Saturday, January 5, 2013

I was talking to a really good friend of mine the other day and the topic of blogs came up in our conversation. She mentioned she had a blog and I suddenly realized that I completely forgot about mine. So here I am, trying to find something witty, something Bollywood to write about. But I have nothing. Well...not nothing.

I spent the first three weeks of December at home with mummy-papa. Which means even though I wasn't at work, I worked. I spent a good portion of my "vacation" cleaning, taking family to appointments, babysitting, etc. Not that I mind. To tell you the truth, I actually like doing that stuff (I don't let my mother know that because that's kinda like shooting myself in the foot). But being home also means that I spent a good deal of time (mostly against my will) watching all those damned Indian channels my mom gets via satellite. Zee TV. Sony Entertainment Television. Alpha Punjabi. NDTV (fine, that's not too's news). B4U. And now this new one...Aapka Colors. I haven't watched Hindi/Punjabi soaps (otherwise known as "serials") for a year now (that's the last time I was actually in Toronto), and it doesn't seem like I missed much. There are still those evil saasumaas meddling into their kids' marriages. Still the scheming bahus that want to get their hands on the family fortune. Still the infidelity-prone pati who has a woman on the side, who ends up shooting either him or his wife. I was watching one with Mona Singh (anyone remember Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin?) when I thought to myself, sheesh, it's actually been a long time since I've watched a Hindi flick. When I tried, I realized there was a very good reason why. I just can't stand them anymore.

I hear there's a sequel to Dabangg...aptly called...Dabangg 2. I did see the first one. So the fact that I believe that one should never have been made should explain why I believe there should never have been a follow up. I still believe that Salman Khan can't dance (he's spent years working with choreographers...not sure why his moves still don't look fluid). I still think that Sonakshi Sinha is a waste of screen time (apparently she was a model...guh?).

There were ads for Singh is Kinng (no, that's not a typo), Chandni Chowk to China, Wake Up Sid, and a few others that I can't seem to remember. There was such a distaste in my mouth, that I couldn't change the channel fast enough.

So I decided, I may not really write much more about Bollywood. My OMNI days (on "The Boulevard") are over after all. I'm going to write about other things. Anything and everything. No direction. Maybe there'll be a little bit of masala mixed in.

Disclaimer: I will, however, watch the occasional evergreen classic. But those don't count.  


Friday, July 6, 2012


So I've been a little bad, neglecting my little blog. But what can I say? Real life got in the way! Scheduling at work was a bit helter skelter with the summer starting...and any moment I had to myself was, well, to myself. But I digress, so let's get back to it.

Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVELOVELOVE horror movies! I'm the loser who will go by himself to the theatre because none of his friends are daring enough to go to them. I will also stay up until 2 A.M. and watch them by myself in the dark. Sure, it may sound strange to some of you, but I love it. I love the thrill. I love the adrenaline. And who cares if I'm the only one brave enough to watch?

It's sad to say, though, that there really haven't been that many horror flicks that do what they're supposed to. I was, and am still am, a huge fan of The Exorcist. I absolutely loved The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (old and new). The Japanese really got it right, with the perfect amount of psychology mixed with ample gore. Ringu and Ju-on did something that their American remakes didn't. They actually scared. And don't get me started about Odishon. That movie really messed with the mind. I can still hear that girl saying "...kiri, kiri, kiri, kiri, kiri..." in my head as she got that that piano wire ready. Creepy.

India, however, has never been able to do it right. Which really pisses me off, mainly because there's such a HUGE chance to cash in on the horror market. Sure, there were attempts. Bhoot (yawn), Darna Mana Hai (should've been more like Darna Abbhi Baki Hai), Phoonk and Phoonk 2 (I didn't bother). Oh, and who could forget Bollywood's homage to Scream called Shhh! (hahaha). The problem with these films is that they tried too hard to scare, but just didn't.

So while I lament over these outright failures, let me say this: OMGOMGOMG! I honestly can't remember when or how, but I came across some really cheesy, campy Hindi horror flicks from the 80s. They're just so bad, they're good! Anyone who's seen Jaani Dushman will certainly appreciate any of these. For the record, it's the first time I've ever heard of the Ramsay brothers, who directed several "scary" films. They're all on YouTube, with subtitles, so if you have the patience and LOVE Bollywood and all its 80s camp, you'll definitely love these! The majority have some well known names too, so you're not getting stuck with some nobodies with no acting experience.

