Charms of the others..

The women on one of my whatsapp groups ( Schoolmates) are united in Crush-cum-lust for the hunky stars from South. Prabhas, Rana, Ram Charan, Suriya and the other muscular gents with beautiful eyes grace the group DP several times. It is perhaps the only thing I relate to with the members, but that is another post. This fandom is largely thanks to the fact that for some years now, Hindi movie channels are awash with dubbed movies from South. The realization for ‘Non-Madrasis’ that Bollywood is not synonymous with ‘ Indian cinema’, nor can claim any superiority when it comes to music, technical aspects, story-telling, acting- has never been more evident with so much primetime focus every day. In recent years, there has been a mass awakening of sorts to the killer looks and rustic charms of the South heroes. To me this appeal has been immortalised in popular imagination with the image of the drool worthy Prabhas of sweet smile and beautiful eyes, in wet dhoti carrying Shivlinga on his sculpted shoulders ( which is a erotically charged association, come to think of it.)

The women in my group always wonder why aren’t these sexy men coming in a mainstream Hindi movie. Would they ever make it big in the Bollywood. Which role would suit them. Instinctively and with my experience in media- the answer is no.

For decades, Bollywood has had female superstars who were not from the Hindi speaking areas. Bengali and Marathi stars from Sharmila to Nutan to Madhuri. In recent years, quite a few women from European/ American countries have entered the industry. Katrina Kaif being the most successful of this lot. ( She also reportedly couldn’t speak Hindi for years ).

But for the purpose of this article, lets stick to the women from hardcore ‘Non- Hindi’ areas, i.e. South. Vaijayantimala, Hema Malini, Rekha, Shridevi, Jaya Prada are some of the most successful ones of the lot. Some of them like Shridevi, was a superstar in Tamil/ Telugu before she arrived in Bollywood and couldn’t speak Hindi for a long time despite of ruling the roost. Deepika and Aishwarya have come from international modelling backgrounds and while they have South Indian background/ last names, they are perhaps closer to Hindi speaking urban metros than the women of 80s and 90s. Overall, we can safely say that the success of a female star has not been hindered by their linguistic background/ heritage ever in Bollywood.

On the contrast, I can’t think of a single male star who has made it big despite of not being from typical ‘Hindi’ background. It is usually, Punjabis and North Indian men who are mainstream successes. The Southern mega-stars like Kamal Hassan, Nagarjuna, Chirnjeevi, Rajnikanth have been, at the most, recognizable faces for Hindi moviegoers. That’s about it. ( Again, can you think of any male star from any other industry making it big here? Nope. Even Uttam Kumar couldn’t make a dent. International models like Milind Soman haven’t been able to make it like their female counterparts could) If you take all the mainstream stars, their last names/ linguistic heritage has been uniformly Hindi/ Punjabi.

And then in the last 2 decades, the Tamil/ Telugu industry have seen Non-south women making it big. Tamannah, Kajal Aggarwal, Tapsee, Nagma and a dozen more women have been on the top. But again, you don’t see any non-South men making it big there. ( Interestingly, several non-South men have made it big as Villains – which is another post )

So, to conclude- While women can transcend linguistic boundaries while onscreen, men can’t when it comes to mainstream film industries.

My theory is that this is because mainstream industries tell stories about the men and thus require authenticity from men portraying these main characters. Women are seen as transient. It is expected that they adapt to ( largely male) systems which they go into. So be it their marital home, or the movie industry whose language they can’t speak- they are forgiven, nay, welcomed, as long as they adapt to their new homes and stay happy in status quo.

It would be easy to reduce it to simplistic statement that since women are not expected to essay demanding roles in mainstream cinema, and that they function cosmetically within the movies- it doesn’t matter where they come from. ( As long as they more-or-less are racially acceptable. Because you don’t see a woman from Arunachal Pradesh or China in Hindi movies, but women from Europe/ South America are welcome). But then how to explain Shridevi who was called a female Amitabh Bachchan? Or Hema-Malini the superstar? Or Rekha? No-one can challenge that these women and their stardom was based on their proven capacity to carry their movies on their shoulders to box-office success. Or that several times they essayed roles which were breakthrough for the times – being more important than the male ones. While a Tamannah could be explained away as the Telugu industry’s obsession over fair skin tone – how can you explain Nagma or Kajal Aggarwal?

