Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Thinking Blogger Award

Thanks to Alan, I am now the proud recipient of the Thinking Blogger Award. Thank you very much, Alan.

In accordance with the rules of the meme, here is my post about five bloggers whose blogs get me thinking. There are many such blogs, so this is a random selection:

Life Lover, who lives in California, is a wonderful writer – she has a way of making me think with every post. Her writing style is humorous, relatable, and very evocative – she has a way of sucking me right into her world, to the point where I can almost taste what she’s describing or thinking about. I also love how she links her state of mind to hindi music, something I definitely can relate to. Her blog tackles many ‘everyday’ questions in a way that delves deep – it’s both reflective and stimulating, and also extremely accessible.

Maja lives in Slovenia. She loves to travel, she loves podcasts and Rufus Wainwright, she loves learning languages, and she also loves Bollywood. I love that, through delightful writing and pictures, she often takes me along on her trips and experiences – from a desi festival in England to a few days in Rome. It’s nice to get a little feel of what she saw and experienced. Her writing on Bollywood, including her legendary liveblogs, gives me a different perspective on Hindi films and actors… one that’s inevitably unique, fun and fascinating. And one that keeps me thinking long after I've left the blog.

Aparna, who lives in Hyderabad, India, always has a refreshing and thought-provoking take on a variety of topics. Her writing is always heartfelt, compassionate, contemporary and intelligent, and I always learn something new, or start to think differently about something familiar. She doesn’t blog as often as she used to (very sad for me!), but whenever she does post something, it’s always rich and beautifully expressed.

Sanket and Nilong’s blog is a tribute to great desi music – and I’ve definitely learnt a lot from it – about various aspects of India’s history (music & movie-related and otherwise), the myriad influences that make filmi music as rich and varied as it is, and the human relationships that have not only birthed various forms of art, but also make life worth living. Wonderful themes to reflect upon. I find this blog educative, informative, interesting and also inspirational, as Sanket explores his personal connection with the music he loves, the people he loves, and the places he loves. Sanket and Nilong live in New Orleans.

Uzo, like me, lives in Lagos, Nigeria. Like me, she is a big fan of Bollywood, and she will also be my travel companion on our very first trip to India later this year. Uzo’s blog is a wonderful blend of personal experiences, opinions (from music, to politics, to movies, to relationships, to books), and reflections (as the blog is very aptly named) on the life she lives and the things that have influenced her. Her reflections make me reflect upon these areas of my life too. Uzo’s blog also has a strong focus on issues affecting women globally, and I have learnt a great deal from her in this regard.

You're only supposed to tag 5 people, I know, but I just can't resist adding one more blog that always gets me thinking:

Angela G. Skylar's blog always gets me thinking about the deeper themes, questions and issues explored by hindi films. Sometimes, she puts up english translations of hindi film dialogues, and these always give me a fuller and more nuanced understanding of what the writers of hindi films are trying to convey. Her reviews always explore themes I haven't thought of, grasped or understood, and I always end up thinking differently about these films. Her blog is also a lot of fun, with fashion, dance and humour thrown into the mix.

If you choose to pass it on this award to others, these are the Thinking Blogger Award rules:

This award was started

You have to award five others (my apologies for breaking the rule!) whose blogs you think deserve this award. Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the bloggers you are tagging.

If (and only if) you get tagged, please write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.

Link to
this post so that people can easily find the origin of the meme.

Please remember to tag blogs with real merit, i.e. relative content, and above all — blogs that really get you thinking!

Monday, June 18, 2007


'Life… in a Metro'… wow! I’ve just seen this movie, and I really loved it. Maybe it’s because I really wasn’t expecting a whole lot (for some reason, I thought it might be a bit boring), but this film has left me feeling good – about people, about the possibility of second chances, about relationships, about humanity. And I love when that happens.

