Diary of Hobbitt

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bollywood Movies- Ever so predictable

Like all fellow Indians (well , the majority of them anyway! ) I am also a fan of Bollywood movies. If one has been a regular watcher of Hindi movies (my reference here is to commercial or mainstram cinema ) over the years, one would be familiar by now, with certain situations and certain traits in characters, which are constantly repeated in most of these movies.

The Chase- Talking of movies of 60s and 70s , one very common scene would be the car chase and the arrival of police at the end of the movie when the hero would have (what the police should have done ! ) chased and caught the culprits ! The car chase would invariably have all the important characters bundled into several vehicles (cars, trucks,motorcycles, jeeps, & sometimes even a tonga ! )and following the hero’s car who in turn would be chasing the villians ! The background music would be one of 100s of violins screeching ! ( not playing !) to give the desired climax effect ! The cops would arrive on the scene just in time to wrap up the movie , with the inspector ordering “ inke haath me hathkadi pehna do “- needless to say ,the actor in the role of the officer would have only this dialogue ,which, he would deliver to the best of his ability (in the hope that some director would notice him and offer him the hero’s role in his next movie !).

The Heroine’s costume Yet another oft repeated scene would be the transformation of the very westernized heroine ( if a wealthy one ) into a complete desi nari for a sad scene ( due to circumstances playing the villian and ruining her chances of getting married to the hero !). Draped in a plain chiffon saree she would break into a heart wrenching solo, bringing tears to the eyes of all the female population watching the movie ( most women would mentally make a note at the same time to add a similar saree to their own collection ! ). Being in one such situation myself (during my teens ),there I was crying (and enjoying every moment of it !) watching the scene when I was rudely jolted back to reality by a violent poke in my ribs -the poker being my brother ! ” Stop crying like an idiot -remember this is only a movie and she is being paid to do that and anyway those tears are glycerine induced and not real ” he hissed ! At that instant I decided all big brothers were bullies !

Cho Chweet Kids - The role of children in these movies was clearly defined too. They would be angelic looking and” “cho chweet ” and Precocious !. Death of someone would be explained to them as ‘ woh bhagwan ke paas gaye hain ” so as not expose them to harsh reality of life because of their age. However when a scene demanded it the director would have them making wisecracks way beyond their age ! Exceptions to these stereotypes were movies like Masoom, Parichay, Amar Prem and several others which portrayed children as children and provided a refreshing change .

Ramu Kaka - Bollywood could never do without this character ! Most movies would have this faithful and devoted servant whose family would have served the wealthy hero’s family for generations ! Think all studios must have had a costume for this character in their collection permanently . Ramu Kaka would always be dressed in a dhoti and a Ganji (banian-like top ) with a red checked towel strewn over his shoulder ( always removed hastily in deference, in the presence of the master of the house) . One very ghisa pita dialogue of Ramu Kaka used to be “ beta (ie. hero) maine tumhe apne gandhon me sulaya aur paal pos kar bada kiya “

Bollywood movies have evolved even though some of the above mentioned factors do appear in some movies. Todays car chase has all the latest high speed cars chasing one another. Todays heroine rarely ever wears a saree and neither does she break into soulful singing - the songs in such situations are passionate rather than just musical and soulful. Ramu kaka no longer exists- in his place there is the faithful attendant who is dressed smartly in uniform (Asrani- Parichay , Amitabh Bachan-Namak Halal, )The kids shown in movies toda y are smart, trendy and as mischievous as any kid. (Kuch kuch Hota Hai, Taare Zameen Par, Kabhi khush Kabhi Gum, Cheeni kum ).

However we Indians (and I am no exception to that !) as a rule are quite an emotional and romantic lot & as much as we sit on our high horse and mock at Bollywood movies , we still enjoy watching them- see for yourself the crowd outside any movie theatre on any day, you’ll agree that I am right !

PS- A couple of Americans on official visit to my husband’s company expressed they desire to see a typical bollywood movie before they left !

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bollywood evolution - Plaits to buffonts to Silky Tresses

Bollywood Evolution-Plaits to Buffont to Silky Tresses

The advantage of having a set top box is the choice available to the viewer of not only multiple movie channels, but also , thanks to Zee network, various categories of movie channels e.g. Zee Premier , Zee cinema ,Zee Classics. Indeed the viewer is really and truly spoilt for choice !

Watching Zee Network’s different movie channels last week I was fascinated with the evolution of the heroine’s crowning glory over the years in Bollywood movies ( a trait which I share with members of my sex , and one that is totally alien to men !).

Indeed we have come a long way since the time when one important physical asset of the Indian woman was her long and lustrous thick black hair- the heroine(of movies of 40s & 50s ) would be portrayed as the true Bharatiya Nari , sporting a long and thick plait (which would have put fairy tale character Rapunzel of long locks fame to shame ! ). Interestingly , a woman sporting a short crop of hair or khulley bal would usually be either the vamp or a ‘club dancer ‘ or a wayward woman ! In the movie Chandan ka Palna , Meena Kumari pretends to transform from a meek and dutiful housewife (the full package- long plaited hair, saree, sindoor and bangles !) to (according to the film maker ) a brazen woman smoking, drinking and sporting a short crop of hair ( symbolic shot meant to convey throwing away all moral values like cutting off long tresses ! ). Today’s feminists would be up in arms if such a scene were to be shown in any movie !

