Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Amitabh's KBC

There's something about Amitabh Bachchan when he hosts Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC). He may be the biggest movie star in Indian cinema, but he appears our next door neighbour when he is on the hot seat. The kind whose house you can go to every day in the night and casually ask "bhai, kya haal chaal hain aake?"Or if I were to put it less diplomatically, go with some beer, straight to his kitchen, fetch two glasses, open the bottle, pour beer, offer him one and say "kya boss kya ho raha hain, how are you man?" Or the old uncle in the building who kids address as 'Hello Amitabh uncle, how are you?' as he gets off the building lift with a jhola tagged over his shoulders. Ofcourse you can't walk into Jalsa to ask these type of question, let alone with a bottle of beer in your hands, his security guards will throw you out. Nor can you break the cordon around the place where he's shooting for a film, and rush to him to seek an autograph. But when he is on the hot seat, you can get away by asking the most idiotic questions and Bachchan will answer with a smile.

That's what makes KBC so special. It's not just any quiz show. As soon as you win the first hurdle 'Fastest Finger First (FFF)', he welcomes you with open arms. Winners of this stage cannot believe whether they just won FFF or whether they're going to meet, talk and sit with Amitabh Bachchan. I am sure very few must actually be thinking of that Rs one crore; such is the overwhelming feeling you can get faced with the prospect of being welcomed by Bachchan. He puts you at ease with his humour and his jokes. Husbands on hot seats are teased in front of their wives that cheer from the audience; he subtly fingers the wives on hot seats as he makes an attempt to remind them of something funny. The audience roars with laughter, amused.

But not all contestants have a happy tale to share. Some have a grim past like KBC's first lady crorepati- a super confident and intelligent lady- who claimed to have never ever seen Rs3.20 lakh (the second hurdle she cleared) in her life. Your heart goes out for such people and it is a reminder how important- and elusive- money is for a majority of Indians. I couldn't miss the irony as Amitabh (one of India's richest celebrities and for whom Rs3.20 lakh must be a pittance) heard this just as he was signing this cheque. To have won KBC with such elan as this lady did, I wonder for whom it was a bigger honour; for her or for Amitabh to have been writing a cheque of Rs3.20 lakh (he would write many more cheques eventually, till Rs One crore) for this lady. To still understand a poor man's thrill of winning amounts that Bachchan may not even think twice before spending, is a feeling we get only from Amitabh.

That doesn't mean he is unprofessional. Sometimes he tries to warn you by asking you repeatedly if you are going on the wrong path. But you stick to your path and you are allowed to make your own mistakes. Nobody, not even Bachchan, can help you. But that's what the game is all about. Still, for many, it is the thrill of spending 30 minutes of your life with Bachchan. I could not feel that connection with SRK; he always came across as superstar when he hosted KBC. But Amitabh is one of us, our neighbour, friend, uncle who takes you on the Rs1 crore journey, holding your hands.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Anti Censorship: An upper crust fixation

Last week, when the Government of India ruled that two Indian TV reality shows (Big Boss and Rakhi Ka Insaaf) to be moved at late night slots (after 11 pm) and not be shown during prime time, I observed that it did not go down well with the civil society and thinkers alike. After all, isn't 11 pm too soon these days? Kids can easily turn on TV after 11 pm too. In today's hectic world, we are invariably awake- probably eating dinner- at that time, so it's not hard for us to switch on TV after 11 pm. But most importantly, is censorship required? If the viewers want to watch, who are the authorities to not to allow us to?

I've never been a fan of Indian censorship, either in its naked form (the moral types) or in disguised form (structured process) but there is a limit. Though censorship in India is a bit hypocritical and outdated, there are times when someone needs to interfere. The rubbish that gets shown on TV- in the name of reality shows- is nauseating. Both these shows show other people's dirty linen. While Big Boss smacks of voyeurism with people with high notoriety quotient we couldn't care less, Rakhi Ka Insaaf shows drama queen Rakhi Sawant as an arbitrator (I wouldn't liken her to a judge and thereby belittle the legal fraternity) who aims to settle disputes between parties. She dispenses justice in her style; loud, unabashed, even calling people namard (this one allegedly drove a participant to suicide), or where the participants engage in fights so embarrassing to watch it ourselves, much less allow your kids to watch. Ofcourse, many clips are on YouTube where anyone can log on and watch it. Even shifting it to 11 pm slot may do little to curb it's nuisance value; infact the more it is in the news, the more eyeballs it could attract. That's always been the dangers of censoring.

