Anurag Basu, Ranbir Kapoor and Kishore Kumar

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Somehow I believe Anurag Basu is born for greater things than Barfi, not that Barfi was any lesser. I have seen Life…in a Metro, Gangster and Murder, each, more than once. I saw Barfi in the plane while returning from USA and noticed how Anurag has got the best out of Ranbir Kapoor.
I am looking forward to his movie on the life of Kishore Kumar which will have Ranbir playing the role of the mad-genius Bengali. I think he is the only actor who can play KK with his quick changes of expression, a great sense of humor and a little crazy-fast way of talking.
It is easy for me to visualize Ranbir talking to the plants, like KK used to do or to play a tabla on the bald head of a producer asking for dates without settling the old dues or better still, waiting in his car outside the famous bungalow of Amitabh Bachchan for exactly three minutes, getting sore, return and vow never to lend his voice to the megastar.
Or to see Ranbir bashing up the girl who would play Madhubala, as KK used to do or to woo Yogita Bali, marry her and then divorce because the girl was extravagant or how he married Leena Chandavarkar the widow of Sidharth Bandodkar and many other incidents.
A tidbit: Anurag was to direct my biography of Meena Kumari – Simply Scandalous. It didn’t happen because the producers who were in the process of signing him found that he had hiked his rate after his ‘Murder’ became a hit!
It would have been nice to see a Manisha Koirala humming the lines Meena Kumari wrote:
Ek markaz kii talaash ek bhatakti Khushboo/ Kabhii manz kabhii tamhiid-e-safar hotii hai.
Or to have a Kangana Runout talking to her collection of rocks and referring to each rock with a name!

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The Selective World of ‘The World Before Her’

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Nargis Dutt once accused Satyajit Ray of selling Indian poverty to the West. And every Bengali, his nephew and neighbor got up in protest. How could a film actress question the motives of the great Ray?
Thousands of Indians have, since, done what Nargis suspected Ray of doing – damning the image of India.
Canada based Nishi Pahuja is one of them and The World Before Her is one such documentary.
I am glad that showing what is not a regular film has become possible and three cheers to Anurag Kashyap for picking it up, supporting it and presenting it. He even risked annoying The Times of India which runs the beauty pageant in India. This shows a healthy trend in Indian film market.
But the film is something else again.
You have camera getting into the Durga Vahini and probing the mindset of the right wing fanatics. You find yourself embarrassed to belong to the same religious group. But not surprised. Hindus in India, like the Muslims, the Christians, Sikhs, Parsis and others are a blend of different segments and thoughts.
Talking to two and half Hindus belonging to Durga Vahini, trapping the Hindu father into saying embarrassing things (“She is my daughter. I have absolute right over her life.” “I took up a hot rod and burnt her foot as she had lied. Beti dikhaao vo nishaan.” “She will have to get married. How can she not marry?”) and daughter (“He has a right to beat me. He produced me! They kill the girl at the time of birth in a traditional family but I am grateful that I was allowed to live.” “Mahatma Gandhi‘s non-violence emasculated Hindus.”) is selective reporting on the sly.
Inserted statements like ‘Some believe that Hindu terrorism is more dangerous than Islamic terrorism.’ along with news-clippings of two terrorist activities of Durga Vahini, mention of stray instances of moral policing (not by Durga Vahini but by another rather unimportant Hindu right wing group Ram Sena), shots of riots in Gujarat and mixing them with unconfirmed figures of the killings of daughters and girl children is clearly biased. Biased because of the choice. Nisha Pahuja doesn’t take the mindset of Muslims in India, doesn’t take her camera to Madrasas or the camps of Islamic terrorists. She goes for the soft target – Hindu right wing.
This traditional Hindu mindset is juxtaposed with the girls participating in beauty pageants. The desperate struggle of girls to make it big, to be selected ‘Miss India’, the training, cosmetic surgery, forcing the insecure girls to get botox injections and dermal fillers, use of creams and chemicals to make them fairer and again an effort to show how India treats the girl child form the content of this Paschim against the Purab of Durga Vahini.
My quarrel is with her approach.
If the theme is to place modern Indian woman against the Indian woman of another, older era the women in Durga Vahini could have been excluded. They don’t fit the bill. The mothers of the candidates as the contrast between the two might have been a better choice.
If the idea was to examine the mindset of the orthodox Hindus – this minority of semi-educated Hindu fanatics – should have been contrasted with the mindset of the orthodox Muslims in India.
The only connect between the two world is that Durga Vahini was against India hosting the pageants and forced ABCL to cancel it and incur a loss of over 20 crore.
In fact, it was not Durga Vahini but Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha’s (KRRS) that was responsible for the violent protests against the pageants managed by ABCL.
It is easy to ask leading questions with a bogus empathy to open the ignorant members of the vahini and then delete them is making a documentary with an agenda.
Nisha has an eye for catching the right moment, right expressions and making every frame say much more than in an average documentary. I see a great documentary filmmaker in her if she be bold, ventures into unexplored territories without fear. Camera is your ticket to the world the others aren’t allowed to see. Use it, honestly and bravely.

