Thursday, December 29, 2005

10 things you didn't know

Random bits of information about myself:

1. I hate being right handed. Lefties are so much cooler!
2. Only two things can make me cry. India and Innocence.
3. Sometimes I wish I could chuck it all and pursue a career in the, cinema, photography, anything. Creativity stirs something in me. I also regret not being able to pursue a career as a cricket test match umpire...sigh!
4. If I could change something about my appearance, I'd remodel my nose.
5. Bengali, Urdu and Telugu are sweetest languages I have ever heard.
6. I can never choose between mountains and beaches. I love them both!
7. Words I use most frequently these days are,'whatrussaying?', 'what bloody?' (I'll explain this later) and 'right'.
8. I am too much of an idealist for my own good.
9. I beleive religion is divisive.
10. My favourite food in the world in 'parshe macher jhol'.(Quite unsure what its called in English. If any of you know, please let me know.)

Well this is 2005's last post. Hope you guys have a blast bringing in the new year. Please be careful and responsible in your revelries. Hope to see you all in 2006!


Saturday, December 24, 2005

The one about Christmas


Christmas is here. I don't know what it is about this time of the year that cheers me up without fail, baar baar lagataar. The truth of the matter is that the manifestation of this cheer is in the form of decorated streets, resplendent Xmas trees, huge shopping discounts and loads of drinking by all and sundry. SO what is it about this time of the year?

The universality of the message is so hard to miss. Its hard to explain...I always find myself cheerful and in high spirits (no pun intended) during this time of the year. 'Jaane de yaar, Its Christmas!' is what I find myself telling most people with any sort of cross to bear towards me or any one else. Most things are forgiven, faces are more cheerful and plans involving togetherness are charted out. Anyways, heres to another Merry Christmas and a New Year!

My fondest memories of Christmas are:

1. Mass at St.Xaviers' College. We were in the School then, but still made it a point to go to the College Church and attend mass. The tree was modest but truly beautiful! The serenity of the place is something I have not experienced anywhere else. There would be one mass before the school closed for the holidays and I made it a point to attend that one as well. The walk back home with a couple of friends, entailed giving dirty looks to our contemporaries in La Martiniere and getting the same treatment in return of course. (I remember asking one of them, 'Oh so you're from La Marts?' and he totally freaked out...most of them did. 'Its La Martiniere', they would correct you. It was good fun. Just some healthy school rivalry, nothing dangerous, I might add. I made some great friends from LMB later.)

2. Christmas lunch at Calcutta Club. I quite hate place for its snobbish attitude and its inability to be flexible. A relic of the Raj, the place is ,I tell you. I have heard old men shout out to bearers there, 'Boy! Ek whisky pawni lao!' Where are you, dadu? Sussex, 1943? Quite disgusting. But quintessential Calcutta. But the Christmas Lunch is something I was forced to go for year after year by my folks and after a while the event started to grow on me. The best turkey I've tasted, a menu that hasn't changed since 1923 and the company of good friends. A cold traditional institution turns into a cosy and fun place, albeit for an afternoon.

3. Santa Claus. I believed. For too long. Far too long. My parents used to humour me. I once wrote a letter to Santa and even left him a piece of chocolate! Poor chap, all that traveling and climbing in and out of people's chimneys... a snack would do him good I felt. I was 10 then (go ahead, chuckle). The excitement of waking up on Xmas morning and checking the Christmas stocking is something that my childhood will always cherish. When I would say the blasphemous words, 'I dont think Santa exists', my parents would take me to task and vehemently oppose my views and reinforce the faith. Thanks Maa and Dad, for letting a little kid continue to believe in all the good and virtue that Christmas stands for a little longer than most.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Ten best film soundtracks of 2005

ItÂ’s that time of the year again! Awards night, if you will. End of another year. Musically, unfortunately, this year hasnÂ’t been very rich or exciting. There have, however, been some outstanding talents that have made their presence felt through some truly brilliant film scores that they have composed. Otherwise its been a barrage of studio mixed techy sounds and item numbers, each as difficult to distinguish from the other as it is Shahrukh Khan's performances. Anyhow, below mentioned are the musical highlights of the year gone by, according to yours truly.