Individually each of them can be explained. Some for their beauty, some for their dancing skills, some for their fair skin, some for their acting. But this theory falls apart when compared to male counterparts. Kamal Hassan doesn’t lack acting prowess. Rana can give any Bollywood star a run for their money in looks/ Machoness territory. And so on.

Another practical explanation could be the heredity. Many if not all today’s male stars have had benefits of their filmy families. Their fathers or uncles provide them with launch pads, sustain their initial career, they are helped by their seniors and friends in the industry. Women generally don’t have this benefit and where they do- they reap the advantages. ( The Hassan sisters, Sonakshi Sinha, The Kapoor sisters and so on.)

But again, why can’t established stars with national appeal move in industries? While the directors/ music directors/ editors/ DOPs can- why haven’t we seen any example of a successful male star moving from one industry to another with success? In fact when they do, they have to do so in secondary roles. ( Nobody will believe that Akshay Kumar will be equal to Rajnikanth in their upcoming movie together, will they?)

So coming back to the ‘authenticity’ theory. Men are expected to be ‘authentically’ representing the ‘roots’. You can’t have a non-Telugu guy representing the angst of Telugus in a Telugu movie. A woman is always expected to ‘adjust’ to the space she moves in. She is expected to forget her ‘maternal’ home and ‘ fit in’ with her new home. She can move in, while the man has to be ‘born’ in and ‘represent’ it. Her role could be bigger and better than the man’s occasionally. But the fact that she is accepted in that role, as a ‘native’ despite of her ‘other’ness is due to our collective acceptance of her ‘non-centrality’ to the representativeness of the culture.

Thoughts? Anti-theses? Arguments?

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Singing Songing

My most favourite professor during my MS, when teaching a class on Musical Genre said, that the most romantic cinematic expression EVER is when two people sing to each other.

He would often grill me on the language of Bollywood cinema in connection with the songs. He loved the fact that we, were not ashamed to sing to each other in Indian movies. ( Though many Indians are and they thinking singing it vaaary vaarry backward and something to be ashamed of, especially when talking about Christopher Nolan movies.) He said there is nothing more emotionally pure cinematic ecstasy than a person singing to another or to him/herself. (He also once described a 1950s movie as so beautifully shot, that he wanted to lick the cinema screen. No wonder he was my favourite.)

So back to the songs. I have always imagined my life with a background score of a few dozen violins and songs for every occasion, emotion, feeling. What is life without songs? And songs in which you usually play a role of anguished/lustful/ loveful/ melancholic heroine? It is like a perfectly coordinated playlist. You listen and sing to it and your face is behaving like Madhuri Dixit and you are imagining Hugh Jackman and Stephen Chow and Shahrukh making sensuous songstery love to you at the same time – and the lift opens and you are faced with a group of people staring at you as if you are Uday Chopra.

I have been too embarrassed to sing songs to husband. A. Because he is not the song-dance-muaahh muaah kind of guy. B. It is embarrassing!!

I am 100% sure there are couples who do it, but I will get super self-conscious.

But in the shower I always address my loud singing to him ( along with Jackman- Chow- Khan trio)

Anyway. So I found the ultimate release of my inner Lata when the dog arrived.

In the last 2 years, I have composed several songs to him. They range from hip-hop, to dhinchak Bollywood, to Rehmanesque peppy numbers to Beatlesque LSD classics. There are also specific dance steps accompanying them, mostly inspired by street dance during Ganapati festival.

And he loves to run around happily and bark at me when I start the song-dance routine for him.

The lyrics are usually in the same family, although the placement varies and so does the tempo, repetition and other tricks in the trade. They all’Praise the dog’.

Oh ( insert one of the dozens of pet names he has) you are so cute.
(Sound effects.)
You are the most beautiful puppy.
You are my dog and I am your human.
We will play CATCH, GETIT, SQUASH, STAY and hundreds of other games
(Sound effects and rapid acceleration of dance moves.)
You are the best swimmer in the world oh smart one
You are the most brave of all the creatures in the world
You are the purest and you are the most ( insert nonsensical words meaning superdupertripperbestest)
Cutest, bravest, sweetest, beautifullest, softest, powerfulest doggie, you are my love.
( Drums, trampolines, violins, Nashik Dhol all creating a wild cacophony)

The dog usually gets a toy and shakes his head profusely as he runs round and round proudly agreeing that he is indeed all that and maybe a little more. He jumps on me and walks on hind legs and tries to tear my pants in pure joy.