Don’t get me wrong, ‘Metro’ is not a happy-slappy, hearts-and-kisses, fun-in-the-sun flick. No, actually it’s set in the Mumbai monsoon season, and the continual rain and dull weather reflects the turmoil and trauma undergone by the characters in this film. There’s betrayal, misery, loneliness, bereavement, regret and bitterness in this movie. It’s a tough world, one of crippling discontentment, broken dreams, and loads and loads of deception – everyone is lying to someone, even if it’s just to themselves (and I find that very realistic).

But do you like to see movies that remind you of all the greys that lie between black and white? Do you like to see movies that remind you of the challenges we all face living in big cities in the noughties? Do you like to see movies that don’t beat you over the head with moral judgment, but subtly, compassionately show that there are better choices to make than those that ultimately mean hurting yourself and/or the ones you love? Do you like to see movies where the characters are given agency, and not treated like pawns on a chessboard? Do you like to see movies where you truly come to care for the characters, to the point where, even though you can’t bring yourself to agree with all their choices, you respect their right to seek their own paths to fulfilment? Do you like to see movies that surprise you – but without being totally jarring? Yes? Then, hopefully, you’ll like ‘Metro’ as much as I did. Oh, and do you REALLY love Dharmendra, to the point where seeing him onscreen just fills every cell of your heart with pure undiluted joy? No? Aww.. well, I hope you’ll like this movie anyway.

Let’s see if I can talk about this film without giving away too much, because I don’t think I’d have liked the movie half as much had I known what was waiting around every corner. My garam Dharam is as good a place to start as any – in this, my tenth Dharmendra movie (yayyy!!) and the first I’ve seen on the big screen, he plays Amol, a man who is reunited with the love of his youth, Shivani (played by Nafisa Ali). I once said on this blog that old people in love=cute. And is it true in this movie or what? I have to say, I really like the fact that in several Hindi movies I’ve seen recently (‘Honeymoon Travels’, ‘Just Married’ and now ‘Metro’), it’s been recognised that older people have emotional and physical needs too, and that there’s nothing ugly or shameful about portraying that on celluloid. I really hope this is a trend that’s here to stay, because I think it’s a cryin’ shame that many fine older actors are stuck playing ‘Maa’ and ‘Babuji’ in every film (nothing wrong with playing parents, of course, but older people are more than just parents). Shivani and Amol walk an unconventional and difficult path with great grace, and it was so brilliant to see my Dharmendra do his thing. Wow. I don’t know why I love this man so much, I just do. I can’t wait to see ‘Apne’. I love him…

Anyway, moving on (and shaking myself out my Dharam-induced reverie)… much as I loved Shivani and Amol, I loved Shruti (played beautifully by Konkona Sen Sharma, whom everyone knows is a wonderful actress) and Monty (played by Irrfan Khan) even more. Shruti, a young career woman who is attracted to one of her co-workers, a popular radio DJ named Vishy K, is a likeable girl-next-door kind of character. You can’t help but love her, even if you’re not kind of at the same place in your life as she is (I am). But Monty is another matter. He’s a total oddball, he dresses really weird and talks weird, he has a bad habit of staring at women’s ‘bits’, and he lies a lot (and isn’t ashamed to admit it, either). But he is so cute in his nuttiness – he has a good heart, he is absolutely hilarious and he is a ‘real’ person, and I personally found him irresistible (almost as irresistible as I found Irrfan in the excellent film ‘The Namesake’, in which he played a somewhat different – but just as loveable – kind of character). I have to say I am loving Mr. Khan – I want to see more of him.

Shilpa Shetty, who’s definitely brought a great deal of good fortune to this movie by doing ‘Celebrity Big Brother’; plays Shikha, Shruti’s adorable but confused ‘didi’. (By the way, I loved that I was totally convinced that these two really were sisters, although they shared the screen very little). Shikha is unhappily married to an utterly selfish, frustrated, cold-hearted, nasty piece of work called Ranjit (played to perfection by Kay Kay Menon). She becomes strongly attracted to a young man she meets at the bus stop, named Akaash (for some reason, I found Akaash really annoying, dunno why, there’s nothing wrong with him or anything – I just did. Poor Shikha). The choices she makes (especially right at the end of the film), I found questionable, but as I said earlier, by this time I cared enough about her to just want her to find her own path to happiness – and all I could do was just wish her the best.

