Tuesday, 26 February 2008
Ever since I quit my last job with the Mumbai Mirror Jan-end this year, I have mainly been on a cross-country drive. Mumbai-Bangalore and other delightful parts of southern India. In my experience, there is nothing better than a drive by the country to help untangle the messed up mind, to see things a bit more clearly and to chart out a new direction in life. And as any long drive traveller would tell you, there’s nothing more upsetting than to run into an unmarked T-junction along the highway, with one of those restless trailers honking rabidly inches behind your frightened back.
Well, thankfully, I didn’t face many such horrid Ts on the yatra, but am at crossroads in my rather fledgling, directionless career. While there’s no furious lorry on my tail, the angry bills certainly are, and as I head back to base in Bombay later this week, I need to decide which way to turn the damn wheel.
As I see it, I have two roads ahead. One, I forget all that I have done in the last few years in mass journalism, and retrace my steps back to advertising journalism, with which I began my career as a journo. This should not be too difficult as there are many opportunities in this field today, yes, even for crank heads like yours truly. But choosing this road will obliterate all the passion I still possess for doing my bit for the nation, for using communication as a tool to making a difference, however small… the reason I drifted into mass journalism in the first place.
The other road, of course, is sticking to the mainline stuff. The problem here is that while there is a way, there are far too many steep hurdles and axel smashing potholes lining the path. There are very few takers (in fact, none at all) in the Indian media for my kind of brutal, knock-out, mind-effed style, and after a few large pegs, I rationalise that by claiming to be ahead of my time, hic! The truth, of course, could be that the Indian media is running way behind sced, hehe. However, I could still hang in there, freelance a bit, do entertainment assignments, sell my soul doing the odd commercial stuff, and probably I could make by for a while. And then it’s a matter of luck too; I could end up with a trusting, ballsy proprietor, as Vinod Mehta of Outlook managed to do, and have a periodical of my own someday when the nation is ready for the hard stuff. But I readily concede that might never happen, and this turn could lead me to a career dead-end.
So then why am I boring you with my confusions with road maps? I guess because I’m secretly hoping one of you readers will play road marker for me. And also because I am sure all of you at some point do face such T-junctions in life, so I guess on some level you will identify with my predicament.
So you think, while I go stock up on the beers. Cheers!
Wednesday, 20 February 2008
I am a self-confessed fan of Ashutosh Gowariker. His Swades hit me hard in the guts like no other film has done, I have mentioned this in an earlier blog. And when a movie director pushes the envelope that hard, it becomes a real tough ask to keep it going. I present my two bits on JA with this context in mind.
Jodha Akbar is an immensely splendorous film, shot, art directed, lit and presented on a resplendent canvas, the sort of production values we usually don’t associate with Bollywood. Both Hrithik and Ash (the two not always admired for great acting skills) are more than convincing as ancient king and queen, and full marks to them for putting in wonderful performances. There are plenty of outstanding scenes in the film, my own fav is when Akbar, listening intently to the superb Khwaja song, most unexpectedly, joins the singers and sways to the music. A stunning cinematic moment, good enough on its own to watch the film.
However, the director has made one cinematic error, one that sadly weighs heavily against JA, and could cost the film its rightful berth in the category of outstanding Indian cinema. There is a rule we all learn as trainees in the advertising business, and Ashutosh would have done well to ponder on it before starting out on this high cost, blood and sweat adventure: Often, the magic lies in what you take out, and not what you put in.
The film is saddled with needless sub-plots which take away from what ought to have been a pure and simple love story, packaged with all the emotions that come with an inter-religious marriage, that too between the conservatively edgy Mughals and the passionately parochial Rajputs. I guess Ashutosh would justify the long and winded digressions as critical to providing a context to the core story, but I think he’s gone overboard on the framing, and that takes attention away from the artwork itself. The result is a patchwork of thinly connected little tales, not coming together to deliver a seamless body of work. I don’t think the length per se is an issue, which is what most critics opine. The longish length is visible ONLY because the various elements don’t synchronously gel. In the Bangalore multiplex where I watched the film, no one was in a hurry to rush home, but they clearly became restless because the pieces didn’t fit. Perhaps a brutal and dispassionate editor would have helped the director find the way out, even though it’s hard for a passionate man to lay his beloved baby in the hands of a stranger.