The routine usually ends with tugging game with the said toy.

Sometimes, after the song I ask him to come for a bath or clean his ears- two of the most loathsome activities for him. He looks very disappointed like a hero breaking up with his lady-love seconds after a chartbuster song. What? You praise me so much and now you want to clean my ears with that stinky solution?

When I am bathing him, the lyrics change. On the lines of:

yes, yes, brave dog, sweetest dog, we are almost done.. ah let’s wash the stinky asshole once more… there, now the chest… ooh.. look at the dirt in your paws… yes the ears…cutest dog will not smell like rotten vegetables any more…. aahh…shampoo in the eyes.. but bravest dog is so brave in bravery… wow… what a great dog… what a greatest of all dogs… almost done now…aaahh.. what a great dog… he is the bestestest…

He looks at me with his soulful eyes, hiding from the water spray and looking like an orphan in war zone who hasn’t eaten for months and has worked 18 hours a day in a coal mine.

Husband baby talks with him all the time and dog looks content. After all, it was the husband who trained him and so is a natural hero in his eyes!! ( Unlike me, who is destined to be his manager- cum- number 1 fan in the world.) Once when husband started singing to him though, the dog looked so alarmed and puzzled and gulpingly bewildered, that I started laughing hysterically. Because husband is the world’s worst singer. Husband humphed and grumped and told the dog that he will never sing to him if this was the response he would get.

I am sure husband sings to him when I am not around.

I for one, am very happy of having found a perfectly appreciative object of my Bollywood songstery.

Nirupa Roy Jokes

The Ultimate Mommy

The Ultimate Mommy

Move over Alok Nath-a.k.a betiyon ke babuji…

Make space for Nirupa Roy, a.k.a Beton ki Maaaaa…who is the latest viral sensation, a.k.a butt of jokes.

The one, the only, the smashing white-clad-sans-sindoor nuclear reactor of Indian traditions and values..

NIRUPA ROY… the aponyous Maa in the iconic dialogue’ Mere Paas Maa hai..’…

THE Nirupra Roy who had good luck to squash the very Hot Amitabh Bachchan to her chest hundreds of times over her career in the name of feeding him Gajar Ka halwa and holding his dead body in the temple.

nirupa

Beton aur betiyon, uth ke pranaam karo.

Actually, it is hard to imagine Nirupa Roy with a beti. She always has sons, who range from obedient, gangsta, cop, wayward, morally upright, but it is always sons. Because the hindi film makers know that mother is a mother only when she is the mother of sons.

Because if you are mother of a daughter, the best you can do is adjust her wedding pallu and wipe eyes daintily. Or cry when her ijjat is lutaoed by thugs. Where is the fun in that? ( Not to mention, where is the very Hot Amitabh Bachchan in that?)

One of the jokes says, ‘Nirupa Roy’s daughter doesn’t talk to her because she was named Vijay by Nirupa Roy’.

And it is true. What is the point of being a poor, marginalised widow unless you have hatte-katte sons to avenge the injustices and receive lectures of morality?

We will continue the discussion on what Nirupa Roy means for Indian motherhood later. till then, enjoy these white yards of jokedom:

