Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Do NOT watch this movie. No, not even if the alternative is taking a bullet to the head. Because quick death is much better than the slow, agonizing death that will face you in the theatre. 

And die you shall. If not out of boredom, then out of sheer misery. For three hours, you will have to sit in a rustling theatre full of whispering people and watch open-mouthed as Bollywood takes flying leaps over the boundaries of torture that the human mind can suffer. 

The plot? You mean, the sorry excuse for one. Here it is, for what it's worth: An Indian has been lying imprisoned in a Pakistani jail for the past twenty-two years. Finally, a beautiful Pakistani lawyer tries to rescue him. After much cajoling, he deigns to tell her his story: 

Zaara Something Khan, a Pakistani politician's daughter played by the bubbly Preity Zinta, visits India to fulfill the last wish of her late grandmother. On the way, her bus has an accident and who should rescue her but Knight in Shining Armour Squadron Leader Veer Pratap Singh, essayed by the supposedly evergreen Shah Rukh Khan. He, instead of displaying Typical Indian Male Behaviour (TIMB) and molesting her, helps her fulfill grannyji's wish. After that, Zaara asks him what she can give him in return for his timely help. SRK, again eschewing all TIMB, asks for a day. 

Yes, you heard that right, folks. He asks for a day from her precious life so that he can show her his village in the heart of Punjab. On the way, of course, there has to be another song, as our couple prance among sunflower fields and Punjabi kudis

Finally, they reach Veeru darling's village. Here, Veeru's Bauji and Mati (I am as clueless as you are as to what that means), played by the genuinely evergreen Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini, welcome them. Needless to say, the whole village falls in love with Zaara, as, of course, does Veeru. Tauji, in fact, inspired by Zaara, starts the village's first girls' school. 

Sadly, they only have a day and Veer-Zaara (yes, now you know what the title means) have to return - Zaara to her palatial Pakistani home and Veer to his duties as Squadron Leader. Veer is about to express his love for her and hence stop her from boarding the train to Pakistan, when, lo and behold, who should arrive but Zaara's fiance. This character, who Zaara has conveniently forgotten to mention to Veer, is played by the amazingly versatile Manoj Bajpai. 

From there, the movie takes the predictable Bollywood movie route - sundered love; the girl has to marry the villain because of family pressure; the boy arrives to rescue her, summoned by the girl's best friend. 

And then comes the *hold your breath* twist: he DOES not carry her off home!! No, respecting the fact that her dear old Daddyji has had a heart attack, he proclaims that he will suffer heart break so that his love's father may live. 

But then, how does he land up in jail? The fiance has him arrested as a spy and tells him, in true Bollywood style, that he will have to sacrifice his life for his lover's. In short, if Zaara is to remain happy in her married life, Veer will have to languish in prison. His very name must be extinguished, so that Zaara doesn't think of him. 

What is the point? I don't know. Do the lovers finally unite? Does Veer get his freedom after all the tense courtroom exchanges? Well, this IS a Bollywood movie, after all. 

Do you need OTHER reasons not watch this movie? Here they are: 

The length: It is about three hours long. I was pretty peeved that I had lost three precious hours of my life to this movie. 

The songs: The characters break into songs every five minutes: they prancer around trees, they hug each other tight, they wave their arms, they emote, they lip-synch. The songs are the worst I've ever heard. I don't know whose they are, but they sound like Anu Malik's. And that's the worst insult I can think of right now. 

The cameos: Every few minutes, another "delightful cameo" steps on the screen. The list is long: Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, Manoj Bajpai, Anupam Kher, that dreadful Punjabi singer. How many can you tolerate? Trust me, there will be one more than that number. 

The languages: Half the time, they are speaking in Punjabi. And the rest of the time, they are speaking in Urdu. Being Mallu, I wouldn't have understood a damn thing if I hadn't had trusty Sahaj at my side to translate. Thank God I was with three Punjabis. Or not. They kept laughing at jokes that I didn't get. Though they DID say SRK's Punjabi sucked. 
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Saturday, November 20, 2004


I'm sitting in Delhi and pining for Kerala. For my grandmother's house in Kollam, to be precise.

Waking up to the sound of the courtyard being swept; lying in bed listening to Ammoomma chatting with the maid; reading Mathrubhoomi while drinking a cup of hot milk; being nagged by Ammoomma to have an early bath; eating food cooked by the best chef I know; sitting in the shade of the guava tree in the sunny central courtyard - sometimes reading a book, but mostly staring up at the oh-so-blue sky, the sunlight filled leaves, the nodding banana trees and the waving coconut trees and daydreaming; sitting cross-legged on the ground while Ammomma combs and ties my newly-oiled hair; having an afternoon nap like Ammoomma; having an afternoon snack after the afternoon nap; 'helping' Ammoomma water the plants just before dusk; sitting with her by the gate, swatting at pesky mosquitoes and watching the world pass by; listening to the prayer-call from the nearby mosque; watching the red sun sinking behind the white school building in the distance; smiling dutifully at the people who greet Ammoomma; watching Malayalm soap operas at night; sitting on the veranda during the daily power-cut in the light of the ubiquitous candle or a solar powered lamp and listening to Ammoomma swapping the day's gossip with the maid; turning in early so that I can have my quota of daydreams before sleeping; falling asleep to the sound of tears and drama and emotion - the malayalam serials. 

Now you know what I'm pining for. And I haven't even described the rain yet. I haven't described the stillness of noon and the liveliness of dusk. Nor have I talked about the way the crimson sun winks at one from behind tall coconut trees. And how can I describe the sound rain drops make when falling on banana leaves? Or the scent of freshly-bloomed jasmine? Or the smell the earth gives off when water falls on it? Or the joy of climbing up a guava tree at dusk and trying to make out the horizon in the distance, behind the emerald coconut trees and the golden clouds and the copper sun? 

I can't. But I CAN pine for it.
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Thursday, November 18, 2004


Delhi was like a warzone on Diwali night. Explosions rocked the horizon. Rockets flew about, carefree. Comets blazed their way into the night sky, only to end in a colourful bang. Multicoloured flowers bloomed against a night sky filled with smoke and vapours. Golden showers of sparks came down out of the cloudy sky. Strings of light twinkled invitingly at me from behind the mist. Trees were bleached silver by occasional blazing white flames. Below me, my landlord's white balcony gleamed golden from numberless oil-filled diyas. 
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