3 movies in 3 weeks

That we love watching movies is now a lore, you'd think these reviews are arriving rather late in the day. So, one, I usually don't write when everyone else is watching the movie and busy tweeting and reviewing the movie if it's a must watch or a dampener. I prefer writing when everyone else has gone home with reams in their head about this and that and everything else.


The last SRK film I watched on the big screen was Billu (Billu Barber) for it had Irfan Khan (and he is god). All further releases after that, I've watched them on TataSky or discounted DVDs that dear husband buys off during seasonal sales. My sister insisted we watch Raees in the multiplex. Part of me was worried because, we have never visited the multiplex ever with kids unless a children's movie is in question. Even The Jungle Book in 3D failed to woo our two home-theater loving boys. They kept complaining it was too dark. Well, that's another story for another day. 

Luckily for us, the boys had a hearty lunch so when the Udi-Udi Jaye song started they soared to a good afternoon siesta. Long story short, an aging SRK trying to do what Once Upon a Time in Mumbai did to Ajay Devgun. Ajay Devgun was class personified with his bell bottoms, long sideburns, stiff broad shirt collars and that mustache which took him to another level. Here, the only lingering memory of SRK was his kohl-ed eyes and tanned but pancaked skin, all in sepia. The lesser known support characters were good despite the strong editing which was to make SRK stand out - Nawazuddin's character of Majmudar looked too hurried to dispense justice and hence, did not move me so much despite the dialogues and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub should come out of his checklist as a character actor and start taking more fleshed-out roles, he must know he is very good. Mahira Khan was all sound(given the pre-release controversy), anyone could have done her role and still stayed forgotten. So, there was no story. It was a badly made porridge riding on that one promotional line of the antihero- "baniye ki dimaag aur miya bhai ki daring". Too many topics scattered here and there- there was Gujarat, communal politics, bootlegging, mohalle ka savior, encounter killings and Sunny Leone trying to dance. SRK, oops you tried but you're tired.

Ratings- 1.5/5


I don't remember watching too many notable Roshan Jr movies except Zindagi Na Milega Dobara where he played a near perfect but arrogant investment banker who can sing, swim and dance and perhaps, Agneepath. I've read more reams of his divorce and his mud-slinging with Kangana Ranaut.

We all know by now that Kaabil is a rape revenge drama involving a visually-challenged couple and two corrupt and lawless Maharashtrian corporator brother-duo played by real life brothers, Ronit and Rohit Roy. The pace is fast - fairy tale romance of two visually challenged professionals, marriage, and a double rape which culminates in suicide of Yami's character even before the intermission. 

While it was encouraging to see a movie being made on visually-challenged people, the tepid way of dealing with relationships was disappointing and sexist to say the least. A self-reliant blind girl has to wear uncomfortable shoes to make her intended-to-be happy and familiar that she is around. Who cares about painful toes and wobbly walking and tripping on them? She has to let go of her walking stick in public because he is there for her only to get lost. She takes out her walking stick only to be interrupted by a love-is-in-the-air apology in the middle of a movie promotion in a mall. The worst is perhaps feeling sorry that she got raped twice and is no longer acceptable unconditionally because the man felt violated. So the suicide. The movie was a drag after that. Justifying it with the super revenge tactics is as lame as as believing that the world of the blind is a perfect world. But the disturbing part is, how do men deal with a raped spouse/relative? I do not have answers. Rohit Roy has not come out of his Swabhimaan avatar in terms of dialogue delivery and Ronit Roy is deliciously menacing as Bhausaheb.

Ratings - 1.5/5

Jolly LLB 2

Akshay Kumar has grown as an actor. Remember the hairy-chested Khiladi days where he gyrated nonsensically to Anu Malik songs? The turning point as a viewer happened with Ajnabee where he plays a villain to a dumb Bobby Deol and of course, the Hera-Pheri series. He started picking up smart scripts and kept pace with smart image makeovers. I've not missed too many of his movies after that. He looks relatable quite often and seems hardworking.

I really enjoyed Jolly LLB -1, Arshad Warsi was delightful as Jagdish Tyagi. I cannot think of anyone else as Jolly. And, I think I'm quite convinced about it. But then, it is Akshay Kumar this time and how could I not go!

