Sunday, November 28, 2010

Patiala Tales

When you get First hand movies and Second hand books, you know you are in a Big City in India and when its the vice versa: Second Hand Movies and First hand Books, you know its a small town. Patiala is one such small town where almost everywhere you can find posters of movies that probably were a part of your childhood in the big city. Names like Tabu, K.C Bokadia, T. P Aggrawal, Sunny Deol still adorn the re-hashed movie posters and titles like Khuda Kasam, Maharaja, Trinetra are posted on the market walls, fly over pillars and street light poles. Of course there is the regular fare 'Break Ke Baad' and Guzaarish which do below average to bad business. After all who cares for stuff like 'Mercy killing' and 'Live-in, Break-up' type pseudo stuff. And oh yeah, there is a new Mall, yes..those bloody creatures have invaded this small beautiful town of Patiala with a dreadful caption: 'Patiala will never be the same again' - but I happened to meet one of my colleagues from dairy technology who lives in Patiala and had a different opinion of the Mall - he said: 'at least now there is something for us to look forward to on weekends' - well, so why am I cribbing?

A fascinating aspect of small towns of Punjab: In early winter mornings, sometimes one can see scores of young boys, girls running in their sportswear and spiked shoes - I got a feeling that our various Asian Games, Commonwealth Games medals actually come from here and of course not from those smoke-emitting cities. While having a conversation with actor, Kamal Tewari (he's the guy who played Kareena's father in Omkara. Remember the legendary dialogue he spoke: 'Jo ladki apne baap ko thag sakti hai, woh kisi aur ki kya sagi hogi?'), he gave me a list of few places to visit here: The Central Library ( a grand building but has more bricks than books), the Baradari Gardens, the Palace, the Museum and the best place he suggested: Dukh Niwaran Gurudwara: what a place! Its almost as big as the celebrated Golden Temple in Amritsar and they say the pond, or should I call it a Lake, inside the Gurudwara has some great healing powers. One can see pilgrims come here in huge numbers and the fish inside the lake in gurudwara come frighteningly close to your feet almost as if they have been kept there for some kind of pedicure!

By the way, If one wants to know what exactly was the small town before it joined in the race of becoming a part of 'modern India', then go beneath the newly made Flyovers. Its where you will see myriads of eateries, markets, shady bars and of course something that we have forgotten completely: 'Railway Crossings'. When a Big train comes, the world around the Railway crossing comes to a standstill. The Tughlakabad-made Diesel engine passes by with great arrogance in the form of a blaring horn. Such is the aura of the passing train that vendors, shopkeepers, customers, drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, passengers - all stare at the passing train and a smart sardar kid gets an opportunity to steal an apple from the fruit cart, while the vendor stares at the train that might take him to his village where he migrated from.

Music Video Madness:
What's Punjab without its Music videos. A few years ago, One day, Psycho, my best buddy was reading an interview by Punjabi singer Sukhbir published in the Times of India, where his statement was printed in bold: 'People do not take Punjabi music seriously' and I still remember Psycho remarked: 'Dude, Punjabis do not take their music seriously' - which pretty much sums up the way the Music Industry operates here. Of course by now we know every third person has launched a music album in Punjab, but now the music video madness is reaching to extreme levels. The Videos are shot in Dubai, London, San Francisco, Montreal with cheap-blonde girls and generally you will find the singers with their high-pitched voices standing against a swanky Merc, or a big Hummer or any such flashy SUV or if one wants to go even bigger then they show the lead hero having his own chopper or a Cessna-kind of an airplane - believe me - I see these videos daily while we travel to locations that are generally an hour from the city. And you will see a 40 year old dancing on words that go something like this: 'College ke bandeyaaan, mauj-mastiyaan kar diyaan..Saaanu koi kuch naa kahe..' Another intriguing aspect would be about alcohol. Almost 50 to 60% of songs are made on one topic: Daroo (alcohol). Its like my colleagues and me are waiting while the song plays and within two to three lines every singer will come up with his version of this poetic line: 'Daroo da nasha chad gaya..oye!' Poets like Pash must be turning in their graves, while seeing these music developments in the cities of Punjab.