10. Salaam Namaste (Music Dir - Vishal-Shekhar): This light, young soundtrack makes it into my top ten. Tracks like 'My dil goes mmm..' and 'Salaam namaste' are bouncy and tuneful. The other two songs aren't too bad either. It would be very easy for the film director to fill up this 'phorein' love story with mindless songs, but thankfully he doesn't and the final outcome is pleasing.

9. Paheli (Music Dir - MM Kreem): The movie's music is nowhere near his 'Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin' and 'Zakhm', but the soundtrack does have its moments. 'Dhire jalna' is the standout tune of the album and is perfect in the context of the film. 'Kangna re' and 'Phir raat kati' are also pleasing to the ear. Shreya Ghosal and Hariharan stamp their class all over this decent collection.

8. My Brother Nikhil (Music Dir - Various): This delightful soundtrack has some great contributions from various music directors like Vishal-Shekhar, MM Kreem and Vivek Philip. My favorite song from this collection is 'Le chale' from Philip. Great tune, softly and sensitively sung by KK and Sunidhi Chauhan. 'Mere sapne', 'Woh kaun hai' and 'Kabhi' are worthy inclusions. Not original compositions intended for this picture, but a great listen in totality.

7. Kisna (Music Dir - Ismail Darbar and AR Rahman): The movie bombed but the soundtrack did well. A spat between Darbar and Rahman ensued and it was in the news for all the wrong reasons, but some of the tracks here are beautiful compositions. The mujra song, 'Chilman' does justice to its seven minute-over length. Darbar's 'Woh Kisna hai' is a good composition by any standards and Sukhwinder Singh's rendition takes it to the next level. Rahman's 'Hum hai is pal yahan', is good but not at par with his best. The 'Kisna theme' isn't too bad either. Good album.

6. Lucky-No Time For Love (Music Dir - Adnan Sami): A decent transition for the singer into the role of music director. What lifts this album from mediocrity is the singing. Asha Bhosle, Adnan Sami and Udit Narayan put in honest and soulful performances. 'Sun zara' is the stand out effort. 'Chori chori' and 'Jaan meri ja rahi hai sanam' are also good compositions. 'Lucky lips' is passable.

5. Chocolate (Music Dir - Pritam): I chose this album from amongst the many soundtracks in this genre, like 'Dus', 'Kaal' and 'Bluffmaster'. This one emerges a winner simply because of the energy it exudes. Sunidhi Chauhan and Sonu Nigam are at their exuberant best. 'Mummy', 'Bheega bheega' are peppy and picturised well on the latest Bengali bombshell, Tanusree Dutta. 'Zahereeli raatein' is also not bad. My favorite track is, however, the enigmatic 'Khalish si hai'. You feel you've heard these songs before, but a young upbeat set of tunes.

4. Bunty Aur Babli (Music Dir - Shanker Ehsaan Loy): Perhaps the most popular soundtrack of the year, this album has some huge hits. Shankar Ehsaan and Loy succeed in adding an earthy dimension to their music. The anthemic 'Dhadak dhadak' is fast paced and racy. Then there is the absolute rage 'Kajra re'. I didn't believe that it was SEL's music when I first heard it! The lovely 'Chup chup ke' is a gem. The title track and 'Nach baliye' are acceptable.

3. Shabd (Music Dir - Vishal Shekhar): By far the best effort by VS this year, this perhaps is the most underrated soundtrack of the year. The film didn't do too well, and hence was relegated from public memory. 'Khoya khoya' and 'Bolo na' are pure magic. Kudos to the duo for these two beauties. Sonu Nigam puts in one of his finest efforts of the year on the first of these songs. 'Sholon si' and 'Chahaton ka silsila' are also very good contributions. Solid effort.

2. Yahaan (Music Dir - Shantanu Moitra): This album is pure magic. Moitra has serious talent and I'm sure we'll hear much more of him over the next few years. He puts together some brilliant compositions on this soundtrack and extracts a fine performance from Shreya Ghosal. 'Urzu durkut' is simply sublime and so is 'Naam ada likhna'. Add to that some ethereal lyrics by Gulzar and you have a classic in the making. 'Mele chaliyan' isn't too far off the mark as well, though it tends to get a little monotonous in pieces. 'Ajmer wale' is situational and an average devotional track and is the only filler here.

