Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Today is a momentous day in the history of my country, Nigeria. Less than two hours ago on this 'Democracy Day', our third elected president, Umaru Shehu Yar'Adua, was sworn in; in the first civilian-to-civilian handover in the history of this nation. Although I don't think the elections were credible, I am glad that the transition seems to be happening relatively peacefully.

Three elected presidents in almost 47 years of independence - not a great record, but at least we seem to be on the right track. For all the problems and mistakes of the last eight years, I don't think any Nigerian would prefer a dictatorial military administration to a civilian one. We definitely have a very long way to go, and I am optimistic, not because there are lots of reasons for optimism, but simply because I think there is no other option but to stay positive and hope that our new leaders will work towards a better Nigeria. But it's not just their job, every Nigerian has a role to play, and I firmly believe that, working together, we can make it happen.

There are many reasons I love Nigeria - our wonderfully rich tapestry of cultures and languages, our amazing history, art, music, cuisine; the fact that it's where I was born (and have lived all my life) and therefore feel most connected to, but most of all I love the Nigerian people. We are resilient, resourceful, beautiful, talented, strong, sincere, proud, hardworking, independent... and we have a fantastic sense of humour - no matter how tough life is, we keep smiling and laughing in the face of adversity. So many of us have the capacity to inspire others in so many ways. I am really, really proud of the Nigerian people. Yes, we do have our flaws, like every other nation, and we definitely have some bad eggs among us who have not exactly painted us in rosy hues across the world, but the majority of Nigerians are good people.

Everyday, I come across young people with integrity, decency, intellience, grace and just sheer grit and determination... and for this reason alone, I believe this country has a great future, regardless of all the hurdles that we'll need to scale to get there. Our fathers may have failed us, but we don't have to perpetuate the vicious cycle by failing our own children. I am so glad that I was born Nigerian, I'm so glad that I live in this wonderful, flawed, blessed, infuriating, complex, wonderful, crazy, beautiful, diverse, frustrating country, and.. well, I just LOVE my Naija (to the bone, as my Jamaican brothers would say).

Anyway, since I'm apparently in a patriotic mood today, I thought I'd post a few photos taken during my cousin's recent wedding. My cousin is from the (predominantly muslim and Hausa-speaking) northern part of the country, which meant that we (the younger females in the family) got to have 'laali' (or 'laale') applied. (Yayy!)

'Laale' is the Hausa name for the henna plant ('mehndi' in Hindi). The crushed leaves of the henna plant have been used for many, many years to decorate female skin, in many parts of Asia, Africa (especially Northern Africa) and the Middle East. In the eastern part of Nigeria, the henna plant is called 'uli', I'm not sure what it's called in the western part (it might be called 'laale' there as well). As children, we used to pluck the leaves of the plant and crush them, then apply them to our fingernails for a reddish stain - we called it 'natural nail polish'. It's important not to use 'laale' that's been mixed with PPD, because that can cause severe allergic reactions.

'Laale' is a HUGE part of Hausa weddings, and the bride, her friends and the young female members of the family, usually get 'laale' applied to their hands and feet. As you will see from the pictures, 'laale' designs look very different from 'mehndi' designs, they incorporate the cultural insignia and unique devices of Hausa art. Naturally, the bride's decorations are usually the most intricate and beautiful, and she may get 'laale' applied to many different parts of her body apart from her hands and feet. It is also customary to do some special designs for the groom's eyes only - on a part of her body only he will get to see after all the guests have left. 'Our' beautiful bride at this wedding had really beautiful and elegant 'laale' done, as these pictures show...

The rest of us mostly just got our hands done.... in this picture, most of us still have the 'fresh' henna on (we had not yet peeled off the thick paste). One of these hands is mine...