Let me end this adventure of Patiala with a quote by Pash that I really admire:

न होना तड़प का सब सहन कर जाना
घर से निकलना काम पर और काम से लौटकर घर आना
सबसे खतरनाक होता है हमारे सपनों का मर जाना..

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Economics of the Generation Next and the idea of balancing the two worlds.

This Sunday a curious incident happened. It was a fine morning, just a little lonely, so I decided to pay a visit to my cousin bhaiya-bhabhi. They stay in Malad(Mumbai) and are proud parents of two wonderful boys - I love spending my time with them!

That morning when I entered their flat, looking forward to ganging up with the boys... I saw an unfamiliar face sitting in the drawing room with great familiarity. I was introduced to him, in the way I am always introduced to everyone, generally sounding something (detestful to my ears) like this- 'Yeh Film line mei kaam karta hai..'
Not that I blame my bhabhi-ji for those words. But I don't know, just the sound of it - 'film line'... almost makes me feel as if I do some illegal-gambling-sort of activity by the side of railway line.

Well, that's not the point, the blog is about that unfamiliar-someone sitting there. I was told that the gentleman had just moved in next doors, infact today itself, and had come to give a casual-introductory visit to his neighbours (i.e my bhaiya-bhabhi).

So as the conversation went by I came to know that he was what you call a specimen of the most refined breed of Generation Next! An Engineer from an IIT and a management graduate from an IIM. Wow! I can already see the fathers of eligible daughters going ga-ga over him and asking his hand for their beautiful 'fair and lovely' daughters. Now what term do you exactly give to such lethal combinations: IIT + IIM? Its like NSD + FTII = Iske baad filmon mei kaam nahi kiya toh kya jhak maaraa!!

Let me clarify this on the outset, I really don't have any personal grudges against people who have got the best of the worlds. I have known people who have worked much harder than many to be there. Sacrificed much more than many. SO they've worked their sweat/heart to it, and deserve this best of the worlds they aspired for. Its just that Harvard jaaoge ya Princeton jaaoge toh scientist ya millionaire toh banoge hee na. Isme kya badi baat hai?

But well, what provokes me is that extra-sweet smile on that unfamiliar-kind-of-faces - that bloody Chetan Bhagat kind of a wise-man, rimless spectacled look: 'we know everything, we drive the world, we are the ones who have sold our Ferraris. Remember Subodh in Dil Chahta Hai.

So as the morning cup of tea was passed to us, I casually asked about the deposit that he payed to the owner of the flat.
He said: '1.5 lacs'
I looked up from my tea cup.

My bhabhi-ji matter-of-factly said: 'Well, its everywhere nowadays. All of them ask above 1 lac!'
(For people who live outside Bombay, here's a fact: you pay a vulgar amount to the flat owner for an 11-month period, so that he can reap the benefits of good interest rates laid by Shri Chidambaram-ji in banks or wherever.)

Then came my next question to the IIT+IIM gentlemen: So, what about the rent for your 1BHK (one bedroom-hall-kitchen) and let me remind you this is Malad West, we are talking about. With the help of his finger he pushed his spectacles from the bridge of his nose to their exact place and replied: 21, 000/-
I almost spat the tea on his shirt! whaat!!

A moment of silence.

Soon I regained my consciousness and asked him: 'But you get 1BHK flats here for 15K to 16K, why so costly?

