Tilak Rishi's weblog

Musings on writing, expression, world politics, journalism, movies, philosophy, life, humour...

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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Millbrae Loves Labor Day Weekend!

Summer may be winding down but festival season is just starting to hit its stride with many of the best events. For some sun-splashed, Mardi Gras-style fun this Labor Day weekend, thousands throng to lively downtown Millbrae for the big Art & Wine Festival coming up August 31-Sep1. Every year, the last unofficial weekend of summer brings large crowds to Millbrae for one of the Bay Area’s biggest Labor Day weekend events, transforming its delightful downtown streets into a resplendent sea of people and colorful tents. Stroll, browse, relax and enjoy a friendly and vibrant street fair with two days of stellar live music, gorgeous handcrafted work by 250 talented artists, fabulous food and wine, and the best family entertainment value around.

Here is an introduction to Millbrae, where I moved from El Granada in 1997:

El Granada to Millbrae, it was like moving from Mars to Earth, from the rough rocky terrain to a smooth neat city. Though part of the same San Mateo solar system, the two cities are so far apart in their planning and upkeep. The conditions of roads in El Granada made you mad; like they have never been relaid or repaired. In comparison, Millbrae's systematic development of streets is so delightful and they are so clean and well kept. It is heavenly to take a walk on the sidewalks, where well trimmed trees and front gardens of spanish homes are a beauty in themselves. And what a civilized community, so quiet and yet so caring. We are specially lucky to live between two most beautiful neighbors one can dream of.

From the 1860's, when financier Darius Ogden Mills purchased land from the Sanchez family to build his country estate, Mills' "brae" or "rolling hills" has enjoyed a colorful history. Children swam in three lakes situated on the estate and sold acacias to tourists before the Mills family began to sell the land for development. The estate's spectacular mansion burned down in 1954, leaving behind a growing community. Today, Millbrae boasts over 21,000 residents of diverse ethnic, national, and cultural backgrounds, with the median income for a family as $82,000, as against the national median income of $43,000. The City's senior citizen community, with the eager generosity of the City's many service clubs and private donations, recently dedicated an attractive new senior wing within the Millbrae community center. My wife enjoys the senior center with her weekly watercolor painting class. Millbrae has a reputation for having some of the best schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mills High School is considered to be one of the top high schools in all of San Mateo County.

Downtown Broadway is the dream-street of culinary arts. No matter what your tastes are harking for, you will find something to satisfy that craving at the best of eateries – American, Asian, Bar & Grill, Barbecue, Bistros, Breakfast & Brunch, Burger, Cafes, Chinese, French, Italian, Mexican, Pizza, Seafood, Steak and Vegetarian. Broadway is amongst the distinguished downtowns where Starbucks competes with Peets, Safeway with Trader Jo's, Baskin and Robbins with Yubi,  Kohls with itself, and where you have 24 hours Walgreen and Fitness. It makes Millbrae so opposite of the neighboring Hillsborough where “zoning law” forbids any kind of commercial activity, including banks and postal services. Even with all these businesses to boast of, Broadway is all the time having major makeovers going on:

* Installation of numerous streets-cape improvements, including street trees, street plantings, banners, decorative paving, street lighting, street furniture, holiday decorations, and installation of community benches;
* Regular, intensive Downtown clean-up and landscape maintenance;
* Addition of several new businesses, including Office Depot, Jamba Juice, Bagel Cafe, Kinko’s, Affiche, Broadway Produce, Shoppe Ten, Vineyard Gate, Seafood Harbor, McAdams Sporting Goods, Leather Express, Cheung Heung, and Halogen Lighting Store;
* Renovation of Safeway and expansion of the 16 Mile House Restaurant;

Huh? A farmer's market on Broadway? That's right. This is held on Saturdays in the early morning till about 1 p.m. or so. The man at the largest fruit stand is the sweetest man on earth. The peaches are delicious in the summertime, and the grapes, navel oranges and all the rest are just as scrumptious. There are also a good amount of flower stands and veggie stands. The veggie stands sell their veggies for SUPER cheap. Two huge daikons (those white crunchy radishes) cost only $1. There is also a man who sells delicious breads. He's a sweet man, like all of the people there.

Together Millbrae residents meet the challenges and enjoy the benefits presented by the City's unique position adjacent to San Francisco international airport. The airport continues to expand and Millbrae's economy remains inextricably linked to the airport and the tourism it engenders. Millbrae retains its "small town" feel, while undergoing a major downtown revitalization. Hilltop to bay-shore, residents and visitors revel in the City's spirit of community and scenic splendor.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ant And The Fire!

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August 29 is the UN declared International Day against Nuclear Tests.
The Day is meant to galvanize the United Nations, Member States, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, youth networks and the media to inform, educate and advocate the necessity of banning nuclear weapon tests as a valuable step towards achieving a safer world. Each year, the day has been observed by coordinating various activities throughout the world, such as symposia, conferences, exhibits, competitions, publications, instruction in academic institutions, media broadcasts and others. Similar activities are planned for the 2013 observance.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stated with great clarity: “A world free of nuclear weapons would be a global public good of the highest order. The International Day against Nuclear Tests, together with other events and actions, has fostered a global environment with more optimistic prospects towards a world free of nuclear weapons. There have been visible signs of progress on various fronts but, equally, challenges remain. It is the hope of the UN that one day all nuclear weapons will be eliminated. Until then, there is a need to observe International Day against Nuclear Tests as we work towards promoting peace and security world-wide.”

On this day, one person who is remembered most is our own Sunil Dutt, the eminent actor-director-producer but above all truly a man of peace. In 1988 Sunil Dutt walked on his peace march against the nuclear bomb from Nagasaki to Hiroshima in Japan. He stayed and lived off the roads for nearly three months from June to August, bathing in spas, sheltering for the night in temples and churches along the way, and ending it on August 6, the anniversary of the bomb, under the Atomic Dome in Hiroshima. En rout, he visited hospitals dedicated to those still affected by the bomb and many of these were children born to parents or grandparents who directly came under radiation in 1945.

“Hindsight and history have shown us the terrifying and tragic effects of nuclear weapons. Within the first two to four months of the bombing, the acute effects killed 166,000 innicent people in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki, with roughly half of the deaths in each city occuring on the first day. Over four decades after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 6000 people were still dying every year in Japan due to the after effects of nuclear bombing”. Shouldn't we stop this madness of making nuclear bombs so that our future generations do not meet the same fate some unfortunate day such as the ones in August of 1945?”, he asked on the occasion.

When a reporter remarked that aren't we too insignificant a voice to end this madness of the most powerful, Sunil Dutt reminded him of the story of a small but spirited ant:

There was a wild fire in the jungle. All the animals were terrified and running for their lives. In this chaos an ant was repeatedly filling its mouth with water, carrying it to the edge of the fire, and splashing it in hope of dousing the fire. This exercise obviously appeared too futile to the other animals who were watching the ant in astonishment. Someone asked the ant, “What are you doing. Don't you know you are ill equipped to bring down the fire?” Tha ant replied, “On the day of reckoning, God will segregate us in three groups. The first group will comprise of those who lit the fire. God will give this group the appropriate punishment. The second group will comprise of those who saw the fire and did nothing. This group will be reprimanded by God. And the third would be a group who tried to douse it. This is the group that gets a hug from God for its effort. I'm doing my bit to find a spot in that third group.”

Monday, August 26, 2013

Don't Stop Learning!

The new tagline of KBC - “If you stop learning in life, you stop winning” is so opposite of the saying - “Ignorance is bliss”- in which many believe, especially, perhaps, the people in the U.S., as it seems from their day-to-day life.

Average American's ignorance starts from the first grade in elementary school he goes to. So that his mind is not over burdened, school syllabi is over simplified--no counting tables, no spelling drills and of course, no geography or general knowledge. In higher classes, grammar gets the go bye and old classics can be skipped from reading. In adult life, media adds to his ignorance by ignoring the world outside of the US. But all his ignorance does not bother him. General knowledge is generally out of any conversation, even from career oriented interviews. Average American truly feels that 'GK' is fine only for those who aspire to be in 'Jeopardy', the most prized program on TV. And why learn more when lack of knowledge is no hinderance to him in enjoying a satisfying life style. It is only when they found that most coveted career jobs were being cornered by immigrants from India, China and Japan because of their far better foundation in learning that they seem to have slowly woken from their slumber and started to learn more with motivation to win in the job market. In other words, they have realized the truth of the current season KBC tagline.