The problem is that once you start censoring, the flood gates open. What should you censor and what you shouldn't. Hollywood classic films like 'American Beauty' are not shown on TV anymore (to the best of my knowledge, or even if they're shown the nudity I am sure would be wiped out), nor is nudity allowed even though it may make sense in certain films, but Kangaroo courts are telecasted on TV in the name of reality shows. Censor such shows and civil society slams them. But the question is: what should we let go and what should we control? After all, not all censorship is bad. The need of the hour is to decide where scissors are really required, because clearly self-censorship isn't working.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in Mint

Men's tennis' top eight players share their views with Mint, on their best and worst of 2010, ahead of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals (WTF), which begins on Sunday. The world's top eight players qualify for the WTF. It's all here; Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and all of them spoke to Mint via an emailed interview.


Harry Potter and the Social Network

Watched 'The Social Network' last Thursday and 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - part 1' today. The Social Network is a classic film and surely one of the best of 2010. It's about how Facebook was founded, allegedly amidst theft, greed and deceit. I don't know how much of the Facebook story is true- I've heard that Mark Zuckerberg has distanced himself with the book 'The Accidental Billionaire' again allegedly a semi-biopic of him, and on which this movie is based upon. Nevertheless, if you're on Facebook, you must watch this film. I bet you'll look at FB a bit differently after watching this movie. It's not an action movie, yet is extremely engaging and fast-paced. There's not a dull moment. performances from the lead actor, his buddy and the entire staff is amazing. Despite being full of dialogues- and spoken really fast at at that you mat miss out on a few lines here and there- it captures your attention; the script runs like the edge of a sat thriller.

The above trailer is sourced from YouTube

I watched Harry Potter at the Imax Dome theater in Wadala, Mumbai. Only now they've removed the actual dome screen (the building structure and the insides of the theater remains) and replaced with a FLAT screen. But this screen is said to be the largest in town; atleast its the largest flat screen I've seen. It's quite an experience to watch a Hollywood movie here with special effects. Because the makers divided into two parts (Part I is released now; Part II will release in July 2011), the Part I rarely left out anything from the book so far. Details of many scenes from the book were left out, but all the important portions of most of the scenes are in the movie. The imprisonment and torture of the troika (Harry, Hermoine and Ron) was greatly shortened and without any sting, but apart from that, rest was all there. Few liberties are taken from the book such as an impromptu dance between Harry and Hermoine (the former tries to cheer up the latter who is devastated) inside the forest tent in the middle of the forest a few days after Ron abandons them. But the scene stealer is Lord Voldemort (masterfully enacted by Ralf Fiennes). As the evil wizard wanting to take control of the wizarding world, get rid of muggles (non magic people), Fiennes plays the part to perfection and evokes every bit of hatred from the viewer. Just the way he holds his wand, looks into your eye or cast a curse at you emanates terror and sends a chill down your spine. There's a certain energy and an edge-of-the-seat excitement every time he comes on screen, though he largely is there in the first and the last scene. Clearly, the best 'baddie' performance in cinema history, despite the least amount of dialogues.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Guzarish: A caricature

A serious matter such as Euthanasia ought to deserve a better tale than Guzarish, a movie by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai. I watched the movie yesterday and came out disappointed.    At the end of three-hour extended marathon, Euthanasia came across as merely an excuse to paint an artistic canvas and create lush and the kind of opulent movie sets a cinematographer would love to create to win the the chance for an Oscar. But apart from the way the film looks- which by itself is unbelievable since it looks straight out of an ancient tale- there's very little else the film offers. You don't root for Euthanasia, you don't vote against it, you don't know why we should argue for it or against it.

The movie's central character Ethan Mascarenhas (Hrithik Roshan)- an ex-magician- has been paraplegic for 14 long years after a magic act went horribly wrong. He is looked after by his nurse, Sofia D'Souza (Aishwarya Rai) who dresses herself in long gowns- the kind you'd probably see in period dramas of 1920s and 1930s Spanish / Portuguese movies- bright red lipstick and a rose in her hair , and also by a few housemaids.

Guzarish could have been much more, considering there are many levels of Euthanasia that could have been explored on account of its complexity. The fact that there are dozens of cases pending in courts in many nations around the world, including India, and where the authorities find themselves in dilemma- are we going against nature, is it right for someone to take his / her own life- is in itself proof of its complexity. Performances are average. Hrithik's performance may be one of his best, but he is clearly not one of our better actors. Rai was just okay too. But to see the topic being reduced to an almost caricature- such as the court scene played out at the palatial mansion where Mascarenhas lives and fought by melodramatic lawyers (over-acted prosecutor v/s  melodramatic and teary-eyed defense attorney)- is disheartening. The movie is average at best, but mostly drags on, especially towards the end and it's long-drawn climax. The good part was that I got to see the trailer of Aamir Khan's upcoming production (directed by wife Kiran), 'Dhobi Ghat', in the interval. Now that's a movie I am dying to watch.

Meher Mahino, Ava Mahino and Adar Mahino: The holy trinity of Zoroastrian calender

Zoroastrians- or better knows as Parsis and Iranis of India- have a separate calendar. We look at the English calendar of course, but we al...