Now and Then.

Who the...?

Harendra Kapur.
Kyra Mathews.
Tejas Menon.

The Amul Girl: The Taste of India

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ello All,
My most honest, most tangible dream is to help create (be) India's version of Jon Stewart. He's clever, he's funny and most importantly, you'll always agree with him.
Here in India, sadly there is no one comic to challenge the system. What we do have, is a little girl. A little girl with chubby rosy cheeks, a pony tail and no visible nose. For the past 32 years, she's been such a large part of this nation's middle class.
Mocking movies, politics or just about anything in the news, every friday people will peer out of their cars or homes for the nearest Amul billboard to see what she has to say.
When Cheeni Kum came out, she said 'Butter Zyaada', when stocks were dropping she called it the 'Nonsensex', and more recently, when the Bandra Worli Sealink came up, she said:
'Early To Worli: No Jam, only Butter.'
A while back, I'd bitched and cribbed about how for some reason, India doesn't have any good Mascots it can lay claim to, but the truth is, we may very well have the greatest Mascot of all.
The Guinness book of world records may acknowledge it as the world's longest ad campaign but the truth is, Sylvester DaCunha's creation has become far more than that.
The plan was to make a mascot who could 'worm her way into the heart of every housewife' and the cute little girl in a polka dot dress did just that. Presently, no brand comes close to the sales of Amul butter and quite frankly, no brand ever will.
It's not that the butter is any better. It's just that for 32 years we've giggled with the same girl and we don't intend on ever changing that.
The Air India man keeps losing weight, the Boomer man doesn't seem to stay for very long at all, and the young doctor who fed his cows chewing gum disappeared. The Amul Baby stuck around.
From an advertising point of view, it's incredible. Every ad man worth his salt will use Amul as an example of a brand's staying value.
From a political cartoonist's point of view, it's the toughest possible competition. With the greatest of respect to RK Laxman, 7 out of 10 times, the Amul Girl's the one I'll tell my friends about.
From a business point of view, it's a 2500% sales increase.
Most importantly though, from an Indian's point of view, I get a free joke every week, and the best part is, there's a cute little girl smiling at me while I get it.
My other dream is to have a Wikipedia page about me. But I'd be totally psyched if I'm big enough to be mentioned in an Amul ad.
To the Amul girl, thank you for all the years of being so very Utterly Butterly Delicious. To the readers here's a few hours worth of some of the things she said.

Ello All
This review is brought to you from a bus heading to Pune (It’s a We The Conference of drunken ramblings thing…very hush hush) and my net has just enough juice to post this.
The bright side is I didn’t want to do this post loaded with research the way we usually do. I want it to be just my experience listening to and loving this album. I’d just like to make clear that this album will probably not achieve much commercially but anyone who loves Paolo enough to hear it out is going to have themselves a few very cheerful days.
Kyra dropped this off with me with a disclaimer: ‘It’s no These Streets, but it’s great’ I suppose it’s true, but let me just say, for whatever reason I did not have such love for These Streets as I do for this one.
Every album leaves a sort of a movie in your mind. This album’s movie, for me, is a whole lot of chilling in rooms made of wood, sitting by a small pond in a damp patch of grass and smoking a cigarette. Only to run back into a bigger room made of wood where you sit around in old clothes laughing your guts out and following your every whim. Oh and every actor has a strong Scotch accent.
I’ve always envied artistes for whom lyrics and melodies are just natural translations of shit that’s happened, and every note that he strums or crones feels like he’s effortlessly just singing out loud. ‘People want to speed it up, but I just want ta slow it down’
These may not be some of the greatest love songs ever, but man, Terry Brogen (his girlfriend) is one of the luckiest women alive. The love, the passion the freaking heart that this guy throws into his songs are so incredibly moving they don’t make you want to cry, they make your chest swell because you want to lift a glass up to him and sing right along.
The music is simple, and kind of old, lots of upstrums, trumpets and rumble drums. Perfect for someone enjoying the hell out of life who needs a platform to just spurt out the awesomeness of it all.
Every time I hear this album I want to be in Scotland chilling with Paolo, watching him Romba with ‘his baby’ while he coos and caws excitedly! Then I realize, I kind of freaking am. Right from the album art (Which I must point out Kyra has expertly deciphered. Let’s hope she offers a detailed decryption for us all) the overriding feeling of this album is a warm, cosy welcome to a whole bunch of stories and a pint with them all.
A big hug to Paolo Nutini, if ever he reads this, Thanks for showing us how to live life with the Sunny Side up.
It would seem unprofessional, but for a more coherent analysis of the album, do check out John Hurst's site.

