Bombay ki Baat Karen toh ….

Bombay is a fascinating city and the Bombay of 1960s all the more fascinating because of the transitional phase the city was going through. A lot of things were happening in Bombay in the 60s – the jazz scene , gentrification , migration . A city undergoing metamorphosis would make for a fantastic movie provided someone could spin a cohesive narrative from the chaotic happenings and therein lies Bombay Velvet’s problem.

Take Mistry and Khambatta , the childhood friends each running a magazine. Khambatta is    the gay capitalist , who has risen above genteel poverty . In a masterstroke , his character  is explained in a few words ” maine woh sab kiya jo kisi khambatta ne nahi kiya. Mistry on the other hand has married into property. Both men have sacrificed and gambled to build their fortune and fight on the opposite sides of the spectrum. Khambatta of the old money wants the elite ( his elite too) to control the economy and change the face of the city whereas Mistry , him of the new money talks about equality , help for the mill workers.  Their point of contention – an incriminating set of photos about a minister. Khambatta has his pawns Hiral and Johnnie to click his photos and Mistry sends his mistress Noronha to retrieve them . Both of them want to control the situation and force the outcome in their favor but are reluctant to get their hands dirty. This is a storyline that would make a hit. Plot this ” fourth estate” type narrative against the 1960s film and it screams blockbuster.

And then the love story , the fragile Rosie and Johnny who is quick to anger . In one of the telling moments of the film , Rosie sings naak pe hai gussa , sitting in a bathtub. Johnny comes home and she stops singing – perhaps she is guilty of romanticizing the angry outbursts (and probably abuse)of her man. He slaps her and she slaps him back. She loves him enough to give up singing and he does not love her enough – There in a dingy hotel room , cornered by adversaries and adverse situations ,she begs him to leave his plans and plots and run away. He refuses and she runs out , only to become a bait to draw him to his  death and there are those incredible push and pull moments between them.

The two narratives would have been great – provided they were made as two different movies. Kashyap combines these two narratives and they just don’t mesh. To me the movie struggled in finding the right balance between these two . The first half focuses on the conflict between khambatta , Mistry and the second half is dedicated to the love story making the balance go off kilter , and tragically the movie never recovers from this faux pas.

That said , it’s not a bad movie and has its moments of brilliance . There are fantastic performances within the film be it Karan Johar , Satyadeep Mishra or Manish Chaudry. There is that sizzling chemistry between Ranbir and Anushka. There is the jaw dropping music , taking the story forward , segueing with the situation and characters. I loved behroopia , sylvia , darbaan and I wanted to pause , rewind and watch dhadaam dhadaam again ( never mind I was sitting in a theatre ) cos I loved the way the narrative was mentioned in puzzle pieces.  I loved how the characters were named too – Rosie for she looks at the rosier aspects of life . Balraj , the brawny guy with little brain and then he gets that Johnny epithet added ( johnny come lately anyone ?).

This is not lazy filmmaking by any stretch – you can perceive that quite clearly when you watch the movie. I just felt that with separate narratives the movie would have worked better . May be years later , Kashyap would sit at the editing table , work on the footage he captured and give us those two movies about Bombay – but until then , I will love this movie flaws , warts and all for this is a labour of love . You might be bored , be disappointed with the jarring narrative , but you will take a piece of Bombay with you when you go back from the movies…..

English Vinglish Sorry Vorry

There is one moment in English Vinglish , which will make all daughters cringe – not in distaste , not due to the cliche , but in remorse – remorse due to the fact that in the process of growing up ; or rather acting grown up , we’ve hurt the one woman who has mattered the most , in so many ways that a simple sorry would not suffice.

I discovered this fact , 12 years and numerous excuses later , in a multiplex watching what was Sridevi’s comeback movie ,  accompanied by my loving family – rockstar dad , handsome dude of a brother and my normal down to earth mother – who was brought to life , so beautifully by a lovely leading lady in so potent a canvas that by the end of two hours , I wanted to get up , give my mother a huge hug and say sorry for all that I dished out to her during my terrible teens , just for the fact that she belonged to a different generation and couldn’t relate to my hep thoughts. What I settled for , was a lovely smile and a lump inside my throat as I walked out of the theater , hand in hand with the lady in question.

Shashi Godbole is what one would call a modern woman . She is independent , runs a business , takes care of her family and is a cool mum to a sweet little boy and a cute , oversmart teenaged girl , who wears shortskirts , goes to cafe coffee day and has a grudge against her mother just for the fact that the lady’s English is not one of her strong points , despite the fact that but for her language , her mother is one modern , easy going woman who knows to give her children enough space.

In one of the most endearing scenes in the movie , Shashi helps her daughter find her scrapbook even while not physically present at home, assures her that her privacy has been respected only for her daughter to hit back at her weak point – English and the mother inside her crumbles totally.In an awesome moment that follows , she rants out her frustration in Hindi , to a handsome French cook who loves her and is her classmate at English classes , only to order a coffee , sandwich and water in pitch perfect english in the same breath. English Vinglish is littered with so many lovely moments like these , that you end up forgiving Gauri Shinde , for some of the trite , done to death components like a gay english teacher , the brash Pakistani taxi driver and the ayyo spouting Tamil software engineer who loves his Idlis and Amma.

