Friday, February 24, 2006

Mere sapno ki rani kab aayegi thoo - 2

Appan usually enjoyed his ride home, especially on a summer evening. The breeze got cooler as Appan started to pedal faster, something that he couldn't do with the regulatorless rickety table fan that adorned his modest two-room home. The road home was the first tar road to be built in the district. It was sheer bliss, newly laid, spotlessly clean except for some patches of dry dung deposited by some rather unappreciative bovine. However, Appan's current predicament made him least bothered about the road, the ride or the breeze. He was getting engaged in two weeks and he had no clue about the girl he was getting engaged to.Appan knew that this whole episode had something to do with his mother, despite the letter being written and signed by his father. Appan's mother was the kind of person who always worked behind the scenes. She was a very deceptive woman and conveyed the impression of just another dimunitve and powerless housewife. But as far as Appan's household was concerned every decision was conceptualized in the kitchen and implemented in the living room (his rifle toting father's bastion). So Appan's mother always had this knack of making her husband believe that he was still the Colonel, but in actuality he was still the soldier carrying out orders. However, Appan had to admit that he never remembered his mother making a wrong decision. But, this was his marriage and he couldn't let it to his mother's judgment. He had to see the girl and talk to her before he committed to marry her.

Appan was trying hard to remember if he had seen Kathiresan Chettiar's daughter in any of the events that he recently attended. The only images that he seemed to recollect were of the enormous Kathiresan Chettiar, who strongly resembled a beached whale. Infact people called him "Gundu Kolukatta Chettiar" behind his back, not because of Kathiresan Chettiar's affinity for the delicacy, but his imposing jelly belly. Appan just hoped that obesity wasn't something that was hereditary in the Kathiresan household. The flurry of thoughts didn't slow down Appan as he reached home five minutes earlier than usual. Just as Appan was opening the gate, a bright red lambretta zoomed past him. Appan considered the lambretta yet another ugly reminder of the "The License Raj Economy".The lambretta was regarded as a princely possession, as the waiting list to get the scooter was 7 years. The people who managed to bypass the list either had strong political connections or had enough money to cough up for a second hand lambretta. A second hand lambretta, was usually no more than 2 or 3 months old. The second hand buyer was willing to pay twice its original value as he didn't have the patience for such long waiting lists.

The lambretta that zoomed past Appan reminded him of his cousin Chandru and his "JL" . Chandru was a mine of information when it came to women, cinema and politics. He would be able to shed light on Appan's would be. Chandru was a production manager at the AVM film studios, the nation's second largest movie production house located in Madras. He led a very glamorous life as the nature of his work enabled him to have a working relationship - his wife made sure it was a very strict working relationship when it came to those beautiful actresses- with most of the top movie stars on an everyday basis. Since politics and cinema went hand in hand in Madras*, Chandru had friends who were friends of politicians, which explained "JL". Chandru named his Lambretta JL because he was smitten by the sultry actress JothiLakshmi, who, despite all her flab had quite a large fan following in South India.It brought a smile to Appan's face because Chandru's wife thought that by calling it "JL", Chandru was paying homage to the late prime minister and freedom fighter JawaharLal Nehru.

Appan felt a lot better as he decided to place a trunk call to Chandru's office first thing in the morning and get to know more about -"Kathireswoman"- (for the lack of a name he decided to her Kathireswoman) tomorrow.

To be continued

Gundu: Gundu in Tamil means fat

Kolukattai: A chubby South Indian sweet delicacy. It looks like this

Chettiars: A tamil speaking community whose origins are in Chettinad, Tamilnadu. More here.
Gundu Kolukattai Chettiar:

*The last two Chief Ministers of Tamilnadu were leading playwrights/script writers (C.N Annadurai-1967 to 1969 and M. Karunanidhi- 1969 to 1971)

Note: India's first scooter appeared in the market place in 1972 whereas this story takes place in 1971. Please bear with the inconsistency :).

Friday, February 03, 2006

Not a review: Rang De Basanti

Its about an hour since I left Ega theatre. There was pin drop silence. Even the "ants in the pants" kind of people with car/bike keys in one hand and their impatiently ringing mobile phones in the other stayed till the last scene was played out on the silver screen.

Rang De Basanti is a difficult film for me to review. Its impossible for me to objectively think about this movie and analyze each and every facet with cold clinical precision. Not that I always review movies in such a manner. I am not a serious critic who tries to find flaws just for the sake of finding them, its just that there are a very few things that excite me and good cinema is one such. A movie is a labour of love, commitment and pain, laudable efforts need to be recognized. I accept that the chances of Aamir Khan reading my rave review of his performance are bleak, but the chances of someone googling "kamasutra" and ending up in pagalak are bright(my webstat analyzer dutifuly reminds me everyday).I am digressing. I am writing this post to urge my friends, Armchair Philosophers and avid Vatsayana readers(if you have reached this far, I am sorry this is not Kamasutra) to go and see this movie.This movie has its share of flaws. But, I would like to concentrate on the message the movie wants to convey.

There are so many things in the movie that I identify with. Like for example, there were a few friends of mine who strongly believed in the saying " Patriotism is the fervour of fools" . I was taken aback and after 'God knows how many' hours of trying to make them see things my way, I have to admit it, I slowly began seeing things their way. They had a very simple answer to stonewall each and every effort of mine to impress upon them about the spirit of oneness and the concept of a nation-that answer or rather question being- "Why should I care? What has this country done for me?"

The protagonists in this movie are not any different from my friends and the way they express their thoughts on the uselessness of freedom and patriotism reminded me of the argument that I had with my friends.

The comments on my recent New Year post unwittingly summed the core theme of Rang De Basanti which gives an indication of how the director has managed to sense the pulse of the nation.

An excerpt from the New Year post,

I do understand your point. People dont react as long as they get affected. It makes for interesting discussion at cocktail parties. But I beg to differ. I agree I am not the kind of guy who is a revolutionary. And what if I am a revolutionary? Who am I to revolt against- the Jihadis, the sexually starved Indian urban male, bad roads no electricity?

Things were much simpler in the 30s, when we had the most basic of things to fight for- Freedom. Things are different now, I can vote the coming elections and I can write a long letter listing my woes to the municipal office.Thats the only thing the "established" world lets me do.

I am the average powerless law abiding (for the most part) citizen who doesnt mind standing in long queues, the guy who looks for a dustbin to dispose his plastic cup. And I want everyone to be like me and until that happens I will continue to write about things that irk me.

I believe our nation is in a transitional phase. A movie like RDB is an effort which will serve as a catalyst to help us eventually get out of our shells. Aamir's parting words in Rang De Basanti is worth mentioning- it may sound cliched now but is truly profound when viewed on the screen.

"There are two kinds of people in this world. There are people who tolerate everything that comes their way in life and then there are some who don't let life dictate terms,these people shape their own destiny"

So in addition to writing about things that irk me, I am seriously thinking of ways of how I could make myself more useful. For starters, I am planning to get myself a voters card.
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