Then came the swinging 60s & 70s heroine with her swinging hips ,swinging dangling earrings and the “buffont ‘ hairstyle (think it must have been the French who invented this hairstyle - hair piled up on top and made to resemble a birds nest (probably stuffed with some sort of hair bun to give that effect !) and knotted into a juda at the nape of the neck ! Of course the style would be modified according to the type of character - a village belle would have a short plait cascading behind & ending with a parandi ,(e.g. Asha Parekh in Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Vyjaythimala in Madhumathi ), an urban simple girl would have the same buffont in the front with a long plait ( e.g. Sharmila Tagore in Safar & Aradhana ) & a modern lass would sport the sophisticated ‘buffont’ which would end in a French bun at the nape of her neck.( e.g Rakhee in Sharmelee, Waheeda Rehmaan in Jewel Thief , Hema Malini in Dost ).

Another fashion of the late 60s was the “Sadhana Cut” made famous by yesteryear’s beautiful actress Sadhana. The Sadhana Haircut was either a plait or a short haircut with a fringe above the forhead. It was alsi referred to as ‘bangs ” -probably so called because the fringe literally bangs the forhead ! Needless to say, Sadhana sported this style in most of her movies.

The ” Buffont” with its various modifications finally died a mutilated death ( thanks to experiment at the hands of Bollywood’s hair stylists ) with ushering in of the enterprising 80s movies ( its another well acknowledged fact that the ‘enterprising 80’s ‘hair stylists churned out some of the most horrendous hair styles in the name of fashion !). The heroines no longer sported very long hair , neither did they sport a ‘buffont’ anymore. Instead the Bollywood heroine of this period started sporting short cropped hair or long tresses.

The 90s and the following years finally brought in style and statement to Bollywood’s hair style. Bollywood actresses of this period have their own qualified hairdressers who are well versed in the art of hairstyling as well as in the art of hair style. The bollywood heroine of today is a far cry from her counterpart of the bygone era movies. The image of the Bharatiya Nari as portrayed in the movies of bygone era has also undergone a change as todays modern woman as portrayed in Bollywood movies is a woman of substance who balances a career and home, a woman who drives fast cars,who does’nt make a big deal out of enjoying a drink or too , a woman who enjoys spending an evening with her friends in a disco, pub or restaurant and yes - A woman who sports a short haircut too !

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Vintage Movies- Norms of The Day

My excitement knew no bounds when ,at the annual general body meeting of our society it was decided to install set top boxes in all the flats .Visions of viewing multiple channels in multiple languages floated in my mind .With my better half viewing all those gory action movies for a couple of hours after he returned from office (mostly late ! ) and my daughter virtually ignoring the idiot box during the week except on weekends , to watch some DVD , the idiot box was virtually mine almost for the entire day during the week!

Zee Classic being a favourite channel, watching movies of sixties & seventies was like reliving life as a carefree teenager. Indeed movies those days portrayed even emotions in a very subtle manner. The Indian audience were for years subjected to generous doses of discreet symbolism, and sometimes blatant uniform code portrayal. just by looking at the characters one could make out who was who and just by the setting one could decipher the situation on hand.

Two flowers shown brushing each other would imply the hero and heroine indulging in physical romance ! A character wearing horizontal striped T-shirt, or sporting a big mole or a scar on the cheek or a guy having a bald pate(,eg.Shetty ) would either be the villian or his sidekick ! A wealthy , young and pretty lady wearing "decent western outfits"(probably a pair of bellbottoms or some other attire) and screeching "eeeediot.."at the drop a hat or a pretty but poor young woman draped in a saree playing the dutiful daughter would definitely be the heroine eg.Asha Parekh, Saira Banu, Sharmila Tagore !. As for the vamp ,she could be identified easily by her loud figure hugging dress and heavy makeup ,indulging in flirtations with the hero(who would be scowling !) or the villian (whichever the case may be ! )eg. Bindu, Jayshree T, Helen. The guy always hanging around the hero would invariably be the hero 's sidekick , also alternating as the comedian eg. Mehmood, Mohan Choti, Mukri! The hero(if poor) would definitely be the simple boy- next- door,.wearing either kurta-pyjama or simple trousers and shirt eg. Dharmendra,(Naya Daur)Manoj Kumar(Roti Kapda aur Makaan), Shashi Kapoor (Pyaar kiye Ja ).On the other hand if he happened to be a bade baap ka beta, he would be dressed in trousers and shirt of the same colour -( eg. Rajesh Khanna in Haathi mere Saathi, Amitabh Bachan in Namak Haram, Randhir Kapoor in Kal Aaj aur Kal, )or some other flashy clothes ,driving a big car.

Some more of the standard norms- the heroine would always switch to wearing a saree in a serious or sad situation- the girl who had been shouting "eediot '" or "dadddy ' all the while would transform into a saree draped young lady & break into a sad song in chaste and flowery Hindi which would have made Ghalib's sher aur shaiyari sound like nursery rhymes !

