A look at films from Bollywood that fly under the radar

A look at films from Bollywood that fly under the radar

 

 

You think Bollywood and you think truckloads of money, mega stars, media hype, outlandish plot lines, lavish shooting locales and mass frenzy; all whipped up into a heady cocktail. Right ? Wrong.

Was passed on this list of 50 films that will make you respect Bollywood and I couldn’t agree more. This list is not an all-time list, and consists mostly of contemporary titles. A cursory glance reveals that the earliest one dates back to the early 2000s. Not bad, considering that that makes it an average of 3 to 4 good films every year.

A lot of these might not find many takers, considering the odd plots and a crawly narration. But then, this is not meant for the masses. It is just an indicator of the fact that there are good, meaningful and sometimes, very powerful films that our industries churn out. Time for some more encouragement perhaps ? You bet. Just sit back and watch whatever is available on Youtube. I myself haven’t seen all of them. My pending list would be:

  1. My Brother Nikhil
  2. Manorama Six Feet Under
  3. Dil Dosti Etc.
  4. Sehar
  5. Gandhi, My Father
  6. Dor
  7. Gangs of Wasseypur (Yes, I know..sob)
  8. Raincoat
  9. Naach
  10. Main, Meri Patni aur Woh
  11. Socha na Tha
  12. Amu
  13. Dhoop
  14. Phir Milenge
  15. Chhal
  16. Yeh Saali Zindagi
  17. Mumbai meri Jaan
  18. The Stoneman Murder

I think some more movies could be added to the list. Some of them are:

  • Shanghai (2012)
  • Luck By Chance (Yes, it does contain quite a few big stars. But its a refreshing take on the pitfalls and obstacles en route to stardom in Bollywood. And very, very good acting from the leads)

Do feel free to write in with your comments if you feel there is a personal favorite that could be added to this list.

 

Jurassic Park Revisited

Dr. Grant, my dear Dr. Sattler, welcome …..  to Jurassic Park

I remember it as vividly as if it had happened just yesterday. With great enthusiasm, my father had suggested that we go watch the film at the cinema in our town. They screened foreign films dubbed in Hindi back then and it was no deal breaker for a kid who was just coming to terms with whatever little English he could pick up from dog eared comics of Phantom and Tintin. We were to be disappointed though, as they had removed the film from the screens just the previous week. “Never mind”, consoled my dad and we came back home.

20 years since, I have watched the movie multiple times and not for a single instance (and I generally dislike re-watching a movie) has there been the slightest dip in my enthusiasm. “An adventure 65 million years in the making..” ran the tag line. Not stupendously brilliant, but not hideously cliched either. It does sound grand and magnificent though, just like the spectacle the film turned out to be. I remember my dad remarking “How many times will you watch the damn movie” during a TV screening. I must have lost count, was my honest answer.

If you are watching it in a theater with an excellent sound setup, do not by any chance, miss the opening sequence. The logo of ‘Universal’, accompanying a single beat of a drum, is as ominous-sounding as it can possibly get.

The introduction to Isla Lubnar, preceded by John Hammond’s “..there it is“, consists of a breathtaking visual of the helicopter flying towards the island, first over choppy waters and then over green hills and valleys and miles of untamed forests. John Williams’ THX certified epic soundtrack, hiding in the background till then, rises to a crescendo and shares equal space with the stunning visuals. The scene makes my hair stand on end every time, partly due to the beauty of cinema unfolding in front of me and partly in anticipation of the thrilling adventure that is about to follow.

The helicopter scene in Jurassic Park
The helicopter scene…magnificent cinema !
Jurassic Park's Isla Nublar
Kauai island’s Na Pali coast in Hawaii is Isla Nublar in the film

(Aside: You can read about Kauai island here and a wiki post on the fictional Isla Lublar here)

Minutes later, when the tourists to the island have their first glimpse of a real life specimen in the Brachiosaurus, Alan Grant almost collapses to the ground and Ian Malcolm’s jaw drops in half-disbelief and half-delight. I love to imagine that that same expression must have echoed on audience faces around the world in 1993 for the first time when that Brachiosaurus must’ve dropped its forelegs to the ground and seemingly made the ground beneath Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler shake. How other-wordly the use of CGI and Stan Winston‘s robots must’ve seemed back then !

