the way his mouth gets so crooked when he speaks. No wonder my husband hates him. 🙂

At this point, they served us lunch. Their vegetarian Indian meal is pretty average. I really don’t know why they gave me a bag of Sun Maid raisins at every meal. It’s not like we Indians keep snacking on raisins or maybe they want us to. Go Figure!

I still wasn’t sleepy so I went back to browsing for more movies and decided to watch “My Sister’s Keeper”. It had some great performances and tear-jerking moments! I recommend watching such movies to keep your eyes from getting dry in that frigid air. Then came dinner with another bag of raisins! LOL!

By then it was 11 pm (LA time) and I finally fell asleep but an hour later the flight landed in Tokyo. Aarghh!

Here, we get an hour’s break before we embark the same plane to sit for 7 more hours to reach Singapore. At this point you are pretty much dead beat and despite all entertainment, all you want to do is sleep.

We finally reached the magical Singapore Changi Airport, a Mecca for the tired traveler. I fly Singapore Airlines mainly because of my love for this airport. It is not a mere airport people, but it is a mini-city. It has everything that you can possibly imagine from a full-fledged state-of-the art gym to transit lounges. It also has a hotel called Ambassador Transit hotel where you can rent rooms on a 4-hr basis.

 

Apart from numerous restaurants serving different kinds of cuisines, there is also a fantastic range of shopping from travel necessities to apparel, make-up, perfumes, electronics, souvenirs etc with brands ranging from Burberrys, Tiffany’s, Gucci and so on. There is free internet browsing stations, Wi-Fi areas, a movie theatre, children’s play area, an orchid garden and now more recently a butterfly garden. They even have a huge swimming pool. Phew! You can live here for 2 days and not get bored, really!

  My last leg was a mere 4 hours flight and I was in Bangalore. Touch down! Of course, you now deal with jet lag until your disoriented body gets used to the time zone.

 Best part for me is I travel either ways and I still come home!

 Bon Voyage!

The irony of Luck by Chance!

August 20, 2009
The gist of Luck by Chance is how struggling actors who have no familial connections in the movie industry can either make it by sheer luck of being in the right place at the right time or just give up to pursue other dreams. The movie portrays the ambitions, dreams and struggles of these actors and the false promises of the directors, their agents and producers besides showcasing the shallow lifestyle of the film industry personalities.

But the irony is that this film is produced, directed and acted by all who have become successful mainly because they had some family member already successful in this industry. Below is my point of view on how each of them became successful in films not because of luck by chance but being born to talented and successful film personalities. 

Konkona Sen Sharma was launched nationally by her mother, Aparna Sen, a renowned film director. Konkona was doing regional films before that. She went on to win the prestigious national award for this movie. I like her immensely because she easily blends into any role just like Smita Patil. But, had Konkona been born to an ordinary person, she would have gone unrecognized despite her talent because she is not glamorous. She may be a plain Jane but she can put the likes of Priyanka Chopra to shame. Lucky girl for being born to Aparna Sen and thank you Aparna for giving her the break! 

Konkona Sen Sharma

Konkona Sen Sharma

Hrithik Roshan, oh man! What can I say! Girls swoon at his looks, his chiseled body and his dancing. I am a girl and I adore him too. And, he’s talented all right but hey, he is also the son of Rakesh Roshan who is a well known actor and a superb director. Hrithik was also launched by his dad into national fame. In fact, after every 2-3 flop films, he runs to his dad who re-launches him. Now who’s lucky? 

Hrithik Roshan

Hrithik Roshan

Isha Sharvani, who is she? She cannot act but she gets a good role in the film! Hmm, wait a minute; she is the daughter of a very famous dancer and choreographer of India, Daksha Sheth. Okay, no film connection here but Daksha Sheth is a popular personality nonetheless. It works that way too, believe me. A chief minister’s son, ring a bell?

Farhan Akhtar is Javed Akhtar’s son. I have no words to describe Javed Akhtar. He is a legend, a gift to mankind. And, Farhan, well, he is the chip of the old block. My God, at that young age, to be making movies like Dil Chahta Hai, Lakshya etc, is pure genius. But as an actor, no way! His voice is such a put off but he not only gets to act in the lead role but he gets to sing in his first movie, Rock On. Best part is people loved it. I admire the risk he took and the effort he put in. A complete actor is one who is able to do everything and his step-mother, Shabana Azmi is a rock solid example. But the rock star status bestowed upon him is a bit too much. There were so many real rock stars in India who struggled to get accepted all these years but they ended up being playback singers or they just faded away. For example, KK who is now a playback singer for films or does anyone even remember Gary Lawyer?

Sorry, I have deviated from the main topic. Back to Farhan and Luck by Chance. C’mon people, he is a bad actor. If he had no connections and was an ordinary person like me, no one would give a guy who is scrawny with a weird voice a chance to be an actor even in a supporting role. I really wish he would go back to being a director because that’s his forte.  

Farhan Akhtar

Zoya Akhtar is the daughter of famous Javed Akhtar. Zoya and Farhan’s mother, Honey Irani is a great writer. Zoya’s film here was good, story was even better. Wish she had chosen struggling actors which would have made this movie even more meaningful.

Go Arjun Mathur, the only actor in the supporting role in this movie who became successful on his own merit.

So, Luck By Chance is a movie which is made and played by people who were lucky because they were born to the legacy of fame.