The movie suddenly throws up a super progressive whisky-chugging Human Qureishi as Pushpa Pandey, wife of Jolly Pandey, originally from Kanpur now in Lucknow who rents a Gucci dress. I have no problem with her whisky act but it was such a miss and blink role from clapping for her husband in court which looked stupid to going through legal papers and evidence to find the fifth cop in the Ipbal Qasim/Qureishi (played achingly by Manav Kaul) encounter killing/murder and eating garma-garam rotis prepared by her husband. 

My in-laws thoroughly enjoyed the movie given its hinterland flavor though Papaji thinks Arshad Warsi is miles better than version 2.0. We also reasoned that Arshad Warsi played a proper Dilliwala and that has its own spice and flavor. Akshay Kumar tried as Jolly version 2.0 and he maybe earning accolades but the actual star of the movie is our adorable teddy bear judge sahib, Saurabh Shukla who loves Alia Bhatt in all forms. You have to watch the movie for him. His mannerisms, his quirks as a father, a heart patient and a judge transferred from Delhi to Lucknow are bang on. The bunch of veteran actors who make up for the ensemble cast are not disappointing at all as Akshay's flaws get hidden by their craft. Kumud Mishra as a villain, yes. You also learn lyrical Lucknowi Hindi through Annu Kapoor who never fails to surprise you.

Ratings - 3/5

3 Pashas

I don't drive to work. I have a car and I have 3 valid excuses for not driving. No, don't get me started. And, I hate the claustrophobic buses. I also hate most of the commercial sedans and the few smelly hatchbacks that offer attractive deals. I hate ACs in vehicles. I totally love the unsafe autos. Ok, don't get me started on why UNSAFE, then WHY unsafe.

Ola-ed an auto on Rakshabandhan to meet a friend over coffee. That Saturday all our North Indian brethren on Sarjapur Road decided to lunch out and have some fun midtown. Well,imagine the traffic bottleneck on this stretch. Idreez Pasha, the Ola man of the hour asked me if there was an another route other than Sarjapur Road. Conversation was bound to happen. He was very brief and direct. He is from Kolar, earns honestly and goes home to his wife and kids every alternate week. No lodgings in Bangalore - his auto is his home. I thought I'd hire him to ferry me to work everyday. He also offered to show me Kolar whenever we intended to do a trip there. I didn't have the heart to keep him away from his wife and kids every alternate week that he went home.I decided against hiring him.

The same afternoon post coffee and some shopping, I was looking for an auto. This time it was Chand Pasha. He is a fancy creature with a big joint family. He wanted to earn an extra 20 bucks. I reprimanded him not to beg and haggle like this. I told him that customers would give you 'dua' and more than 20 bucks if your 'neeyat' is clean. He kept insisting he is a good guy and I kept telling him he must be!I told him I'd rather lose some 50 bucks but never see a dishonest person's face ever. Incidentally, I found him at the auto-stand the next day and he dropped me to work and he owed me 20 bucks which he assured me can be sorted in my return trip if he was around and that he was going to ferry me to work everyday. I gave him a courtesy call in the evening to check if he was around, he was not. The next day, his phone was switched off. His 'neeyat' was to earn 20 bucks more!

Honesty does not have a religion. Truly. The other day, my colleague and I flagged an auto home. He dropped off my colleague mid-way and we were homeward bound. The display credentials intrigued me. He was also a Pasha and he had an honest meter. I didn't strike any conversation with him, I was just a passing listener to his one random phone conversation. He spoke his Hindi with a highland accent.I was convinced he is from Kashmir. So out of curiosity, as I was paying the meter fare, I asked him where he was from. He said he was not from Bangalore. Further probing, and he said, he came to Bangalore 25 years ago from Kashmir.

Some auto experiences in Bangalore.

Nose-picking day

I usually don't rush to the office lift like I did today. Since both my boys were down with the seasonal flu at home I wanted to beat the evening traffic. Hit the G button and as the lift clicked to open, it was an uh-oh moment for me and the gentleman waiting for the lift on the ground floor. He was dressed prim and proper, I could even rattle off the brands and buttons he was wearing. But I'm convinced he'd do everything to avoid me like the plague now. I just caught him in the gross act of picking his nose gloriously and I couldn't help but hide my reaction. But it left me wondering, is it so shame worthy? But imagine shaking hands with him. Hygiene,my friend.