1. Parineeta (Music Dir - Shantanu Moitra): This one will be remembered for a long time to come. Each and every song here is great! Moitra at it again. Original, fresh and high on melody, these songs will have you humming in an instant. I would wager that most people would vote in this soundtrack as the soundtrack of the year. 'Piyu bole' and 'Soona man ka aangan' showcase Shreya Ghosal's considerable talents. The latter has a huge Tagore influence as well and should delight lovers of the great poet's musical talents (just a thought, apologies to puritans). Sonu Nigam gets his moment of glory with 'Kasto Maza'. My favorites are, however, the classy cabaret by Sunidhi Chauhan, 'Kaisi paheli hai ye zindagani' and Chitra's beautiful, 'Raat hamari toh'. This one is a keeper and will be reference point to many budding music directors in years to come.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tainted Love

An email from a gay friend of mine set off the thought process for this post, a while ago. Being busy hasn't helped my blog updates, so putting this down only now. Anyway, getting back to the issue...he mentioned that he had broken up with his boyfriend of three years and was now back in Calcutta for a bit to take care of some family formalities. We hadn't been in touch for quite a while and hence he wanted to know if I was in Calcutta then. I obviously wasn't and I rattled off a cursory email about how shit happens and that there were plenty more fish in the sea and the like. Having sent the email, I realised how insensitive I had been. And did it have anything to do with the fact that he was gay? Hmmm...maybe. Since he had 'come out' more than seven years ago, I had found it hard to take the guy's sexual preference seriously. Someone in our friend circle even suggested that he was doing this just to be 'cool'. At some level, I guess we even believed this theory. When he insisted, we said we were cool and agreed with him, but I guess we never thought too much about it to form a strong opinion. And it had reached a level where, when one my closest friends emails me with problems in his love life, I reply with a cliched bullshit one liner? Had any other friend of mine said the same thing, I'm not sure, but I'm inclined to believe that I would have mailed more than a one liner. 'How did it happen?', 'Why can't you write her?', 'C'mon give her another chance, one fight and you guys split!!?!' Might have said something like that to them. I always thought that I was absolutely cool with people being gay and that I treated all alike, regardless of division of colour, creed or sexual preference. But I sure didn't behave like I was! I was angry and full of self loathing. How was I, as an educated, forward thinking, progressive youth, different from the vociferous and 'closeted by religion' likes of millions in this country. Ashamed, I realised that one needed to think about how big this distance had grown. It wasn't on the surface, it was in the subconscious. I just hadn't taken my friend seriously...and if I had, I could have been more tuned in to his life and behaved in the same way as I might have with someone else. He wasn't asking me for favours, he just wanted me to be normal with him.

And this is what all homosexual people in this country are looking for. A chance to be as normal as the next guy. In a country, where we don't like discussing what we do behind closed doors, why should we discriminate against people with different bedfellows, behind those same closed doors? Lets just not discuss that as well because we don't like discussing it in anycase, right? In a country with a section 377, change is going to take time. Forget marriage, adoption of children for gay couples in India is a distant dream. I doubt if parenthood is driven by what your sexual orientation is. Changing diapers in the middle of night has got nothing to with your love life either. It has to do with something much more basic, the desire to care for and raise a child.

I for one, have had a wake up call from this personal experience. I feel sorry that I kept believing that I was 'with it' with regards to this sort of thing. I feel sorry that I let something like this, this issue of great social importance, slide into the recesses of my mind. But much more than that, I feel sorry that I got lulled into something much more elementary and important... Insensitivity towards a dear friend.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"Crashed on the floor when I moved in,this little bunk alone with some strange new friends"