The Iglesian Influence!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A few days ago I was in Landmark buying a gift for one of my friends, and just like all music stores they had a CD playing. I could almost instantly recognize it as an Enrique Iglesias song, and as I continued shopping, I vaguely hummed along with the melody. I got home and realized I couldn't get the song out of my head! It was there all the time, the lyrics moving me, the melody slowly lifting and subsiding in my mind! What was this song? And more importantly, why was it buzzing around in my mind?
Because thats what he does.

As any musically inclined/blogger would do, I researched! First off I went and I got the name of the song. I sat wondering for a long time, though the answer seemed almost simple enough, is that like everyone knows already, I am a major pop-fan. I sing pop, write pop, and I enjoy it. But why was someone like Enrique Iglesias, who I've liked in general but was mostly whatever about, affecting me like something viral?
Enrique's Dad is Julio Iglesias, one of the most successful and best selling artists of all time, selling over 300 albums, and man has he released a lot of albums! Barring that, when you see the man, you can clearly make-out that he has the class of the yesteryear, that seems lacking today or that has been made hybrid by people like Michael Bublè or Alicia Keys. He can definitely sing well; one of my dad's friends who is a huge fan of his once said "Ahh that Julio Iglesias; he could make love to a woman just by his voice". So that settles that.
I asked myself, really, what does Enrique have going for him? He can sing alright I guess, his voice is nothing spectacular. Neither are his performances. He had his father's shadow to crawl out of (to which I might add he has done an admirable job) and well, he had Ricky Martin to deal with. What he does have is that he is goodlooking, and that could very well account for the much adoration from his female fandom. But its still not that.
I went back to the store looking for that one song*, and I realized that they were playing it off his greatest hits album. I was a little wowed. While I knew that he had released a greatest hits album sometime ago, it just struck me that this guy had still been around for so long and has done so much work he could produce a greatest hits collection. The other funny thing was that when I turned the CD around to look at the songs on it, I realized I knew every single one. So this post if not anything else, is to celebrate the achievement of Enrique and his trusty songwriters, cause man if you can produce catchy-song after the next for 10 years, your doing a pretty kickass job.
And let's face it, everyone really digs the songs, right?

God, I am such a sucker for pop.

*The song was 'Maybe' from his 2001 album 'Escape'.

