Monday, June 29, 2009

Ek Chatur Idea and How to travel, when in Mumbai

Its something that almost all of us who travel in Mumbai observe. especially when we are returning towards our homes on the sweaty and crowded evenings. Faces - Faces that tell stories - of people who are tired, who are weary and who are returning after "god-knows what kind of day at work". The usual scene inside a public mode of transport is - Men either thinking or sleeping. Young girls perpetually busy on their mobiles, women lost in their thoughts about preparing meals after a tiring day. Yes, life is tough here. And oh did I forget the "horny" drivers, the motionless traffic, the ubiquitous smoke, the permanently "under-construction" infrastructure and add to all of these nightmares, the incessant Rains –all of them contributing towards the agony of reaching home. My purpose for pointing out this fatigued atmosphere is something that I happened to experience today.

In midst of all of the above mentioned factors, since last few days - the BEST bus service has started a new initiative. On the two screens installed inside the bus, they regularly show popular hindi film songs especially old songs. Its not as if this is an "out-of-the-box" idea, but it surely seems to be working. Why Old songs? – coz of the wide target audience that the public transport caters too. Now, as I entered Bus no. 266 on a rainy evening, I heard two glasses – clinking against each other and out came Vijay Arora holding his guitar. Zeenat Aman started singing “chura liya hai tumne jo…bolo ticket…” – seeing me getting inside the bus, the conductor was quick to pounce.

As the journey went on, after the “yaadon ki baarat” song, some “badly-made, less said about them” commercials came and went without disturbing the Corner Seat Uncle from his slumber. Inside the bus, the atmosphere was like the first paragraph of this write up – dull and boring. A little while later, the bus – like a giant elephant roared, stuttered and halted. The aunty sitting ahead of me got irritated.

“ye roz-roz ka traffic jam ho gaya hai…”

The visuals on the screen inside the bus flickered and then began the song. Mehmood, Kishore Kumar, Sunil Dutt, Saira Banu – “Ek Chaturnaaar….”. Now I consider this song as one of the most difficult songs ever to be composed and sung in hindi films. Manna Dey & Kishore Kumar were the singers and of course RD Burman’s music. The song had just begun and my eyes were instantly fixed to the screen. People in the bus were still fighting with either their or the city’s demons. As the song progressed, Mehmood’s antics began – “jis naari ka das…” – Back came the answer from Kishorda. And the battle on screen had just begun. I started to sing along, the guy sitting next to me started to talk on his cell phone. The Bus was still at its snail’s speed. The conductor had probed everyone over ticket and was now glued to the screen.

On screen, the “ghoda-chatur, ghoda-chatur” conversation began amongst the singers and actors. It started to turn hilarious. I could hardly control, I laughed out. A few men in the bus now started enjoying the song. A girl stopped staring outside the window and looked at the screen. The guy next to me put his cell down. The Deep Slumber Uncle now moved his head and in a while was staring at the screen like a kid. People started watching the song. They saw Mehmood confused with his harmonium keys. Sunil Dutt confused over the words. Kesto Mukherjee with his Chaplinsque moustache permanently confused. Inside the bus, those weary faces, those tired souls smiled. A sense of cheerfulness spread amongst the passengers. It was a wonderful sight, watching those “lightened” faces. Almost everyone knew about the song. By the time Mehmood had jumped from the window and the song had reached its ultimate crescendo – It was an amazing sight. Kishore Kumar had psychologically strangled Mehmood. I laughed out so loud that a few passengers were taken aback but chose not to respond. Infact they too smiled. Happiness had spread through the air. The smoke was now having a bad time. It was choking. Happiness was the cause. The bus in the meantime had started traveling. As the song came to an end, I was wondering at the genius of the people behind Padosan’s song and suddenly – the conductor came:

“tumko Apna Bazaar utarne ka tha na?”

And suddenly I realized that I had missed my bus stop. Movies, I tell you. It can surely work wonders on you. As Dev Benegal would put it “the magic of cinema”. I jumped out and saw the bus passing by me – in a second’s glance I saw the stern-looking conductor on his seat, smiling. No, not at me – to himself, to the song, or to the song called “life”

Note: So when you are stuck in those traffic "jams" while returning after earning your bread & "butter" – Take the BEST buses and the songs would surely provide you a reason to say "cheese"

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Landscape that has the power to change

There s no doubt that its the most stunning landscape of our country but whats important is the lives that this landscape has changed. Try the Srinagar-Leh route on wheels. It takes two days. You stop at Kargil on Day 1. And No..dont go on the famous bikers route of Manali to Leh. Its passe now.

