Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"... নাম জানেন?"

পরশু তপেন চট্টোপাধ্যায় মারা যাওয়ার সময় নাকি ওঁর চোখ খোলা ছিল: দেখে বোঝা যায়নি উনি মারা গেছেন। ভদ্রলোক মারা যাওয়ার সময়েও গুপী দিয়ে গেলেন আমাদের সবাইকে।


প্রসঙ্গতঃ মনে পড়ল, আমি মেনকার সামনে দিয়ে হাঁটতে হাটঁতে Guptএর হাতে আঁকা পোস্টার দেখেছিলাম। যেহেতু হাতে আঁকা, Tএর ওপরের আর নিচের দাগ দুটো প্রায় একই মাপের মনে হচ্ছিল। ব্যাপারটা বুঝতে একটু সময় লেগেছিল আমার।

পুনশ্চ: Guptএর ভালো নাম Gupt: The Hidden Truth

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Celebrating Towel Day

  1. The idea that Bill Gates has appeared like a knight in shining armour to lead all customers out of a mire of technological chaos neatly ignores the fact that it was he, by peddling second rate technology, led them into it in the first place, and continues to do so today.
  2. You are disoriented. Blackness swims toward you like a school of eels who have just seen something that eels like a lot. (Game message)
  3. The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.
  4. If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat.
  5. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands.
  6. The seat received him in a loose and distant kind of way, like an aunt who disapproves of the last fifteen years of your life and will therefore furnish you with a basic sherry, but refuses to catch your eye.
  7. It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the phrase, 'as pretty as an airport.' Airports are ugly. Some are very ugly. Some attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of a special effort.
  8. "My name is Kate Schechter. Two 'c's, two 'h's, two 'e's, and also a 't', an 'r', and an 's'. Provided they're all there the bank won't be fussy about the order they come in, they never seem to know themselves."
  9. We are not an endangered species ourselves yet, but this is not for lack of trying.
  10. So you can imagine what happens when a mainland species gets introduced to an island. It would be like introducing Al Capone, Genghis Khan and Rupert Murdoch into the Isle of Wight - the locals wouldn't stand a chance.
  11. He attacked everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which.
  12. He hoped and prayed that there wasn't an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn't an afterlife.
  13. I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
  14. I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
  15. In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.
  16. In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.
  17. It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.
  18. Life... is like a grapefruit. It's orange and squishy, and has a few pips in it, and some folks have half a one for breakfast.
  19. The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't.
  20. There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.
  21. Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.
  22. You live and learn. At any rate, you live.
  23. Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.
  24. He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.
  25. Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.
  26. Ah, this is obviously some strange usage of the word 'safe' that I wasn't previously aware of.
  27. The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.
  28. Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.
  29. Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.
  30. A completely ordinary number, a number not just divisible by two but also six and seven. In fact it's the sort of number that you could, without any fear, introduce to your parents.
  31. Even he, to whom most things that most people would think were pretty smart were pretty dumb, thought it was pretty smart.
  32. A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
  33. That young girl is one of the least benightedly unintelligent organic life forms it has been my profound lack of pleasure not to be able to avoid meeting.
  34. "Watch?? I'm gonna pray, man! Know any good religions?"
  35. This is an important announcement. This is flight 121 to Los Angeles. If your travel plans today do not include Los Angeles, now would be a perfect time to disembark.
  36. Cyberspace is - or can be - a good, friendly and egalitarian place to meet.
  37. I may be a sorry case, but I don't write jokes in base 13.
  38. Don't believe anything you read on the net. Except this. Well, including this, I suppose.
  39. Anything invented before your fifteenth birthday is the order of nature. That's how it should be. Anything invented between your 15th and 35th birthday is new and exciting, and you might get a career there. Anything invented after that day, however, is against nature and should be prohibited.
  40. Deep in the rain forest it was doing what it usually does in rain forests, which was raining: hence the name.
  41. We were walking through the only known anagram of my name - which is Sago Mud Salad.
  42. The fact that the number of entries in this list brings a smile to my face.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The question man

At some point of time in my rather spotty career I had come across a peculiar chapter in English grammar: WH-questions - who, why, when, where, which. The objective was to frame questions using these words (though how contains both W and Y, it was not considered a WH-questionable word for whatever reason).