  • Purana Mandir (1984) with Mohnish Behl, Puneet Issar (from the Mahabharata), and Sadashiv Amrapurkar
  • Veerana (1988) with Kulbhushan Kharbanda
  • Bandh Darwaza (1990) with Aruna Irani
  • and of course Jaani Dushman (1979) with Sunil Dutt, Rekha, Neetu Singh, Rina Roy, Sanjeev Kumar

OMGOMGOMG! I'm so excited I can't wait to start watching these! My iPad will definitely be hooked up to the TV for the next few weekends!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

And the award goes to...

Each year, the International Indian Film Academy holds its awards ceremony in a different city (duh), to bring Indian cinema to a global audience. IIFA 2011 was a huge deal because it was the first time that the awards were held in North America, with Toronto winning the bid. It does seem a bit odd that Vancouver, L.A., or even New York weren't on the list (given their glitz factor), but having them in Toronto automatically qualified me to be part of the "action", since I was a "correspondent" for a national Bollywood show. 

I'll skip opening my mouth and saying too much about what I felt and thought about the whole schabang, because that would be cruel. But what I will say is that, in theory, the idea of the IIFAs is actually not half bad. Like a travelling circus, people all over have a chance to see the "stars" and get a little bit of Bollywood injected into their city. The weekend has press conferences, movie premieres, a fashion/rock show, as well as the highlight of the weekend, the awards. Last year, Toronto also held a film festival, a Raj Kapoor retrospective, in honour of the late actor/director/producer/writer/film mogul. And of course, let's not forget the economic's huge! People LOVE the acting elite, no matter what their culture, language, or place of origin, and wherever they go, so to, do the masses. There were tens of thousands of people that came into the city from as far as Australia (I met a couple who flew in just for the show). Hotels, restaurants, transport, and retailers all see the effect...CHA-CHING!

Since the Bachchans bowed out of the celebration (Amitabh was replaced as brand ambassador by the one and only SRK), there was a lot of speculation about whether or not the IIFAs would lose their lustre. And to tell you the truth, they kinda did. Sure, King Khan (as he's called) drew in a HUGE crowd, but somehow, he didn't impress me that much in person...especially after his security guard had the audacity of stepping on the toe of my brand new Hugo Boss shoes that retail for $700...and after he showed up late for the press conference he called about his new production company. He certainly wasn't enough to "sell out" the show, because over half of the Rogers Centre sat empty. The weekend also lacked the star power that it should have brought. Many stars were absent, including about 30-percent of those nominated for an award. Instead, the promoters put all their effort into backing B-rated actors like Diya Mirza, Bipasha Basu, Arbaar Khan and Malaika Arora, Mallika Sherawat, and the elder Kapoors (the Randhir, Rajiv, and Rishi generation)...many who didn't even look like they wanted to be there. 

All in all, the people who put together the show did a great job. It looked great. The sets were great. For the most part, they were fairly cooperative. I just hope this year's IIFA in Singapore has a much better turn out. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

There's a little dirt on your upper lip there...

Moustachio. 'Stache. Moonchen. Lip eyebrow. Handlebars. Call it what you want, the mustache is a globally recognized symbol of masculinity. I suppose that's probably why the creators of the "Movember" campaign created the fund raising event. Not only is it gimmicky (you get men growing mustaches of various kinds for an entire month AND get them to document their progress while raising money), but it also fits: a generally male feature (although I must admit, I have seen a number of women  in my lifetime whose mustaches would make a lot of grown men cry) for a form of cancer that affects men.

One of my first brushes with this great male-lip-brush (see the humour here?!) came sometime when I was between four and six years old. My father decided to grow a mustache. Just a thin line above his upper lip. I'm not quite sure how I felt about it, though I'm sure I was scared shitless...almost like I was when he randomly shaved his head one day. Now, it's reasonably acceptable here in the West for men to grow mustaches. The mustache has had a history with artists and entertainers (Dali, Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin), naval and military officers, Italian barbers, and of course, the baddest mustache of them all (Hitler). But it's a feature that isn't so revered among many middle class South Asians.