On the other hand, Chinese did not lose any time to really grasp the great KBC tagline, even before it was coined, when they realized that they could never overtake India in global standing until they overcome their only weakness – lack of knowledge of English language, of which Indians were the masters. Determined to do their best in global business, especially to win the race with their arch competitor India, Chinese took to learning English like it was for them a 'do or die' challenge. As reported by the New Yorker magazine reporter - “ China has been in the grip of “English fever,” as the phenomenon is known in Chinese, for more than a decade. A vast national appetite has elevated English to something more than a language: it is not simply a tool but a defining measure of life’s potential. China today is divided by class, opportunity, and power, but one of its few unifying beliefs—something shared by waiters, politicians, intellectuals, tycoons—is the power of English. Every college freshman must meet a minimal level of English comprehension, and it’s the only foreign language tested. English has become an ideology, a force strong enough to remake your résumé, attract a spouse, or catapult you out of a village. Linguists estimate the number of Chinese now studying or speaking English at between two hundred million and three hundred and fifty million, a figure that’s on the order of the population of the United States. English private schools, study gadgets, and high-priced tutors vie for pieces of that market. The largest English school system, New Oriental, is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.”

KBC tagline also instantly transported my thoughts from California, where I live now, to New Delhi, my beloved city back home in India. We loved our Delhi as it was, without ever minding its down side relating to public etiquette so random there. We never cared if Delhi did not care to improve learning from other cities with better road sense, especially Mumbai, which was considered the most cultured city in the country. After I came to know of the KBC tagline and your repeated requests in its promos - “That's why I always tell never stop learning – seekhna bund, jeetna bund" - , I very much wish Delhi follows the tagline earnestly and starts learning, at least some street etiquette, and improves on what it is stuck with for ages:

1. If my side of the road has a traffic jam, then I can start driving on the wrong side of the road, and all incoming cars will be re-routed .

2. If there is a queue of many people, no one will notice me sneaking into the front as long as I am looking the other way.

3. If a traffic light is not working, four cars from different directions can easily pass through one another.

4. If I indicate which way I am going to turn my vehicle, it is an information security leak.

5. The more I lean out of my car or bus, and the harder I spit, the stronger the roads become.

6. If I get a call on my mobile phone, the car automatically goes on.

7. When I'm on the road to marriage, all the roads in the city belong to me.

8.When I double-park my car, the road automatically widens so that the traffic is not affected.

9. When I park and block someone else's car I am giving him a chance to pause, relax, chill and take a few moments off from his rushed day

10. There are only 3 important persons in this city -Me, I, Myself.

When I moved to California I found the Californians over concerned with the following basic norms of public etiquette, which we in Delhi would have found very flimsy to worry about:

1. Rules for navigating a crowded sidewalk or hallway are the same as the ones for the road. You walk on the right and pass on the left. And people shouldn't walk more than two abreast. Blocking the path of others gets on nerves - a couple walking in front of you on a narrow path, talking to each other as they go and choose not to see - when someone is right behind them waiting for them to make a little room so that they can get past.

2. A young man walking with a young woman should be careful that his manner in no way draws attention to her or to himself. Too devoted a manner is always conspicuous, and so is loud talking. All people in the streets, or anywhere in public, should be careful not to talk too loud.

3. To claim a parking spot when everyone's clamoring for the next open one, use your blinker to show you've claimed a spot. Never park in the disabled spot. These zones are reserved for people less able than you to use, and you really shouldn’t jump in there just because it’s a foot closer than the other space.

4. The number one annoyance while watching a movie is the amount of people that talk during a film at the cinema. The second annoyance is, of course, mobile/cell phones. There are advertisements at the start of the movie asking you to switch these devices off. Don't bolt from your seat as soon as 'The End' sign appears on the screen. Exit one row at a time. Pretend you're leaving a church after a wedding.

5. At some cash registers (in fast-food restaurants, grocery stores, and drugstores), if it's not clear whether customers should form separate lines at each register or stand in a single line, go with the flow―even if the flow feels like chaos. Don't bother trying to whip the rest of the crowd into shape.

6. It's impolite to read over a person's shoulder. People have to have their own space. Leaning into someone's personal space is inappropriate.

7. Public Display of Affection (PDA) should be avoided as far as possible. It may be alright when you meet someone or say goodbye. However, there are certain public displays of affection that people can’t stand, and these tend to be the new couples who are still in the exciting part of their relationship.

8. It seems that a lot of people are not well-versed when it comes to public toilet etiquette. If the door says OCCUPIED then no need to TRY TO FORCE IT OPEN. And once you DO find an empty stall then for the love of God PLEASE CLOSE THE DOOR! WASH YOUR HANDS. It takes less than two minutes to drop a bit of soap on your hands, run them under the tap and dry them…and best of all - it’s free!

9. Because public pools are open to all, personal hygiene and a consideration for others should be top priorities. Shower before entering the pool.

10. Litter dropping is strictly prohibited with heavy penalty imposed. It annoys when people leave empty bottles on public transport as they get off, and it annoys even more when you are walking down the street and see someone cast aside a piece of paper - usually from some junk food they are eating - even though they are walking towards, or have just walked past, a trash can.

The bottom-line of Public Etiquette is - consideration for the rights and feelings of others is not merely a rule for behavior in public but the very foundation upon which social life is built. The first rule of etiquette is never do anything that is unpleasant to others. In a rapidly shrinking world where we can fly halfway around the world in less than half the day, it is time for Delhi to adhere to the unwritten laws of public etiquette universally acceptable. Learn Delhi learn! It is never too late to learn. Always remember the KBC tagline – actually Big B will never let you forget it as long as the KBC season is on - “Seekhna Bund To Jeetna Bund” (if you stop learning, you stop winning).

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live for ever.” - Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, August 24, 2013

"I Have A Dream" - Satyagraha!

Next Friday, August 30, 2013, one of the most anticipated films of our time, Amitabh Bachchan's Satyagraha, directed by Prakash Jha, will have a worldwide release. In U.S.A., its opening coincides with the 50th Anniversary celebration of the famous historic march and rally of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who made his historic groundbreaking “I have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. Interestingly, the spirit behind the two events is very much similar – while the King's watershed moment in civil rights history followed several years of nonviolent, grassroots demonstrations for civil rights with people joining forces together, letting their voices be heard, and being vigilant, Satyagraha has the potential to awake the citizens of the country to unite and upraise against the burning issue of unjust corruption in the country and generate the revolution that was created by Martin Luther King, Jr., in his country.

Here are excerpts from the famous “I Have a Dream” speech:

“... Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

There is a great anticipation that the greatest star of the millennium, Amitabh Bachchan, will be playing the biggest role of his career and delivering the best ever speech in Satygraha, surpassing all his previous speeches marked for creating marvel for the movies at the box-office. The March on Washington and King's speech helped pressure the U.S. Congress to pass the landmark Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in 1964 and 1965 respectively, let us hope and wish that the release of Satyagraha and Amitabh Bachchan's speech that it must be carrying, create a similar pressure on India's current ruling party, Congress + (UPA), to pass some really strong Act that helps wipe out the curse of corruption from the country. I have a dream – Satyagraha!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

It Is All For Box-office!

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A Bollywood buff since its bygone era, I have been wondering what a sea change advertising has gone through in the industry since the early years of Hindi cinema. No way the stars were ever involved with promotion of their pictures. Even the producers also never promoted their movies the way they do now. Their promotion participation was limited to well attended “Mahurat” or launch party, thereafter its music release event and finally a full fanfare premier. And now they just had to wait for the viewers' verdict and box-office returns on their investment. The film industry had a simple marketing formula – sign in a superstar, rope in a renowned music composer, ride on a 'masala' recipe and success was there for the taking. Advertising was entirely left to the distributors and exhibitors, who did it by putting billboards and posters of their forthcoming films on the city streets and the cinema halls where the film was to be released, apart from exhibiting some weeks in advance stills from the film in the lobby of the theaters. As time progressed, they started showing trailer of the film with the movie currently running. That was it as far as film promotion went.