Now of course he works in a multinational with all the 'packages' that they promise: So taking the support on the 'package' shoulder, he fired:
'But all those flats were very dirty - those in the range of 15K to 16K. This one was very good. It had a wooden door and some wood work, so I thought this should be it for us!'
Well, I asked my Bhaiya a little while later, how the hell did you manage to buy a flat in Malad West?
He made me understand the process he went through. The estate prices then and some old family land they had owned etc. Infact he even recalled how his childhood was spent in Mumbai during the late 70s. When he used to get a rupee from his grandfather for the bus ticket to return from his school in evenings. And he would instead use that rupee to have pani-puri at the nearby stall and then to match the bus timings, he would run down to home. Of course the SV Road then wasn't as packed as now. Then he lived in Santacruz, now he has to shift further down to Malad.

Soon, our Lethal Weapon guy was back to his-business- he enquired about the availability of domestic help-the maid and what all work she does like washing the utensils, clothes, cleaning etc. My bhabhi-ji now plunged with all the information she must have collected over the several years of living in Malad. She started explaining: Right from where have the maids actually migrated from to what all kinds of holidays they ask for? While she was explaining him this 'Maid Mafia', she was constantly, repeatedly urging him to not pay more than 500/- bucks for any given work. i.e If she only washes utensils for the month - then 500/- and if she does cleaning and mopping in addition to washing utensils: then 1000/- I didn't pay much attention to that discussion and went back to the Sunday Times time-pass. But every time she would tell him something, then she would again add her punchline in the end: 'So...don't pay more than this, 500/- per work, because that is the price in every flat in every apartment block'

I was amused at this repetitive chanting from Bhabhi-ji and that Chetan Bhagat like smile, kept nodding. After, he left, I told her: 'Do you think he would care for a couple of hundred bucks, if he pays almost 5,000/- rupees extra per month for a flat?'
To which my Bhabhi-ji replied and I was taken aback, why didn't I think like this?
She said with an emphatic worry ringing inher voice: 'The problem is not him paying a couple of hundred extra to the maids, the problem is that when the same maids will come to our home and expect the same amount from us too, which we neither budget it nor we can afford, its then that him paying more will become a nuisance to us'

It struck me like lightening that how we, the Generation Next with our sudden economic freedom, yuppie lifestyles and boastful salary figures have almost sidelined some people who probably are as good as us in everything, but their only crime is that they are just a generation behind us. We unconsciously spend obnoxious amount of money for the very trivial things.
The idea of spending money with a conscience - does it exist?

The generation before us wasn't as privileged, they have struggled their way to reach to a particular level and now they find themselves still not 'upto the mark'. They enter a mall expecting that Nike shoes must be costing worth some: 1200/- bucks, but since their son really wants it, they would buy it for him. And to their surprise they will see the starting range from: 2100/- only! If they dare to mention that, the fact that these shoes are costly, the sales boy will behave as if they are asking for it for free,and instead he will attend to the guy sitting on the next chair with a Manchester United T-shirt.

Imagine this and I have seen it happening umpteen times: an old man after a day-long work is getting ready to jump inside an incoming local train and a couple of youngsters get in before him with ease and take his favourite window seat before he can get in. The window seat that he must be enjoying it since last so many years. Of course, I do not have any solutions to these incidents. There can't be any solutions, in a way, except that our generation might show a little more care and concern that could make the generation before feel better. As a writer, all I can do is think, feel bad, maybe blog and then again get back to earning my share of money.

But if anyone in my generation is reading this and feeling as guilty as I was on that Sunday morning: Whatever f**king figure salary you earn, don't indulge in the vulgar display of money. I know the IIT+IIM guy didn't mean to hurt anyone, but its just a subtle unconscious change in the society that the Generation Next is bringing about and more so in a city like Bombay that has several centuries and generations existing together.
Guess what? The IITs and IIMs might not teach you this gesture. Life will.

The idea of spending money with a conscience. And take that from someone who sees money being spent lavishly on bollywood sets with absolute zero idea of productivity.

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Monday, November 8, 2010

The 10 Best Motion Picture Soundtracks of this Decade (hindi)

Warning: The Baap of all posts in length.