The Srinagar to Leh is where you know how within two days the luscious greens turn to barren browns. How life can change into several degree of loneliness. yes "Frozen" is the right word.

Frozen in time, Frozen in space, Frozen in memories.

This picture is taken between Mulbek and Lamayuru. Fotu La happens to be the highest point on this route.

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Jodhpur Blues

Thats Morning in Jodhpur from the Mehrangarh Fort

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Road to "Road, Movie" comes to a dead end... the God who sustains life on Earth.

Well for me - Vishnu was the character through which I could sustain one whole year for one film - "Road, Movie"

Vishnu is the one who gets irritated from me.

But I would never want to leave Vishnu.

But alas, the incidental irony - the book was bought almost when i appeared for an interview for the next film. :(

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tackling the language and how I made friends in class 6

People almost always have an affinity towards their own language. Not many can detach themselves from their own mother tongue and carry on with their cosmopolitan existence. Somewhere down the line, the “apanapan” in them “jaag he jaata hai...”!! Even, when students leave their home, one of the first things that come to their parents’ mind is that it would be better if their daughter/son finds a roommate/classmate/friend/colleague that belongs to the same region or speaks the same language.

“Ideas ka exchange aasani se ho jata hai, you see”
And / Or
“woh tumhe zyada behtar samajh sakenge..”

I remember how I used to make it a point to speak in the same language to my fellow ‘same-language’ classmates in Delhi. Sometimes it was forced but I carried on, maybe the language had a wonderful “sugar-syrup” quality attached to it. Remember, that interesting episode in the Akbar-Birbal story, about a man knowing every language, so well that nobody could decipher his mother tongue. But then, Birbal always had different ideas.

Ok, so cut to July, 1993 -

Our family was transferred from Mumbai to Baroda. I had just completed my class 5 then. Marathi was a part of my course in Mumbai and I was just getting a hang of it, when the transfer order came, my tryst with the Marathi language came to an abrupt end.

(Flash forward to July, 2008, the forgotten language came back like a long-lost boomerang in the Australian desert carrying Pandit Nehru’s famous words “tryst with destiny”. Enter the local train. Anyways that’s for later.)

Back to July, 1993.

So, when I reached Baroda, and entered my new class 6 - I saw this guy with a lanky frame, long face, and trying to be the hero of the class types (a few months forward again: I too would become of the same type - cutting out the lanky part, of course).

Enter class 6 classroom. Watching this “trying-to-be-hero” guy and his tall structure near the blackboard, I instantly started to have a dislike for him. Maybe it’s with the tall guys or maybe it’s with the idea of intimidating the class with your overbearing persona and ya maybe coz I m “not-so-tall”. To add to my “new-classroom blues” - the teacher hadn’t come and as a result it was time for monitors to mind the class. So, you see this lanky guy is a “monitor” aah...

As soon as he was near the blackboard (green board in our case) he selected a chalk-piece from the lifeless chalk box and started drawing something. No, it was not the drawing, but what he used to draw that irritated me. The drawing would consist of just one face - the side-view of a macho guy with a cigar on his lips and long hair that would extend till his shoulders. (Oh the other day I saw Nirmal Pandey at Lokhandwala market buying Naturals ice-cream. Same pinch. Even I love Naturals)

So now you know what that chalky figure on the board looked like. But Nirmal Pandey hadn’t graced our screen then. So, classmates felt that the lanky guy was trying to sketch someone like Sanjay Dutt in Khalnayak. Back in 1993, it was one of the super hit films, combining Dutt's real and reel life. Remember the 1993 Bomb Blasts case.

But wait, after the drawing came the most irritating part. Mr. Lanky would stand back and admire his sketch and would turn to the class and shout the most absurd thing that you would have heard.

"Ye waqt hamara hai.."!!!

Reference: even "Waqt Hamara hai" - a Akshay Kumar, Sunil Shetty film (then he was Sunil and not Suniel) was released in 1993. Thus getting clearly inspired from the movie, he used to do this stupid act. Oh, so maybe that chalky figure was of Akshay Kumar!