That was then, now it is entirely a different scenario. Bollywood is going through a crazy trend of promotional era where the stars are beating each other in the race to promote their respective films. They have to adopt new and interactive ways to promote their pictures.. Star's promotion of movies is a must today, as much as his good performance in it. Most of the time they are under the producer's pressure to do uncommon things to promote their movies. If one is doing it, then another has to do it as well because it becomes an expectation for the audience to watch such things. From reading news on a TV channel, launching a nationwide hunt for unsung heroes or traveling to different parts of the country in disguise – Bollywood stars are leaving no stone unturned to promote their pictures. Here are some interesting examples:

Aamir Khan embarked on a two- week country tour called Bharat Darshan in disguise in different get-ups as part of his unique way of promoting “3 Idiots”. The actor also created a secret identity on social networking website Facebook to connect with the audiences. The result was “3 Idiots” has been declared the biggest hit ever to gross over Rs 100 worldwide in first 4days of its release. Apparently this was not the first time the actor had opted for such a strategy in order to gain momentum and create buzz for a film. Earlier he even turned barber for his fans to promote his blockbuster hit “Ghajini”, offering people his “Ghajini” haircut.

Megastar Amitabh Bachchan who plays the role of media magnet Vijay Harshwardhan Malik in the movie “Rann” also innovated with methods of film promotion and appeared on a TV channel to do a year-end news roundup, while director Ram Gopal Verma launched a 10-page daily newspaper called Rann Times as a way to promote the same film.
“Good marketing has produced good results at the box-office. That old belief that the merit of the film shall eventually emerge victorious has long since been overridden. By the time you wait for the merit to show its face, five other films have shown their merit”, Amitabh Bachchan posted on his blog.
Amitabh Bachchan also turned guest principal of colleges across the countries for “Arakshan”. As if to follow his famous father's footsteps, Abhishek Bachchan tried his hand at the fad when he broke the Guinness world record for maximum public appearances in 12 hours while promoting his “Delhi-6”.

Salman Khan did not stay behind and followed Big B and Amir Khan and launched a nationwide hunt for unsung heroes to connect with the masses and to promote his period film “Veer”. The hunt for young men and women who have performed heroic deeds which the nation didn't know about was also an effort by the actor in bridge-building and improving his image amongst the masses. It surely seems to have paid off, if not for “Veer”, for his susequent big blockbusters, making him the most sought after superstar.

“If they can do, why can't I”, must have come to Shahrukh Khan's mind. To promote his most favorite film ever, “Ra-One”, he became a salesman in partnership with Homeshop 18, and was seen by one and all, selling original merchandise of the film.

Following the example of their seniors, Shahid Kapoor and Genelia D'Souza spent a night together in a car, while actress Neha Dhupia threw condoms at a college crowd – all this to publicize their films. After these unusual activities were successful in creating a positive buzz around the films, it has now triggered a new race for fresh and more aggressive marketing methods. Shahid Kapoor reportedly turned weather forecaster for a day to promote his film Mausam. Mallika Sherawat made jalebis to promote the song Jalebi bai for Double Dhamaal. Ekta Kapoor promoted naughty threesome parties during the promotions of Ragini MMS. Ranbir Kapoor milked cows to promote Rockstar. Tusshar Kapoor turned bootlegger and earned money from selling books on the streets for the promotion of Shor In The City. Especially after the vast expansion of TV network, the actors are seen doing all sorts of publicity on the small screen, like appearing and even dancing on the popular television shows and doing any and every action to promote their future films. And with the importance given to marketing and promotions, no one’s blaming them. From tattoos to haircuts, merchandise to trips to the most interior areas of India, actors and actresses are leaving no stone unturned to publicize their film well before it releases. Who says only films can be entertaining? The antics and promotion gimmicks used by film stars to promote their flicks has become even more amusing and entertaining. Wonder does this really pay? The answer maybe yes, the hike they create rakes in huge opening weekend returns. And this is all that matters and makes everyone happy. So, why wonder if stars become salesmen, after all it is all for box-office.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Happy Raksha Bandhan!

Rakhi, the Sister's Day, is celebrated in India to symbolize the love and emotional bond between brothers and sisters. It is a festival rooted in the Indian tradition and reaffirms the pious relationship. The sisters tie the sacred thread around wrist of their brothers to protect them from any possible evil, and the brothers give gifts in return and promise to be there for them. Rakhi can be made of colorful cotton, silk or zari threads. Rakhi is celebrated with lots of fun and frolic. Besides the ritual of tying Rakhi, there is the real enjoyment in sisters and brothers getting together, exchanging gifts and relishing tempting and mouth-watering sweets of all sorts. This makes Rakhi festival interesting for everyone in the family.

The passing of time and the concept of multi-cultural society has influenced the festival to enlarge its scope and widen the ways of celebrating it. Today tying of Rakhi is not confined to the siblings alone. Rakhi can be tied to anyone by a woman whom she takes to be her brother. Soldiers in the battlefield receive the sacred Rakhi with wishes for their victory and safe return. Rakhi is also a day for women to visit the orphanages or prisons to tie Rakhi to the inmates. The kind act gives the ill fated Rakhi brothers a feeling of Hope, Love and Care. Rakhi, indeed, stirs up one of the deepest and noblest emotions in the human heart. The simple Rakhi thread motivates the brother to make any sacrifice to help his sister in need.

Raksha Bandhan in Bollywood

In Hindi cinema, the sister was the strong silent character in the background. The frail one for whom the hero played protector, wreaked vengeance. The one whose marriage or studies were on top of her brother’s mind when he entered a dubious deal. Mainstream Hindi cinema has, indeed, made a whole industry out of the brother-sister bonding. From Mehboob Khan's Bahen (1941) to Dev Anand's iconic Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971), the sister was an integral part of most family dramas. Even in 1970s and later, we had Amitabh Bachchan protecting her in films like Majboor, Adalat and Agneepath. Who will not remember on the Rakhi day, the immortal song from Majboor 'Phoolon Ka Taron Ka Sabka Kehna Hai, Ek Hazaron Mein Meri Behna Hai.

The oldest historical reference to the festival of Rakhi goes back to 300 B.C. at the time when Alexander invaded India. It is said that when the great conquerer, king Alexander of Macedonia was shaken by the fury of the Indian king Puru, Alexander's wife, who had heard of the Rakhi festival, approached the mighty king Puru and sought assurance of her husband's life by tying the Rakhi on Puru's hand. The story goes that just as Puru raised his hand to deliver a mortal blow to Alexander, he saw the Rakhi on his wrist and refrained from striking at Alexander. The entire episode was well depicted in Sohrab Modi's great movie of epical dimentions, Sikandar (1941) in which Prithviraj Kapoor played Sikandar, Sohrab Modi Puru and Vanmala, Sikandar's beloved Rukhsana.

During the midieval era, Rajput kings were fighting Muslim invasions. When Rani Karnawati, the widowed queen of Chittor, realized that she could in no way defend the invasion of the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah, she sent a Rakhi to the Mughal Emperor Humayun, enlisting his support against the onslaught of the Gujarat Sultan. Touched by the gesture, Humayun hastened to the rescue of his Rakhi sister. The Mughal Emperor Hamayun coming to the rescue of his Rakhi Rajput sister is convincingly portrayed and pictured in Mehboob Khan's Mughal historical Humayun (1945). Cecil B DeMille apparently wrote in a letter to Mehboob Khan that this film was “a masterpiece of lighting composition.” And It is. Ashok Kumar played Humayun and Veena his Rakhi sister. Nargis was only 16 when she acted in this movie as the Emperor's beloved.

In 1959, director and producer L.V. Prasad released "Chhoti Bahen", one of the industry´s memorable films for tackling the emotion behind blindness, sibling emotion and how different persons in a family can react to it. Chhoti Bahen is also well known for the song that recurs to this day on Raksha Bandhan, "Bhaiyya Mere Rakhi Ke Bandhan To Nibhana". Shankar-Jaikeshen´s music is memorable, but this title track is more than your trip down memory lane. The song practically explains what the holiday is all about and how siblings idolize each other, the sister to the brother. The film´s main leads, Balraj Sahani and Nanda do just that.