We can safely assume that by November of the present year, almost all the soundtracks of the Hindi movies that are going to come, are out. Thus, the post -of considering the 10 best motion picture soundtracks of this decade. Taking 2001 as the start of the decade.

The soundtracks in Hindi movies also go hand-in-hand with the lyrics written for them and thus if you think your favorite soundtrack isn't featured in this amazing list, then words might just be one of the reasons. And by the way that doesn't mean that I will feature all ten albums of Gulzaar saab! The soundtracks listed here are in no particular order - thus 10 means, they could fit anywhere between 1 to 10. But would always remain in the top ten! Also the box office status of the film doesn't matter - its pure music that matters! While I feature my ten best soundtracks, I would also try to highlight that one best feature of that every soundtrack.

1. Delhi 6 (2009)
Music: AR Rahman

An album that could make Slumdog Millionaire feel a poor cousin of its. The best in the AR Rahman collection in the last decade. A bhajan, A muhalla song, A prayer, A qawwali, A Romantic Balled, A duet, A Hip-Hop number. You name it and Rahman sir composed it for Delhi 6. Extremely sad that the film didn't even do an iota of justice to the music that AR Rahman served it so passionately. Amit Trivedi, in one of his interviews said: 'If the Oscar guys would hear Delhi 6's soundtrack, they would come to Bombay and hand the trophy to AR Rahman!'

Highlight of the soundtrack: That amazing magic of Prasoon Joshi's words in the Qawwali: Arziyan:
Darare darare hain maathe pe maula,
Marammat muqadaar ki kar do maula,

Ab kya bataun yaar. Jisne hindi nahi jana, unko kya khaak samjah aayega!
Sample this: the effervescent Mohit Chauhan with words like:
Zara Phank Jhatak
Gai Dhool Atak
Aur Lachak Machak Ke Duur Bhatak

Ude - Dagar, Kasbe, Khuche, Nukkad, Basti..aha...What flight of words! and a little while later comes 'Badal ki Colony'

2. Gulaal (2009)
Music: Piyush Mishra
- the genius!

Every song. Every word, Every line of this motion picture soundtrack is history. Never has such revolutionary music come in hindi movies and I can bet it- that it would almost take a decade to come up with something like this Again. Even Piyush Mishra himself can't come up with stuff like this now! When Ransa is killed half way in the film and the point when the song 'Sheher' starts - its pure genius. I had never felt so strong sitting inside a theatre. I went back again to watch Gulaal only to re-live that moment. Once that song went by: I came out of theatre:

Also there has never been an ultimate tribute to an old song like Piyush Mishra's tribute to Guru Dutt's 'Duniya'.
Kya dard se gaate hain Piyush bhai! Aah! It hurts to even know how the poet had imagined this world and how it has turned out to be.

Who's got the talent to write stuff like this:
Jis kavi ki kalpana mein zindagi ho prem geet,
Uss kavi ko aaj tum nakaar do,
Bheegti nasso mein aaj, phoolti rago mein aaj,
Aaj aag ki lapat ka tum baghaar do,

Try and imagine this: Aag ki lapat ka baghaar...!! waah!

Shilpa Rao's haunting: 'Aisi Sazaa' to Rahul Ram's 'Raat ke Musafir' to the brilliant satire called 'Ranaji' by Rekha bharadwaj - every song pe ek Mohor hai! One of the highly under-rated soundtracks of this decade: I recommend you Gulaal. Again and Again.

Highlight of the soundtrack: Piyush bhai himself singing:

Ghalib ke Momin ke khawabo ki duniya,
Majazo ke un inqlaabo ki duniya!
Faiz firako Sahir u Makhdum,
Mir ki Zauq kitabo ki duniya,
Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai?

(I hope I am not wrong somewhere in typing the lyrics and the names)

3. Hazaaro Khwaishe Aisi (2003)
Music: Shantanu Moitra

Shubha Mudgal, Swanand Kirkire and Shantanu Moitra. The three responsible for the timelessness of this soundtrack. The title track by Shubha Mudgal is pure meditation.