Coming back to my point, there was only one man who came across my mind when we were being taught WH-questions. Only one person I knew had asked so many questions:
  • Kitne aadmi the? (a basic count from Kaalia, triggering off possibly the most famous scene in the history of the industry)
  • Kya samajhkar aaye the? Ke sardaar bahaut khush hoga? Sabaasi dega, kiyun? (a confirmation from Kaalia and his mates regarding their idea about his own take on cowardice)
  • Kitna inaam rakha hai sarkaar hum par? (querying You-Know-Who with the single intention of triggering off the a description lullaby used by mothers all around in a 50-kos radius)
  • Kitni goli hai iske andar? (just confirming how loaded a certain psyched goon's gun was)
  • Tera kya hoga Kaalia? (poor Kaalia)
  • Holi kab hai? Kab hai Holi? Kab? (sheer optimism, just in case someone in the gang actually knew the answer)
  • Aur agar iske badle mein mere aadmi agar tumse thoda sa anaaj, thoda sa saamaan lete hain, to kya koi jurm karte hain? (explaining justice to villagers)
  • Tum in donon ko bahaut soorma samajhte ho na? (trying to show who's who to villagers)
  • Tumne suna maine kya kaha? Suna? (just a routine check of Jai and Veeru's auditory abilities)
  • Yaad hai, Thakur, kya kahe the tum? "Ye haat nahin, phnasi ka fanda hai". (a pregnant repitition of Thakur's blabberings)
  • Ye Ramgarhwaale apni chhokriyonko kaunsa chakki ka peesa aata khilate hain re? (a query, possibly out of dissatisfaction from the rotis consumed the last night)
Note that all questions are aimed at his henchmen (and others), and these either really questions, or he knew the answers to most of them. Which leads me to the assumption that he asked them for the sake of asking them: he simply loved asking questions.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Just found out on the dailies that a teacher of La Martiniere School for Boys had asked for a laptop as a bribe from a boy of Class IV in order to promote him. These shall become commonplace with time, I suppose. What struck me, though, was that the name of the teacher is Sanjay Smart.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Badle ki Aag

A couple of days back, while not in the best of moods, I was watching TV idly, flipping through channels mindlessly at a leisurely rate. I got stuck the moment I saw Dharmendra on Zee Cinema. Dharmendra, dressed up in all black, with an enviable moustache that dangled no less than an inch on either side of his lips, and was strongly reminiscent of Sudhir's moustache. Zee Cinema told me that the movie was called Badle ki Aag.

At that moment I decided I had to watch the rest of this movie.

And how correct I was!

In stepped Reena Roy, clad in what the director definitely assumed to be a sexy outfit. I wasn't seduced, but my mouth curled into a smile. She was definitely a tawaif in the movie, and I seriously doubted how well her business went, given her dress sense. It was a full song, so I knew I could flip channels and come back in four minutes or so.

I had missed the end of the song in the process, and Dharmendra was back, this time with a very innocuous-looking gun, possibly a revolver, pointed at Kader Khan with a shaggy white beard. Apparently Dharmendra was a crook, but Kader Khan was even more crooked. Dharmendra's insides were burning from severe badle ki aag, but just as he was about to do something about it, in strode his mother, at the sight of whom I broke into a silent laughter.

Nirupa Roy.

Well, the scenario changed within a couple of minutes. It turned out that Kader Khan was actually Dharmendra's father, who had left them for a dark career years back (who can blame him, given that his wife was Nirupa Roy and his son was Dhamendra...?), was back, and Dharmendra would have to guzar past his mother's laash to kill her suhaag; she strolled sideways in front of Kader Khan.

Ah, end of the drama, I presumed. But NO!!

In walked Kader Khan (no, this isn't a typo). The audience got to know that they are twins, and the evil brother had locked up the saintly one for ages, also spotting a shaggy white mane. The new Kader Khan was our heroes father, and Dharmendra was furious with himself for making the error. He now forgot all about his gun, and set out bashing his uncle mercilessly with his own hands.

Who steps in now to stop Dharmendra from taking kanoon in his own hands? Of course, the police. Who is the police inspector? Hold your breath... Jeetendra!

At this moment I laughed out loud, even clapped, forgetting completely that I was in a foul mood.

Taking the advantage, Kader Khan tried to hold Nirupa Roy as a hostage and run away from the scene. But there was a bang, and Kader Khan had dropped dead. Reena Roy had come to the party. For whatever reason, Dharmendra was arrested.

Of course, he was released from the legendrary Central Jail in the end to be greeted by two people: a kid, who turned out to be Sunil Dutt's son, and, well, I know this is hard to believe, SMITA PATIL.

What else can you ask from a movie? My day was made. :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Recent realisations

  • Mango isn't my most favourite fruit any more. It's orange.
  • The hoarding count I've seen before this KMC election exceeds any that I've seen before.
  • This is the hottest summer I've spent in Kolkata.
  • I still prefer Asterix to Calvin and Hobbes (comment made after reading Yukon Ho!).
  • It used to take me forty minutes to return home from work on foot ten years back; it takes me anything between forty-five minutes and fifty minutes now. However, I carry a laptop these days.
  • All of a sudden most of the leading cricketers in the world are actually younger than me.
  • The Lava A9 cellphone commercials they showed during the recently concluded world cup are among the most irritating I've ever seen.
  • Minimising all windows, reaching the desktop and hitting F5 repeatedly doesn't get me any closer to meeting deadlines.
  • Gawar phali (cluster beans), with it's wild aroma and flavour, tastes better than French beans.
  • The older you get, you more you crave for your school days.
  • Gunda is the best movie ever made in the history of mankind. It's actually better than Godfather, Forrest Gump and Pather Panchali put together.
  • T20 remains my second-favourite sport, but I'm not sure for how long.
  • adidas has definitely sponsored Bumm Bumm Bole.
  • A re-watch of the India vs Australia 2000-01 series still gives me goosebumps.
  • Parle Marie is an obscene name for a brand. If you're not Bengali, don't bother about the explanation.
  • Chitrangada Singh looks fabulous in a sando genji.
Even the dumbest of readers must have realised that I was simply looking for an excuse to publish an image to prove the last point, which, as you have all been expecting, is here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Five on a roll