A Month of Action

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ello all
It's been exactly 10 days since any of us posted last and I think you'd agree, that's ten days too many. I could say it was a religious thing, I could say we were introspective and hence mute and I could even say we were all struck by a 9 day terminal illness which was cured by a batch of happy cookies. I could all say, 'quit whining and read on for the next damn post!'
SO last month, this summer's action movies all descended on India over the course of four very very hardcore weeks. I had the pleasure of watching all of them and instead of doing reviews for each I felt, the four films in question deserved nothing more than a comparative analysis.
Which means- ANOTHER LIST! Woohoo!
4. Wolverine:
All of last summer played a video game called Ultimate Alliance. At every level, witout fail, the stand out beat down character was Wolverine. Catchphrases, cool moments and an amazing array of powers. We were freaking psyched. Most of you know how that turned out.
The action was lame, the storyline was lamer, the delivery of catchphrases worse. The acting was ordinary at best and the only thing that really surprised me about the movie was that it wasn't directed by McG. Shameful waste of a character. Shameful waste of our time.
2/10 (For the two minutes of Ryan Reynolds)
3. Terminator: Salvation
As soon as this movie was done, and indeed for a good few hours after it, I hated it. Barely any plotline, barely any notable acting, and loopholes all over the place. But since then, I've started thinking about it, and perhaps it's the fact that I have Wolverine for reference, but you know what? Terminator was a pretty bad ass movie. Screw the plotline and screw the loopholes. I haven't seen action like that since the Matrix trilogy (Remember the third one and you'll see where I'm coming from). Ruthless, non stop, create-and-destroy-the-elaborate-set-leaving-a-mess action. Punching someone's heart out, robot bikes coming out of robot shins- that is freaking sweet. In fact given a choice, I'd do it all over again.
2. Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen
This one just barely pips Terminator and that's only because any kid with a TV in the 90s grew up loving and admiring Optimus Prime and to see him become as hardcore ass whopping as he was in this movie was a total freaking treat. I think the best description (only) for this movie would be as a Hindi Movie. Michael Bay probably won't be allowed any more sequels but that's alright. He was upto his usual sweeping shots-acoustic strumming-emotional send off self. The non fight scenes were long and dreary and after a while really quite irritating. Megan Fox is officially the first Hollywood Item girl. All she needed was a dance troupe and we'd have the greatest ever Hindi Movie.
Shia LeBouf was decent enough and the mum was pretty funny, but the two nigga-bots stole the show. There was a line from them which really summed up this movie experience for me:
-"Ah MAN! That Hurt!"
-"It's supposed to! it's an Ass Whooping!"
7/10 (If I was single perhaps Megan Fox could've earned two more points.)
1. Star Trek
I've been petrified to review this one. I wanted to, but man. Suffice it to say, for the uninitiated, JJ Abrams has a new sign outside his office- 'THE MAN'.
A watertight plotline, flawless casting, super duper send me to Pluter special effects, and more than anything else one of the most perfect scripts I've ever noticed. By far the movie of the year so far (And we've even had freaking Hangover).
If I go any further with this review it'll turn into a puff peice so I won't. Let me just say this- when I have kids, I will proudly, even smugly tell them, that I was there when JJ Abrams gave the world Star Trek.
9/10 (1 point of for ending. Not the ending, just the movie ever ending. Like the end of an Ice Cream cone- Yea yea enjoy what you had but I WANT FREAKING MORE!!)

So a month of very 80s very hard hitting action. And the best part is, GI Joe isn't out yet!
I just got goosebumps.

Dum dum Duh duh dum!

Let's just hope these Kaminey...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I have a problem. Let me just state for the record that over the past couple of years and since coming to India, I have been converted into a big Hindi movie fan. I am completely loyal to the industry, I believe in them and I know they have the capacity to make excellent films- they have proved it in the past on many occasions. However, they have also proved to be quite unreliable based on the frequency of how often a decent movie is released. Now, my problem is that every time I watch a good Hindi film trailer(and boy are there many) I am faced with a dilemma- do I invest in these movies emotionally by looking forward to it, and hope that it will be the next Dil Chahta Hai or Swades? Or do I cautiously and safely curb my enthusiasm till I see the final product? Hindi films let me down- most of the time. Sometimes there is a pleasant surprise, like the awesome DevD but lets face facts- Ghajini, Chandni Chowk to China and 8x10 Tasveer have all been thoroughly disappointing even though they had the potential to be super kickass. I went for all of these movies first-day-first-show and came back dejected with the Indian Film Industry. But then slowly I forget about their mistakes and get roped right back into the game with the next big release. I have, however seen the error in my ways and been able to see the good ones from the bad, and believe me it is not hard to spot. 'Kambhakkt Ishq' was the single greatest waste of money on film. Like Rajeev Masand said, Rs 60 crores could have gone to so many better causes, and it would have been just one less film for Akshay Kumar* to ruin his career with.
But still got to love that guy!

This season has been filled the most big-budget films from hollywood, and the barrage has not yet ended. So with the IPL and ICC T20 well out of the way, the movies have been streaming in and with Transformers 2 in theatres and HP6 on the way, I really want to see where our Indian mainstream cinema is standing. We had New York (and a fairly healthy discussion about it too!), Khambakkht Ishq and soon to release is Luck pairing Sanjay Dutt and Imran Khan again (You remember how that last one turned out- Kidnap...the scriptwriter).
Ever since I saw the trailer at the Delhi-6 premiere, there is one movie that is grabbing my attention and that I must see on opening day. Vishal Bhardwaj's Kaminey.