Ian Malcolm
Malcolm’s first view of a dinosaur – the gigantic Brachiosaurus

It is with great gusto that we, as movie watchers, tighten our seat belts for the pre-historic ride (“The voice you are now hearing is Richard Kiley, we spared no expense!“) along with Grant and co. Along the way, we start believing in Malcolm’s skepticism of the whole thing with his beliefs of chaos theory, debunking Hammond’s control over nature as anything but profound (“..Life, uh, finds its way“). And we start cheering for the laconic and dour Dr. Grant as he guides the children through the park, running from most of the dinosaurs, educating them one moment and saving them from danger the next. And we admire Sattler’s courage in deciding to go outside the bunker all by herself (“We can discuss sexism in survival situations when I get back”) and her tongue-in-cheek take at Malcolm’s view of the park’s future (“Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth“).

Without a doubt though, the film belongs to the dinosaurs. It all begins pounding inside your head when ripples form in the water in the glass inside one of the Ford Explorers. From then on, the T-Rex and the raptors and the sound effects play havoc with your adrenaline – the pupil dilation scene, the T-rex with the kids sequence, the jeep chase scene, the raptors in the visitor center sequence. And I will never forget where I first saw “Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear“.

I am gushing so much, it must be frothing at my mouth too, you’d say. But then, one night while walking along the pavement book sellers of Mumbai, I chanced upon the book (No e-commerce back in those days). The book though, pans out on a scale that can only be screened by your brain inside your head. Full of theories from biology and genetics – DNA combinations and the processes required to create dinosaur DNA, to enable the management to control the breeding and eating habits of the dinosaurs (depriving them of the ability to manufacture the amino acid lysine) on to mathematics – chaos theory explanations, normal distributions depicting population and evidence of breeding among all-female dinosaurs,  to advances in modern science and computing.

Unfortunately, the film does miss out on a lot of narratives featured in the book. For instance, the failure on the management’s part to notice that the park has been running on auxiliary power after Dennis’s mischief, an event which leads them to realize in horror that the electrified fences separating the dangerous dinosaurs had remained off all that time. Then there is Grant leading the kids through the park. They come across almost-tame triceratops, they study sauropods in the open, they are chased by a T-rex down a lagoon and they walk through an aviary that is not a part of the original tour, but is inhabited by pterodactyls. The final sequence has them facing raptors inside the visitor center too, with Grant using toxins to kill the raptors. Some sequences, like the little girl being bitten by a procompsognathus and the aviary sequence were depicted in the 2nd and 3rd installments of the film trilogy. Finally, in the book, when they are deported off the island, Grant is informed by a Costa Rican doctor of some strange patterns of lysine-rich crop consumption inside human cultivated lands by mysterious wild animals.

Quite an engrossing work by the late Michael Crichton, that book led me to read “The Lost World”, “Congo”, “Prey”, “The Andromeda Strain” and almost all of Crichton’s works. In terms of science fiction content and similarity, The Lost World is a must-read if you liked Jurassic Park. Congo is also very similar in the kind of settings the plot is based in.

Digressions apart, the movie does come close to delivering as great an impact as the book, which is saying a lot for any screen adaptation. And the latest 3D version means I can finally watch it on the big screen and be mesmerized yet again, in the way it was originally meant to be seen.

I hope it will be the same decades later as well, when I become a parent and have kids who are fascinated by dinosaurs (who aren’t ?). And I do cherish a hope, as millions of kid harbored in their hearts once, that they do succeed in recreating those big animals in the future. That would make an old man with the heart of a kid, if he is not extinct by then, very very happy.

P.S. More of my tribe: here and here

P. P. S. Interesting documentary on the making of the film here. Watch it to get an insight into how Spielberg and the team at ILM made a path-breaking film that was far ahead of its times.