Rolls. Without any kind of doubt the bestest street food that has ever existed. For the uninitiated (I presume there are some non-Kolkatans reading this blog as well), I mean kati roll - the kind of divine creation made possible only by stuffing greasy kababs inside a porota (paratha in Hindi and most North and West Indian languages, fried Indian flat-bread or something equally hideous in English), often garnished with onion strips, green chilli bits or squeezed juice from half a lemon, or marred by smearing the insides with chilli, tomato or soya sauces or cucumber. These days some eateries have been promoting jaali rolls, replacing porotas with rumalis or naans and the oily feel of the kababs with grilled chicken or other sissy stuff. But then, blasphemy is everywhere, isn't it?

If you're still wondering on what this seemingly useless article is about, it's an honest effort at creating a list of top five rollerias in my city. And when it's about my city, it's serious business, since Kolkata is the birthplace of rolls, and undoubtedly produces the best rolls in the world. So there's a high possibility that you're getting a list of the best production centres of the best street food in the entire world.

It also serves another purpose: now that I'm on a very strict (somewhat self-imposed) diet regime, I'm off rolls for some time now; writing this article gives me a chance to take a stroll down all kinds of intricate memory lanes, as well as having a somewhat virtual bite at the greatest street food ever created in the illustrious history of mankind.

5. Khalique (near Society Cinema)
Picture this. You're in college. You're craving for some B-grade flick that is bound to show some, but not much, female flesh. You've braved the sun and have loitered across Esplanade and Lindsey; you've tried to strike a bargain with the second-hand audio cassette hawkers on Free School Street, and have probably bought a couple, thereby spending a chunk of your pocket-money; you've got tickets for the cinema, and all you know that you're incredibly hungry. What do you do?

You enter Khalique. Well, actually you don't even enter Khalique - you just stand outside it. You can see the tawa, with six-inch rolls aligned along the circumference. They're fresh, they're hot, they're delicious, they're full of beef, and in the 1990s, they cost, well, I'm not lying... three rupees each. Three. To put things into proper perspective, the cheapest metro railway ticket cost four rupees at that point of time.

4. Hot Kati Roll (near Asiatic Society)
When I was in school eating out and Park Street were synonymous. Park Street was where all the glamour was: and at that age a visit to Park Street was big, quite big.

Class XI was when I had started considering myself as a grown-up. I took the metro and visited, well, Park Street, the land of dreams, the land where grown-ups went out to eat. My pockets, however, didn't agree to my dreams, and I had accepted the fact that I shall return desolate, dejected, heartbroken.

It was when I had had travelled till St Xavier's and was on my way back to the metro station past all the illustrious names every Kolkatan has grown up with that I noticed this small street-side shop. There was a man seated in a box some three feet above ground level, dishing out incredibly delicious rolls: not your cucumber-filled tosh, but the real thing that began and ended with dark brown chunks of meat. Every bite was exotic; and the for the first time on that avenue of heaven that my pockets didn't revolt.

3. Bedouin (near Gariahat crossing)
If you do not know where Traders' Assembly is (given that you stay in Kolkata, and you have grown up listening to that jingle), well, it's diagonally opposite to Anandamela. Now, from Traders' Assembly, this abode is about ten seconds on foot towards Ballygunge Phnari.

They used to sell a plate of fried rice and chilli chicken for (hold your breath) fifteen rupees; this was ten years back. But this is not about pricing: this is attributes more divine.

The first aspect of Bedouin that might strike you is the speed. They grill porotas over tawas at an incredible speed, then they lay them in three columns. Each column has approximately eight porotas, about 70% of each of the bottom seven porotas covered by the one on top of it. Next, the fillings (chicken, mutton, egg, paneer, potato, crushed tikiya, you name it) are spread linearly and systematically on the open portion in one fluid motion per unique filling. The expert hand then dishes out an equal amount of minuscule green chilli pieces and squeezes half-lemons to extract juice on the porotas. The rolls are then, well, rolled up (hence the name), covered in translucent rectangular pieces of paper, drafted inside brown-paper packets with half a lemon and a single green chilli, and distributed, without any error whatsoever, to the correct customer, and his change (for whatever amount possible) being reimbursed without any fuss. The time taken is usually ten minutes for twenty-five rolls, which, at the rate of a roll ever twenty-four seconds, is something that McDonald's, with all it's gargantuan task force, has never been able to match.