I could also feature Shubha Mudgal most amazingly sung Raincoat number: Mathura Nagarpati. But then the magic of :
Bahut be-aabaru hokar tere kuuche se ham nikale! isn't there in Raincoat.

Swanand fetched a National Award for 'Behti Hawa sa tha..', but indeed If I was the jury then it should have been for 'Bawra Mann Dekhne Chala Ek Sapna'

Highlight of the soundtrack: Like it or not but Sudhir Mishra doing a Baz Luhrmann and Shbha Mudgal rendering in the background was great stuff.

4. Om Shanti Om (2007)
Music: Vishal-Shekhar

The tune of the decade. Use a piano, Use Violins, Use Flute, Use Orchestra, Use a dusky voice or Use a Chorus and it will still sound so beautiful. Once you hear the beginning of 'Main Agar Kahoon', its hard not to fall in love. And then those little little ideas of finely executed choreography. The tea from the Tea kettle in the Wine glass. The toy couple in the glass, the special effect of a running car and the Storm Fan making the hair blow, adding to the effect. Very well done!

Take in case, the choreography of 'Dhoom Tana' and the design of that song: the instruments, the genre it mixes, the amazing Jeetendra expressions, Sunil Dutt And Kaka inside: Absolutely well thought of. Farah Khan & SRK exactly know how to celebrate bollywood and indeed they executed it in style! The rest can keep giving tributes. Infact Vishal-Shekhar themselves gave a score so typical to bollywood - like making every song from the same base but always a new lay (speed in music), a new instrument and a new arrangement! . To make, sell and market a whole motion picture soundtrack based on only one 'dhun' and yet having a variety is not a small task. Vishal-shekhar pulled it off in style.

Highlight of the soundtrack: Needless to say: the tune as heard in the video above.

5. Omkara (2006)
Music: Vishal Bharadwaj

The maai-baap of all item numbers thread with words that could expand your Hindi dictionary multifold. A Sukhwinder Singh led title song that had Gulzar saab at his creative apex. A Rahat Fateh Ali Khan song that could give you goosebumps, a musical with chorus that defines tragedy at its best and a romantic duet that gives you a whole new perspective on the small town romance. With gems like these Omkara is a soundtrack that one could listen to forever. Of-course nothing beats the high of Jhin-Mini Jhini, Ustad Sultan Khan singing and Abbaji dancing, but songs in Maqbool weren't given the justice, the way they were given in Omkara. If someone has heard Chingaari, Dheemo Re and Rukhe Naina from Maqbool, they never came as effectively on screen. Similarly Laakad in Omkara was also given step-motherly treatment though.

Highlight of the soundtrack: This one line:
Na gilaaf, Na lehaaf thandi hawa ke khilaaf sasuri

6. Swades (2004)
Music: A R Rahman

Have you ever heard something like: 'Pal Pal hai bhaari?' One of the most unique compositions of the decade. Once my father remarked on hearing this song: Imagine its Javed Akhtar writing, AR Rahman omposing, Shah Rukh Khan performing and you have a song about Ram! What better example of secularism than this? Ashutosh Gowariker and A R Rahman almost outdid Lagaan with a fantastic soundtrack of Swades. My favourite and I agree with Mr. Gowariker is the beautiful lullaby: Aahista Aahista
If Udit Narayan has to ever make a resume then Swades should be on his top employer list. But as usual Rahman kept the best song for himself - the title track. And could we please have some more songs being sung by Hariharan. At least Rahman should use him more often.

Highlight of the soundtrack:
The accordion theme when the opening titles come and we see Mohan Bhargav inside the flight. alternatively this music is also known as: Kabhi nahi badalnewaali Tanmay's ringtone!
2. The Reunion theme: The flute when Kaveri Amma sees Mohan Bhargav for the first time.