*****

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#SumitraMahajan ko kabhi gussa nahin aata!

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A TV anchor interviewed the new speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
He asked her about her reputation of ‘never getting angry’. She smiled, grinned happily, turned and twisted with “Main puri koshish karti hoon ke log pyar se samjhen.”
“Ma’am, aap ki reputation hai ke aap kabhi bhi gussa nahin kartein?”
Mahajan answers humbly, “Haan reputation to hai.”
Journo grins.
Lekin aap ko kabhi to gussa aata hoga?”
Nahin, kabhi nahin.
Wider grin.
Apne ghar walon par bhi nahin?”
Apne parivaar ke saath kya jhagda karna. Main unhein pyar karti hoon aur woh mujhe.”
Kabhi padosiyon ke saath koi jhagda?”
Nahin, kabhi nahin. Padosi hi to samay par kaam mein aate hain.”
“School college ke friends ke saath koi anban?”
Bored. “Never, bhai, never. Doston se kya anban. Aap ek hi sawaal baar baar puch rahen hain.”
“Party ke doosre netaaon se koi takraar?”
(A little irritated) “Nahin, woh to party ke sadasya hain. Aap koi aur sawal poochhiye.”
Aur aapki party ke senior members ke saath koi argument?
(Sore) “Phir? Apne seniors ke saath kyon argument karna?”
Ab Congress opposition mein hai, kal ruling mein thi. Kabhi unke saath haathapaai?”
(Trying to control her temper with difficulty) “Politics mein kuch personal nahin hota. Main aapko baar baar kah rahi hoon…”
“Media ke log jab aap ko betuke sawal poochhte hain tab aap ko gussa aata hai?”
Picking up a flower pot to break it on his head Sumitra Mahajan runs after him shouting, “Maine bola na mujhe gussa nahin aata!”

(Inspired by a scene in an old Bollywood film after seeing #RajatSharma interviewing #SumitraMahajan)

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Religion in our caps?

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We would wear the skull cap while passing from Muslim localities and shift to the Maharashtrian cap in Hindu areas. Religion was no more in our hearts. It was only in our caps.

During the tense days of Hindu-Muslim riots, we would keep two topis in our pockets. One would be a Maharashtrian cap and the other would be a skull cap. We would wear the skull cap while passing from Muslim localities and shift to the Maharashtrian cap in Hindu areas. Religion was no more in our hearts. It was only in our caps.
There once used to be Hindu paani and Muslim paani on railway platforms. This practiced was discontinued.
I thought those days wouldn’t last. But there is no changing the mind. There is a Hindu mind and there is a Muslim mind?
The young IT graduate Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh who was bludgeoned to death during the protests in Pune over the morphed pictures of Bal Thackeray and Chhatrapati Shivaji had nothing to do with them.
He was killed only because he was a Muslim.
And his killers belong to Hindu Rashtra Sangh led by Dhananjay Desai. He and his organization has been in existence for a decade. They may not have killed a Muslim but they have bullied them, have extorted money, resorted to blackmail and assaulted people.
This must stop!
Announcing Rs 5 lakh as compensation is not the end of the story. First, often it is just an announcement. Money doesn’t reach the victim. Second, this is public money that you’re giving to shift the focus from the failure of governance.
What are you doing to erase this pathetic hatred from the minds, from the Hindu minds and the Muslim minds, from the Sikh minds and the Christian minds?
Blending the good thoughts of all religions, Moghul Emperor Akbar started Din-E-Ilahi. It didn’t work. I’d have told him to banish wearing religion on the head, on the chest.
Your religion is your private commitment to the Almighty. There is no need to flaunt it. There is no need to use it as a pressure group, as a vote bank.