For years (for the record, this still occasionally happens), I remember my mother cussing at me, sometimes chasing after me to shave (for the record, I've never grown a mustache. A beard and a goatee perhaps, but never a mustache). She'd noticed the hair above my lip getting thick, and offer this motherly quip - badmaash lagda...jaamat kar! Loosely translated, that means you look like a criminal...go shave! I'd taunt her, laugh, and eventually cave in. But I always wondered why she felt that way. The answer? Right there on the big screen.

Just like Hollywood had its good guys in white and its bad guys in black, Bollywood, too, has its clear distinguishing characteristics for the hero and the negative role (they still use those terms - the "hero" always wins the girl; "villain" just hurts, so they call it a "negative role"). The hero is always clean shaven, while the male in the negative role almost always has facial hair. I can think of very few exceptions where the protagonists in movies from the 60s, 70s, and 80s had facial hair (mustaches were part of some actors' overall persona, carried in from their personal lives), but you always knew who the lecherous, seedy, always up-to-no-good villain (I'm using the word here in this post because it's easier) was because of the mustache. Jeevan was a popular villain, who'd make the ends of his mustache all pointy like to show how he was scheming. Or Sadashiv Amrapurkar. He sometimes acted without it, but didn't look nearly as evil unless he had his sometimes grey, but mostly black lip chops. Mukesh Rishi would flip flop, with clean shaven good-guy roles, and other times as a mustachioed baddie.

But I guess over time, things have to change. There's been an evolution. Take the 2010 film Dabangg. BOTH the hero (Chulbul Pandey played by Salman Khan) and the villain (Chedi Singh played by Sonu Sood) have mustaches. And it seems the success of that film has spawned a whole new generation of handlebar growing heroes. Akshay Kumar is also sporting a 'stache in his Rowdy Rathore (which, on the surface, bears a *ahem* slight resemblance to Dabangg from the stunts and special effects right down to the leading actress and her coy-eyelash-batting). Apparently, Sonu Sood will also be gussied up in his latest release, Maximum, playing the protagonist with a pushbroom.

I dunno about you, but I don't get it. It's like good guys trying to get down and dirty, and the only way they know how is to grow a mustache. But it's also a bit confusing. It's hard to keep track who's who, after having it drilled into my head that only bad men come mustached. Plus, I kinda liked tradition...of having the good guys in one colour and the bad guys in another as much as I liked having the villains clean shaven and the baddies strut around their crumb catchers like they were untouchable. When they got their comeuppance, it made it all the more sweeter. Because that mustache made them who they were: evil.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Heaven forbid!

For a country that keeps fighting over religion, it surely is a surprise that India's other film industry, that being the religious film industry has never measured up.

As a kid, I was so fascinated by the colour and calamity of the Hindu religion. Gods and goddesses. Multiple arms. Weaponry. Creation without even having sex. Then the idea that gods walked among humankind. Just the sheer nature of the stories was so fascinating. But unlike Willem Dafoe and Charlton Heston, the people who acted in these films and television series were basically going down a dead end road.

Take Ramanad Sagar's Ramayan for example. I was in India in 1986 for six weeks when it was televised. The epic about the life and exploits of Ram, the obedient son and heir apparent of Ayodhya, who's forced into exile, and then spends 13 years trying to find his wife, kidnapped by the evil demon king, Ravana. The 78 episode-long series was one of the most watched by Hindus and non-Hindus alike, not only in India, but outside the country as well. Oddly enough, Doordarshan wasn't keen on the idea of making it either, because the broadcaster thought it might lead to communal violence. I remember, being an 11 year old kid, seeing people (and life) stop on the street just to be able to pay darshan.

While the main actors, Arun Govil (Ram) and Deepika (Sita) were revered just as much as the characters they portrayed, neither found any fame outside the serials. Sure, Govil landed roles on the small screen here and there, but his star never really shone as much as you'd expect.