Did I also mention that the quality is quite good, and it's really good value for money? And the fact that the egg potato roll, priced at five rupees in the 1990s, sold better than porn among schoolchildren with little pocket-money and little time to spare between school and tutions?

2. Nizams (Esplanade)
This was a tough choice, but in the end, I had to push Nizams down to the second slot, not because it has gone down in quality, but for the simple reason that the crown now belongs to someone else for absolute superiority.

Nizams, however, outshines every other rolleria in terms of heritage. The history is mind-blowing. Consider, for instance, the fact that this is where rolls were born. Office-goers wanted a quick, portable, delicious solution to their hunger, and Nizams came to their rescue. You got stuffed, you got satisfied, you got it in minutes, you could carry it in one hand and have it on your way, and though you never used any cutlery your hands didn't get greasy. The genius of Nizams had arrived; and they did so way before Independence.

And what taste! True, they are smaller than most rolls in the city; or they seem so, since they get gobbled up too easily. Nizams usually make their kababs a bit crisper than most rollerias, but the oily nature of the end-product doesn't kill the flavour or the taste; if anything, it contributes towards making the roll more divine.

1. Campari (Dover Lane)
Bang opposite the Gariahat Bata there is a road; I suppose the address is Dover Lane, though I'm not sure. It's the one next to Basanti Devi College. The shop at the corner is called Adi Dhakeshwari Bastralaya New Amrita Bastralaya. You take about twenty steps inside the road, and to the left you see the picture of a rooster. That's the place you're headed for. Though on Dover Lane, the postal address reads 155B Rash Behari Avenue.

Campari doesn't have a door. It has only shutters. You enter. You place your order. You perch yourself on chairs in front of high bar-counter-like tables. Someone at the counter shouts that your order is ready. You walk up. You fetch the roll. It's highly likely that you won't be able to resist the first bite before you reach your table. You take the bite. Your eyes close automatically. You let the aroma, the flavour, the taste, the magic melt in your mouth.


The pieces, chicken or mutton, are of the best quality. They are of exactly the correct size. It's never overcooked, and it's never rare either. There's not a single speck of air inside the roll: nor do they try to fill up the gaps with cucumbers or filthy sauces. It's meat, meat and only meat. The precision of the cooking can only be matched by the mass of meat they put in per cubic inch of space inside the roll.

The porota is cooked to perfection. It's exactly as crisp as you want it to be: they do it with pinpoint accuracy - the flour is never left raw, and neither does a square millimetre of it get charred. It's like a surgeon performing a brain operation - everything is exactly the way you want it to be. Always.

The king is here to rule.


PS: I tried my level best to insert a pun on the lines of "it rocks; it even rolls", but everywhere I tried to put it, it seems unbelievably forced. I had to use it, though, so I inserted a PS just for the sake of it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

একটি স্বাস্থ্যসম্মত গান

অনেক বছর আগে, আমি যখন বাড়ন্ত বাচ্চা ছিলাম, আমার জামা চট্‌পট্‌ ছোট হত, আর আমার জন্য তেইশটি একান্ত প্রয়োজনীয় খাদ্যগুণসম্পন্ন পানীয় বরাদ্দ থাকত, তখন আমি রেডিওয় একটা গান খুব শুনতাম, সেই বিখ্যাত অননুকরণীয় ভরাট গলায়:
আমি দূর হতে তোমারেই দেখেছি,
আর মুখ ধুয়ে চোখে চেয়ে থেকেছি...
বেশ অবাক হতাম, গীতিকারের অদ্ভুত স্বাস্থ্যসচেতন মানসিকতা দেখে, এমনকি বিরক্তিও হত একেকসময়: সব ভুলে গিয়ে হাঁ করে তাকিয়ে থাকব, তা না, তার আগেও মুখ ধোব? বাড়াবাড়ি নয়? এত বাতিকের দরকার আছে নাকি? অত নিয়ম মানলে তাকাতে ইচ্ছে করবে? আর দূর থেকেই তো তাকাচ্ছি, বাসি মুখে তাকালেই বা কি?

অনেক বছর পর বড় হয়ে জেনেছি যে দ্বিতীয় লাইনটা আর মুগ্ধ এ চোখে চেয়ে থেকেছি। কিন্তু আজও, গানটা শুনলেই অবচেতন মনে চোখের সামনে বাথরুমের সিঙ্ক ভেসে ওঠে, আর কুলকুচি...

আমার শোনার দোষ নয়, আমি পরেও শুনে দেখেছি, ভীষণভাবে ঐর'মই শুনতে:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

During those days when everything was colourful, Rajiv Gandhi was our prime minister, Gavaskar still batted for India and they still used to sell Campa Cola and Gold Spot, I was intrigued by a simple fact. If my fly was left open accidentally, my observant well-wishers and ever-annoying leg-pullers comment that my post office is open. I was forced to ask them and myself: why a post office? I mean, what had the postal system to do with trouser zippers? Of course, I'm yet to receive an answer that's even remotely convincing.