"Rakhi", "Bhai Bahen" -- Two of the most successful tearjerkers of the 1960s, both directed by the eminently saleable A. Bhim Singh -- were about brother and sister outdoing each other for the martyr's cup. In "Rakhi", Waheeda Rehman and Ashok Kumar played siblings who just could not be without each other. Six years later, Bhim Singh made "Bhai Bahen", a straight-off saga of sibling suffering with Sunil Dutt and Nutan in the lead.

Manoj Bajpai's passionate possessiveness for sister Antara Mali in Ram Gopal Varma's Telugu "Prem Gatha" verged on the incestuous. Shah Rukh Khan went completely ballistic trying to keep sister Aishwarya Rai from Chandrachur Singh's arms in Mansoor Khan's "Josh".

Mahesh Manjrekar wouldn't let little sister Bhoomika anywhere near Abhishek Bachchan in Jeeva's "Run", and in Bapu's "Pyari Behna", hyper-protective brother Mithun Chakraborty smothers poor Tanvi Azmi in brotherly affection while the love-interest Padmini Kolhapure fumes and frets.

In "Bandhan", sister Ashwini Bhawe takes kid-brother Salman Khan to her in-laws' as dowry. Understandably, brother-in-law Jackie Shroff feels sidelined and spends his nights at the nautch girl Shweta Reddy's place.

This is a favorite cliche where the sister is tortured, raped or murdered before Big Brother goes on a vendetta binge. In Suneel Darshan's "Talaash" the entire drama depended on the brother's search for his sister.

Bollywood's resident screen-sister Nazima played the central role in Rajshri productions' "Mere Bhaiyya". The actress' sisterly image was seldom showcased with such splendid sibling sentimentality.

Shabana Azmi in "Anokha Bandhan" and "Yeh Kaisa Insaaf" played a sister willing to sacrifice marital happiness for the sake of her kid brother. In "Tapasya", Raakhee was the long-suffering 'didi' (elder sister) who tells her lover to take a walk when his mom says she must let her siblings fend for themselves.

In K. Balachander's "Aaina", Mumtaz becomes a prostitute to support her impoverished siblings. And in "Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam", Madhuri Dixit is willing to suffer her husband Shah Rukh Khan's taunts to look after brother Atul Agnihotri in her marital home.

In Nitin Sethi's "Angaaray", sister Smita Patil becomes a nautch girl for her kid brother Alankar's financial security. Tapan Sinha's "Didi" portrayed the best Sacrificial Sister of the lot -- Deepti Naval was a prostitute trying desperately to hide her profession from her kid brother.

In Manmohan Desai's "Sachcha Jhootha", Rajesh Khanna takes off for the city to raise dowry for sister Naaz...but only after singing 'Meri pyari behaniya banegi dulhaniya'.

And come Raksha Bandhan, there would be the mandatory song celebrating the brother-sister bond. The old songs that steered away from the stereotype remain classics to this day. Here are a few of them:

Phoolon Ka Taaron Ka (1971)
Two siblings share a song and a moment before they will be cruelly separated by their parents’ divorce. This song from Hare Rama Hare Krishna is still the top request on Raksha Bandhan

Bhaiya Mere Rakhi Ke (1959)
Nanda plays the title role in Chhoti Behan, with Balraj Sahni as the doting brother.

Mere Bhaiyya Mere Chanda (1965)
The brother is a priceless gem for Meena Kumari’s character in Kaajal.

Chanda Re Mere Bhaiya (1980)
This soulful Lata Mangeshkar song is the only thing memorable about Chambal Ki Kasam

Behna Ne Bhai Ki (1974)
This Shankar-Jaikishan song from the Resham ki Dor has come to epitomise the festival of Raksha Bandhan

O Meri Laadli (1963)
And finally, we end with a Mohammed Rafi classic from Dil Ek Mandir

The portrayal of brother-sister in films has come a long way. Today, the sister’s image has changed in Bollywood from the demure, to-be-protected little one to a sexy, with-a-mind-of-her-own individual. From Nanda who played the sweet devoted sister to her three over protective brothers in Choti Behen to Neelam in Hum Saath Saath Hai, Bollywood has come a long way where the sibling relationship is concerned. New age films are reworking the dynamics shared by siblings. The sweet, patiently understanding sister of Gol Maal has been replaced by the sassy, girl-about-town in B-town.

In Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, the brother is concerned about his sister’s welfare, but in a more subtle tone. It's a departure from past movies where the brother screams and vows vengeance because of his sister’s rape/murder/distress. The film also explores the mind of the sister as she grows to learn about the goodness of her brother even, all the while maintaining her own identity.

A film that was markedly different from the stereotype brother sister film was Josh. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan played the sultry twin sister to a brash Shah Rukh Khan. However, the film entirely veered around Ash and SRK with their respective love lives almost as a sub plot in the film.

Look up My Brother Nikhil and one would realize that Bollywood has stepped into new terra firma. Director Onir portrayed a genuinely close and affectionate bond between brother Sanjay Suri and his sister Juhi Chawla. From sipping their first glasses of wine together, this adorable pair even secretly smoked their first cigarettes together in the film. Moreover, rather unusually, brother Sanjay depended on sister Juhi, more than she did on him. Juhi Chawla’s role in the film was one of a saviour where she campaigned for her HiV+ brother to give him the respect that he deserved.

Another film, which had the brother-sister relationship at its core was Khalid Mohamed’s Fiza. The film explores the 1993 Mumbai riots, and communal tensions, through the eyes of Fiza played by Karisma Kapoor who was in search of her brother, Amaan (Hrithik Roshan) who vanished during the riots. Mohamed depicted a deeply caring relationship between elder sister, Fiza, and younger brother, Amaan, without resorting to any honor-saving stereotypes.

More recently, there was a winner in the hear-melting brother-sister comaraderie between Farhan Akhtar and Divya Dutta in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, the playfull yet protective bond between Sushant Singh Rajput and Amrita Puri in Kai Po Poche!, the portrayal of the over protective brothers in House Full and Bol Bachchan and the love-hate bond between Genelia D'Souza and Prateek in Jane Tu...Ya Jaane Na.

Bollywood is slowly, but surely coming around and realizing the role of the sister in films. Today it's more about the characters and the script than about rehashing the same old formula of Raksha Bandhan in Bollywood.

Rakhi this year falls on Tuesday 20th August, and the excitement for the celebration has already started. Since the emotional binding between brothers and sisters is universal, Rakhi, or the Sister's Day as we can call it, deserves to be celebrated universally like Mother's Day or Father's Day. It may happen sooner than later, if Hallmark, Archies and the like of them decide to add another Day to the list of events they promote with their creations of globally popular greeting cards.

Happy Rakhi to Sisters and Brothers!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Celebrating India's Independence Day

Happy India's Independence Day!

August 15, 1947, the day when the nation rejoiced hoisting of India's tricolor on the ramparts of Red Fort in Delhi by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, I was in Srinagar, Kashmir. I, along with my mother and sister, had come there from Lahore to spend summer vacations with my brother who lived in Srinagar. Perhaps, the primary reason for my father planning to send us to Srinagar was to keep us away from the increasing communal tension between Hindus and Moslems in Lahore. Stray incidents of stabbing and arson were on the increase day by day and it was getting less and less safe to be on the streets of Lahore. Students, especially, enjoying their summer vacations, roaming on the roads or in the main markets, were the more vulnerable victims of the attacks by the fanatic communal forces. So, as soon as the vacations started in July, we were off to Srinagar.

August 15, 1947, when India was declared free and Pandit Nehru was delivering the memorable Dawn of Independence speech, we in Kashmir were clueless whether the State would be part of India or remain under the rule of Maharaja's monarchy. The Maharaja was still sitting tight on the options, thereby creating a very confused situation on the status of Kashmir vis-a-vis India's independence. Sheikh Abdullah, the lion of Kashmir as he was called, had been imprisoned for fighting to make Kashmir part of the mainstream India. The only silver-lining in all this chaotic condition in Kashmir was that there was absolute peace in the State, when the neighboring Punjab was burning in communal hatred. Credit for keeping Kashmir free from communal violence should entirely go to Sheikh Abdullah who did not let his followers, the vast majority of Muslims in the Valley, indulge in any kind of hate crimes.