English Vinglish , has been categorized as a movie about how a woman learns to speak the King’s language and in a way it is – but what the movie really talks about is relationships . A relationship between strangers on a flight – brought to life by the brilliant Bachchan Sr , in an endearing cameo ; A relationship between an insecure wife and a well meaning , emotionally cruel but loving husband – the superb Adil Hussain ; A relationship between a woman looking not for love , but respect and a man alien to her culture and country who falls in love with her, despite the communication barrier – a doomed love , never to succeed – Mehdi Nebbou , him of the shy smile , vulnerable eyes and lovely accent – winning hearts with his portrayal as the French cook looking to open a French-Indian restaurant with a woman having eyes like coffee and milk ; a relationship between sisters who envy eachother’s skills ; A relationship between a loving mother and her cute mommy’s boy ; A love-hate deal between a teenager and her well meaning modern mother ; A relationship between an insecure husband and his lovely wife – watch out for that penultimate moment when Satish asks Sashi if she loves him and pat she replies – ” Why are you asking even ? Would I give you two Ladoos otherwise and btw , thanks for the saree – good choice ” – Husband and Wife dynamics 101 explained in a minute.

All the above mentioned relationships have one thing in common – A lovely lady called Sridevi , making a comeback 15 years after she’d shut shop and my oh my ; what a comeback she’s made. She makes you teary eyed as the vulnerable mother and insecure wife . She makes you laugh as the friendly aunt and cool mum .She makes you fall in love with her – those huge eyes a mirror to her feelings and she makes you go awwww as a strong woman trying to say no to this lovely man without hurting his feelings.Its no wonder that this lady was the only woman to be called superstar – and she deserves this accolade and much much more.

Talking about performances , the supporting cast is lovely too . Be it Mehdi Nebbou or Adil Hussain or the lovely Priya Anand- the actors bring to life the normal human beings we see day to day – flawed yet perfect ; normal yet special. But what stays with you after the movie is Sridevi’s lovely vulnerable brown eyes , NewYork in its full glory , Amit Trivedi’s excellent music score and that brilliant take on a  mother – daughter  relationship that every woman of my  generation can identify with.

Watch English Vinglish atleast once . Its not only a great movie , but also a great way for a daughter to say sorry to her Mother , for all those little wounds caused in the battle while coming of age !

Aiyyayyayaaa – My thoughts on the Aiyyaa OST

There is a buzz amongst music lovers that Amit trivedi has become a master of orchestral work and tune smithy and is the only music director , fit to be called AR Rahman’s heir apparent. The fact that he is growing strength to strength , album to album was what started the buzz and his superb coke studio work lent credibility to the same after a tepid 2011. The buzz in fact will increase in volume as one listens to the Aiyaa soundtrack and here is my thoughts on Amit T’s work for this movie.

Dreamum Wakeuppum opens with the loud sound of the south masala songs of the late 80s and what starts is a wacky journey with the orchestra. The keys , the percussion and the guitars along with the percussion are so wacky and the mix improves when the Nadaswaram  gets into the fray.The only thing which spoils the song is the meaningless , loaded with double entendre lyrics and the yucky video I am not able forgive. All in all a competent opening song for the album belonging to a genre I call Hindi Kuthu.

From the southern most part of the country we travel to Maharashtra , straight into a Lavani performance thanks to Amit T , only thing is this Lavani has its own twists. Talking about Hindi Films and the protagonists’s desire to get into films , Sunidhi sleep walks through the song competently. What sets this song aside is the orchestral work , esp when the guitars enter the fray in the second interlude. A competent effort again and while one does not have anything against the song ,one feels its not special.

Think of a Marathi rock star and think Aga Bai. That slow start with the percussion and classical singing blows up into a riot of voices and synth & electronic work. The song seems like a club/disco number and I was not able to shake the feel off even after a couple of listens. What’s commendable is again the orchestral work and singing – the singers have got a Marathi accent going with hindi and it sounds very very authentic.Shalmali and Monali render this number and though I was not able to distinguish which was which , both the ladies  are in super form and are very very good.

One can be forgiven for thinking that Mahek Bhi is an instrumental . The first minute and half of the song is dedicated to a dreamy piano accompanied by Shenai , joined by a violin ,cello and whistle later on. Amit adds layer upon layer on layer in those 90 seconds that you wish the track was an instrumental or had an instrumental version. Shreya Ghoshal joins the song somewhere around the second minute and carries the song along with her dreamy voice. This is a song you play on rainy evenings sipping  a cup of tea or dancing to the waltzy arrangement with a friend.Mahek Bhi is slow poison . It gets inside your system slowly , steadily and refuses to let go. The backing male vocals are also splendid ( Amit T himself maybe). If you loved the Shenai lines in Amit’s Navrai Majhi , you’ll go crazy over the Shenai work in this song – its bloody brilliant of Amit to use the Shenai with a Waltzy arrangement.

People always say its nice to return gifts and Amit must think so too for he’s given Sneha K , the best song of the album in ‘what to do’. A santoor ( I’m not sure) leads the song and Sneha jumps into the fray immediately. The grungy guitars , keys . that percussion and Sneha K mean musical addiction with Amitabh Bhattacharya adding to the headiness. One goes vavvavvaavvaa with the song and goes wow after it.This is a song which has to be heard and the lesser said about the better – the wacky mix has to be experienced to be understood. Way too addictive , this has been playing on a loop umpteen times and one word to the readers – watch out for that wacky second interlude with Mridangams and what not .

Any tamil Brahmin worth his/her salt will certainly smile as Wakda begins with the trade mark moresingh and mridangam that kick starts wakda. The Nadaswaram adds to the wackiness and as Amit starts with Pa Pa you realize you are in for a fun ride. The orchestral work is once again out of the world and wacky. Amit T even has the back up singers sing Wakda in a very southie style. The nattuvangam in that first interlude along with the Mridangam is a win too. I guess this is a wedding song and there is a slight Marathi wiff too. Watch out for the guitars and trumpet in the second interlude ye readers – kick ass stuff this. In fact wakda stands shoulder to shoulder with Ijjat Papad and I am quite confused as to which is the best song of the album.

Overall , Aiyyaa is a wacky and mixed ride with some competent and some out of the world work. Amit T take a bow , for making us go Wakda !