But I am not sure even that would have solved the problem entirely. It’s the art of telling a great story, simply yet entertainingly, which seems to have eluded the maker in this instance, something he did so magically with Swades and Lagaan. I think what started out as a love story, unconsciously turned into the life story of the emperor, which is not what we wanted or expected. And therein lies the rub. I know comparisons are odious, but I have to say Mughal-e-Azam worked BECAUSE it single-mindedly stuck to its theme of a love story and the connected father-son skirmishes, and despite the fact that the classic lacked the techical prowess of the makers of JA.
Sure, I will catch the film again when the DVD is out, to check if I missed something. But I deffy won’t watch it inside a cinema hall, it’s torturous being surrounded by weary, distracted audiences who fart out ugly Abhiash jokes and crappy Dhoom 2 dialogues during the most poignant scenes in the film. And the fimmaker must take some responsibility for this offensive side-entertainment.
Thursday, 14 February 2008
So, Raj Thackeray has stolen the manoos plank from right under the muddled mis-fit Uddhav’s feet, and that poor sod has no idea what hit him. Sure, his canny dad will do all he can to grab some mileage out of the death of the Nashik manoos who got killed in the riots, but the ideological damage is done.
The only thing that backfired against Raj is that he did not spend a single night in jail, else the resultant sympathy card would have gotten him a greater bang for his Marathi buck. However, he’s not done yet, this is obviously only the first stage of his divide and rule strategy. Expect many virulent speeches and violent road shows in the coming days and months.
So what will the muddled Uddhav now do? The only thing left for him to do: match his warring cousin with equal venom against the migrants. So until the next elections come up, the poor migrants are gonna be subjected to hell. Big B will of course carry on with biz as usual, it’s the sad taxi and doodhwalas who will face the Marathi music.
And we in the media will do the cousins a huge favour by religiously covering their dirty deeds. I think time has come for all non-Marathi folks to convert. From this day, I am changing my name (finally) to Anil Thackeray. I shall learn the lingo, eat only missal pav and puran poli, and practice the lovely lavni. Jai Maharashtra!
Monday, 11 February 2008
As a journo, I hang my head in shame at the spineless behaviour of the media ever since the maha frustrated raj thackeray shot his mouth off. I don’t have space in newspapers anymore to speak my mind, but I would have gladly run this piece in the mass media at great risk to my life and limb.
Thackeray is a desperate man, and will do desperate things to be relevant in Maharashtra politics. Clearly, what he says is utter rubbish, and his insecure cousin has now joined the Marathi manus party. Sadly, there are enough gullible voters who will fall for this trickery, unmindful of the fact that this approach puts the safety of Marathis in great peril in the rest of the nation, ignorant of the fact that this crappy thinking will divide the nation into many disunited states, when it’s our safety from international terror agents that we should be worrying about. Add to that the fact that the state has a totally chicken hearted CM, a man for whom bravery and courage are four-letter words.
In such a damned scenario, it is the media that needs to take control before it’s too late. As a first step, one would expect editors to be writing front page edits on a daily basis on why the city WILL NOT take this sort of divisive politics lying down. There must be immense pressure put on the netas to shut their dirty mouths, and to try and educate people into seeing through their dangerous games. And as the next step, the Thackeray cousins should be blacked out from the media until they mend their ways. Media coverage is like oxygen for them, that’s what they feed on. Once the supply is cut, they are finished.
There is that toothless body called the Editor’s Guild, which I think meets once in six months over chai and pakodas, and does little else. The politicians will do what they are best at: take the nation backward. It is the media that needs to kick some bad arse, and in this case, we have been failed.
The biggest news right now is Sanju’s marriage with Manayata. God help this nation.