I know the Bollywood connection to this post is rather tenuous (although 'mehndi' is definitely a big part of Indian weddings, which are a huge part of Bollywood films, right? And there is A LOT of patriotism in some Bollywood films, right? So, not so way off after all)... anyway, I will hopefully be back with something 'really' Bollywood-related someday soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


…to add to my long list of Bollywood-related loves…it’s ‘Koffee with Karan’… I love this show. I think Karan Johar is a good interviewer – he is not utterly consumed with himself (although he’s a pretty big movie celeb in his own right) and how ‘good’ his questions are, like so many interviewers subconsciously are – he just asks all the ‘right’ questions (i.e. all the stuff we really wanna know) and is delightfully unabashed about bringing up juicy bits of gossip, then dwelling on them and making his guests squirm a little. There’s a nice balance between ‘serious’ career/cinematic stuff and frivolous tabloid stuff in his interviews – there’s definitely more of the latter, and I must admit without shame that I’m ‘cheap’ enough to like that.

I also find Karan quite ‘real’ – he stays polite and tries to be balanced, but you can always tell when he particularly likes his subject (or dislikes them) – and he doesn’t try to sugarcoat stuff too much – he does put a little gloss on issues, but not too much. It’s a lot of fun to watch his body language when he’s talking with someone he doesn’t find particularly stimulating. He makes most of his guests feel at ease… at its best KWK is wonderful to watch, at its worst it’s still pretty interesting. There are a few things about the show, and its format and structure, that I find annoying (like the name), but on the whole, I love the show.

Lately I’ve been so taken with KWK that I’ve gone through quite a few episodes pretty quickly. Last night, however, I watched my fave KWK show so far – he had the sons of Raj Kapoor on – Randhir, Rishi and Rajiv. He also had one of their sisters, Reema, as well as Rishi’s wife Neetu, on the show. There was such a great vibe in the room, there was a real love among all the Kapoors that was really sweet and natural and not the least bit forced… even Karan was loving it. Towards the end, Reema went on and on about how her brothers tease her and won’t let her speak, and I just loved how the brothers all went quiet, leaned their heads to one side and gave her this indulgent look – you could just feel the love – it was so adorable.

The Kapoors were all really relaxed – they teased one another mercilessly, joked endlessly, and just had fun. They were honest and down-to-earth – cheerfully and freely discussing which of Randhir’s daughters (Karisma and Kareena) is a better actress (Rishi says Bebo, Randhir says Bebo has a better voice and has gotten better opportunities, but Rajiv prefers Lolo – I agree with Rajiv – when Kareena is good (‘Asoka’, ‘Omkara’) she is very very good, but when she is bad (‘K3G’, 'Dosti') she’s pretty darned horrid - I find Karisma far more consistent, and she's a much better dancer as well, which always helps in Bollywood); expressing honestly how nervous and scared they are about Ranbir Kapoor’s upcoming debut in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Saawariya’; talking frankly about how good or bad some of their work has been.

I think it was just a great show and a lovely representation of an ordinary, real, imperfect, loving, fun, warts-and-all family – ironic that the family also just happens to be the ‘royal family’ of Indian cinema. Another show Karan did with Rishi and Neetu (as a couple) also happens to be an audience favourite – I can see why after viewing this one, and of course I have to see the Rishi/Neetu one soon.

For any interested parties: it was once possible to find and watch full KWK episodes on YouTube, but Star has (quite rightly) taken ownership of their product and it's harder to do that now. You can still view short extracts on YouTube, though. To download full shows (legally – there are of course always those ‘other’ means), go here (and pay just a little money - it's a pretty good deal, I think). Or you can get it on DVD at Play.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

'Apne' News...

... well not news, exactly, more like just another promotional picture of my dear Dharam and his sons in their upcoming movie 'Apne'...

Over on YouTube, I found the teaser for the movie, as well as the teaser for a song (from the movie) called 'Mehfuz Rakhta Hoon'. The former - quite cheesy, with lots of slow-mo running and plenty of Bobby's hair flying behind him in the wind... but it's kinda cute at the end - and of course cheesiness is only to be expected in a project like this one. The latter features Bobby and Katrina Kaif, neither of whom are great dancers - but I guess it looks fairly good anyway ... they look sorta cute and sweet together, I think. They just might be on to something - instead of pairing bad dancers with good ones in a bid to compensate for bad dancing, why not just put the bad ones together - they'll end up looking nice and cute and goofy, in a weird, funny kind of way.
... anyway, I really hope this movie turns out good... I've said it before but I really do.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

