For the next few days – till I launch my novel – this blog is going to be your window seat to the exciting happenings around it. Getting a film star to launch one’s book or a magazine, as I have always got done, is an interesting experience. It is not easy if you have labels like ‘controversial’ and ‘maverick’ stuck to you.
Ajay Devgn had launched my book ‘Feng Shui for the Bold & Beautiful, the Rich & Famous’. Raveena Tandon inaugurated ‘Nehru & the Tantrik Woman’, the controversial play that the Government of Maharashtra did not permit to be staged. Shekhar Suman unveiled ‘Eurekha!’, which created a storm, and Manisha Koirala did the ritual for ‘Simply Scandalous: Meena Kumari’, which remained on Page Three longer than any Indian book during that period.
In anycase, I always end up thanking my stars that I am not the editor of a film magazine, who has to organize a cover story interview every month or even every week. A mainstream magazine can get away even with piles of garbage on the cover – like Khushwant Singh did as the editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India when he carried, “Why are Indians dirty?” or “Are the Indians dirtiest people in the world?”
I too had got ‘Island’ to run my story “Bombay’s 100 Worst” list with an ugly picture!
To return to film magazines, it must be a tough job for those who edit magazines like ‘Stardust’ and ‘Cine Blitz’ to organize photo-sessions with the same half-a-dozen stars after abusing them / exposing them. It would be like walking on a tight rope, or worse, a slippery, oily tight rope.
I also thank my stars that I’m not a producer – these days producers are only ‘executive producers’ though as the stars insist on a partnership and the corporate sector has taken over the job. The very thought of matching the dates and moods of temperamental stars leaves me cold. I have always admired the patience and tact of people like Ramesh Sippy, Subash Ghai, Manmohan Desai, Yash Chopra, and even Rajkumar Kohli who made multi-starrers like ‘Sholay’, ‘Saudagar’, ‘Naseeb’, ‘Kala Pathar’ and ‘Nagin’. Just see ‘John Johnny Janardhan’ in ‘Naseeb’ and you’ll see the biggest star-outing, with rivalries forgotten.
As a waiter, Amitabh mouths the lines and dances with his co-stars, and the guests include his then rival, Rajesh Khanna, with Sharmila Tagore, Raj Kapoor with Mala Sinha, Shammi Kapoor with two heroines on his arms, Dharmendra with Simi Garewal, Rakesh Roshan, Randhir Kapoor, Vijay Arora and some more.
Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJjMtDxGPMo
I have seen Subash Ghai running breathlessly between the makeup rooms of Dilip Kumar and Raaj Kumar when he was making ‘Saudagar’. Yash Chopra would add one more ‘dishum’ to placate one of the two heroes (Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha) of ‘Kala Patthar’.
The subject in school used to be “If I was the Prime Minister of the country.”, but I’ll change that to “If I was to choose the Prime Ministerial candidate.”
And my answer:
No, not Manmohan Singh. NoMa sounds like NaMo but that no, never again. In fact, I’d ask everyone to swear off bureaucrats, specially the married ones. They are so used to being obedient and quiet that they could only be rubber stamps. Manmohan Singh seemed promising, but he lost an opportunity no bureaucrat had ever got in the history of our country.
No, not L. K. Advani. It has nothing to do with his age. I would not choose even a 65-year-old Advani. If the label, ‘Maut Ka Saudagar’ suits anyone better than even Narendra Modi, it is Advani. It was his ‘Rath Yatra’ that started the bloody communal hatred with the Babri Masjid demolition, and we continue to pay the price for it. The stupid political system rewarded the BJP for that communal divide, but neither did the BJP, nor Advani do anything for the country that would merit a positive mention in my thoughts. Advani (of ‘Mandir vahin banaayenge‘ fame) didn’t even build the temple, not that I care. No other yatra has done more damage to the country’s harmonious fabric than this one man’s yatra.
Then there is Mulayam Singh, who always reminds me of the Hindu rajas who didn’t go to school.
And no, not Rahul Gandhi, either. Not even if the corrupt regime of the UPA returns. Prime Ministership is not like a career in the movies, where a pushy father goes on producing (even benaami) movies for his untalented Abhishek / Uday / Tusshar / Ritesh baba.
I would not consider Sharad Pawar, as he is not considering himself, either. He is contesting the elections only to be the boss of the Mumbai Cricket Association.
No, no one from South, either. Narsimha Rao had turned me off playing the fiddle (the actural term is harp) like when the Babri was demolished. And H. D. Gowda was just an accident that needs to be forgotten.
I considered J. Jayalalitha, but history shows that (1) women rulers have always been more tyrannical than their male counterparts, and (2) they have their petty agendas. Jayalalitha doesn’t like Chidambaram and if she becomes the Prime Minister, her one-point programme would be ‘Get Chiddu’. Her second and all other points would be acquiring 4,000 saris and 4,000 pairs of expensive shoes from all over the world…for herself.
For reason number 1, I’d not want Mayawati or Mamta, either.
Please don’t mention Arvind Kejriwal. The TV channels might have made him a little more famous and he might have behaved like he was going to rule the country, and the crowd of dancing youngsters might have thought of him as their messiah, but now they’d rather have Narendra Modi. But I don’t like Narendra Modi for the same reason that I don’t like L. K. Advani even if he was 65 years.
So, I think I would rather write about “If I was the Prime Minister of the country.”
The sense of pride, which Americans have for things American, and more importantly, for the icons of their country, is amazing.
On a recent trip to the US, I saw the framed posters of famous comic characters Popeye, Archie and Superman besides Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, The Rolling Stones, Beatles, and the Statue of Liberty on the walls of several cafes.
I have never seen pics Indian icons – like Mohd. Rafi or Tansen, Sant Kabir or Tukaram, Chhatrapati Shivaji or Babasaheb Ambedkar, Madhubala, Tagore, Satyajit Ray or for that matter Raj Kapoor in the poster of Aawara – on the walls of restaurants and cafes.
Maybe, because we don’t have any reason to be proud of our icons with their notorious feet of clay?
The national anthem is played in cinema houses only because it is mandatory, and you can see some people standing outside, waiting for it to be over, to avoid rising from their seats.
Even the legend – Mera Desh Mahaan – found behind the trucks is there because it is mandatory, and often comes with a prefix: Sau mein nabbey beimaan phir bhi...
Is it partly because India has been ruled by outsiders – and Indians didn’t feel disloyal cheating on the rulers? Evasion of taxes or shirking work was considered alright, even a silent dissent. Why else was the civil disobedience movement of Gandhiji so successful?