Now, now don't come blazing all your guns at me. Yes, we all pick our noses at some point, that is - out of necessity, for fun, joblessness and you can add your reasons. Look at our social conditioning. My boys do it more out of exasperation when they have snot and nasal debris stuck up there and I help them clear in the most non-disgusting way I can think of. And, off they run to the bathroom to wash their hands and face. And subconsciously, I am telling them it's best reserved for the bathroom and that too, under adult supervision.

Yes, a good part of my childhood was spent with folks and elders telling me not to fart in public, not to pick your nose in public,not to scratch your head in public and a lot of not-to-dos in public. They are habits best avoided and in case it's an unavoidable emergency, I was asked to look for a toilet or bathroom. I also remember getting flak for calling out some old folks in the family who farted quite loudly without rhyme or reason especially during social gatherings. Well, they are old I was told and they could do anything they like. Like really. 

Coming back to picking noses.Our music teacher at school famously did so during assembly and prayer in full glory. I don't think she cared much for the suppressed giggles and the dirty stares. The result was we didn't want to learn the piano under her.Lost one hobby.

And, my day just can't end without drama. The auto guy was also picking his nose during the journey. He was also scraping it off at traffic signal jams. I had my tolerance levels really stretched yesterday.

You think what is in your nose should stay in your nose?

3 fathers and a king

There are fathers
With bittersweet love for their fathers
Who beget painful memories for their children

And there are fathers who loved their fathers
Who their children look up to with pride.
They write happy pages to read in old age.

A Pakistani who thinks he is a father first.
His young lad goes to school while his wife keeps vigil.
In a distant land he drives from morn till his bones creak.
He asked me one question - why so much hate between our countries?
I told him the mistakes of our forefathers.

And the radio blared - Long live the King!
While dear Indie told me about the late Sheikh,
How good a father he was, how good a statesman he was.
The roads are named after him - isn't that proof?

The Double Promotion

Y is my childhood school buddy and we've been harmlessly mean (you know, in an innocent way) to each other. She hated me for topping the class and I hated her for the awesome Tibetan noodles and momos she got as lunch. But we pretty much stuck together. So in her FB post today, she asked her friends to recount how and where we met her and our mutual comments drizzled to how I got the double promotion at school. And, I told her it’s some story and I should tell her sometime.

So, this is for all of you, who know and don’t know that I got double promoted in school, not once but twice. Yes, I spent just 11 years in school.

There was no pre-school when I was growing up and the mandatory has-to-be-3 yrs old rule for Nursery A and that I was a July-born made things difficult for my parents. I don’t remember learning rhymes or ABC. I had figured numbers till 100.All the colors, most animals, birds and the blah. I must be 3 when I used to struggle through multiplication table 9 and, how I hated my parents for it. I recited my first poem before I began school – a Bengali poem composed by my father, I don’t even recollect a word.

My nursery interview was a disaster, my parents think. Because I could not sing any conventional nursery rhyme but I belted my own chartbuster – of some dandy this, dandy that. But my headmistress was quite delighted with my performance and promoted me to Nursery B. Of course, my parents were relieved and eventually proud, and one more blame game subdued. So that makes Y my immediate junior. The stakes just got higher and I was learning the table of 13 and 14 with lot of stress, sheer rote. And no, my mother didn’t feed me almonds or memory enhancing tablets. I was pretty much the topper all through kindergarten and class 1 and also, the class monitor. Always.

Then things got out of order. We had to leave town because my dad’s mother, technically my paternal grandma was unwell - a cranky old lady who was not particularly fond of kids. So, I didn’t go to school for a year. Father’s meager salary couldn’t meet all expenses and selling ancestral property for short term plugging was not his kind of problem solving. He promised to get me to school the next year. I was cool about it. That year, I played under the tropical sun, woke up whenever I felt like, slept whenever I felt sleepy, walked 2 kms to watch BR Chopra’s Mahabharat every Sunday, climbed trees, plucked fruits, chased cows, got bitten by leeches and stung by ants, fell into ponds almost drowned, got scared by snakes and ghosts and what not! But, that year remains by far the most educative of my entire life. I saw how tough it was for Mother to go through the grind at so many levels, our younger brother was just born and my sister was just 2 years old. Father learnt it the hard way that one’s own brothers and relatives can be pretty indifferent when the going gets tough. Lessons in resilience and self-reliance.