August 15, 1947, my father was still in Lahore which was now a part of Pakistan. We in Srinagar were worried about his fate, when mobs of fanatic Muslims were roaming on the roads of Lahore, vowing not to let a single Hindu or Sikh live in Lahore. They were on a killing spree and it was a miraculous escape for my father when they forced their entry into our house on learning that he was still living there. Our wonderful Muslim friends living next door helped him escape by crossing over to their house from the terrace and later escorting him across the border to India. Partition was indeed a very big price India had to pay to achieve independence from the British. At least one million men, women and children were killed and over ten million uprooted from their homes on both sides of the border, following the religious divide of the country. It was a holocaust of another kind, in which people killed people, while the administration looked the other way.

August 15, 1947, the day we commemorate every year with pride and joy as India's independence day, also reminds me and my family of the most terrible time, when freedom was a far cry for us. We had to delay our celebrations till my father managed to join us in Kashmir. Even there the joy was short lived as shortly afterwards, sudden full-fledged attack was launched on defenseless Kashmir by tribal invaders – backed by the Pakistan Army – committing rape, arson and pillage in the valley, nearly capturing Srinagar before the Indian Army chased them away. We were a witness to the brave and proud saga of Srinagar. Although within a few miles of the raiders, Srinagar remained far away from their reach. The lion of Kashmir had roared, and waves after waves of his militia challenged the invaders with whatever small weapons they could manage from the fleeing men of the Maharaja, who had already fled the city along with all his officers. The administration had completely collapsed. It was then that the citizens of Srinagar experienced something very strange, a unique power to pull together, irrespective of their religious beliefs, to build a human barrier that the invaders could not break.

Eventually the Indian army helped us in our evacuation, along with hundreds other visitors to the Valley, in their planes returning to bring more battalions, when fighting was taking place only two miles from the airport. And thank God, we soon landed at Palam airport in Delhi for our belated celebration of India's independence on August 15, 1947.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Celebrating Youth Migration Day!

August 12, is International Youth Day. On 17 December 1999, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the recommendation that 12 August be declared International Youth Day.
The theme of International Youth Day 2013 is "Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward ."
Young people make up a significant share of the global number of international migrants. In 2010, there were an estimated 27 million international young migrants. While migration can often offer valuable opportunities and contribute to the development of communities and society at large, it can also pose risks and lead to unacceptable situations, including discrimination and exploitation.
The 2013 observance of International Youth Day will raise awareness of the opportunities and risks associated with youth migration, share knowledge and information stemming from recent research and analysis on this topic, and engage young people in discussions on their migration experiences.

The theme of the International Youth Day this year is of special significance for all, whose children have gone abroad to seek greener pastures, ready to face fiercer challenges far away from their homeland. Our only son, Alok, is one of them. When we sent our 17-year son Alok to USA to study computer science after schooling at ST. Xavier in New Delhi, we were more scared of the challenges he would face in a foreign country than being enthusiastic of the success he might achieve there. It was a great relief, therefore, when immediately on graduating from the University of San Francisco, he got a good career break with Sun Microsystems, a computer giant of the 80s and 90s. Then onwards it was a pure pleasure to watch him progress at Sun for 20+ years as Software Engineer, Principal Engineer, Chief Technologist, Director and Patent Holder for his invention of a system and method valid for multi-threaded application programs. We were overjoyed and overwhelmed when Alok took us to the 7th Commencement & Alumni Reception-Carnegie Mellon University - Silicon Valley Campus, where Ray Bareiss, Director of Educational Programs, presented the Dean’s Return on Education Award to Alok with the citation:

Having worked for Sun Microsystems for 19 years, this year’s recipient of the Return on Education Award joined the Carnegie Mellon Software Management program, seeking to ‘step out of his comfort zone.’ Shortly after enrolling in the program, he was able to gain the skills and confidence to begin thinking and behaving like a leader. His actions were clearly recognized by his global peer group of 1,500 engineers at Sun, who nominated him to be Principal Engineer. But he didn’t stop there … he left Sun after nearly 21 years to start Yunteq, a software company developing key enabling technology for Cloud computing … By continuing to tell his own story of transformation to his peers, he hopes to inspire others to make similar changes in their own professional lives.”

To provide the audience with flesh and blood testimony to the strengths of the program, Bareiss turned the microphone over to one of campus’ 144 current students Alok Rishi, who would soon be graduating with an M.S. in Software Management.

I had Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, I wasn’t particularly looking to get an MBA, but I heard about this program, which is to me like an accelerated MBA tailored for Silicon Valley, and more specifically for the software industry. It gives you a complete end to end view of conceiving a software product or technology idea, innovating it, bringing that innovation to the market, building a company out of it, and running and growing that company, with all the people dynamics and technology dynamics around it.

But the ongoing experience was not, ‘Wait until I graduate and then apply it.’ At work, my colleagues began to see very vivid changes in me almost immediately, I was manifesting what I learned at work, in two forms: I was assuming more of a leadership role, being much more comfortable in a larger people dynamics type of way, and also I had moved away from being sort of being in a silo and spreading out to harness innovation more broadly within Sun and from the industry. So it lead to profound transformative changes within, but it also resulted in my career taking off like a hockey puck. So I progressed from Software Engineer to Senior Engineer in the last year and a half to Principal Engineer, Chief Technologist and Director at Sun. A couple of months ago, I left Sun and started my own company. Yunteq Inc. is founded with the vision of dramatically reducing the cost and complexity of enterprise IT while providing agility, through the use of policy-driven clouds to host business applications as cloud-based services.”

While enthusiastically busy with presentations to potential buyers including some of the biggest IT enterprises, Alok likes to remain on low key, realistic about his work, rather than over-optimistic. Cloud Computing is, of-course, all the rage and passion for Alok. While we are anxiously awaiting and wishing rewards for his hard work in the new role as an entrepreneur, we are happy to have a wonderful and caring son and his accomplished wife, Ranjan, a big support to him in all his endeavors. With so much going on in Yunteq, no wonder with all the excitement of Cloud Computing, we feel we are on cloud nine!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Missing Muslim Socials!

“The celebrations for Eid continue with great fervor, and the friends and well wishers send in their love and affection in the shape of delicious food – a tradition during Eid here and, perhaps, all over where it is celebrated....” (Big B Blog – Day 1942)

Reminds of the the popular Muslim socials, particularly, Big B's super hit and most eventful film in his life - “Coolie” (1983):

Indian cinema’s understanding of enlightened, tolerant Islam is best seen in Coolie (1983). The coolie of the title is Iqbal, played by Amitabh Bachchan, his girlfriend is a Christian and his best friend is a Hindu. His other ally is an Allah-fearing hawk, Allah Rakha who wears a necklace saying ‘Allah’, which glints to advise Iqbal to go on the Hajj. He also helps Iqbal fight his enemies. The film includes miracles such as the survival of Iqbal after a shootout on Hajji Ali’s shrine when, covered in the chador (covering) of the saint, he recites the kalma (declaration of faith) and writes 786 (the numeric equivalent of God’s name) in his blood as he faints. Prayers at mosques, temples and churches accompany his operation and recovery. People lose and regain their memories after being hit on the head by framed verses of the Quran and prayers to the ‘Lord of Medina’ bring lightning strikes to save Iqbal’s mother. During the making of the film, Amitabh almost died and it is seen as proof of the miracles shown on screen that he survived.

Here are some other archetypal Muslims we have had the pleasure of watching in the genres known as “Muslim Socials”:

Veiled beauties
The beauty of actresses such as Madhubala, Waheeda Rehman and Sadhana is legendary. So shrouding them in a veil makes little sense. But the veil serves a useful purpose: it leads to cases of mistaken identity when two friends fell in love with the same woman (Chaudhvin ka chand, 1961) or where the beloved’s identity has to be discovered by the hero (Mere Mehboob, 1963). However, it is only the hero who cannot see behind the veil. The audience enjoy time in the zenana where elaborately dressed beauties languish, speaking flowery Urdu, singing and dreaming of romance.