Ranjit (the prat) has been involved for quite a while with Neha (played quite well by Kangana Ranaut), a troubled young girl from his office. Neha doesn’t know it, but someone at the same office, a desperately over-ambitious and even unscrupulous young man named Rahul, has a crush on her. And there’s a link between Neha and Ranjit’s family that adds more drama to the situation later on – but I think I’ve said enough. The rest you’ll have to discover for yourself. But there are some lovely dramatic/hilarious scenes – watch out for Shruti going off on Rahul (Konkona is fabulous in this scene), Monty dissolving into ‘tears of joy’, the recurring ‘Brokeback Mountain’ poster that says a lot more than you might think the first time you see it, Shikha walking back into Akaash’s flat (beautifully shot), and Shivani applying make-up again, obviously for the first time in a long time – those are just a few of the scenes that made an impact on me.

Almost all the characters are connected in some way, a theme I also saw in the recent ‘Salaam-e-Ishq’. And they’re all played very well – I must say Shilpa impressed me in this film. It’s not a groundbreaking performance, but it’s a very competent one, much better than I’d ever have given her credit for (before ‘Metro’, I’d only ever seen her in more ‘traditional’ Bollywood films like ‘Dhadkan’, films in which the acting tends to be OTT and all weepy and over-emotional). I think she did very well with her more subdued performance in ‘Metro’.

Speaking of ‘traditional’ (‘archetypal’ is probably a better word) Bollywood; in my last post, I expressed the hope that the music from ‘Metro’ would pleasantly surprise me. This was one of the interesting things about this film – the recurring appearance of a 3-man rock group, all dressed in black, performing Pritam’s songs (complete with plenty of rocker angst and passion) throughout the film. They were everywhere – on bikes, on buildings, in alleys… I couldn’t decide whether the constant appearance of these guys was cute, corny, weird, silly clever or fun (probably all of the above) – anyway, I loved the idea. It was different and interesting, and so were the songs they sang, which I really liked – except for one song that was really glaringly out of place. But for the most part, I think these songs shall very nicely fill a vacant slot in my filmi song collection – so I’m off to download them right away.

It was nice and refreshing to see a movie without any of the usual huge marquee names, and a bit less ‘Bolly’ (if you know what I mean) than is normal (nothing wrong with full-on ‘Bolly’, I love it to bits, but it’s really nice to see something a bit more toned down from time to time). I particularly liked that, in ‘Metro’, I could see the characters ‘doing’ stuff – it wasn’t all about stuff being done to them, which is something you get used to seeing in more ‘Bolly’ films (why I am using the word ‘Bolly’? There has to be a better word! Using ‘Bolly’ makes less than zero sense!) And I also liked seeing Mumbai as a strong presence, almost a character, in this movie. It definitely takes you to Mumbai, and it’s fascinating just on that level (again, a nice change from the more ‘Bolly’ thing of going to the UK or Switzerland).

‘Metro’ definitely has its flaws – for example, some of the scenes come off just a little contrived, and certain aspects of the relationships it explores are not properly resolved (especially with regard to Neha and her obviously troubled history, and Shikha’s obvious dissatisfaction with the life she lives – somehow the idea I think I was supposed to get, i.e. that being with Akaash had helped her to resolve all that, was difficult to digest); but all-in-all, these didn’t bother me too much. I found this one a very, very satisfying watch (fascinating themes, interesting relationships, good music, good drama, old people love, oddball love, self-love, what’s not to like?), and definitely one for my collection when it comes out (but of course, the mere adorable old-man-in-love appearance of my Dharam-ji would have ensured that).