"ye waqt hamara hai,
ye waqt hamara hai"

Day 2 - Class 6.

The teacher enters the classroom and announces that since this is a free lecture, she will take Gujarati subject. She asked us to open our Gujarati textbooks. Now having studied in Mumbai, I never had Gujarati as a subject - but the irony is that my mother tongue happens to be Gujarati. But I was never taught to write.

I could speak, yes, very well.
Read: well, very slowly.
Write: A big No.

Although once my mother came to know that we are going to get transferred to Gujarat, she instantly told me that you will have to learn Gujarati now. She taught me for two or three days before I lost patience. Writing Marathi is much simpler due to its proximity to Hindi. But Gujarati, well I was never ready for it.

But here I was, the teacher had asked now to take out our notebooks and she started dictating. Mr. Lanky was sitting besides me. The class started writing. I was clueless. Words from her mouth came like the arrows in a Zhang Yimou film. They shot my head like a rocket. I could only match her speed of dictation for one or two sentences. Eventually, in the web of familiar words but unfamiliar territory of writing, I lost her. I thought I will look into Mr. Lanky’s book and start copying, but as soon as I tried to do this - Mr. Lanky turned the page. Now I was helpless. I choked. I couldn’t comply.

To everyone's amazement in the class, the 12-year old inside me started crying. The teacher stopped dictating and came to me. On knowing the reason she smiled. She told me to take Mr. Lanky’s notebook for copying at home. She said "practice". In a few days I would catch up - she promised.

The guy gave me his notebook. His mother tongue happened to be Hindi. Amazing irony!

Since that day onwards I started taking his notebook to home. During all the exchanges, I started seeing Mr. Lanky in a different light. I came to know his name: Shailesh Gupta.

The moment I made friends with him - school was never school. From then on, I so enjoyed coming to school. Sitting on last benches, we always had our comments reserved for every classmate, teacher, and peon of the school. We used to cycle together to the railway tracks to watch the brand new Shatabdi Express pass at 3 45pm in afternoon. We made sure that we go as far as possible from the station, so that we see the train in its maximum speed. One fine day, oh sorry, one fine night we were also caught by a police constable. Memories, I tell you.

In class 8, the Gujarati teacher was so impressed with my essay in the exam that not only she gave me the maximum numbers, but she brought my answer sheet from the junk and handed it to me saying: “please read this essay for the class”

The essay was called “shaak-bhaaji na market ma ek kalak” (An hour at the Vegetable Market) I remember describing the vegetable market (Kadak Bazaar near Baroda station) as a melting pot for people, vegetables, voices, noises, cows, cowdung, cow horns, car horns. (in Gujarati - it read - “Jo aam chaale bai, ne vach ma chaale gai... toh kya jaai aapda bhai...?)

Quite an achievement that was from the guy who once cried for not knowing how to write the language. Sorry for this last self-appraisal post script. But I loved that few seconds of celebrityhood.

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Monday, June 8, 2009

Growing up with the Game and the 1992 World Cup

Back in 1992, when i was in class 5 - cricket was still considered a menace for kids. but worse, the school authorities didnt allow to play cricket in school. I mean not allowing cricket to kids who used to get up at 4 in the mornings to watch New Zealand beat Australia in the opening match of 1992 World Cup. Infact, let it be any damn match – since the World Cup was being played in Australia, setting the alarm for 4 in morning was a norm. To top it all - there were the new colourful uniforms, the wonderful white ball, those lazy flamingoes on the Australian grounds and the lush green outfields. My parents discouraged me from getting up at four in the morning. But when you are a kid, nothing comes between you and your interests.

Imagine a father's plight who had to get up at 4 to wake his kid to watch Zimbabwe play Pakistan and then a couple of hours later wake up again to start for the day that included traveling in those sweaty local trains from one corner of the city to the other extreme.

Back to the school - Radios were not allowed in the premises. And most of my classmates would just get up, get ready and come to school by 8 am without knowing what match or what score it is. And by the time they reached home, the match was over and Star Sports was showing a random Rugby match. As a result not many of them could follow the World Cup matches. So, when someone in the morning in our class would want to know the score, they would turn to me and all of my fathers and my efforts to get up at 4 would come to help –

Classmate: “South-Africa Vs. West-Indies ka kya hua?”