The Tawaif and Nawabs

The dominant image of the Muslim woman in Hindi cinema is the tawaif (dancing girl, courtesan). This is not as unfortunate as it sounds as she represents the lost elite culture of the north Indian cities, in particular that of Lucknow. Dressed modestly but in sumptuous costumes and jewellery, she sings and dances for her clients’ entertainment but remains ‘pure’ and desirous of love and marriage. The two most important tawaif films are Kamal Amrohi’s Pakeezah (1971) and Muzaffar Ali’s Umrao Jaan (1981), starring Meena Kumari (Mahjabeen Bano) and Rekha, respectively. Rekha plays a tawaif again in Muqaddar ka Sikandar (1978), where her performance, swinging her hips and rolling on the floor in her pink and silver dress to the famous song ‘Salaam-e ishq’, is matched by Amitabh Bachchan’s as he looks totally bored with the spectacle and finally takes to the dance floor himself. Courtesans as sisters to the hero (Mere Mehboob), or mothers of the heroine (Mehboob ki Mehndi. 1971) are more of a problem as, however sorrowful the circumstances, no respectable family will marry into such a benighted household.
A respectable Mujra, the courtesans’ elaborate song and dance session, must be graced by a Nawab, who provides us with much scope to explore Indian Muslim culture. He could be an artistic character unsuited to the modern world such as in Satyajit Ray’s Chessplayers (1977), but he could also be a decadent drunk, who divorces his wife by saying ‘talaq talaq talaq’ during an argument (Nikaah, 1982), or a melancholic but refined gentleman, as in Mere huzoor (1968). However badly he might treat his wife and family, he never forgets his manners, is always impeccably dressed in a sherwani, speaks with flowery Urdu and demonstrates proper adab (etiquette).


The Mughal Emperor is a stock in trade of the historical film. The favorite is Akbar (1542-1605), who represents composite culture or secularism in the Indian sense, and has equal regard for all religions. In one of the greatest Indian films, Mughal-e Azam (1960), his religious tolerance extends to celebrating the festival of Janmashtami, the Birth of Krishna, with his Hindu wife. Jodhaa-Akbar (2008) presents an earlier stage of this Muslim-Hindu romance, with Akbar as a muscular hero, a fighter and a tamer of elephants as well as a lover, a Sufi, a seeker of truth and promoter of religious tolerance. Again, he does not prevent Jodhaa from following her own culture – perhaps because he has seen her skills with a sword - even allowing her to worship Krishna in the palace and to cook him a vegetarian meal. The big song number in the film is, somewhat unusually, about tax cuts. Akbar lifts the jizya, the tax levied on non-Muslims by Muslim rulers, resulting in his subjects bursting into song and dance (‘Marhaba’) at his generosity in what seems to be the first version of the Republic Day Parade.

Loyal Sidekick

Although the lead character is usually Hindu, he is usually furnished with a Muslim friend who is willing to die rather than let his dost (friend) down. The loyal Pathan was seen earlier in versions of Tagore’s story, Kabuliwala, and then as the loyal friend of Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) in Zanjeer (1973), who sings, ‘Yaari hai imaan mera’ (friendship is my faith); while Shahrukh Khan takes on this role in Hey! Ram (2000). The late AK Hangal, who played the blind Imam in mega-hit Sholay (1975), gave the loyal Muslims the name of his character in the film, Rahim Chacha. Unfortunately, the Chacha, or Uncle, can only prove his love by dying for the sake of the hero, his Hindu friend.

Poets and singers

Hindi film lyrics have close links to Urdu poetry and the films celebrate relentlessly the ghazal and the qawwali. Muslims are taken to be extremely fond of poetry, and as sensitive poets and singers, incorporate songs into the film in a relaxed and appropriate manner. The hero is a poet in Mere Mehboob, and a qawwal in Barsaat Ki Raat (1960), where he performs alongside female qawwals in perhaps the most famous qawwali of the Indian cinema, ‘Na to caravan’. In Amar, Akbar, Antony (1977), the Muslim brother is a qawwal, named after a great Urdu poet, Akbar Allahabadi. Akbar’s qawwali, ‘Parda hai parda’, is about getting his beloved, sitting in the front row with her father, to remove her veil, even though he knows she does not wear a veil in the hospital where she works as a doctor. In Sufi-themed movies, where the lead character is not a Muslim, such as Dil Se (1998) and Rockstar (2012) the film score still draws on these traditions. So the lyrics of Dil Se’s ‘Chaiya chaiya’ are adapted from Bulleh Shah, a sixteenth-century Punjabi Sufi, and Rockstar has a qawwali praising Nizamuddin of Delhi.

Modern Muslims

 Rarely do Hindi films show a modern, secular Muslim. But there are exceptions: the comedian Mehmood’s slapstick Hyderabadi Muslim in Gumnaam (1965); Ali in Dhoom (2004), Farhan Qureshi in 3 idiots (2009); Aslam Khan in Rang De Basanti (2006) and Iqbal in the film of the same name (2005). Shahrukh Khan’s performances as a Muslim have created new roles: in Chak De! India (2007), he redeems himself as a hockey coach after being accused of deliberately losing a hockey match against Pakistan; in My name is Khan (2010), he marries a Hindu (inter-communal marriages in films are usually Hindu man and Muslim woman), and when her son is killed in an Islamophobic attack, sets off to tell the President of the United States that, “My name is Khan and I’m not a terrorist”.

Unfortunately for the 'Muslim Socials' genre, after 9/11 which made Muslims 'terror suspects' in the eyes of the Western world, USA especially, not many such movies are being made by Bollywood any more.As a movie buff, of Bollywood films specially, I'm indeed missing Muslim socials.

Ride On "Chennai Express"!

With Rohit Shetty controlling the wheel, the ride on “Chennai Express” could not but be 'most enjoyable'. He has the foolproof formula for making the funniest movies and “Chennai Express” could not have been any different. Happy for you, especially August, for the joyous ride, which we cannot just wait to have one ourselves.

Cinematic comedy can be considered the oldest film genre and one of the most prolific and popular. Comedy films are designed to elicit laughter from the audience. These are light-hearted screenplays crafted to amuse, entertain and provide enjoyment. Comedies observe the deficiencies, foibles and frustrations of life, providing merriment and a momentary escape from day-to-day drudgery of life. Here is a tribute to the heroes of Hindi cinema who apart from their remarkable performance in whatever role they played in a movie, also provided the funniest moments and scenes ever seen on screen.

Ashok Kumar
Reverently called Dadamoni, Ashok Kumar was one of the finest actors that India has produced. He has been awarded the Padmabhushan & the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. An iconic actor for over six decades, starting his film career in 1930s he starred in over 275 films and won several awards for his performance. A very natural actor, his comic timing was also impeccable in his most remembered comedies that include Choti Si Baat (1975), Khoobsurat (1980), Khatta Meetha (1981) and, of course, Chalti Ka Naam Gadi (1958), a true classic. Simple story, wonderful music, great acting, brilliant cast and phenominally hillarious. The story, like the 1928 Chevrolet in the film, ran amok. It gives you more laughs than you can handle. The movie stands tall amongst the greatest comedies ever.

Indeed, Motilal had a glorious record as filmdom’s smartest hero. For over two decades, he reigned supreme over the hearts of swooning fans. Noted for his mastery over histrionics, Motilal’s name became a byword for effortless acting. He even excelled in the light comedy roles. Motilal’s success in comedy was due to his air of gaiety and informality, which people had missed so far in the rigid, copy-book variety of film acting on the Indian screen. Even in sombre roles, a give-away twinkle in his eyes indicated that Motilal had the last laugh. He took the filmworld by storm with his comic role in Roop K Shorey’s comedy 'dhamaka', Ek Thi Ladki (1949), the biggest runaway hit.

Dilip Kumar
Comedy and action were, in fact, an escape route for Dilip Kumar. He provided audiences with his distinct brand of action- cum- comedy in Leader (1964). In Kohinoor with just a jerk of a shoulder while he is in disguise as Kohinoor baba, he sparked more comedy than any comedian can. It is difficult to say which performance was better— the slick, smooth-talking collegian of Leader or the bellicose villager of Gopi.The sedate, sober Dilip Kumar can be outrageously funny. He can be sharp and saucy. He can display his flair for comedy in many languages including Bengali, Marathi, Parsi, Gujarati, Punjabi, besi­des Urdu and English. Azad (1955), Ram Aur Shyam (1967), Sagina (1974) - these films catch him in other hues of comedy. He played these roles with compelling conviction, lacing humor with an inner meaning and social comment.