More documentaries here and here.

Of small matters on Valentine’s day

On the occasion of yet another valentine’s day passing by (now I know what it feels like to watch a 5 test cricket series that ends without a result), I got a phone call from a girl. Her english was impeccable, she was courteous while speaking and she sounded kinda cute too. A little too harsh of me then, that I refused. “Ma’am I don’t want another credit card, I already have 3 from the past three years.” Heart-breaking for the lady, I know, but what to do. There is only so much joy that you can derive from having a credit card and not crossing your limits every month like your committed friends do.

So what do you do to shrug off the effects of the pink vapors pervading the atmosphere everywhere around you around 14th of Feb ? Like my awesome self, you can go bag 2 high-profile client meetings in a single day, tell the boss with a crack of the knuckles that it was just you warming up for the year ahead and walk off in to the sunrise (night shift you see). Not everybody’s cup of tea though. How about buying one of those men’s magazines that tell you about fitness secrets to ‘explode’ your arms, reading and re-reading that body language article to discern what that cutie in the cubicle across yours might be hinting at from the day you joined. Still doesn’t sound right no ? I know, I know. It usually ends up in a round of drinks in a friend’s house. What starts as a celebration of the single-dom of 4-5 men usually culminates in a re-assessed narrative of each one’s love story (one, that like Dodda Ganesh’s test career, never really took off).

Here is what I did. I lazily debunked all those theories about ‘locus-of-control’ from my MBA days and settled down for one of those balmy movies that remind you of how delightful Indian cinema used to be.

Chhoti Si Baat‘ is one of those Basu Chatterji gems that is perfect for a long afternoon.

Arun Pradeep – the Protagonist

Arun (superbly portrayed by Amol Palekar) is a shy, unassuming young man who is smitten with Prabha (Vidya Sinha, ethereal) whom he sees everyday at the bus-stop.

Conditioned by circumstances and his own personality, he fails at

Prabha – the woman of Arun’s dreams

every attempt to woo the woman of his dreams. The hurdles are his own inability to confess his feelings to Prabha, a rival – Nagesh’s (Asrani) superior social skills and a woeful lack of confidence. He ends up consulting roadside soothsayers, horoscope and personality building magazines before packing up his bags to engage the tutelage of Col. JNW Singh (played by Ashok Kumar, a show stealer in every scene and a delight to watch). Col. Singh, realizing that Arun’s love is pure and innocent in its intention and consummate in its devotion to Prabha, little by little, polishes off Arun’s insecurities and turns his feeble personality around.

Turning your life around is an art – so says the Colonel

The second half of the film, where a very changed Arun comes back and wins over Prabha is a sheer delight in the way it contrasts his previous attempts (his lunch date, his duels with Nagesh over table tennis and chess, the comeuppance of  the swindling garage owner) to win over Prabha.

This film has immense replay value and the reason behind its timelessness is a question I’ve pondered over, many a time. What stands out for me though, over the refreshing humour, the inherent simplicity in Chatterjee’s handling of the script and the chemistry between all the actors, is inspiration. The importance of believing in oneself and the ability to change oneself in order to win something.

While Chhoti Si Baat does seem to heavily draw inspiration from School of Scoundrels, it is in no measure inferior to the original. Wonderful acting all round,  with lilting music and tightly paced narration, it is no wonder that the film is a classic of Indian cinema. What delights me even more is watching the story unfold against the glorious backdrop of a South Bombay when it was not the teeming metro it now is. From the iconic BEST buses and bus-stops, to Chicken a La Pouse at Samovar restaurant in the Jehangir art gallery, to the Gateway of India and the office spaces (reminds me of my dad’s western railway office at Churchgate) – it is a little bit of a tribute to the beauty of Bombay as well.

Ah well…another 14th Feb and another blog post down. Till the next blog post then.