The mother of the hero (who would spout dialogues such as " Ham gareeb hain to kya, dil se to ham amir hain " ) would always make besan ke ladoos which the hero would relish (even if it is hard !) saying ma ke haath se bane ladoo kuch alag hai kyon ki isme ma ka pyaar hai !.In this context apna Garam Dharam must be credited for being the hero who must have delivered these immortal dialogues maximum number of times.! The hero's mother (very often) would slap the hero for some rudeness or some other reason saying "Naalayak, kya mujhe is din dekhne ke liye tumhe paal pos kar bada kiya ? ". Nirupa Roy should have been given a special award for having excelled in the role of a slapping mother to maximum number of heroes !

The sixties and seventies' movies also had a dress code for the heroine's rich father - he would be dressed in a silk dressing gown , have grey hair and would always be seen either smoking or holding a cigar or a pipe- eg. Nasir Hussain , Ashok Kumar , Madan Puri.

Even meals had a code - in a wealthy house the hero or the heroine (as the case may be ) would always be shown spreading butter on toast , while the indulgent mother would be shown cutting an apple , inspite of the table having a bowl full of grapes, bananas ,pomegranates and other fruits ! On the other hand the meal in house of a poor hero or a poor heroine (again , as the case may be ) would be roti and pyaz !

Unlike today where even fight scenes are shot in outdoor locations , those days most of these scenes would either be set in godowns (where all sorts of things such as drums, tyres, giant glass beakers would be within easy reach to be used by the guys involved in the free for all fights !) or in the market (where vegetable carts ,sticks and plasticware would be readily availabe !). Of course there were exceptions to this rule where the fight would take place at the edge of a cliff at the end of which the villian would fall to his death , thus paving way for the hero and heroine to be united and live happily ever after !

All said and done, in spite of all the above mentioned factors , movies of those days continue to hold their magic even as Bollywood today dishes out movies which are more refined in terms of technology, more sophisticated in terms of locations, starring actors with perfectly sculpted bodies (thanks to sophisticated body enhancing technology).

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Laments of a Vegetarian !

Being a pure veggie can be quite challenging if one goes for a holiday beyond the frontiers of mera bharat mahaan as I discovered when we went to Singapore for a holiday !

The thrill of being in a foreign country was replaced with a longing to be back home, the very next day after we landed there ! During the entire stay breakfast was the only meal of the day I looked forward to, with the hotel providing a choice of veg (toast, porridge, fresh fruits , as well as juice,among other things ) as well as non-veg continental cuisine and the friendly neighbourhood restaurant Komala Vilas(bang opposite the hotel) providing nice , spicy South Indian breakfast if one felt like having a- taste- of- back home food. However, come lunchtime and dinnertime my heart (or rather my stomach!) used to sink, just wondering what kind of food we would be having . Not being familiar with the city,we were at a loss to locate place which would provide some kind of decent veg food (mainly for me as the remaining members of the family were not averse to eating non-veg) .

Returning to the hotel one night we asked the cab driver if there was a good veg restaurant nearby. Knowing we were Indains he said he knew of a good place where one could get Indian food as well as food from other countries. He dropped us at a food court telling us to enjoy a good meal ! Being tired and hungry we quickly entered a huge hall where there were rows and rows of food stalls - some had ducks and chickens hanging on skewers , some had transparent water tanks with live lobsters , fish , squids , and even some kind of water snakes . Some even had dead snakes on their display rack ! In one of the food stalls a guy was actually frying scorpions while another guy was serving fried beetles onto a plate ,to a waiting customer ! That was too much to digest ! (ha ha ha !) The entire family beat a hasty retreat to the nearest exit- even my husband and daughter (who don't mind non-veg food once in while ) had disgust written large on their face ! As for me, being a strict ghaas poos (for the uninitiated , the term refers to veggies ) khaanewali I vomitted into the plastic bag that I had with me . Littering being a strict offence in Singapore, I had taken to carrying plastic bags with me to avoid any such situations where I would end up cleaning vomit everywhere we went ! We finally managed to get bread and butter at a nearby shop and thats what saved the day (or rather the night ! ). On another occasion we entered a restaurant which served pizzas and pastas,and ordered pizzas with mushrooms , tomatoes and cheese. The pizzas arrived promptly with the waiter smiling broadly .Marvelling on good service and impressed with their"Service with a Smile " policy , we got ready to tuck in when my eyes ( by now I had become absolutely paranoid where food was concerned) spotted some suspicious looking toppings .On enquiring we were told that they were pieces of ham ! We had to impress upon the waiter that we wanted only veg and strictly ONLY VEG and no meat whatsoever ! The guy was totally bewildered for according to them when a customer asks for veg it means vegetables in addition to meat and not only veg, minus the meat ! He must written off the entire Indian population as being rather weird in food habits !

With such lessons learned now I will have to think twice before heading to forein destinations and as far as travel to other Asian and Oriental countries is concerned , either I'll have to become a non-veg or drop the idea of ever going there ! I prefer to choose the latter anyday !

PS- On returning from Singapore I discovered I had shed 3 kilos !