A few years later, B.R. Chopra produced the Mahabharat. At the time, I thought, "oh no, not again. Not another one of these". My grandmother forced me to tape these for her when they came on TV here in Canada. The story of the feuding cousins, the Pandavs and the Kauravs, told in an ornate 94-episode long series:

The sheer splendour of the production, from the sets, the costumes, the acting, there's no way to describe it but stellar. The casting, impeccable. But still, it failed to produce any real results for Nitish Bhardwaj (Krishna), Arjun (aptly named, since he played Arjun), or any of the others. Rupa Ganguli (Draupadi) and Mukesh Khanna (Bheeshma) had very limited success afterwards, but again, it was mainly on the small screen. When compared to Bollywood, TV in India is basically nominal. (I should mention, that it was only about two years ago that I was fully able to understand the magnitude of this production, and spent three months watching the entire series from beginning to end. I must say, it blew my mind away).

But it isn't just televised religious serials that fail to garner much attention for its stars. The 1960s, 70s, and 80s produced many religious films; Har Har Gange, Jai Santoshi Maa, Shiv Parvati, Sampoorna Ramayana, Tulsi Vivah to name a few. They all had the formulaic elements that Bollywood subscribed to: intrigue, drama, comedy, song and dance, mystery, love. But they failed to succeed among the general public. There were people like me and my grandmother who loved the mythological aspect (me because I thought it was cool to see gods and goddesses with four arms, she because she was always devoted), and others like us were few and far between. They basically flopped.

There were, I should mention, a few notables that were able to balance a career in Bollywood while taking part in what I'd like to call Devotion-wood. Jeevan, who had that evil look in his eye, made his name as a baddie in many films, was also (oddly enough) regularly cast as Narad, son of Brahma, who wandered the cosmos, singing the praises of Naryana:

Lalita Pawar had the same luck. She was typecasted as the evil mother-in-law because of that sinister look she had. Which probably bode well for her since she was cast a few times as Manthara in several versions of the Ramayan:,

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'm forcing myself to keep my blogging dream alive by giving you some fluff

It's Thursday. It's my prescribed day to write. I did start on an epic post, but can't seem to clear my thoughts (it's almost 12:30 AM and I have to change the second episode for the series I've been writing). So I'll just give you a list of some of my favourite Hindi films to date (which will fulfill my personal obligation of writing). These are, of course, in no particular order:

CHAMELI (2004): Aman's (Rahul Bose) car breaks down in the rain. He can't find a mechanic, but does meet Chameli (Kareena Kapoor), a young know-it-all prostitute who's trying to get out of a date set up by her pimp. The two form an unlikely friendship, as they fight off crooked cops, an annoyed john and his cronies, a greedy pimp, even each other. The majority of the film takes place in one location, all in one night.

SATYAM SHIVAM SUNDARAM (1978): literally translated, Truth, Love, Beauty, or Love Sublime. It's a story about inner beauty. Because her mother died during childbirth, Rupa (Zeenat Aman) is considered unlucky and is shunned by her village. A freak accident leaves her face partially, but permanently scarred. But Rupa has a beautiful voice, which attracts a rich, handsome, educated engineer who's come to the village for the new dam project. The two fall in love, even though Rajiv (Shashi Kapoor) has only seen her eyes. He finds her father and asks for her hand. Rupa, foreseeing catastrophe, begs her father to reject the proposal, but agrees under pressure. Her life is turned upside down when her prediction comes true. Rajiv rejects her when he sees her face. But after time, he realizes that beauty is only skin deep.

MERA NAAM JOKER (1970): Raj Kapoor's epic film about a clown who has to make people laugh at any cost, is believed to be, to some, somewhat autobiographical. Whether it is or not, it's a four hour 15 minute film divided into three acts (and yes, I've sat through it in its entirety without stopping it for "intermissions"). The film follows Raju (Rishi Kapoor/Raj Kapoor), who's forced to care for his elderly mother by entertaining people, and the three loves of his life: his school teacher (Simi Garewal), a Russian circus performer (Kseniya Ryabinkina), and finally, the woman whose career he helped launch (Padmini).