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

HINDI MOVIE SONGS I AM LOVING RIGHT NOW (or... DG rambles on and on about music)

WARNING: After finishing this post, I’ve realized I am probably the only person on the face of the earth who will enjoy reading it or find it even remotely interesting. All I really do in it is gush about songs and say how much I love them. So… umm… you probably won’t like it. But I will come back with something less… less utterly-boring-to-everyone-but-myself soon.

I recently became the proud owner of an iPod Shuffle, thanks to the benevolence of my brother who decided to give me his older model (thanks bro! I love you!) My Shuffle is one of my favourite possessions at the moment – I really love the fact that it’s a bit battered – it makes me think of my lovely, lovely big brother and all the hours he's spent with it. I’ve had a Creative mp3 player for quite a while now, and I love it, but the sound quality the iPod delivers is definitely superior, and the Shuffle gives me twice as much room as my Creative does – much more space to cram lovely, delicious, wonderful songs in. So much sheer bliss!!

My new (well, new to me) gadget gives me a new reason (as if I needed one) to rave about the music I’m digging at the moment. Music is not only my drug of choice, it keeps me barely sane and somewhat balanced and makes me a much better and happier human being overall – so I think it’s definitely time to celebrate it again on this blog – it’s been a while.

While I’d really love to rave about my how funky and cool I think Lucy Pearl were on their first album, my ongoing love affair with the ‘Dreamgirls’ soundtrack, my re-discovery of Michelle Branch (‘Tuesday Morning’ is fantastic) and The Cranberries (‘Linger’ is still amazing as ever), how much I love the smoothness of Justin’s voice on ‘Summer Love’, how much I love Common (I really need a man like him to write me some beautiful poetry and look extremely hot while delivering it – actually, no I don’t but I still think he’s very hot), how much I like Awillo’s ‘Ndombolo Cache Cache’, how MJ still is and will always be the king of pop even if he needs a lot of help, how great Mariah Carey’s voice is even if she knows absolutely nothing about age-appropriate dressing, how much I like Lagbaja’s sound, how fabulously and effortlessly delicious Aretha F. and Gladys Knight always are, how very cool I think Sound Sultan’sArea’ is (very strange since I don’t like Sound Sultan normally – thanks Uzo for the hook-up), how there is just something so amazingly inspirational about Donnie McClurkin’s voice, how much I love Joann Rosario’sI Hear You Say’, how much I love Jill Scott’s poetry, how catchy and cool I think Rihanna’s new stuff is (she definitely needs more ‘Umbrella’s and less tacky ‘I don’t wanna be a murderer’ stuff), how much I love the ad libs at the end of ‘Umqombothi’ and the way Yvonne goes ‘Um-qom-bo-thi’, separating all the syllables like that, how brilliant Brenda Fassie was (‘Memeza’ and 'Vulindlela' are beautiful), how Keyshia Coles and a killer backbeat and strings made ‘Last Night’ one of the only good songs on P. Diddy’sPress Play’ album, how much No Doubt’sSpiderwebs’ reminds me (in a very good way) of Blondie’s ‘Hanging on the Telephone’, how much Twista and Kanye always crack me up with ‘Celebrity Overnight’ although it’s WRONG, how crazy D-Banj is with his ‘no long ting’, how John Legend just might live up to his name, how Jay-Z has madd skillz and is super-talented despite my disagreement with most of what he says, how much I dig Keane’s ‘Everybody’s Changing’ and Athlete’sHalf Light’ and still go a little crazy for Franz Ferdinand’sTake Me Out’ and ‘Michael’, how Robin Thicke can do no wrong in my book, how much I love Annie Lennox’s voice and ABBA’s songwriting skills, how much I miss Lauryn Hill and almost feel like crying whenever I hear ‘Just Like Water’, how much I enjoy the Sugababes and their corny but ballsy kind of pop, how sweet I think Styl Plus are on ‘Olufunmi’ and ‘Call my Name’, how much I love David Bowie’sThurday’s Child’ and ‘Life on Mars’, how much I enjoy hearing Bey really let it rip on ‘Lost Yo Mind’ (the song that proves that – OMG! She really has lost her mind – just kidding, but it is kinda crazy), how sexy Eric Benet’s songs were (maybe that should’ve tipped Ms. Halle off – anyone who looks that hot ( remember that so-sexy stride down the street, with girls on each arm, in the ‘Love Don’t Love Me’ video? So not very PC of me to find that super-cool, but I so do) and sounds that hot (e.g. his riffs on ‘Georgy Porgy’ which, BTW, remind me of Ms. Evans, who’s really coming into her own now) just might be, umm, a little TOO hot), how much I am feeling Kano (‘it’s just one of those days’) and Estelle (does she have new album out?), how much Corinne Bailey Rae’s voice reminds me of summer, picnics and warm moments, and how much The Osmonds’Love Me For a Reason’ still makes me smile every darned time (somebody make me stop!!), as does ‘God Only Knows’ by the Beach Boys (such a perfect song)… this IS a Bollyblog after all (maybe I need to start a music blog – but heck no, there are not enough hours in the day), so I’m going to talk about the Hindi movie music that’s making me very happy at the moment. Can’t believe I actually just wrote all that, guess I really needed to let it all out.

