Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas: The season of giving

Tis the season to be jolly... and to ponder whether you've been naughty or nice! Merry Christmas everyone. It's the time of the year when we're all looking forward to the dawn of a new day... the decorations are out and so is all the finery... with everyone making plans for a spectacular entry into the new year!

Christmas for me has always been the season of giving and joy... the season of Santa Claus, Christmas carols, gifts around the Christmas trees and Christmas dances, celebrations and loads of yummy, yummy food. It's also a time when family and friends come together. The feeling at this time of the year in the two weeks that lead into Christmas and new year is indescribable... it's warm and fuzzy yet exciting.. it's rushed and action-packed yet relaxed... it's time of reflection... yet a time to look forward for new beginnings!

At this time of the year, I cease to be Akshay... literally! I am Santa Claus... in my head and in my behaviour! It's now a family legend and part of our folklore! I love giving gifts (and also getting them, mind you!) and so this time of the year gives me a great reason to go out and shower everyone I love with gifts! I love the process... making lists, deciding a gift for each and everyone (personalisation is the key here), getting them wrapped specially and best of all... seeing the faces when they open their gifts on Christmas day! The only "Santa" things I don't do is slither down chimneys and ride a reindeer sled (no matter how I much wanted to)!

So now... stop reading this... turn on some good "Christmas-y" music, open the gifts lying under the tree and look forward for a smashing 2010!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Movie Review: Khoya Khoya Chaand

It is just so refreshing to see a period film that is made with such glorious reverence and affection. Khoya Khoya Chand does its best to transport you to the golden era of Bollywood, among the archaic lights, melodramatic sets, divas and classic automobiles. The visual treatment of the story is stunning, and thanks to that a superbly chosen, we get the smell of the vintage greasepaint.

Perhaps, the in-jokes, at almost every step of the film, was lost to the audience. This is an unhesitatingly insider film, Bollywood reflecting on Bollywood, not marked by raw impressions or cynicism. This is a glossy, neatly crafted romance set against an era of cinema the director himself is clearly overwhelmed by. The tale is of a pretty young starlet Nikhat (Soha Ali Khan)--who has been more couched than cast, right from an abominably early age--and her compromise to break into the limelight by giving in to the reigning star Prem Kumar (Rajat Kapoor). Enter then Zafar (Shiney Ahuja)--the nascent screenwriter who tells it like it is, who Nikhat ends up falling for.

It is a fine tale of compulsions and choices, of free will and helplessness, of Filmfare Awards and fat financiers. This is one of Sudhir Mishra's most simplistic films, however, where the characters are clearly delineated but utterly lack subtext. It is a neat love story, conflicted yet obvious, dramatic and basic--not that there's anything wrong in that.

Soha Ali Khan has the meatiest role, an author-backed character that requires her to emote and over-emote, to go from merry to melancholy in a heartbeat, and she manages this rather strongly. Sure, she is given unreal lines, but there is a fiery-eyed conviction as she toils on them, visibly straining to stay in character. It is a solid performance, and--called on to act for probably the first time in her yet-budding filmography and yes, she delivers. The film rests on her shoulders, yet she manages to look like a pin-up.

More than that (but with much less to do) is Soniya Jehan, the Pakistani starlet--who is cast as a ravishing beauty in the role of a diva, and in the film's finest scene outdoes herself when she asks, equal parts coy and manipulative, why she should sign a certain film that doesn't have any scope for her. Classic. Rajat Kapoor is superb as a superstar, first debauched then desperate, Saurabh Shukla's as the chubby financier gets all the one-liners. Shiney Ahuja is occasionally all right with the intensity, but whenever he has to break the glare, when he has to grin and throw stones at a producer's house, the acting effort shows.

It is a nicely put together film--much credit to the cinematographer Sachin K Krishn--but is bogged down by a self-pitying protagonist. There is inconsistency in the plot since it starts off in an unreal fashion but is being narrated by Vinay Pathak as an assistant director, so you sit back and imagine these are romanticised flashbacks as told by a warmly nostalgic chunk, and that imparts an air of Bollywood to the proceedings. Yet, the character loses his omniscient voice, and we are now left on our own--but the staginess continues.

There is much to smile at and much to applaud fondly, and many a cameo. It is a lyrical film and the title song is magnificent--the music holds the story together perfectly. I just wish we didn't have the title cards at the end. Do watch the film. It is a sincere effort, a work born out of sheer love and for the medium, and I earnestly wish we could see more films like this. On the ratings scale, three out of five.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Fare Game

Mumbai's cabbies are an institution unto themselves is a well-known fact. Sometimes their reasoning seems rooted in some parallel universe whose logic defies mere human understanding. Recently, when a friend alighted from the cab, a driver asked for Rs. 98. She happened to have a tariff card in her purse and pointed out that she owed only Rs. 89. Bristled with indignation at the implication that he had tried to rip her off, the cabbie said, "Madam, if I really wanted to cheat, why would I jack up the fare by only eight rupees? I would have asked for a thousand!"

Since my friend was in a hurry, she paid him Rs. 90 and desisted from pointing out two flaws in his argument. One, the argument was nine rupees, not eight and two, a cabbie would need exceptional luck to score that one-in-ten-million chance of finding a passenger foolish enough to cough up Rs. 1000 for a 10 kilometre ride. The cabbie failed to convince my friend that he had made a genuine mistake, but he did provide some unintended entertainment.