Fast forward to the next year, we came back to Shillong to start from where we left. Lost all our belongings and household stuff to the idiocy of our landlord’s son - recovered most of the documents but lost plenty of memories.  Rehab started and I was back in school. My old classmates were a year senior and I was where I needed to be, Y became my classmate. My parents never prepared me – they thought I was brave enough to handle it. But, my old classmates were taunting, the boys especially. They’re sure I’d flunked a year. And, here I was trying to tell them my grandma was ill. But who listens to a 6-year old? The shame gave way to resilience. I gathered steam and did enough to tell others that I am better than them. I was the class topper and the class monitor in a more democratic setting of course.

My winter vacations were rigorous. My father made sure I had procured Math and Grammar textbooks from my immediate seniors and I had to slog it out a couple of hours. No, we didn’t visit relatives because their kids had winter exams, CBSE syllabi. So every spring when school re-opened I was sort of ahead of the others in class. But there were equally bright and intelligent folks in class like Y who learnt stuff there, in the moment when the teachers showed them.

At the end of my sixth standard winter vacation, besides my winter ritual of Math and Grammar practice I spent some part of it learning how to make candles with my Headmistress’s daughter. She was a couple years older than I and I learnt a good deal of art and hobby stuff from her. She also helped me with my projects. As the holidays were drawing to a close and school books were readied for the next session and like always, I had mastered almost more than half of my Math and Grammar for the seventh standard. I was very bored one evening at home looking at my books when someone joked that I should consider asking for a double promotion. And that’s it. The next day, I actually had the gall to present my case to the headmistress while she was running up to office to receive late admissions. And, I don’t remember what all I spoke to her but she smiled at me and asked me for a valid reason. I told her I am generally good in a lot of things and there is evidence – I’ve been consistently winning the General Proficiency prize every year. More importantly, I had cracked more than half of the 7th standard Math and Grammar. I am definitely sure my headmistress must have thought I was crazy. I came home and told about my incredible case to my parents. They didn’t laugh at me but they didn’t condemn me either. I was relieved and by evening I had forgotten about it.

School reopened and we were officially in the 7th standard, there was something about being in this class. Coming of age sorts. Our class teacher was a fabulous light-eyed lady who would teach us English Literature and Grammar. She got us organized for the year, divided us into activity groups and who would do what.  We loved the sense of community in the class. Each one contributed not beyond 50 paise to a rupee for the class fund and we’d get the charts in place and tidy up with nice dainty curtains. So the monitors were the cashiers and our class teacher assured us that she’d cover should we run into any shortage. Of course, she meant every word of it. The first day of school is usually a half-day, staff meeting and annual plan of action and all that.

It was just the second day when I was counting the coins to procure chart papers and we’re quite sufficient I thought for the time being. You’ll always find me on the front row when the class teacher beckoned me. My instinctive reaction was – no Miss, we don’t need the money. We’re doing good. We’d ask you when we need. She gave me a puzzled look. She gently brushed my protests and asked me to come to her table. I went up. She told me in her very calm voice to pack my bags and go to the 8th standard classroom. I was like what??!! Oh wait! Yes, we had a staff meeting yesterday and the teachers agreed that Kiran should be given a chance to prove herself in the 8th standard. And I also respect those teachers who would have protested and rightly so. I don’t think I even said a proper bye to my buddies. I just walked away in dazed amazement.

That walk to 8th standard classroom was the toughest, the loneliest and the longest. Young 14-year olds embracing adolescence and teenage angst and what’s that got to do with someone who just got a double promotion. I knocked the door. My new class teacher received me matter-of-fact. Of course, she did her best to keep it as low profile as ever. And, I am thankful to her for that. My really former classmates were puzzled – those enquiring looks and some pretty dismissive and indifferent but no harm or malice at any point in time. I took the corner most seat on the front row abandoned by all and looked around. How I wanted to run back to my last class of familiar faces and friends. And, the wait for school to finish so that I could run home and tell parents that I just got double promoted. One girl reached out, she still remains my fondest friend though we are not so much in touch these days. More folks joined us in the coming days. No more segregated classrooms – boys and girls in one class, one big equal.