1. Nirupa Roy’s laptop has got WIDOW-98 installed.

2. Nirupa Roy can instantly cry on a joke.

3. Nirupa Roy’s laughing MMS goes viral… she claims it’s doctored.

4. Nirupa Roy has 6 sons. All of them are named Vijay.

5. After Nirupa Roy’s first marriage, her father said by mistake: “Sada abhaagan raho!”

6. In her next flick, Nirupa Roy might lock lips with Alok Nath.

7. Cannes to roll out white carpet for Nirupa Roy’s welcome.

8. Nirupa Roy’s most horrifying nightmare: she saw that she was young!!

9. Nirupa Roy’s most romantic moment: when her husband gave her flowers for the first time…on Mother’s Day.

10. Nirupa Roy’s daughter doesn’t talk to her anymore as she tried to name her ‘Vijay’ when she was born.

11. Nirupa Roy has 73 shades of white in her wardrobe collection.

12. Nirupa Roy to play lead role in upcoming movie ‘Hasee To Phasee’.

13. Nirupa Roy dragged Johnson & Johnson to court over the “No more tears” campaign.

14. Nirupa Roy plays Holi with sindoor.

15. Nirupa Roy’s Whatsapp status says: “Last cried at…”

16. Nirupa Roy was once approached for a comedy movie. That casting director lost his job.

17. CRY Foundation has offered Nirupa Roy to become its brand ambassador.

18. Nirupa Roy was born pregnant. She became grandmother at 4.

19. Nirupa Roy sends Weepeys instead of Smileys.

20. Nirupa Roy looks for her groom in Obituary columns.

21. During school days, Nirupa Roy always preferred to dress as a Widow during fancy dress competitions.

22. Nirupa Roy still thinks Draupadi’s ‘Cheerharan’ was a wardrobe malfunction.

Gulabi Gang

Do check out the real Gulabi Gang’s official website.

And an excellent review of Amana Fontanella-Khan’s book Pink Sari Revolution by BerryNice here.

The trailer looks very promising. I hope it is nuanced enough to deal with intersectional issues of caste, religion, patriarchy, law & order, that made the real Gulabi Gang so unique. But even if it is not, it is OK. With this kind of subject matter, it is great that it is being made in the first place, that too at this scale.

I definitely hope that the villainous character played by Juhi Chawla doesn’t derail into predictable cliches that is the fate of most female villains across popular culture. The trailer looks like it could be one of the rare movies where women characters get a chance to be truly different and interesting. And who knew Juhi could look anything other than her stock character of sugar- syrupy- bumbling- idiotic- sweet-homely- girl? It goes to show how horribly Bollywood typecasts women actors.

Jiah Khan Suicide

I am not sure why Sooraj Pancholi is made out to be such a blackguard ‘legally’ responsible for Jiah Khan’s suicide?

If a guy had committed suicide, would we blame the girl LEGALLY for it?

I am not sure if I am reading too much into it, but it seems to me that the ‘girl’ is considered to be more fragile. So a ‘boy’ is supposed to protect her, give her stability. If he doesn’t and it leads to her death: he has not performed his role.

I think we love to blame girls for heart breaks much more than we blame boys, as a culture.

Boys are supposed to drink, sing sad songs. Unless they throw acid on the girl or actually kill her, they are stereotyped as poor ‘Devdas’. ( Devdas was actually the one who broke Paro’s heart, BTW. And then chickened out to make the whole thing about his heart. In the movie version that is.)

But when it comes to serious consequences, boys are supposed to be tougher and look after their girls.Interesting articles on why we find female suicides/meltdowns interesting here and here.

Vidya Balan’s Saree, Spielberg’s Ganji and Cannes Jury special issue

Some things are in public domain, sort of common sense, or so I thought. But maybe we need to start this post with clear definitions.

Cannes Film Festival is, as the name suggests a ‘FILM FESTIVAL’.

You know, a film festival is an organized event where they screen films, viewers watch them in a dark place called the theatre, like/hate/love the film, go back home. Some unfortunate souls are professional critics who have to pen their thoughts to earn their next movie ticket/ bread/ butter/ foie gras. Some unfortunate souls like me need to get involved in the less glamorous part of the media market to earn my next Dahibhaat.

FILM FESTIVAL PEOPLE…in caps, not to forget.

And yes yes, we all know we all like our movie stars to be glamorous and public figures of astronomical beauty and fantasy blah blah… move on now. It has been more than hundred years, so show us a little evolution.

We expect the stars to look glam sham and all. Fair enough. I expect many things from life too. Like a decent horror film NOT featuring kids ( I am a sucker for scary kids though!!). Or that Tarantino goes back to making fun films and not the pimped out shit he makes these days. Or that Amitabh Bachchan magically regains his youth and starts making angry young man movies again.

Or that.. or that… Great expectations… (And no, it is NOT the same book as GREAT GATSBY).