For a long time I used to think that this was a Bengali concept. Then I saw Anupam Kher utter the same phrase to indicate his younger son's (played by an obscure Addi) open zipper in Maine Gandhi ko Nahin Mara. All this has led me to wonder whether this inexplicable conspiracy against the postal department has the slightest chance of being an international one.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

IVplay at it's weirdest

Analog watches are essentially of two types - one with numbers from 1 to 12 printed on them, the other with Roman numerals. I've always liked numbers in all formats; I've liked playing with all of them; I've fallen in love with the most prominent of them all: 0, 1 and 42; I even love Roman numbers, Cs of Ms of them.

Which is why I feel agitated when some watch manufacturers replace the IV on the watches with a IIII. I mean, why that truckload of Is? Why the narcissism with all those extra Is? What's the point they're trying to prove over here? That IIII is more hep? More cool? Funkier? It looks more intelligent? Excuse me, the only feeling I get is that of severe annoyance.

Ages back someone had tried to explain to me that since we always get to look at IV and VI upside down, we tend to get confused between them. Which is, in my opinion, the weirdest thing I've ever heard. I still don't know of anyone, and by anyone I mean anyone, who has ever confused between four and six on a watch or a clock. Ever. Why, I've even seen watches with dots and lines for numbers, and have never found any difficulty in telling the time.

It beats me, this IIII business. Honestly.

PS: I own the watch on the picture. Possibly shows how filthy a hypocrite I am.


I know I shall be jeered at for this, but I have almost never liked train journeys when I was a kid. I could hardly sleep, sitting on rexin was uncomfortable, I loathed at the concept of strangers making vague attempts at befriending me (often babytalking to a ten-year old in the most irritating of ways) and then, there was the familiar story about train toilets.

My parents, intelligent creatures that they are, found out a perfect way to bribe me. They used to buy me Tinkle digests. These were fatter than the usual Tinkles, and had a selected collection of stuff over, say, a year's worth of Tinkles. At that age there was hardly anything more lucrative to be bought from, say, Nagpur Railway Station to lure someone to not sulk over a long train journey, that too at a surprisingly affordable rate.

No, Tinkle didn't shape my childhood the way Anandamela had, but it definitely did capture my imagination over years. Even now, as I'm a ripe thirty-two, names like Suppandi, Tantri the Mantri (uncannily similar to Goscinny and Tabary's Iznogoud series, as I was to find out later) and Shikari Sambhu make my lips curl in a very familiar smile. And then there were stories from round the world, Amar Chitra Katha-style biographies and mythology, truckloads of general knowledge and plenty of fun activities. The more I grow up the more I realise how good a companion Tinkle had been for an Indian child in the 1980s: the generation that grew up without internet and with only Doordarshan and sparsely informative newspapers. It was informative, it was character-building: and most importantly, it achieved all this while being fun.

Old-timers might have noticed that I've left out Kaalia the Crow from the list. It was intentional, since it deserves a special mention. For the ignorant, Chamataka, the smart-aleck jackal and Doob Doob (I loved the pun on the name) the moronic crocodile plan up to play foul, mostly attempting to have rabbits called Keechu and Meechu, or occasionally a deer called Shonar (whatever doubts I had about the involvement of a Bengali ended here) for dinner, only to be thwarted by the wiles of Kaalia. When I saw Tom and Jerry for the first time it was oddly reminiscent (remember, I was introduced to Kaalia before Tom and Jerry).

Give me some sunshine, give me some rain... :(

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The 50,000 guy

Are o Sambha, kitna inaam rakhe hain sarkar hum par?
Poore pachaas hazaar.

We all know this by heart, don't we? Remember, how we had reacted to a chunk of our childhood been taken away when Amjad Khan was no more? Yesterday we lost Sambha as well. Few of us know that his name was Mac Mohan (I'm going by the IMDB spelling), and the fact that he was Raveena Tandon's uncle (mama) or the fact that he has acted in other superhits like Heera Panna, Zanjeer, Don, Kaala Patthar, Shaan, Karz, Qurbani and Aankhen. Sambha was so popular that he was asked to say the same line (poore pachaas hazaar) in his role as an instructing actor in a school in Luck by Chance.

However, it is my responsibility to crush a myth here, I suppose. I've heard many people who claim that poore pachaas hazaar was Mac Mohan's only line in Sholay. It wasn't. Check the video below, dragging it to 1:30 minutes. As Ahmed (Sachin) rides on horseback past Gabbar's henchmen playing cards in an absolutely random location, Sambha utters his second and last line of the movie:
Chal be Janga, cheedi ki raani hai.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Busting street cricket myths

Like all Indian urban kids I used to play street cricket while growing up. These were possibly the most joyous days of cricket of my life: the days when captains shouted at bowlers for not being able to turn tennis balls on asphalt; when batsmen got out for sending the ball into certain houses and half-out for sending it into some others; when byes and leg-byes were non-existent; when there was always one good bat and one bad one, and the batsmen swapped bats after each single; when every left-handed batsmen or bowler was considered to be kidding when he played for the first time; when there used to be last-man-batting.