I continued to remain a pariah and outsider for reasons best known to the girls at least. Oh yes, one reason was I was not dating anyone in the short lived class affairs. I was such an unattractive nerd and I couldn’t bring myself to create those mushy feelings for my fellow boys, I looked at them as equals in the field. I even went to the extent of proclaiming my innocence by tying the sacred Rakhi thread on those poor hapless boys who also readily agreed. I did what I was good at – studies and I soon earned the sobriquet – teacher’s pet. It was fashionable to be a rebel and I was anything but a rebel. So the class hated me with all its might. I was competing with 4 boys for the top slot in the class. I had average marks in a couple subjects and I quite remember those subject teachers giving me those all knowing but shrugging I-told-you-so looks almost making me regret my double promotion. I was unsure if I’d ever crack Acids, Bases and Salts like a pro and balance chemical equations like that. I worked harder and longer. My old mates had no choice but to give me that space. To be accepted in a new environment, one tries every trick in the book – right from writing assignments for others and undergoing friendly roast-ish banter and bullying. I also gave it back to one of the bullies in class, male or female you should not ask. The next year, I was elected Vice Head Girl and eventually, I went on to become the Head Girl of our school. My moment of reckoning had come but at some amount of personal cost – boycotted for being different.

My parents taught me to deal with shit by not taking shit, no mollycoddling. And, it’s ok to be hated by some. Whoa, the perils of a double promotion. No, it does not have to do with being bright and brilliant with the books alone. There’s so much going on underwater. I wish I had more mindful teachers who saw me battle out all alone and who should have given me a gentle nudge or a kind word once in a while. My Math tutor refused to admit me to the prestigious all boys club because they’re brighter and faster and whatever. I refused to budge and told him that I was saving up all my fuel for the Boards and he shall live the day to see that. I just did enough to get distinction marks in most papers, I left a couple of questions unanswered because I was so damn sure of what I wrote and I was not wrong, I topped the school. Everyone happy, my parents and especially my school – my Headmistress and my teachers, their investment and trust in me had paid off. But I also learnt that I was not always right. The difference of marks between the State topper and me were 17 marks and I had donated 30 marks worth questions just like that. Lesson learnt, compete with yourself not with others.  

Love Thy Neighbour

When i was growing up, there came a point in time when i wished there was no neighbour around me - they were so pesky and annoying. Their current affairs was so up-to-date - what rank you got, what food you ate, how thick and healthy was your hair on the head,how many new dresses and pairs of shoes you had, which guy you were seen with and yada-yada. They also resorted to amusing tactics of isolating you out if you didn't accept their seniority and supremacy- they will steal your plants, break your planters or steal clips from the clothes-line and the occasional but cowardly pelting of stones and breaking of windows..Mind you, this has nothing to do with what culture they belong to or their economic standards.Whatever the case, neighbours were the least important in my scheme of things.I preferred friends and family.

And when you settle away from home in a new city, your roomies and colleagues at work who become friends become your lifeline. You have similar fears and strengths before going your own ways. The occasional filtering also happens when you realise a certain roomie and his/her priorities don't gel with yours and you have a choice of letting go, nastily or gracefully. There will be moments when you will feel betrayed,cheated and disgusted - the sense of closure is nowhere. There are no neighbours to run to - you run out of something, or you're in the middle of a mess - you turn to your roomie/friend/colleague to bail you out! They are your actual neighbours within a house or system, if you may. There is clearly no marked space.

When i moved to the US after our wedding, we were in a nice gated community, half of whose occupants i never saw or met.In such a lovely neighbourhood, making friends is tough.I made friends at the bank, the library and the bakery-cum-bistro down Castro Street. Most true-blue Americans that i've come across will work Mon-Fri - work defines their identity. Small talk happens over a drink on a Friday evening and mostly before 9pm. Weekends are fiercely guarded to catch up on sleep, bicycling, trekking in one of the national parks or as mundane as picking up groceries or mall-hopping. Even pot-luck lunches are so timed!Yes, you do say the clipped 'Hi there!' when you're at the pool or taking a walk down the park. But there are no conversations beyond that. I stopped feeling strange - in the US, time is a huge premium.Oh yes, you do have plenty of friends but they live miles away.