*****

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On Mithun Chakraborty and Vanishing Ideologies

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We have seen all shades of #Marxism, from mild socialism that was hijacked by Congress to the agenda of Naxalites, and all are the result of power struggle. Mithun Chakraborty was a Naxalite hunted by Bengal Police when he returned to family fold and came to Bombay to become an actor.
Now he is a millionaire-actor and has filed the nomination for Rajya Sabha as a Trinamool candidate. I know for a fact that he would have been as happy to be in Rajya Sabha nominated by Jyoti Basu.
The people and the parties with ideologies vanished long back, finished on the altar of opportunism. There was no ideology, only self-interest when Indira Gandhi split Congress. And there only was ego when Sharad Pawar quit Congress. Else, he wouldn’t have had any truck with Sonia Gandhi.
BJP, I believe has come to power in spite of the agenda of Hindutva. It was the plank of Development that worked for a lot of people.
I would even say that splitting the states too is because of politicians’ greed for money and power. No state has been better governed because it is small.
In a way, I don’t see parties as fanatical; not even #ShivSena. It is the person who may be a fanatic and he may still be in a secular party. SanjayNirupam seemed a radical Sainik till he joined Congress. It was like leaving an editorial job from a party mouthpiece to join a mainstream newspaper. In fact, now the journalists change their points of view even in the same organization.
Leaders and politicians who find themselves trapped in dynasty-ruled Congress and who have burnt their bridges with other parties have only one option left now.
A new political party!
It can make a beginning in Bombay.
Milind Deora, Priya Dutt, Gurudas Kamat and Sanjay Nirupam – are you listening? Even those not happy with radically communal agenda in the right wing parties can join them.

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Mukesh Ambani, Modi and Media

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I start my blog on the first Sunday after Narendra Modi has become the Prime Minister and the Gandhis have become irrelevant.
Some of the Modi critics have changed their tunes, some are singing a new song and many are blaming their contact lenses or spectacles for not being able to see the writing on the wall.
Mukesh Ambani has acquired Network18 Media & Investments and TV18 Broadcast (TV18) for Rs 4,000 crore. This includes In.com, IBNLive.com, Moneycontrol.com, Firstpost.com, Cricketnext.in, Homeshop18.com, Bookmyshow.com and broadcast channels like Colors, CNN-IBN, CNBC- TV18, IBN7 and CNBC Awaaz.
I remember a line I wrote in one of my columns in the early nineties. My line was: if they can’t buy the journalist or the reporter, they buy the editor and if he is not for sale they buy the newspaper!
But much before that, even before Deepak Neogi the Chief Reporter of Free Press Journal joined Ambanis – I don’t know where he is now – Dhirubhai Ambani had asked me about the economics of running a Daily newspaper. I didn’t know anything about the business side of the newspapers. For that matter, I didn’t know the editorial side either and realized that unlike freelance writing, editing a newspaper or a magazine for that matter was like walking a razor’s edge.
And I knew The Razor’s Edge only as a short story by Somerset Maugham.
This is why I never got to be the editor of Sunday Observer, the paper Ambanis brought out.
To be fair to Dhirubhai Ambani, Sunday Observer was a good and non-partisan paper. Vinod Mehta even published my grilling interviews of Sharad Pawar and Ramarao Adik who had to resign after he was accused of molesting an airhostess while travelling under the influence of alcohol.
Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghosh have resigned – or will be resigning soon – and some others will do the same.
This doesn’t mean that they are more honest than the others. You can be dishonest while supporting UPA and you can be crooked while supporting the Modi Sarkar too.

*****

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