We hadn't heard of the word internet, and the Doordarshan feed was so pathetic that trying to find out intricate details of the match was an impossible task. There weren't any library nearby that cared to stock cricket books, so we basically had to follow what the bullies said.

At this age, having gone through the ICC rulebook minutely, I suppose it's time to crush at least five myths prevalent in street cricket. These are rules I had grown up with, and had known to be as true as The Sun, but unfortunately, all of them turned out to be false.
  1. One cannot place a fielder exactly behind the bowler or the wicket-keeper: I was no-balled multiple times for this; since I invariably tossed the ball high, the batsmen often hit the ball over my head. The umpires (often from the batting side) had no-balled me on every occasion. The rulebook does not mention a single word on this: the only restrictions it mentions are (i) no more than five fielders on the leg-side, (ii) no more than two fielders behind square on the leg-side, (iii) no fielder exactly behind the bowler if and only if the batsman objects due to a disturbance (similar to movements of or around the sight-screen), (iv) the various 30-yard circle restrictions applicable in limited overs cricket. That's ALL. I'm sure Ganguly had grown up under similar rules as well, otherwise he could've stopped Marillier in that match by placing a long stop (yes, the position exactly behind a wicket-keeper even has a name, and was a quite common one in the 1800s when people of my girth and fitness were made to keep wickets).
  2. If you bowl three wides on the trot your over gets cancelled: It doesn't. With the advent of Ajit Agarkar and likewise, we got to see overs not being cancelled despite such atrocious stuff.
  3. If you hit the stumps while running you're out hit wicket: Once again, a myth: proved on multiple occasions, the most prominent one occurring during the 1999 world cup when Chris Harris dived on the stumps during a tight single, thereby creating an unidentifiable wreckage of the furniture.
  4. If you hit the ball twice with the bat you're out hitting the ball twice: You aren't. You're out hitting the ball twice if and only if the second hit is with the intention of scoring a run, and the discretion lies fully with the umpire. We have seen batsmen do this multiple times in international cricket, mostly with the intention of stopping the ball from hitting the stumps.
  5. If a ball bounces twice it's a no-ball: No way! The ball needs to bounce more than twice for it to be a no-ball. Here is the counterexample: ">

Sunday, May 9, 2010


একটা অন্ততঃ প্রতিজ্ঞা করি নিজেদের কাছে:
বাইপাসের ধারে একটা হাসপাতাল আছে, মূলতঃ হৃদরোগীদের জন্য, নাম Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences। আজ আমরা নিজেদের কাছে শপথ করি, হয়:
  • আজ, এই মুহূর্ত থেকে তাকে R N Tagore Hospital বলা বন্ধ করে রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর হাসপাতাল বলা শুরু করব, অথবা
  • ন্যূনতম লজ্জাবোধ থাকলে আমাদের সংস্কৃতি নিয়ে অন্যরা মন্তব্য করলে তাঁর নাম ভাঙিয়ে খাওয়ার চেষ্টা করব না।
কিছুই তো করলাম না তাঁর জন্য, মানুষও হলাম না: নিদেনপক্ষে বাঙালি হয়ে দেখাই।

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The zzzzz factor

I've always been curious about alphabets. When I first came across reviews of the movie Veer, my first reaction was oh, just another Salman Khan cinema that went down the drain, and I had overlooked the casting section. Then I noticed the stills, and saw a cute, plump, somewhat attractive girl.

Who is this? My curiosity took over, and searching led to reveal that it's some was Zarine Khan. Veer was her debut, and she was called Yashodhara in the movie. Wow, not only does her name start with a Z, but she also has a V and a Y in her life, I thought! And then, while visiting her Wikipedia page, I found the following excerpt: "She received her entry into acting when she was visiting the set of Yuvraaj at Subhash Ghai's film school Whistling Woods."

Ooooh, two Ws as well, and another Y!

It was then that my memories raced back, down the by-lanes of Bollywood history. I thought of leading ladies from the past, not just anyone, but women whose names started with the last letter of the alphabet.

I shall not waste my (or anyone else's) time on writing about the queen of them all, Zeenat Aman. I grew up amidst telecasts of Bollywood films from the 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s, and Zeenat was unmissable. There's no point going on about how I had drooled over this woman in my heydays; about how men have wasted ink and other fluids on her for years; I wouldn't be listing her filmography either.  However, I suppose I should mention a few Zeenat facts:
* Zeenat was born to a Hindu mother and a Muslim father, that too in Germany
* Zeenat won Miss Asia-Pacific in 1970
* Zeenat put her lips to satyam shivam sundaram, clapped and danced to khaike paan Banaraswala and was the woh repeatedly mentioned throughout the eternal jhingalala hoom in the same year.