Back in India, we lived in a bungalow where you had no choice of a neighbour but your landlord. However well-meaning and sincere our efforts, the visits were formal and the exchange of pleasantries, few and far between. No fret. We had neighbours but the insulated kinds.So, friends were the saviours again.

Here in the new city, we have neighbours within inches and meters. The first day, when we moved in and were monitoring the movers and packers with the unpacking, our next-door neighbour was walking to the lift for her dental appointment. They knocked our door in the evening - offered us potable water for the kid's milk and also, asked us to look them up for any help. That was really sweet! I tried to hide my cynicism - i am usually the cynical types.The next day, i knocked for old newspapers to line the shelves.

Within days, her 4-year old daughter and our son have become best buddies - he eats half his meals there and we have stopped keeping track of whose toys and slippers are lying in which house.It's a new feeling - i actually have a neighbour! I told my husband - hey, we actually have a neighbour who talks and keeps tab about your well-being. They helped us with practically everything - milk, newspaper, bottled water, maids, cooks, car-cleaning, internet, phone - you name it. Both the husband and the wife are thorough responsible professionals at a very reputed MNC. Their daughter is sent to daycare after school. So the kids get to play only after 6 or 7 in the evening for an hour but it's the most awaited ritual in the whole day. And, we, mothers, laugh our stresses away over a cup of tea.

We've shared meals and every festival until now is incomplete if we have not sent a home-made sweetdish across.I have gone out shopping and felt a soul-connect while bargaining deals or choosing an outfit.She's become a good friend, more than a neighbour - we do complain to each other about our respective husband's pet peeves over food or socks and stand by each other in sickness too. 

They didn't get a chance to bond with the previous tenant for whatever reasons - apparently, both the husband and the wife were working professionals. But i would not take that as the reason, working people are not that bad and stay-at-home moms are not that boring.

But yeah, a good neighbour is a blessing. When i will be away, they volunteered to look after my plants. They are already sad they won't see Arjun for such a long time. We had a lovely dinner last evening - a happy send-off for me!


Of maids and cooks - Part 2

Within a week of Kavitha assuming duties in my house, i asked her to keep an eye for a decent cook. She got Savitha - a shrewd Kannada girl from Mysore, who minced no words about how much premium she commanded in terms of time and money. She refused to come at my preferred timing and the yada-yada. I had little to no options - our little community of families had grown up kids and working mothers - so all the other cooks are engaged. Kavitha also gently cautioned me that Savitha has a history of not lasting beyond a month. I kept a brave face and told myself, if Savitha does not get along with me, she possibly won't find a better employer. Savitha is technically a great cook but will not do anything on her own - she will cook as instructed, she is also lightning fast No, you can't engage in any small talk with her - she finds that micro-management and she gets nervous.But within a week, she started nosing around Kavitha if yours truly will gift her anything for Onam. Heck, what? I just gave her new bangles and sweets for Ganesh Chaturthi.And within a week, she bunked work without informing me. A week later, she wanted leave for 3 days - i didn't ask her why but i green-signalled. She didn't show up for an entire week - no calls, no SMS. I made up my mind to let her go. I put pressure on Kavitha to ask her dear friend to get in touch with me.

I don't know how these conversations happen but Savitha showed up that very evening, dressed in jeans and a smart kurta. She said, she was ready to cook. Something in her tone put me off so badly that i asked her if she was really interested in carrying on in my house. She bluntly blurted out, it was my choice and she is ok with any decision i take. I told her i don't want to eat food cooked in such a grudging manner and that she may come settle her dues immediately the next day. She, of course, went and fought with Kavitha, who in turn was very scared that i might fire her as well  for getting an inefficient person. I told her to relax and to redeem herself, i asked her to get another cook and that's how Bhagyalakshmi happened.

Bhagyalakshmi is a Mudalair Tamil, about 35 years old with 3 grown-up sons. Yes, she also married very young. She has a penchant for 'designer' blouses, speaks broken Hindi and is a very loving person.She's very invested about what she wants to feed you with, loves a little extra salt in all her preparations. So, everyday, she has a nervous time passing the 'salt' test with me. She is very forgetful to a fault and can't fry potatoes to save her life.But, Arjun likes her and they have a fun-session everyday counting granules of pomegranates and she sings to him.But she feeds our entire family and feels rewarded. '

And life goes on.