P. S.: You can watch the entire movie on Youtube here.

An idle brain on Youtube

With nothing else to keep my mind active right now, here is a post that I thought might be useful to millions of office goers who, coincidentally, have nothing else on their minds too. I conjured up a list, in no particular order, of the 10 most imaginative pieces of song writing that lyricists in the Hindi film industry have been able to come up with. If any of these songs are your favorites or this post hurts your sentiments in any way, I might add a short disclaimer – no offence meant. There.

10. Who can drive audiences crazy with just a doff of his cap ? Who can put tenors to shame and single handedly divert millions of dollars in to otolaryngology research ? Please put your hands, mikes, caps and nasal polyps together for aapro very own Himess Bhai in this particularly brilliant song which goes like this.

“(Female voice)Ladies and gentlemen, here’s presenting a philosophical research that has been conducted on mangoes, incorporating in it romance, humour and fun

(Himesh starts belting, you start getting goose pimples…)

Jab tum jaati ho” (hundreds of goose pimples),

Jaldi nahi aati ho” (millions of goose pimples),

I miss you baby” (gazillions..shudder)

Like mango” (epileptic fits, like Purbi Joshi in this video..watch it watch it)

9. This song, by a lyricist who went by the name of Sameer, and epitomized the whole pen is mightier than the sword cliche. Ever heard of a film called ‘Josh’ in which Shahrukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai play siblings ? There is a song in it which starts off like this:

Kitna pyaara hai ye pyaar… Pyaara Pyaara” (Yes yes, take that Himesh)

Hua hai pehli baar, hota hai ek baar, phir na hoga…ye dobara” (Take that Mills & Boon)

Hai mera dil, churaake le gaya, churaane wala…mera kaatil

If you admit to liking this song, and if I know you personally, I don’t blame you at all. Opposites attract they say, quite unlike Aishwarya Rai and Chandrachud Singh.

8. One of my personal favorites. If ever you fall madly in love with a girl and she hates the very sight of you, this song will certainly help woo her, Bollywood style. Because this is how Sanjay Kapoor wooed Juhi Chawla in a film called Kartavya released way back in 1995. The lyrics go something like this:

Tum tunak tuna tum tunak too…Tum tunak tuna tum tunak too

Pyaar mein dil ka murga bole kukdoo koo…” (take a pause to reflect, ladies and gentlemen)

…I love you” (It rhymes !!)

…Tujhpe meri Aashiqui ka, chal gaya jadoooooo” (and Again !!)

If these lyrics are not enough for you and your lady love, why don’t you include the interlude by the eunuchs in the song too. For further details, watch the video. Your love life will be certainly better off for it, I guarantee.

7. Ever used “hmm” as fillers when you didn’t know the exact lyrics of a particular song ? Or used “something” as a filler ? Well Mika created an entire song out of fillers, titled, not surprisingly, “Something Something“. Don’t ask me what to do if you forget the lyrics of this song too, which by the way, go like this.

Tell me something, meri jaan…kar le humse ek baar…pyaar ki meethi baatein chaar…o soniye..sun le tu

Something something….something somethinggggguuu

Short disclaimer before watching this video though – blog writer is not liable for damage incurred due to jaws dropping to the floor. A certain hottie named Urvashi Sharma stars in it.

6. Certain ardent followers of Indian music and travelers in Indian auto-rickshaws will bemoan the absence of a certain gentleman’s songs. Worry no more, for, what Urvashi Sharma did for your heart; Altaf Raja can do for your mind. The lyrics of this song are from a film called Chandaal released in 1998 and starring the ‘gareebon ka Amitabh‘ (the Amitabh of the poor) aka Prabhu Ji aka Shankar aka Truck Driver Sooraj aka Cheetah aka Jimmy aka the one and only Mithun Da.

The lyrics.