Me: “Meryck Pringle took 4/19. All four batsmen including the great Ritchie Richardson, Brian Lara were caught in slips.

Aah, the joy of it! Heads would turn. Faces that looked at me asking for more info on the match.

I know 1992 world cup like no one else does. I can bet. From Jadeja’s historic catch of Allan Border to the flying Johnty Rhodes to run out Inzamam. From Mark Greatbatch’s power stroke play to Ian Botham’s famous gesture.

Javed Miadad scored 40 of 110 balls against India at SCG. John Traicos of Zimbabwe was 44, the oldest cricketer to play for any country then. Ravi Shashtri was the slowest batsmen that we saw then. (25 off 75 balls). Facts, figures, trivia, scores, statistics – all were a part of a great brainwave – called Star Sports – yes the television had come home.

The one memory or that one match of 1992 World Cup that i can never forget is Sanjay Manjrekar scoring that brisk 47 off 42 deliveries against Australia. His knock took India till the doors of victory untill a cool Steve Waugh, a clueless Tom Moody and the substitute wicket keeper David Boon snatched it away on that last ball.

Last ball, 4 runs required and Javagal Srinath is on the crease. As usual, when Tom moody bowled, he took a wild swing. The ball went high, high and was almost on the edge of boundary when a running Steve "red-handkerchief" Waugh appeared - but hey !! he dropped the catch ( Gibbs, you can laugh on him. - even he did this at some point of time)

But hey, we need 4 runs - Indian batsmen or should i say bowlers were running hard. I remember Bill Lawry, the commentator shouting to Javagal Srinath and Raju - RUN, RUN, RUN. My uncle and my father who were watching the match, almost shouted when David Boon took off those bails, leaving India high and dry. I was more tensed than them, but on seeing their reactions and their utter disappointment - I felt we should have won that day. I thought, if only Ravi Shastri, the slowest batsmen in the world could have not wasted 75 balls to score his 25.

These days, when every match ends on a last ball I can hardly remember scores, players and events. It doesnt feel special to witness or be a part of the hysteria. I cant recollect the last entire match that I saw. Gone are the days when i took that scolding from my parents to get up for a random cricket match. But I still love the game.

Its been 3 years now, since i took the Bat in my hand. But legend has it that on the grounds of Agricultural Campus, Anand, there was a left-handed batsmen who almost reached to his century - the first ever to happen on that ground. But alas, short by three runs - 97* not out!

Much like that India-Australia match. But as wise men say there are somethings that are better left unconquered.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bol kya naam hai tera.....Johnny

I have always had a knack for title sequences. How does the credits roll in the start or in the end of a film is as important for me as how is the plot unravelled in a story.

I remember how Dev Benegal showed us the opening shot of Inside Man in our script to screen workshop - the Chaiyya Chaiyya that followed Clive Owen's exposition - it was pulse racing stuff. I loved my MCRC's classroom then. What sound, what atmosphere. I could have sat in there for years together. When the credits for Inside Man ended, the next line that came from Dev sir was - "the rest of the film hardly lives upto the kind of opening :)"

Here's a link to one of the finest musical openings of Indian cinema. None other than Vijay Anand's classic - Johnny Mera Naam. Do take out time and enjoy this credit sequence and imagine yourself in a theatre in 70s - Wow! what ripples it must have created.

Kalaynji-Anandji were at their best. Note the opening of Johnny Gaddar - the same trumpet - albeit a little contemporary in style. and note the smart Alec in in Vijay Anand - I.S Johar coming up three times. And here's an interesting note for hindi film music lovers - remember Babla Beats - the guy who used to play the bongo so effectively - here in these credits of Johnny Mera Naam, he is credited as an assistant. No wonder those beats, they are so trademark Babla.

Maybe i remember them coz Navratri in 1980s was not complete without the "Babla 90 minute Non-Stop music cassette"

Presently, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is the best music trio who know the style of Kalyanj-Anandji's music inside out. Guess what - not just Johnny Gaddar - they also redefined Kalyanji-Anandji's music in Don. I so loved the experience of sitting in that hall and discovering that "Don never died" - the music, the aura - if only i could write music!

P.S: My uncle was always of opinion that "Kalayanji-Anandji knew the business of film music like no one else. After giving some average music in three to four films, when their existence would come to question - the would come up with a master-piece. That master-piece would stamp their brand of music and they could survive for more three to four films...:)