Raj Kapoor
Also known as The Show-Man, was an outstanding actor, producer and director of Hindi cinema, but above all an ace comedian. The winner of nine Filmfare Awards, his performance in Awaara, was ranked one of the "Top-Ten Performances of all time", by the Time Magazine. He went on to produce, direct and star in many box office hits such as Barsaat (1949), Awaara (1951), Shree 420 (1955), Chori Chori (1956), Jagte Raho (1956) and Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai (1960). These films established his screen image as The Tramp modeled on Charlie Chaplin's most famous screen persona. Outside of his home productions, his most notable comedies were Anari (1959), Chhalia (1960) and Teesri Kasam (1963). He produced, directed and starred in his ambitious film, Mera Naam Joker (My name is Joker).

Dev Anand
The actor, writer, director and producer, is remembered for his work in Hindi cinema spanning more than 65 years with acting in 114 Hindi films.The Government of India honored him with the Padma Bhushan in 2001 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2002 for his contribution to Indian cinema. A rapid-fire style of dialogue delivery and a penchant for nodding while speaking became Dev's style in films like House No. 44, Pocket Maar, Munimji, Funtoosh, C.I.D. and Paying Guest. His style was lapped up by the audience and was widely imitated. He was often compared to the famous actor Gregory Peck the world over. Dev Anand and Nutan's four-film association in comedy roles, Paying Guest, Baarish and Manzil culminated with Tere Ghar Ke Saamne. Teen Devian (1965) was amongst Dev Anand's hilarious hits. This delightful musical romance revolves around a winsome guy, his inability to say 'no' and how it lands him in a spot with three pretty but clearly dissimilar women. Dev Anand is at his flirtatious best around Nanda, Simi Garewal and Kalpana in this lively pageant of May-the-best-girl-win.

Film star Dharmendra was first noticed in a Filmfare spot- the- talent contest and was signed by Arjun Hingorani for the film "Dil Bhi Tera, Hum Bhi Tere". At the start of his career Dharmendra was usually cast as a romantic hero. Dharmendra was also superb in comedy films like "Chupke Chupke", a masterpiece from Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Dharmendra's most memorable role as action-cum-comedy hero was in the blockbuster film "Sholay" where he was teamed with Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini. Apart from Amitabh Bachchan, no other film star can claim to be equally good in comedy and action as Dharmendra. In almost all his movies he shows his flair for comedy and succeeds in bringing big smile to the viewers. In his latest film Yamla Pagla Diwana, the family, Dharmendra, Sunny Deol and Bobby Deol, reunites for the second time and produced one of the most hilarious movies of 2011. This film was a huge success both critically and commercially and brought Dharmendra back in the limelight in a big way.

Amitabh Bachhan
He is, undoubtedly, the Shehansha of Indian commercial Hindi cinema. His first appearance was in the movie Saat Hindustani (1969). He showed his mark in the Hindi film world with Zanjeer (1975), which set the trend for the ‘Angry Young Man’ action roles in Hindi films. With his tall and lean looks, Amitabh became emblematic of the new kind of action hero. This continued in his other films like Deewar, Muqaddar Ka Sikander, Hera Pheri, Shakti, Lawaris and others. So total was Amitabh's dominance of the movie scene in the 1970s and 1980s that the late French director Francois Truffaut called him a "one-man industry". The secret of the astounding success of this angry young-man has been his additional ability to make people laugh with his excellent comic timing. His subtle but very delightful style of comedy was behind his super hits like Amar Akbar Anthony, Sholay, Lawaris, Namak Halal, Silsila etc. With every scene rib-tickling, every dialogue hilarious, and a story that has the audience in splits, Chupke Chupke ranks as one of the top comedies in Hindi cinema. Performances in the movie are the backbone of the film. Dharmendra and Sharmila Tagore keep you spellbound for the initial part of the movie while Amitabh Bachchan steals the show in the later. The high point of this comic caper is his perfect timing.

Akshay Kumar
This Bollywood actor personifies the real life story of a guy next door who makes it big in the Bollywood. From the by lanes of Chandni Chowk in Delhi, where he was brought up, this actor has reached dizzying heights in his Bollywood career, more recently for his comic timing in hit comedies.
The comedies which did well were Hera Pheri, Awara Paagal Deewana, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi(co-starring with Salman Khan) and Garam Masala with actor John Abraham. The zenith of the actor's career was yet to arrive. 2006 saw the launching of Phir Hera Pheri which was again a big movie. Bhagam Bhag was a great comedy which was enjoyed by the audiences. 2007 was the most successful year in the career of Akshay Kumar. Namaste London was a lovely movie with Katrina Kaif. This movie was a big hit. Other super hits were Heyy Babyy, Bhool Bhulaiyaa and Welcome and, of course, Siingh Is King. Akshay Kumar has delivered many more hits and had his fans coming out laughing from his movies and his producers laughing to the banks.

Salman Khan
A great face, one of the best bodies in Bollywood and a smile which can charm anyone are his most visible assets. Maine Pyaar Kiya, a story of timeless love, was the movie that propelled Salman Khan to instant fame all over India. In Andaz Apna Apna, a light and frothy comedy, Salman Khan played his role with élan and poise. His comical timing was excellent and along with Aamir Khan he gave us one of the most enjoyable hits of 1993. The film was a lot of fun to watch and Salman proved his versatility as a comedian. In Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, one of the biggest Bollywood hits of all time, Salman was at his best in comedy sequences. His comic timing is truly fantastic. Mujhse Shaadi Karogi was another film where Salman proved that he was quite adept at doing comedy roles . The film had Akshay Kumar and Priyanka Chopra as his co-stars, and went on to become a great box office hit. Salman has also become renowned for his depiction of the strong angry young man with a flair for comedy. Wanted was among his best performances in this category. After Wanted came Dabangg, Ready and Body Guard which were made along the same line – lots of action, lot of stunts and loads of fun!

Aamir Khan
Aamir was first introduced as a child artiste in the 1970's hit Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973) -- he was the youngest child in the trio. His debut movie Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak(1988) was a run away success and he achieved instant stardom. In the year 1990 he delivered the biggest grosser of the year in the form of Dil and since then he has not looked back giving several commercial and critical hits, like Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin (1991), Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander( 1992), Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke( 1993), Parampara (1993), Andaz Apna Apna (1994), Baazi( 1995), Rangeela (1995), Raja Hindustani (1996), Ghulam (1998), Sarfarosh (1999), Dil Chahta Hai( 2001), Lagaan (2001), Fanaa( 2006) and Rang De Basanti (2006). Using classic "method acting", Aamir acts in all genres of Indian films - action, drama and romance, but above all comedy. His 3 Idiots is considered among the biggest classic comedies.

Sanjay Dutt
After seeing his performance in Vaastav: The Reality (1999) that earned him the Best Actor in a Leading Role award at Filmfare Awards, no one could believe that it was the same star who played Munnabhai M.B.B.S. ( 2003), one of the most uproarious and successful films in recent times. The comedy causes rip-roaring laughter. The emotions and comedy have been integrated perfectly. The film is one of the funniest to come from Bollywood and that is due to spot on comic timing by Sanjay Dutt, Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani. Sanjay Dutt puts on the performance of a lifetime as the title character, enacting a wide range of emotions with ease. When his parents visit him from the village, his transition from a Bhai to a doctor makes you roll with laughter. After the phenomenal success of this film, Sanjay Dutt has been sought after by producers for mainly comedy roles and he has proved his skills as a comedy avatar quite often.

Abhishek Bachchan
The highly acclaimed actor for powerful performance in Yuva, Sarkar and Guru, Abhishek played his most rewarding roles as star comedian in Bunty and Bubly, Dostana and Bol Bachchan. Rohit Shetty's Bol Bachchan worked wonders for him. He has had a ball at most of the award functions for bagging the awards for the 'Best Actor of the Year in Comic Role'. In a rib-tickling comic role, Abhishek pulls off the double role with the right blend of the subtle and the saucy, surpassing all expectations.