I’ll start with my more recent discoveries – I’m not one to listen to music from a movie before actually seeing the movie (I just don’t get the whole concept of doing that), but I made an exception for ‘Salaam-e-Ishq’, which was probably the first movie soundtrack I got this year. It was love at first listen. I love all the songs although I’m not too crazy about ‘Babuji’ (recently found out that it was a remake of a much better song from the 70s – not surprised). I think S-E-L have really outdone themselves with this absolutely brilliant set of songs. I love the Highland feel to the title song, the plaintive cries of ‘Rabba’ at the end of ‘Ya Rabba’, the fun playground feel of ‘Tenu Leke’, the danceability of ‘Saiyaan Re’ (so perfect for Priyanka), the way ‘Dil Kya Kare’ reminds me of how cute Vidya and John were rubbing noses on the train in the movie… I love everything about this soundtrack. It makes me happy. Bas.

Speaking of fun and upbeat music, I also really love the songs from ‘Honeymoon Travels Pvt.’ I think they are really ‘different’, borrowing from interesting influences – ‘Albela Albela’ has a fantastic soulful James Brown feel to it, and is really well done – kudos to the singer. I love the salsa feel to ‘Pyaar Ki Yeh Kahani Suno’ – I don’t know why but I especially love the ‘ek ladka tha, ek ladki thi’ line. For me, though, the ultimate jam of the soundtrack is ‘Sajanaji’ with that fab repeated line ‘aisa mera pyaar hai’– it never fails to get me dancing. Totally infectious. A great set of songs.

Still on the upbeat tip, I recently saw Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukerji in ‘Tara Rum Pum’. For any fans of Saif and Rani (and I am one of them), this movie is a must-see. Rani looks fabulous and it’s great to see her (in the first half of the movie) showing Preity Zinta that she can do young and sassy just as well (don’t get me wrong, I love Preity, but Rani just rocks – go, Rani!). Both Rani and Saif were really good in this film – very nice acting, although the script could definitely have given them more to work with. But on to the music. My gem from this soundtrack (I downloaded it the following day, couldn’t wait to hear it again) is the fun, highly danceable, pop-rock song ‘Ab To Forever’, which was beautifully picturised in the movie, with Saif and Rani really getting down in the street at night in New York (I love the whole ‘West Side Story’ feel of the picturisation, love the way the number was lit and shot – it’s just, for want of a better word, hot).

‘Hey Shona’ is the token romantic ballad of the soundtrack, it’s an ok song, and the picturisation is so cute (love the little jig Rani and Saif do – and I just think they’re so adorable together) – but it’s just a regular ok song. The second half of the movie takes a dark turn (a bit too dark, some scenes were actually rather disturbing for a family movie) and featured some questionable moments that really should’ve been left out (maybe I’ll do a proper review sometime), and the songs from that half are less remarkable. The two ‘family’ songs (one of them, the title song, is semi-animated) are ok but nothing special. What I really liked, though was the sweet version of the title song that Rani teaches to the kids (who, by the way, are just too cute) – it’s stuck in my head now and won’t go away.