Kar lo pyaar kar lo pyaar kar lo pyaar kar lo pyaar” (Make love 4 times)

Pyaar gazab ki cheez hai padh lo aaj subah ka parcha” (Love is a wonderful thing, read today’s newspaper)

Pyaar karoge muft mein ho jayega yaaro charcha” (Making love can make you the subject of discussion for free..hmm)

5. People have told me that the following song has far deeper meaning attached to it. What a bunch of conspiracy theorists ! As far as I know, this song has been recommended as mandatory listening to apprentice locomotive mechanics of the Indian Railways for quite some time. From Andaz, and starring Anil Kapoor and Juhi Chawla, sample the lyrics and tell me if you disagree.

(Female) Main maal gaadi tu Dhakka lagaa…dhakka laga re dhakka laga

Garam ho gaya engine iska, dhakka deta jaaa..

(interlude)

Waqt hai kum aur lamba safar hai, tu raftaar badha de

Manzil par, humein pahucha de

4. Ever faced a situation where you wrote whatever fluff came to your mind in one of those Civic Sciences examinations in school because you didn’t remember anything that made even remote sense to the 10 mark-answer-in-brief question being asked, and yet scraped by in that exam? Here then, is the Hindi musical equivalent of that wrote-whatever-I-remembered-and-yet-passed kind of effort. From Muqabla (1993), starring Govinda and Karishma, no less. Also an excuse for doing Mass P. T. exercises whenever you go to a hill station – watch the video for a better understanding.

Dil tera hai deewana, aiyaiyo aiyaiyo

Mana ye maine maana, aiyaiyo aiyaiyo

Tu haseen…Main Jawaan..Hosh mujhko hai kaha

Aanaji hosh mein aana…aiyaiyo aiyaiyo Aiyyo

3. Ila Arun. Eponymous with raunchy and raspy, hoarse, moaning voices. Big self-professed fan I am. That is why one entry of an Ila Arun song will not do justice to her talent.

Be it “Masti ka alam aya hai, masti ko saath mein laya hai, masti mein kar le baatein..do do aaj” (from Auzaar: the only instance in an Indian film when the hero – Salman wore lesser clothes than the heroine- Shilpa Shetty) or “Haath mein botal, gale mein gulbandh bolo kaha gaye the” or the record breaking 3453 moaning sounds in one song “Nigodi kaisi jawani hai, baat sune na meri“. Ila Arun is unbeatable.

2. Mithun Da makes a re-entry in this list, cavorting with Rambha in what appears to be a top designed to resemble tutti frutti laden whipped cream from afar, in a song from the critically acclaimed Jallad (1993), with a song that goes like this.

Chinai Chun Chun..Chinai Chun Chun” (Ancient Cantonese script found on a stone in Ooty)

Kya kehti hai Chinai Chun Chun

Dil ki dhadkan Chinai Chun Chun

Kya kehti hai dil ki dhadkan, dilbar mere sun Chinai Chun Chun

Real catchy song this one. No, serious.

1. Allegedly written by a secret agent in the days of the cold war and still containing encrypted words that spawned the Transformers series, inspired a certain gentleman to write a potboiler on the bloodline of Christ and was used as an examination question for aspiring intelligence agents is a song that by and large went unnoticed in the 1990s. Innocuously going by the title of “LML Baba LML“, sung by Alisha Chinai with Anu Malik adding extra flavor, or should we say extra 512-bit encryption, the lyrics went something like this:

LML Baba LML, Hone de baba LML..Shaam Subah LML, Saato Din LML, Sunday to Monday LML, Monday to Sunday LML” (Alice sends Bob a message encrypted with her private key)

LML ? Kya hota hai LML” (Bob asks Alice for her private key)

Let Me Love Babe…Don’t feel shy Babe” (Alice hints that Bob should use his own key and should not feel shy about it)

“GTH Baba GTH, Hone de baba GTH..Shaam Subah GTH, Saato Din GTH, Sunday to Monday GTH, Monday to Sunday GTH” (Bob unlocks the message using his public key, saves the world from a dystopian future and rides off into the sunset with Alice)

That’s all folks, till the next time at least.

P. S. By no means an exhaustive list.

P. P. S. Feel free to write in with your comments on what your favorite lyrics are. Don’t feel shy.