It is said that in Bollywood fates are made and broken in just a matter of few Fridays. While we have seen several who were superstars of the year but just disappeared after a year, there were some old warhorses that trudged and moved along, giving guaranteed money spinners – if not critically acclaimed ones – year after year, month after month and in some cases, week after week, because they all had one common quality – their perfect comic timing.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Kishore Kumar - Iconic Singer and Comedian

Today, August 4, is Kishore Kumar's birth anniversary.

The versatile genius, Kishore Kumar nurtured dreams of becoming a singer following the footsteps of his idol, the legendary singer K. L. Saigal. He frequently visited his famous star brother Ashok Kumar in Mumbai from Khandwa, his birthplace, in the hope that he would introduce him to K. L. Saigal. But destiny willed otherwise. He was forced into acting – a hero who was as much a comedian. But Kishore Kumar’s real ambition was to become a playback singer, which became true when music director Khemchand Prakash called him to lend his voice for Dev Anand in Ziddi (1948). However, Kishore gave credit for his popularity to Burmans – father and son. It was S. D. Burman who made Kishore Kumar, the superstar singer of the 70s when he chose him to sing ‘Roop Tera Mastana’ for Rajesh Khanna in Aradhna. Earlier Sachinda had made Kishore the voice of Dev Anand in hit films Baazi, Paying Guest, Munimji, Guide, Teen Devian, and Jewel Theif. Another composer who placed implacable faith in Kishore Kumar was Sachnda’s son, R. D. Burman. Kishore’s ability to modulate his voice to suit the personality of the hero he sang for was what made him a star singer. He was as much the voice of dapper Dev Anand, the adorable Rajesh Khanna as well as the angry youngman Amitabh Bachchan. As he was still on top, singing superhit songs, Kishore’s sudden death on October 12, 1987 shocked the nation.

Kishore Kumar was a genius who died before his time. He was a comic par excellence and if you have not seen films like Chalti Ka Naam Gadi, Padosan, New Delhi then do yourself a favor and watch them. Of course he sang romantic melodies, sad songs and children’s songs and sung them all with unmatched talent, but he was by far the best in his uproariously funny songs. Kishore Kumar did not need to do an act. He was mad. He was crazy, he was wild. He would sing – in Hindi, in English, in Bengali, in Gibberish; he would dance, he would squat, he would jump, he would roll, he would sleep – all in the same song of 3 minutes. The man who started in 1948 in the KL Saigal mould under the baton of Khemchand Prakash with Marne ki duayen kyun maangun (Ziddi) and Jagmag karta nikla (Rimjhim) carried on for twenty years trailing behind Rafi, Mukesh etc, when suddenly post-Aradhana he zoomed off like a rocket redefining playback singing as the voice of Rajesh Khanna and later, Amitabh Bachchan and everyone else, leaving the great singers far behind. But singing was only one part of his multifarious talents. He was an actor, writer, producer, director and composer. It is the mad, crazy, wild and funny Kishore Kumar singing for himself on the screen that was absolutely adorable.

Bollywood has carried on the tradition of discovering and rediscovering the comedians from the bygone era till today, who excelled in evoking laughter with their talent and perfect comic timing. Comedy is a tough thing to enact and to do a comic song is all the more demanding. Still, thanks to the comedy icons, there is no dearth of such songs. These are joyous, naughty, swinging songs with deliberately clever wordings which were immensely enjoyed by the audiences. The way these songs have been sung with sparkling comic timing by some of the ace comedians, is what makes them classics in their own right and rage of their time. Here is a pick, my most favorite, from the long list of popular comedy songs sung by Kishore Kumar:

Charandas ko peene ki jo aadat naa hoti – Pehli Jhalak (1954)
In this song, Kishore Kumar enacts Charandas as well as Charandas’ harassed wife. And needless to say, he sings the song too (lending voices to both the characters). The lyrics by Rajinder Krishan are very amusing and his description of the behavior of a drunkard is quite realistic and life like. C Ramchandra is the music director.

Mannu Tera Hua Ab Mera – Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1956)
This song sung by Kishore and Manna Daa has to be one of the most beautifully sung songs ever. It talks about the haves and have-nots as far as having a girlfriend is concerned. Kishore having besotted Madhubala with his boyish charms belongs to the haves while the eternal bachelor Anoop bemoans his lack of a girlfriend, and the ensuing duet makes for compulsive rib tickling viewing.

Paanch Rupaiya Barah Aana - Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1956)

Kishore Kumar has to recover five rupees and twelve annas which Madhubala owes for getting her car repaired in his garage. But he also uses this opportunity to profess his love for which he can sing dadra. And now he chooses SD Burman’s classic Dheere se jana bagiyan mein to give it a comic twist. Kishore Kumar is not done yet. In the end he declares he can become a jogi for her love – and now he chooses KC Dey’s iconic Teri gathri mein laga chor.

Ek Chatur Naar - Padosan (1968)
In the film, Kishore Kumar has graduated into a love guru. But his task is now immensely more difficult. He has to help his protégé, the village idiot Bhola (Sunil Dutt) wean away the next window neighbour Bindu (Saira Bano), to whom he has got infatuated, from the influence of Mehmood. The only reason why she should have any tolerance for the clownish Mehmood is his music capability which has helped him get into her proximity as her music and dance teacher. Teaching music to the tone deaf Bhola was impossible, so the Guru KK sets up this duel with Mehmood, with Bhola lip-synching while KK and his team sing in playback mode. Padosan was a Mehmood film, but an understated, cerebral Kishore Kumar holds his own against over-the-top mannerisms and slapstick of Mehmood.

Cinematic comedy can be considered the oldest film genre and one of the most prolific and popular. Comedy films are designed to elicit laughter from the audience. These are light-hearted screenplays crafted to amuse, entertain and provide enjoyment. The common man, living most of the time in stress and strains of the day-to-day drudgery, has always looked to comedies for respite and relief. Bollywood has carried on the tradition of discovering and rediscovering the comedians from the bygone era till today, who excelled in evoking laughter with their talent and perfect comic timing. Kishore Kumar is one of them. Here are my most favorite of his comedies:

Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (Satyen Bose, 1958): This is a true classic. Simple story, wonderful music, great acting, brilliant cast and phenomenally hilarious. The story, like the 1928 Chevrolet in the film, ran amok. It gives you more laughs than you can handle. The lead duo, Kishore and Madhubala were a treat on the screen. The film's highlights are the songs, 'Ek ladki bhigi bhagi si', 'Panch rupaya barah ana' and 'Babu samjho ishare', besides, of course, Kishore Kumar's antics. The movie stands tall amongst the greatest comedies ever.

Pyar Kiye Ja (C. V. Sridhar, 1966): A mad mad comedy highlighting the eccentric Kishore Kumar and the comic genious of Mehmood, Pyar Kiye Ja spawned many remakes. Mehmood, Om Prakash's son, plays an aspiring film director in the movie. The classic scene when he narrates his to-be-made horror film story to his dad replete with sound effects of raindrops, door creeking and wind blowing, is one of the funniest scenes of Hindi cinema. Not surprising, Mehmood won the Filmfare (1967) Award for Best Comedian for his role in the film.

Padosan (Jyoti Swaroop, 1968): This is an unforgettable gem. Every scene, song and dialogue remains etched in mind. The two uncrowned kings of comedy, Kishore Kumar and Mehmood are at their best. Add to this an excellent performance by Sunil Dutt as Bhola, a simpleton to the core youngman, and you have a super entertainer. The trio enact their characters magnificently. A highlight of the movie is some hilarious numbers, particularly, 'Ik chatur naar karke singar' and 'Mere samnewali khidki mein'.

The comic songs, like the popular comedians, contributed to the success of many movies. These are joyous, naughty, swinging songs with deliberately clever wordings which were immensely enjoyed by the audiences. Kishore Kumar's lighter songs based on country rhythm, were received extremely well to boost the box-office returns of the films – ‘Mere angana mei tumhara kya kaam hei’ (Lawarris), ‘Khaeke paan banaras wala’ (Don), ‘Rang barse’ (Silsila), 'Pag ghungru baandh Mira nachi re' (Namak Halal) etc., all sung on screen by the versatile mega star Amitabh Bachchan

Besides, there are hundreds of beautiful haunting melodies that brought grace and good luck to the films and honor and awards for the great singer. We miss Kishore Kumar – the legend of his lifetime whose melodious voice continues to entertain us, from generation to generation.