So when one expects that a good actor like Vidya Balan is chosen as a jury, one expects that she does a good job as a jury and not worry about her Saree. Especially since she is one of the few exceptional female stars in the mainstream cinema in the world who commands good box office on her own.

One expects the entirety of Indian media and large part of western media to be chronically dumb. So last few days of exclusive focus on the red carpet and the gowns and the accessories and the trails and the feathers in the name of journalism didn’t make me bat my non volume enhanced eye-lash a bit.

One expects that. One learns as one grows older that world is full of dumb people.

(IT IS A FILM FESTIVAL… a little girl cried in my cynical brain…I tried to slap her and tell her not to be so naive and learn the marketing ways of modern film industry which by the way is putting food on your table lil Girl…)

So far, everything is just what one expects of the modern age film festivals to be. Lot of glamour,LOOOOOTTTTT of product placement, lot of big daddy fucklards, some small Indie gems championed so that it does feel like a genuine film festival, great to bad commercial deals.

Indian media however, as expected, has focused exclusively on how disappointing Balan was in her Indian wear, how she looked matronly ( which is a sin I suppose, unless some demi god designer brings matronly look back for the next fall on 16 year old anorexic models !!), how she stuck to safe choices and was boring.

And here we thought that playing a pregnant vigilante,or a village widow cum master
kidnapper or an unwed mother were ‘not’ safe choices.

If she wore disappointing clothes ( whatever that means), so what?? So what people??? You have Roman Polanski the child rapist smiling at the camera brazenly and all you pick on are women’s dresses??

It is one thing to criticize clothes or write lightly about badly dressed celebrities ( though I have always wondered about people who choose this as a profession, is it that the wanted to become documentary film makers and couldn’t and are doing this now as a revenge??? Anyway, I digress).

It is not OK however, to focus on frivolous underrating of women, especially when they have refused to play by your narrow dumb misogynistic standards of beauty.

Fashion does not equate acceptance in the world market folks. Sorry to disappoint you, but it is diversified content and universal storytelling that makes the worldwide cash registers ring. ( And no, that does not mean making 3 D movies)

Expectations, expectations little girl. Leave them at your nursery and welcome to the big dumb world of people who call themselves journalists and bash good artists for wearing different clothes.

What I definitely didn’t expect is Sonam Kapoor defending Vidya Balan. I can’t stand the likes of Sonam Kapoor- rich talentless star kids without even an iota of screen presence. And the whole wannabe fashionista press jabong that goes with her. But kudos to her for saying that “She ( Balan) was next to Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg . But instead of concentrating on this tremendously beautiful and talented woman, people are looking at her clothes and trying to bring her down. That’s very sad.” I have to let my prejudice go a milligram and applaud Ms. Kapoor here.

And by the way, nobody told me what brand of underwear were Mr. Spielberg and Mr.Lee were wearing.

Nation demands an answer.

Disposable Women

I absolutely love this site . Addictive is the word.

It is also a handy search tool when you are obsessed about something thematic; and want to read/ watch only that theme. I stumbled upon this site years ago when I was obsessed with evil kids in literature and movies. ( I worked in kids’ entertainment, so I needed to do this once in a while to keep perspective.. hehehe)

Anyway, so I wanted to post this particular link forever. It is called a Disposable Woman trope.

Trope is defined simply as a common or overused theme or device.

When a concept becomes so overused that it becomes predictable in it’s structure, it can be called a trope. Tropes are sort of like popular stereotypes rolled into a definable plot device.

So a Gajar Ka Halwa wielding widow mum is a trope. An NRI returning home to find meaning in life and a wife is a trope. Raped sister is a trope.

(Remember the genius scene from Andaz Apna Apna where Aamir Khan lies about his Vidhwa Maa aur Andhi Behen?? Awwwww…. love love love love this movie. Beyond tropes!!)

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DisposableWoman defines this particular trope of disposable woman as :

“A female character, typically the wife, sweetheart or occasionally mother of the protagonist, who is present in the story just so that she can be either kidnapped by the bad guys, thus becoming a Distressed Damsel, or find herself Stuffed into the Fridge, giving the protagonist a pretext for Revenge. In a series, she can be frighteningly easily forgotten or replaced once her value as a plot device has expired, if she has been previously developed at all.”

Interesting na?I am going to call Bollywood the land of disposable women.