This is not a heavily disguised puff-piece but man this shit looks good. I have been thoroughly impressed with his adaptations of Macbeth(Maqbool) and Othello(Omkara), which I still maintain is one of the greatest dramas that the Industry has ever produced. He has openly stated that the lack of good scripts and scriptwriters is the primary reason why he turns to Shakespeare for a decent story. For me personally, that directors can recognise the fact that their are not good scripts being written for screen currently, is an achievement. I don't care, take your time, don't make a movie for like a year or two, but don't produce until you've got the goods, man.
Kaminey comes off as a very Guy Ritchie-esque dramedy, with an array of wonderfully wierd characters, like Shahid Kapur's two characters in the film(Yes, it's a double role) Charlie and Guddu with their speech defects and the completely uncouth don played by Amole Gupte.
The soundtrack is awesome with 'Dhan Te Nan' that blew my mind when I heard it. A kickass track reminding me just enough of the pulp fiction theme, to get me completely psyched for this.
But yes I know, this could be another run-of-the-mill flicks that is produced so often that can get my hopes screwed once again. But really, who knows man? That is the prospect that excites me sometimes even more than the movie itself: What if. What if this is the movie that really steps it up? What if this is the movie I was looking for in Ghajini, or in Tasveer? What if this is the awesome Hindi movie? What if.
Whatever it is, I hope its not regular. That should be the norm; either you completely freak out the audience by wierding it out, or just be shit. Don't give me normal. The cast is capable. The director is more than capable. Please, let this be the one.

*He is seriously the only thing good about that movie.

In Bollywood's defence...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ello All,
I just read a post by our very dear friend Anish . He watched New York and, very clearly did not like it. He's never been a Bollywood fan and you know what, it's hard to blame him. But, there's a trend I've found, usually in Indians living abroad (who have to sort of shoulder any labels attached to Bollywood and indeed ANYTHING Indian) wherein it's not that they don't like Bollywood but it's almost like it's offensive to them. Before I go any further I want to establish that to Anish and any other haters of Bollywood, I completely respect your opinions and am not in any way judging your arguments.
The trend I just mentioned, is the analysis of Hindi movies, with the expectations of English movies.
Here's the deal. We got the camera at the same time, if not before the likes of America. But we got it in very different situations. America was in the middle of a cultural boom (which is natural when you're making one from scratch) and we were in a sort of cultural rape, as I like to call it.
Satyajit Ray was just as boring and intense as say, Citizen Kane. Some of our actors and actresses were just as stunning and moving as some of theirs. But the movement was never on the same track. Not to say that either track was better, just that they were parallel and never intertwining.
Cut to today, while our drama flick of the month is New York, America's undoubtedly got a whole bunch of equally dramatic films coming out. For me, as a movie goer, sure, New York probably won't be without disclaimer, but the point is, as I've said time and time again, I AM NOT THE TARGET AUDIENCE.
The quote when you scroll down and look left will certainly seem hypocritical now, but the truth is, it's taken me almost two and half years of living in this country (and significantly- this city, Mumbai) for me to finally appreciate the intricate difference between film making in the Indian subcontinent and film making abroad.
In Tunisia, there is a film maker who makes films with his buddies and has his entire town in splits. Think Sweding but with slightly more original scripts. India's kind of like that. Our threshold for 'anything on film' has certainly decreased over the years but ultimately, our culture of watching films is nothing like the culture of watching English films.
You watch something like Star Trek for the story, the references, the ideas, the metaphors and the acting.
We watch Singh is Kinng for the dialogues, for the plot twists and the songs.
For God's sake we refuse to watch movies that are anything less than 2 hours long. Why? 'Because, dude, if I'm going to pay hundred rupees, atleast two hours ka film should be there na?'
There's a reason Indians get upset when people mock Indian movies. It's not for any reason. It's because if you insult an Indian film you're insulting our entire culture. You're insulting the way we laugh and eat a meal with our hands. You're insulting the way we'll watch serials with loud 'DHA DHA DHUMS!' just so that while we're getting food ready for the family, we don't miss too much because it's in slow motion anyway.
If Anish says New York is crap, I'll almost certainly agree when I DO see it. I'll concede that there is an air of stagnation in the industry. I'll concede that the way films are made here is often despicable. And I'll even concede that all you need is a pair of giant knockers (male or female) to earn in the industry.
But you cannot judge an Indian film with a normal eye. You HAVE to empathise and you HAVE to see it as though you're an Indian yourself. The same way we'll excuse random camera shifts and random cinematics in an uber deep french movie, we have to excuse the seemingly 'lesser' cinematics in our movies because, as I said earlier, they aren't made for us.
Basically, any Indian growing up with an international outlook is either completely isolated in that there's rarely any movies targetting us.
We're essentially smarter than everyone else because we can love ANYTHING.
The second option appeals to me a bit more. What about you?