Zarina Wahab shall always remain the one who went on a frantic search for aabodana all over Mumbai with Amol Palekar in Gharaonda. She co-starred with Amol in Chitchor and the mysterious Agar... If as well, and I suppose she matched Amol Palekar step-by-step in maintaining the next-door image. Zarina also acted against a pre-Ramayan Arun Govil in Saawan ko Aane Do, and surprised all and sundry pleasantly by making a Bollywood comeback in My Name is Khan.

Not many Indian actresses start their career with a Bond production, and when someone does, you cannot ignore her. Zaheera did (she had used the name Zara for the movie), in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. She followed this up with Gambler a year later (where Dev Anand claimed that her bangles were nothing but his heart), and then big-banner productions like Dharmatma and less-hyped ones like Taxi Taxie (starring Amol Palekar) and the much underrated Naukri (a Hrishikesh Mukherjee masterpiece starring Raj Kapoor and Rajesh Khanna).

I shall always remember Zahida as the girl who sat at the back of the carriage when Sanjeev Kumar put his lips to oh re taal mile in Anokhi Raat, a black-and-white movie as late as 1966. She played a role in two high-profile Dev Anand movies as well, Gambler (scroll down to the end of this article for some trivia) and a movie as good as Prem Pujari, no less.  After three fairly decent movies to start off, she mysteriously faded into oblivion with not much more to boast of in her career.

When I first saw Henna nineteen years back I thought Zeba Bakhtiar would have a long career. She didn't. She acted in three movies (Mohabbat ki Arzoo, Stuntman and Jai Vikraanta) that I didn't watch, but had listened to their songs quite intently. I had heard vaguely somewhere that she had married Adnan Sami and had got separated. She, like many others of her generation, isn't a leading actress any more, has stooped to directing serials for the television and resides somewhere in Pakistan.

*** *** ***

Correction to an earlier blog entry:
In my previous blog post I had mentioned that Zaheera and Zahida in Gambler provide the only instance of two actresses starting with a Z in the same movie. I was wrong: Zeenat Aman and Zarina Wahab had acted alongside (who is surprised?) Dev Anand in Ishq Ishq Ishq. So much for overconfidence.

PS: Six pretty pictures in one post - I'd be crestfallen if this doesn't get tagged as ghyam.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Triumvariate

You cannot really take moustaches out of Bollywood. From the walrus in Mughal-e-Azam to the feline joke in Shree 420, from the neatly designed Pyaasa to the dense, compact Hero, from the treacherous Saudagar to the regal Jodha Akbar, from the charismatic Prem Pratigya to the ubiquitous Shakti Kapoor butterflies, it has been moustaches galore everywhere right from the very beginning to the very rotten, from the very unique to the very lupine ones. And I won't even mention the kings from the South of the Vindhyas here, they have taken their bristles to a different plane altogether.

The purpose of this article is not to dissect the brillinace of moustaches with respect to era, popularity, sensuousness or underworld involvement of a movie. This is simply to enlist the top (or bottom) three moustaches in the history of the industry:

Gambler: The Horizontal Hanging Garden
You cannot keep Dev Anand out of anything that concerns Bollywood. Period. You never could, and you shall never be able to, however hard you might try. From Guide to Love at Times Square, he has touched almost any level achievable by anyone in the history of Bollywood. Gambler, possibly the only Bollywood film till date with two leading actresses whose names start with a Z, gets our first entry on the list.

As Dev-saab meticulously put those inimitable lips to dil aaj shaayar hai, we sat there, enthralled, amazed in front of the TV set listening to Kishore Kumar singing a song without a sthayi (mukhda) or an antara; but what took away my breath was that horizontal bit of vegetation, the ends clearly dangling, the roots originating in mid-air. It looked so unreal that you had to remain open-mouthed, awestruck.

I suppose he was persistent in his attention-seeking mode: Gairon ke sheron ko o sunnewaalon, ho is taraf bhi karam.

Daag: The 8.20 Magic
If you had replaced the hands of a clock with moustaches when the clock struck exactly 8.20 (well, approximately), you'd get exactly what Kaka had put on for mere dil mein aaj kya hai. Trust Yash Chopra to convince the leading actor of the era to spot a hideous moustache while being picturised in a picturesque location to a Kishore Kumar masterpiece.

I suppose the whole thing was an intended camouflage. Remember the second antara? Koi dhoondne bhi aaye, to humen na dhoond paaye.

Lamhe: The Golden Absence
There was a time when we used to think YRF was all about shooting chiffon-clad women on Swiss hills and Dutch gardens. Wrong. They're also about redefining moustache habits of leading actors of their times.

Consider, for example, Anil Kapoor. The Anil Kapoor. The winner of any kind of body hair award among homo sapiens, and good enough to give a bear or two a good run for their money. One would think it would have been impossible to get him rid of his prized growth. But then, you can't put anything beyond the illustrious man and his productions.

What did he look like? Man, HIDEOUS. Absolutely pathetic. It was for good reason that Sridevi and Lataji cast a glance at him, and broke out Main to laaj ke maare, ho gayi paani paani...