So its done. Finally moved out of Graduate Hall and into this flat in Yishun, with three other batchmates. I've never lived in a house on my own or shared one with others before so I'm enjoying the ride so far (I'm not counting living in hostels and the like). Its a 3 bedroom, hall and kitchen setup and is spacious enough for 4 people. I have my own room because of different budget constraints of my flatmates. Its a nice place and the stay so far has been pleasant. The area is quiet, calm and mainly residential. There's the amazing Yishun park next door, which is a great place to enjoy nature, jog or play whichever sport you may fancy. The greenery of the place just amazes you! With foodcourts next door and at regular intervals, we have variety in food as well. But we have cooks with enviable resumes. Ashwin is trained in continental cooking (he's a hotel management grad), Brij and KK can both cook Indian stuff like rice, varieties of dal and subzies (should have used a 'j' there perhaps). I, on the other hand cannot cook to save my life! I think the best thing to have come out any cooking initiative on my part has been an oddly shaped omelet. Of course, in such a situation one feels like a free rider. Hence I have volunteered to wash all the dishes after the all the cooking is done. Fair, methinks, ya?
We have been cooking fairly regularly, except for occasions when the maestros get back late from work. Oh, I forgot to mention that there is a VCD rental store next door so that's a huge plus.
Looking forward to this new experience. The only bummer is that I miss my ceiling fan from hostel. What's this about Singapore and HDB flats. Very few of them seem to have ceiling fans! I wonder why? So stand and table fans have been procured. But its just not the same, you know. And another thing that constantly bothers us is our neighbor's 'chirpy contraption'. Every time one passes by his door, this funny birdy thing goes off and its chirping its head off! Once or twice is fine, but everytime!!?! Tempted to yank out the wires from that thing... But will wait till I've stayed a while longer...


Friday, December 02, 2005

Of Kishore Kumar and seven hidden gems

If I haven't mentioned it before, I am a huge KK fan. Always was and will be. He deserves a whole huge post to himself and that will come I'm sure (as soon as I can find some time!). The man could do practically everything...act, sing, produce, direct, compose and write lyrics! This led Lata Mangeshkar to call him the 'Danny Kaye' of Hindi cinema. I think Danny Kaye wasn't a patch on our man from Khandwa.
Anyway, in this one, I want to concentrate on some hidden gems in Kishoreda's repertoir. We have all heard the classics and the numerous hits. Give the following songs a listen. They didn't catch on and were not that big in terms of popularity, but were no less brilliant than the golden greats. Enjoy!

(in no particular order)

1. Aaj rona pada to samjhe (1960): From the film, 'Girlfriend', this classic showcases Kishore in a soulful and sad mood. Who says the man couldn't sing sad? Listen to him rendering the lines 'Apno ki mohabbat kya thi, Gair hona pada to samjhe...'. Hemant Kumar's music is brilliant.

2. Jaane bhi do yaar (1987): This track from the film 'Inaam Dus Hazaar' is quintessential Kishore. Back to his playful best, the man breezes through this mid tempo joyride. Though the movie was made during RD's forgettable years, 'Pancham' still gave music way beyond the capabilities of his then contemporaries. Add to that Kishore's voice and it's pure magic. Another beauty from this soundtrack is 'Chand koi hoga tumsa kahan'.

3. Bahut door hoke (1988): 'Namumkin' had a great soundtrack. And it had this gem of a solo from Kishore Kumar. The longing in the singer's voice is so palpable when he sings, 'Meri Dhadkano Mein Jane Kya Tarane, Dhime Suro Mein Gati Ho Tum, Jane Kis Jahan Se Leke Kya Sandesa, Sanson Mein Aati Jaati Ho Tum.' Hrishikesh Mukherjee could have made a better film, but the soundtrack was on par. A classic, but forgotten, love song.

4. Kabhi kabhi sapna lagta hai (1979): This duet with Asha Bhosle is sure to be catch your attention. The RD/Kishore-Asha/Gulzar team at it again. Beautiful song. Not in the 'Hazar rahein' league but pretty good just the same. The film, the Hema Malini-Girish Karnad starrer, 'Ratnadeep'.

5. Diya hai aapne bada hasin sahara (1966): This will suprise you. Very rarely has Kishore sung for OP Nayyar. You can almost tell that this song was written and composed for Rafi. A quintissential OPN number (no, it doesn't have a 'tanga tune'), but in Kishore's voice. The song is all the better for it! A bubbly Kishore does a fantastic job in this track from 'Akalmand'.

6. Waqt waqt ki baat hai (1978): This track from 'Bhola Bhala' is perhaps more accesible than most others. Kishore in a reflective mood. A great song none the less. A few 'hah hah's from KK ala 'Yeh lal rang' and 'Yeh kya hua'.

7. Main bangali chokra (1958): This delightful track from 'Raagini' has to be one Kishore and Asha Bhosle's duet high points. A love story revolving around a 'Bengali' guy and a 'Madrasi'
girl, this song captures the essence beautifully. A light, 'halka phulka' and witty song, it is sure to make you smile. Also look out for KK singing a few words in Bangla as well.