‘AWĀRA’ (1952) – A Liveblog

I’ve decided to give liveblogging another try – incidentally the subject of my second liveblog also stars Nargis, this time with the legendary Raj Kapoor, in ‘Awāra’ (1952), a film also directed and produced by Kapoor. It’s the story of a fatherless boy named Raj (played by Raj Kapoor), who is forced by circumstance and a vengeful dacoit named Jagga, into a life as ‘awāra’, a vagabond. It’s also the story of Rita (played by Nargis), a young woman torn between the love of her life (Raj) and the man who has been her benefactor since the loss of her father, the strict Judge Raghunath (played by Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor’s father). But there is a link between Raj and the honourable judge that is actually the fuel in the engine of this entire story.

‘Awāra’ is a story about unconditional love, trust, forgiveness, frailty and loss. It’s a story about relationships, prejudice and the factors which determine who we are and what we become. It’s about self-discovery, human empathy, physical attraction and need. It’s also a story about sacrifice, survival and second chances. It’s a great story for a movie, but more than that, it’s told with a lot of class and grace. And the acting is marvellous. I am notoriously easy to please, but I truly think this film is special – I think it’s a slice of cinematic magic.

And now to the liveblog:

0.01.50 I love the boy and dog in the credits… there’s just something about it.

0.04.23 Eeee feelolo… this judge guy really feels like he’s all that and a big fat bag of chips…

0.05.49 Talk about presence – I don’t think Nargis could ever manage to sneak into a room…

0.07.19 I love the way RK is shot behind the grill thingy.

0.11.41 This song is quite scary but good.

0.12.18 I love the way her expression betrays her discomfort but not in a prolonged or over-dramatic way.

0.16.46 Eeyah Jagga… what’s the point of all the bitterness? Let it go…

0.18.53 Aww… how romantic…

0.19.32 I love the way the music is linked to the light…

0.19.49 I love that look on her face, like the cat that’s got the cream and is so pleased with it…

0.19.51 Such effortless intimacy… but I rather think he should be catering to his wife who’s just undergone severe trauma, not the other way around. Sigh.

0.20.53 You should have told him why you asked, Leela – gosh now he’s going to start getting foolish ideas… I guess this is a pointer to the fact that Leela really knows Raghu and already has an insight into what he might start thinking...

0.21.11 Gerrout, you dis judge! How selfish can you get?

0.21.44 This is brilliant – the little bootie is like a noose hanging over his head, he looks utterly terrified but he’s saying ‘achche’ (or however it’s spelt). Brilliant.

0.23.15 What a sour old witch… but I guess it’s not really her fault that societies are indoctrinated with such prejudicial ideas surrounding female ‘chastity’. So unfair.

0.23.34 This is what we call ‘guilty kongi’. I like the framing of this shot. Raj Kapoor obviously put a lot of detail and planning into his shots.

0.26.19 Why are some women so mean and evil to other women? Eeuw…

0.27.29 Raghu, you are a weak, pathetic excuse for a man. What’s wrong with you?

0.28.07 I know nothing about the technicalities of film-making, but I love RK’s technique – the use of lighting and sound effects…

0.33.17 Great dialogue. I guess the moral of this is that a boy needs some male influence in his life.

0.34.43 Oh hey ho what fun – to go around bursting balloons on your birthday. This little girl seems a bit strange – I like her.

0.37.31 Raghu, even with all your education, can’t you be a little open-minded? Just goes to show that it’s not about one’s level of education…

0.37.37 Exac-atac-ly Raghu, must you?

0.38.45 Wow, I love this…

0.39.33 Poor little boy… he’s your thoroughly undeserving father.

0.44.09 I love everything about this scene, from the dialogue, to the grimness, to the acting, to the melodrama, to the way it’s been shot.

0.50.35 ‘Awāra hoon’ – I like this song and the fun Chaplin-esque picturisation – but it’s sad.

0.53.41 And ‘shaabash’ to you too Jaggu, for trying to destroy an innocent child’s life in pursuit of your cheap, sick and twisted revenge agenda.