This year Uzo and I also saw ‘Eklavya’ – a movie that really features only one song (‘The Moon Song/Chanda Re’) – but what a song it is. I love that song, it’s beautifully sung and just so hauntingly evocative yet somehow so soothing at the same time. Love it. Another slow one I am really feeling is the charming and beautiful ‘Gudgudee’ from ‘Just Married’ (‘Baat Pakki’ from the same soundtrack is a nice jam BTW). And how can I fail to mention ‘Tere Bina’ from ‘Guru’, which I just cannot stop listening to? Fantastic, brilliant music – I love everything about that song from start to finish – everything. I also like ‘Barso Re’ from ‘Guru’ – always makes me think of Ash’s beautiful dancing and the great scenery at the start of the film. But back to slower numbers – I really, really love ‘Bole Re Papihara’ from ‘Guddi’, a charming Jaya Bhaduri movie I saw this year and loved to bits. The song is so simple, but so pretty and so sweetly sung. Lovely, lovely music.

I recently downloaded ‘O Sathi Chal’ from ‘Seeta aur Geeta’ (another recent viewing for me), and it never fails to make me smile. Fun song, and putting the hero and heroine on skates for the picturisation was a very nice – and memorable – idea. I am currently also loving the title song from ‘Do Aur Do Paanch’ which I recently downloaded (although in a way I guess it’s not really the title song, as it’s called something different). The soundtrack from ‘Namastey London’, another movie I saw this year (and surprisingly, liked a lot) can be summed up in one phrase: ‘waaay too much of Himesh Reshammaiya’ – but there’s one song from it I really liked, ‘Chakna Chakna’. And of course ‘Beedi’ from ‘Omkara’ is a fabulous song.

Ok, so that’s some of the newer (i.e. newer to my music collection) Hindi movie music I’ve been rocking to, smiling to, and just adoring in every way. But I have not forgotten my older loves, some of which I talked about in a previous post. I’ll highlight a couple here. Kishore Kumar’s voice on ‘O Saathi Re’ still does something to me – and it’s something wonderful; R. D. Burman’s music from ‘The Burning Train’ I still find totally genius and so great, the music from ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun’ – wow, just thinking about it makes me smile and makes me want to sing each and every 10-minute song on that soundtrack – ‘Dhiktana Dhiktana’ is crazily long but I never tire of it, nor of ‘Joote Dedo’ or ‘Didi Tera Dewar Deewana’ or anything else on that soundtrack.

‘Veer Zaara’ – not a popular choice, I know, but I just love and adore this soundtrack to bits, can’t get enough of the lyrics to ‘Main Yahaan Hoon’ – sure, I don’t understand most of it except ‘I’m here’ (or something), but I just know Javed saab was saying something powerful. (One day I must make time to seek out translations of my fave Hindi songs.) I usually hate Bollywood remixes – it seems like they often just take a nice song and spoil it with some out-of-place bhangra beats, but there is this wonderful, gently soulful remix of ‘Tere Liye’ that I just can’t get enough of – it really lifts and (to borrow a Beyonce-ism) ‘bodies’ the song.

I still love ‘Main Hoon Don’ from the new Don and am still shocked that Shaan did not win awards for his rendition (although he did for ‘Chand Sifarish’ from ‘Fanaa’, which I must say he also did extremely well). Shaan, I think you were brilliant in this one – you definitely get my award, absolutely worthless though it might be.

I could go on (and on) but I think this is long enough – I still can’t get over the crazily long paragraph I did on non-Bollywood songs, can’t bring myself to delete it though…

...anyway here’s to more (loads more) brilliant, creative, sometimes rock-able, often very sweet Hindi film music. I’ll be seeing ‘Life… in a Metro’ this weekend, haven’t heard anything remarkable about the music, but who knows? Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.