Love & Paper Beds.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Restlessness can either be good or bad. In my case, its bad because I dont seem to be finding an appropriate outlet for my restlessness - apart from getting cranky. In one of my fits of restlessness and excessive web wanderlust, I stumbled on this site: Learning to Love You More. It's one of those rare websites that encourages you to do silly things that you'd never really think of and makes it meaningful. The most mundane of things, like making a bed or braiding your hair can become art, as long as you really feel it.

I laughed when I first found the website. It seemed unecessarily cheesy and I didnt see how doing any of the stupid "assignments" on the list could help you love you more. Then, stunned to see how many thousands of people had actually completed and posted their completed assignments, I figured, what the hell. I have nothing better to do anyway. I closed my eyes and picked a number from 1 - 70, and picked my lucky number, 16. Assignment #16, to my utter dismay, turned out to be " Make a paper replica of your bed" Of all the writing assignments the site has, I had to pick an arty crafty thing, that Harry could do full justice to, while I'd land up with a mess and many papercuts.

In the end, I figured that getting out of my comfort zone could only be a good thing, and if I messed up, well, no-one would ever have to know. So I made my paper bed. I made a mess, and I got paper cuts, but while I was making it, in my room, with the music blaring, I felt some of the restlessness fade. For the first time since I officially graduated, I felt content and happy, with my little bits of paper constructing a silly little paper bed. "Like a recipe, meditation practice, or familiar song, the prescriptive nature of these assignments is intended to guide people towards their own experience" The sentence just seemed like a bunch of flowery mush, when I first read it on the site. Now, it makes perfect sense.

Sometimes you just need to use your hands and create. Sometimes its good to just forget about work and study and all things sane, and do something you wouldnt ordinarily do. For some moments or hours, stop thinking about everything you think about. And you might just remember what you were like before you were consumed with work, money, rent, exams, scholarships, roomates, lovers, recession or even traffic and a lack of parking spaces. You'll forget about being broke, being tired, being unemployed, being homeless, being cranky, being lonely, or just being plain pissed off.

Instead you'll reread a favourite book from 5th grade, write the phone calls you wish you could have, make the phone call someone else wished they could have, take a photograph of strangers holding hands, braid someone's hair, grow a garden in an unexpected spot, cover the song "Dont dream its over" , or draw a constellation on someone's freckles.

Do the assignments. Do all, do one, do some. It'll be nice to remember what life and love felt like before life took over.

Ps - Yes, I know that is a terrible paper bed, but what do you expect from a pack of cards and wrapping paper?