MUGHAL-E-AZAM (1960): the fact that this film took over a decade to make, employed the Indian army for its battle scenes, and had some of the most fantastic costumes I've ever seen automatically qualifies it for a "bestie". Add to this the fact that only one scene was released in colour with the remainder of the film in black and white (the director, K. Asif, originally shot most of the film in black and white and about one reel in colour. He wanted to colourize the rest, but the backers were too frustrated and couldn't wait anymore). K. Asif tells the ill-fated love story of Prince Salim (Dilip Kumar), heir to the Mughal Empire and future Emperor Jahangir, and Anarkali (Madhubala), the courtesan, who's eventually sealed into a wall.

The film was digitally remastered and released in colour in 2004. There you go K. Asif.

Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya was the only scene in colour:

DEVDAS (1955): this isn't the first version of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay's novel on the big screen, but it's probably one of the best Hindi versions. Devdas (Dilip Kumar) is the son of a wealthy zamindar. He grows up playing with Paro (Suchitra Sen) and the two fall in love. His family refuses an alliance with Paro's lower class family who marry her off to someone else. Thus begins Devdas's spiral into self-destruction.

FASHION (2008): Madhur Bhandarkar's look into the seedy underworld of Bombay's (I still find it hard to call it Mumbai) fashion industry. Meghna Mathur (Priyanka Chopra) claws her way to the top, but finds it's never that easy to stay there. Probably her best role to date, with a great supporting cast including Mugdha Godse and (surprisingly) Kangana Ranaut (who I hear is quite the diva).

PAGE 3 (2005): another Madhur Bhandarkar film, which also looks into the seedy underworld of Bombay's (see a pattern here?!) elite. Madhavi (Konkona Sen Sharma) works the party circuit as the Page 3 writer/editor, getting to know who's who and what's hot. Over time, she discovers just how shallow that world really is, and just how much she doesn't want to be a part of it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Hello and thank you for joining me.

For those of you who don't know who I am, I'll take this opportunity to give you a little insight into yours truly. For those of you who already know me, shut the hell up and keep reading. It'll be pretty short, sweet, and to the point.

WHO I AM: I am a daily news reporter. I'm a nice guy. I have days when I think I'm really fat. I normally have pretty dumb, inane thoughts about things (that I often forget).

That's basically me in a nutshell. Well, not really, but I've nailed down the important facts, but it's up to you to find out a little bit more about me as I continue this "journey" (however far this may take us). And please. Don't be shy. Feel free to comment.

So why did I decide to write this? I've been thinking about blogging for some time, but wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to write about. It almost seems like a form of narcissism to me, showing the world just how smart you are, hoping CNN will eventually take notice, read your posts, and put you on air as an "expert" or "professional blogger" after you've raged about some trending topic that might be in the news these days. 

Actually, the thought came to me while I ranted and raved about Bollywood and its "fraternity" (Aishwarya Rai called it that during an interview I did with her once, and every "in" person seems to call it that, so I'll use that term too). Problem is, I just got lazy and never bothered. The good thing with doing this now is that I can't be chastised for having an opinion AND expressing it. In one segment, I bitched about why people like Preity Zinta and Shah Rukh Khan should give up their careers. Unfortunately, people don't like hearing the truth. The truth that PZ looks like a chipmunk, hasn't put out a decent performance since Dil Chahta Hai, or that SRK is really an overacting melodramatist. How many more times can we see him do the same two or three roles over and over and over again? Was I the only one who rolled his eyes everytime he saw that damned trailer for My Name Is Khan? Quite frankly, I've never liked him. He's always seemed so...fake on screen.

What? What happened after I broadcast my views, you ask? Simple. I was told "we need to give people what they want, and they don't want to hear anything you have to say". Apparently, I needed to rein it in. So I did, because apparently I was threatened. Yup. But now, I won't. Hence the "Bollywood Un-Hero". So, PZ. Give it up. Your days are over. Oh, wait, PZ you HAVE given it up! If only SRK would listen.

I'd like to say I love Bollywood, but I can't. I did, but not anymore. But that's for a later post. That and the IIFAs. Woah.

I decided to keep this post short. But I will end by letting you mull over something that's been bugging me for years:

How did Poochie end up in Kaho Na...Pyaar Hai?

Seriously, was Poochie (The Simpsons, 1997) the inspiration for Raj Chopra (Kaho Na...Pyaar Hai, 2000)? Perhaps a more apt title would have been Kaho Na...Poochie Hai.