0.57.24 So there’s another ‘Ek, Do, Teen’ besides the Madhuri number. I like this one. Very fifties (naturally).

1.03.43 Oya o, e don do… give the lady back her purse.

1.11.50 I am really liking the dialogues in this film – very well-written. If I can appreciate them through English subtitles, I can only imagine how good they are in Hindi.

1.13.20 RK was really painstaking and artistic in the way he lined up his shots – very interesting to see in a movie this old. The new kids on the block could learn a thing or two from him.

1.13.30 It’s interesting to see Nargis playing this polished, put-together, upper-class chick; I last saw her playing a simple, uneducated village maiden. Both roles she played to perfection.

1.14.14 I also think she was just so gorgeous.

1.14.28 This scene is so natural, you can really ‘feel’ the characters. Lovely.

1.15.05 Brilliant.

1.16.41 That is just so cute – the little sub-scene with the servant. I just love the attention to detail in this film.

1.19.38 I love that gleam in her eye, like she’s got a secret and she’s only telling half of it.

1.20.34 Wow, that simple gesture expresses so much, yet looks so unpractised.

1.20.37 Another wonderfully-framed shot.

1.22.29 Trés sassy.

1.22.40 It strikes me that most of RK’s acting is communicated through his eyes. I feel like I could just cover up the rest of his face and still ‘get’ the core of what his character is feeling just through those two windows.

1.22.46 Very natural, and so sensuous.

1.23.34 Whoa, it was fun and flirtatiousness just a second ago – now it’s all slaps and recriminations… eeuw… Raj, shame on you for taking out your guilt on her.

1.23.38 You’ve got to admire RK’s artistic eye.

1.25.09 Again, I have to comment on the sheer quality of the dialogues.

1.27.25 Now that is a beautiful, expressive face – for me Nargis is one of the most beautiful actresses ever.

1.29.15 I love the lyrics of this song – the tune is great too. And I love the look in their eyes – I love how RK seems to be basking in the reflected light of Nargis’ eyes… great picturization.

1.35.27 This Jagga is a jagajaga man

1.40.19 I am just thinking of the fact that this was made in the early 50s – it couldn’t have been easy to put this all together – and with such finesse too. Shows that Bollywood has a really distinguished heritage.

Oh dear, now all the sadness comes…

2.01.57 Oh how delightfully upper-crust. No wonder Raj feels under pressure.

2.04.52 I’m crushed for Rita and Raj.

2.06.54 This lady looks caucasian - and the item-number girl did as well. Helen had the same look in her heyday - so they liked item girls with pale skin I guess... interesting.

2.09.53 I love the use of music in this film – it’s obvious RK loved music… and the songs fit into the film so well.

Okunrin yii, o fine gaan.

2.14.33 These two are so beautiful together. They have such great chemistry. 'Real life' couples don't always work on the big-screen - these two so totally did.

2.15.31 Now that’s love… props to you Rita… you’re a true friend. If it were me, I can’t say I’d do the same.

2.17.02 I think this would be a tough scene to do with your real-life father. These two do so great with it, but it’s a painful scene to watch.

2.21.02 Ironic that this man who’s had such a hugely negative influence on Raj’s life isn’t even known to his mother.

2.24.31 Oh no…

2.29.48 You are ashamed eh, you dis nonsense man! I don’t blame you.

2.31.01 Great acting by RK – I can really feel his pain and frustration.

2.33.07 How can you possibly understand, you silly judge, when you have no true concept of love?

2.35.02 Again, I love the dialogues.

2.36.55 All I can say is ‘wow’… brilliance all round.

2.42.57 Oh no, they’ve gone and made me cry…

2.44.21 Beautiful woman.

2.45.20 I think I’m in love with the late Raj Kapoor now… those eyes, that intensity and charm… interesting how it all seems to be a family trait… have to find me some more of his films now…

2.47.07 Oh wow… be still my throbbing heart. Great ending.

I’ve loved this movie… for me, it’s pretty darned close to perfect… I love absolutely everything about it – the script, the lessons in the story, the characters, the acting, the music, the technical brilliance. Everything. It is heavy fare though, so hopefully, the next liveblog (should there be one) will be all fun and candy floss…