The Power of Blog

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ello all,
Today's a post is a particularly self indulgent one in that it relates directly to the very medium I'm using. And now I've just spoken about the post itself. Yowza.
Anyway, a few friends from college have started a very earnest blog that'll relate to their course in Journalism. So far they've not really picked up much pace, but pretty soon, I think they'll really take off. Thing is, it really got me thinking about the sheer power of blogging, and while I'm sure it's been said more than enough, but the blogosphere RULES!
For Tejas and me, our first tastes of it were when Anish insisted we gave it a shot, and the first thing that really struck me was the kind of freedom I had. I could say what I wanted, how I wanted and when I wanted it.
Initially it was this very self serving 'express all opinions' type rush, but now I've realised just how significant this freedom is. I can mention the deepest, sometimes darkest feelings and thoughts, without worrying about selling, or copyrights, or any sort of control. And while yes, it sounds very rebellious to have that, the really awesome part is, the kind of re assurance one can get from the other, sometimes random people who not only tolerate but sometimes even agree with these feelings.
If I write poorly I won't lose anything. If I say something bad I won't lose anything. If I, on the other hand, just do it, there's so much I can gain.
This is a blog for the few people I know who either will soon start blogging, or have started blogging already. The blogs I have enjoyed most, both writing and reading, have been those blogs which have come out of the sheer need to blurt out what's being felt. Anish's best posts are always the ones where he's too impassioned to care whether or not he's making sense. Kyra's posts are always immaculate because they're always so purely ridden with feeling and thought, which ordinarily would be hidden.
If you're reading this, tell a non blogger friend, that in a world of nearly 7 billion people, the supply of human interaction completely overpowers the demand for it, and the best friend you'll ever find, is you're keyboard. It doesn't judge you, it doesn't question you, and every so often, it finds you someone who'll love you to peices.
I will end with a quote we've used before, but it's totally apt:
'Go on. Try it y'self! Blogging!'

Once more for Michael

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

By now there may be almost a million posts about him, and yet it feels wrong not honour him with a post of our own on this blog. What to talk about? I could once again talk about how he single-handedly changed music or even revolutionised the modern music video. I could say that Michael was the humanitarian, and donated large chunks of profits to charity, or plainly that he is the greatest breakdancer in history. But of course he is more than all that. Michael Jackson was black, white, famous, infamous, bad, lonely, inspiring and a smooth criminal. For me (and I guess a for a lot of people) Michael Jackson is one of the first artists I could properly associate with music as a kid. I remember owning 'Dangerous' on audio casette and later on 'Thriller', and if I can remember clearly I think there's a home video of me dancing madly to 'Jam'; I shake my legs wildly as I sing random words to fit MJ's quick lyrics. Thinking back I realise how MJ came so much earlier than most of my other musical influences like Backstreet Boys and Elvis Presley. Anyway, so I decided I'd write about what my favourite things about the man are.
Here are my Top 5 Favourite Michael Jackson things:

5. Come Together by Michael Jackson - This was my ringtone for a really long time, he took this already kick-ass song and somehow made it his own. I really thought that this was his song and not the other way round. But man, even the King of Pop had to cover the freakin' Beatles!

4. The Red Leather Jacket from Beat it - Out of all MJ's quirky get ups (some supreme, some not so much) this is my favourite. The pushed up sleeves when he does he the pull-grab move in the video looks soooooooooo cool. I have wanted a jacket like this forever and seriously who hasn't?

3. Lyrical/Vocal Ability - Anyone can sing awesome lyrics well. Beat it and Thriller are so cool to sing cause they have fun and catchy lyrics, but what do you do when you want to sing about a cause? How do you do it without making it sound corny or too forced? You do it like Michael Jackson. MJ has plenty of preachy songs that don't even sound so cause he makes the transition so easily. He blurs the line between awesome music and good intent, which so many artists (Sheryl Crow, though I love you, take a damn leaf!) fail to do today. Black or White, They Don't Really Care About Us, Man in the Mirror, We are the World, etc.

2. The Moonwalk - How would this not be here? I know theres all that bullshit surrounding the fact that "He didn't invent it" and " its originally by someone else"; you know what? Balls to that. There is only one person who can incorporate it seamlessly as a deathdefying act into his array of already badass moves and that's Michael. The black shoes and smart white socks catch your eye too easily.
You watch Bille Jean Live. You go 2 and a half minutes in. You wait for the musical break.
1 2 3 4.
And then you wonder why this man ever died.

1. Legacy - You really have to thank your stars for Michael being as big as he was. He really is the last great. I have lived in the life and times of Michael Jackson, I was his contemporary and that is seriously one of the things to tell the kids someday. The Beatles were a group of people, who died individually (well half of them anyway) and it didn't leave that great an impact. Freddie Mercury who is awesome, still isn't in the same league. Elvis is probably the only one, and just like that, Michael Jackson is only one. There is and always will be one Michael Jackson.

Sorry bro, RIP.

The All of us.

The All of us.