Yes, there's good reason to be embarrassed of sharing a screen with an Anil Kapoor without facial hair.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Blog edit

I was browsing through my older posts some time back. There was this storm at Tajpur that had actually triggered off this blog sometime last year. However, the article did not gather as much praise as I'd have wanted it to.

Then I began pondering: why? It was not that ill-written; the style, though not magical, was definitely not that bad; the descriptions weren't that lacklustre either. Then I realised that I had not poured my heart out as I had been describing the storm, not writing what I was willing to write. My words were possibly held back by inhibitions from a bygone era. For example, I had written

The initial feeling was that of a thousand needles piercing your raw, bare skins. Suddenly I felt like a humongous dartboard, and the very next moment I was somehow metamorphosed into some miniscule object, carelessly shoved away by some unforeseen, indomitable surreal force. It was something I've never experienced before - being ripped apart by a force as powerful as the most ruthless of tyrants. It was like nature's revenge on us, humanists, refusing to acknowledge her supremacy on the universe...

The entire surroundings transformed. We were engulfed in a seemingly white barrier of rain, mist and sand: haze reigned supreme; visibility was curtailed to zero; it was a suffocating, yet delightful feeling of being challenged by some invisible supreme authority, trying to emphasise its stronghold on us, mortals; it was a challenge from there, to fight back, to gnaw our trails back to our tents...

whereas what had intended to write was

The initial feeling was that of her nails digging on the bare flesh of my back. That very moment I realised that she had arrived. Suddenly I felt like a stupid, imbecile plaything in her hands, and the very next moment I was somehow metamorphosed into some non-entity, conquered, utterly vanquished by her indomitable, surreal skills. We are males, the dominant gender; and we have continued to do so for millenia; it was as if the oppressed sex has sent their most capable representative in history to smother me, strangle me, suffocate me as well as ravage, savour, glorify my very existence ...

The entire surroundings transformed. She was all upon me; the storm became her sensuous voice that I crave for so much; the sand changed shapes to form her shapely bosom where men have sought shelter, yet lust for ages; the raindrops turned into her teeth, running over my ribs, spine, neck, giving me goosebumps all over. The massive ocean transformed into her eyes, dragging me in, drawing me closer, inviting me to get myself immersed into herself; the aroma of the rain-fed soil made me kneel automatically: I know I could smell her somewhere, and she needed me to be on my knees, at her service.

It was a battle I had lost from the first moment. She murdered me brutally; the death was painful; the afterlife divine.

Now, what I had written was bound to look juvenille and superficial, wasn't it?


Dictionaries suggest that the word deserve means having the right to something by virtue of an action or a quality. It's in our nature to brood about aspects of life we don't deserve. This might be evident from a short account of how frequently we have complained to ourselves or bore the hell out of everyone we find regarding commonplace stuff like irritating co-passengers, Salman Khan, high income taxes, lack of job satisfaction, mundane sex lives, Indian soccer, West Bengal politics, indigestion and voice quality on Tata Docomo handsets. The questions we don't ask of ourselves is: are we any better? What have we done to have deserved any better? What good are we? We're basically non-entities if you consider the vastness of space and time: what gives us the right to complain?

Let's ask ourselves something different for a change: what have we done to deserve lives as good as the ones we have? Let's take, for a change, life in a different perspective. Let us be happy, even overjoyed at having an aspect or two in life which we had done nothing to be worthy of. Let us be thankful, let us cherish life for being so gracious to us for rendering unto us something that special. I'm sure everyone has or shall find out that special something in their lives which they, at the bottom of their hearts, know what they aren't deserving of.

Let's celebrate life for being that good to us and laugh out loud, for once.


সেদিন ভাবুক-সভা পড়ছিলাম। একদম শেষে আছে ভাবের নামতা:

ভাবের পিঠে রস তার উপরে শূন্যি - ভাবের নামতা পড় মাণিক বাড়বে কত পুণ্যি
(ওরে মাণিক মাণিক রে নামতা পড় খানিক রে)
ভাব এক্কে ভাব, ভাব দুগুণে ধোঁয়া, তিন ভাবে ডিসপেপশিয়া - ঢেকুর উঠবে চোঁয়া।
(ওরে মাণিক মাণিক রে চুপটি কর খানিক রে)
চার ভাবে চতুর্ভুজ ভাবের গাছে চড় - পাঁচ ভাবে পঞ্চত্ব পাও গাছের থেকে পড়।
(ওরে মাণিক মাণিক রে এবার গাছে চড় খানিক রে)

মাণিক? মাণিক? বড্ড বাড়াবাড়ি রকমের সমাপতন নয় কি? এত শব্দ থাকতে মাণিক? উনি বড্ড জ্বালাতন করছিলেন, সেদিন, লেখার সময়? আমি জানি, শীগগিরি কেউ একটা ভাবুক-সভার প্রকাশনার দিন বের করে এটাকে ভুল প্রমাণ করে দেবে, কিন্তু ততদিন এটা আমার আবিষ্কার হয়েই থাক্‌!