7. DevD (2009)
Music: Amit Trivedi

18 numbers in an album!!! A feat completely unheard of. Overnight Amit Trivedi took the music industry by storm. Infact Anurag Kashyap got recognized as a mainstream filmmaker, which was due anytime though! An array of singers came on the board in this one album: Joi Barua, Trivedi (himself), Bonnie Chakroborty, Shilpa rao, Labh Jajua, Shruti Pathak, Tochi Raina and some more. If you figure the genres in the album, they range from Punjabi Bhangra to Fusion to Rock to Folk to Pop to Remix to Themes to what not! Amitabh Bhattacharya and Shellee had their words spot on. I remember when DevD's music was out - my iPod was never given any rest. Ganga and me played song after song day-night. Although Ganga also had Aamir in his play list.

Highlight of the soundtrack: Needless to say: The Brass Band but for me Nayan Tarse and the mood that the trumpet sets in was an ultimate high!

8. Taaren Zameen Par (2008)
Music: Shankar Ehsaan Loy

Its interesting to note that although Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy has been very consistent in delivering absolute winning soundtracks over the last decade, but there is just one entry on the top ten. Sample this: Dil Chahta hai, Kal Ho Na ho, Bunty aur Babli, My Name is Khan, Rock On! - all of them had great songs. But the idea of going back to them doesn't occur as much as it occurs with Taaren Zameen Par. Prasoon Joshi is giving tough competition to Gulzar saab in this list of mine. Sample these absolute gem poetry :

Muhaley Ki Raunak Galiyan Hain Jaise,
Khilney Ki Zid Par Kaliyan Hain Jaise

Muthi Mein Mausam Ki Jaise Hawayein
Yeh Hain Buzurgon Ke Dil Ki Duwayein

Kho Na Jaaye Ye Taare Zameen Par

Highlight of the soundtrack: That one song that immortalized Shankar Mahadevan and Prasoon Joshi in every kid's imagination: 'Maa'. I have seen the most strong-hearted people crying on this song. Such is the gift of art. Shankar Mahadevan truly has a gifted voice. I make sure whenever he performs in Mumbai or Delhi - I almost always try to be there.

9. The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002)
Music: A R Rahman

Revolutionary, Patriotic and lots of Sukhwinder Singh!. The Legend of Bhagat Singh has timeless soundtrack features. Namely: The harmonium in Pagdi Sambhaal Jatta, the powerful percussion in 'Shora so Pehchaniye', the march past trumpet of Desh mere Desh

Highlight of the Soundtrack: Hariahran and Sonu Nigam coming together for 'Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna' (the slower version)

10. Lagaan.
Music: A R Rahman

The soundtrack is the Highlight of the decade. So no highlights for this soundtrack.

Also the background score of the film was an out and out winner. Actually Lagaan is above all this yaar. The Academy never realized it in 2001 and then it took them a decade to understand the genius of this man. And that too for what - Slumdog!! Haak Thoooo...Aisa toh Rahman apni neend mei banaa deta hai.

For Rahmaniacs - the day I heard Ghanan ghanan, I caught Rahman copying himself! - the rhythm of this legendary song is exactly like the rhythm of one more Rahman number that was easily forgotten. Here's the song from Priyadarshan's Doli Saja ke Rakhna. Hear it from 0:40

And here's the fantastic Ghanan Ghanan: Hear it from 0:19

Of course I am not complaining. Yeh toh Rahman ka paagalpan hai yaaron! Even if they play Lagaan without visuals in a theatre, you know one will still be entertained as much, such is the sheer power of the sound and the soundtrack of Lagaan.

Now, if you think that I have missed any of your favourite soundtracks, let me know. Oh Ok, RDB??

P.S: If there was one song that I could include and not the album but that one song: then it would have been:
Maula mere le le meri Jaan from Salim-Suleiman's Chak De India. Sung by Krishna who me thinks has the highest range amidst contemporary singers. He can be a stiff competition to Rahat saab.

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta