Lights, Camera, Awards!

It is award season in Bollywood, which means it is time to celebrate the best of 2012 by giving out trophies to whoever is performing at the function. It is also that time of the year when organisers carry out virgin sacrifices to summon Rekha from her crypt.

2012 was pretty good for Bollywood, with releases like Paan Singh Tomar, Kahaani, Vicky Donor, English Vinglish and my favourite, Gangs of Wasseypur, which showed us that even poor people can look cool, as long as they’re bloodthirsty, gaali-spewing criminal masterminds. The Wasseypur ensemble is now the most famous set of Biharis in pop-culture, second only to Shekhar Suman’s nipples. These relatively small films proved that you could have fun at the movies even if you didn’t fit the industry’s usual target profile, i.e. people with the IQ of cabbage.

However, 2012 was also a ‘Mine Is Bigger Than Yours’ contest, with film-makers competing to see who could cross the 100-crore mark with the most rubbish script possible. This club includes gems such as Ek Tha Tiger and Dabangg 2, both of which had Salman playing the role of Salman, and Rowdy Rathore, where Akshay Kumar played a man desperately trying to be Salman. Jab Tak Hai Jaan also made 100 crores, and was seen by audiences as the final hurrah of an old, withered man. But enough about Shahrukh.

Then there was Rohit Shetty’s Bol Bachchan, which was an official remake of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Gol Maal, and featured Abhishek Bachchan as a limp-wristed gay caricature. Now why would you mess with a classic like that? It’s like saying, “I cloned Madhubala and threw in some Sherlyn Chopra DNA.”

Another 100-crore masterpiece was Son of Sardaar, featuring the evocatively worded song, “Pon Pon Pon Pon Pon”, which is Urdu for “wrote this after getting stoned during a traffic jam.” I especially love the choreography to the song, because the key step involves the actors staring at the camera while mock-rinsing their mouths repeatedly. It takes a brave choreographer to look at Ajay Devgn’s mouth and think, “I want the audience to focus on that dental warzone.”

(A special mention must go out to Sonakshi Sinha, for serving as a showpiece in not one, not two, but three masala hits this year. Actresses in these films are like naphthalene pellets in a urinal – you expect them to be there, but you wouldn’t miss them if they were gone. The job would still get done.)

This slavish approach to the 100-crore club got even more ridiculous at a recent award function, when the eight directors whose films had hit the magic number this year were thanked and given special awards for their contribution to cinema. The only way this could have been more sycophantic is if the channel execs had personally given each director a Thai massage.

In keeping with the theme of handing out random awards to keep stars happy, at the same function, SRK and Katrina Kaif won the award for “International Icon”, whatever that means. Soon they’ll stop pretending and just hand out awards like the “Best International Icon-cum-Saviour of The Planet Who Lives At Bandstand And Hasn’t Been To Jail Yet” award. Another silly moment was Ek Tha Tiger winning the award for Best Marketed Film. After all, Bhai’s films involve a hugely complex marketing strategy, i.e. “Let’s release it on Eid.”

2012 also saw SRK’s first on-screen kiss, because only in India can a loverboy hero have his first kiss at the age of 47. The much hyped lip-lock with Katrina showcased the kind of passion and magic you’d associate with an episode of Krishi Darshan. Another first was the Bollywood debut of porn star Sunny Leone in Jism 2. I’d love to tell you more, but as with all Sunny Leone films, I only watched it for the first five minutes.

Event organisers would save a lot of time this year if they just went ahead and gave all the awards to Nawazuddin Siddiqui, including ‘Best Item Number’ because at this point, it looks like he could pull that off as well (It would also be less traumatising than the sight of Rani Mukherjee lunging about in ‘Dreamum Wakeupum StabMeInTheEyesUm’) But awards aside, I hope that in the coming year, film-makers continue to make use of this new-fangled technology known as a ‘script’. Or as it’s called in the industry, ‘Pon Pon Pon Pon Pon.’

(Note: This is my HT column dated 20th Jan 2013)

The One Where We Beat The Mayans. Or Not.

I absolutely love this time of the year. It’s when you get to put work aside and make time for the things that really matter, like reading texts that go “NEW YRZZZ DOUCHEBAG-AND-VOMIT THEMED BASH! AT SWEATY COMMODE CLUB WIT DJ DIDDY SNOOP AKA RAJU! UNLIMITED BOOZE AND OSHIWARA REJECTS! PASSES @ Rs. BLACK-MARKET-KIDNEY ONLY! FISTFIGHTS AND STDs FREE!”

That aside, I also get to reflect on the year gone by, and present to you its biggest, weirdest and most bile-inducing newsmakers. (Spoiler alert: Politicians feature in here. A lot.)

One of my favourite stories is the one about the BJP MLAs caught watching porn in the Karnataka and Gujarat state assemblies. In their defence, senior BJP leader and the current Goa CM, Manohar Parrikar was quoted as saying, “At least they were only watching it and not doing it.” That makes sense. I don’t really see a huge market for BJP-themed erotica, not unless they call it Fifty Shades of Saffron. And as far as the Congress is concerned, there’s no such thing as smut – there’s only Rajiv Gandhi Akhil Bharatiya Hormone Vikas Yojana.

This was also the year Mamata Banerjee made significant strides in the field of Slowly Going Insane And Losing The Plot. Her TMC railway minister was sacked for proposing a much-needed fare hike, a Jadavpur University professor was assaulted and arrested for circulating “defamatory” cartoons of Didi, and the Park Street rape case was brushed off as a “political conspiracy.” Mamata is a woman who just needs to be hugged, ideally by a straitjacket.

Speaking of cartoonists, Aseem Trivedi made quite a splash this year. He was slapped with a sedition charge for his cartoon that depicted the Parliament as a toilet. The comparison was unfair, because no matter how dirty a toilet is, it can always be cleaned.

Aseem’s case was just one of many that highlighted the government’s policy towards free speech and online censorship. There was also Shaheen Dhada, who was arrested and harassed for a Facebook post criticising the shutdown of Bombay following the death of He Who Must Not Be Named. It’s weird how the party that wants locals to work more is also the party skilled at shutting down the city, forcing them to sit at home. Following threats, Shaheen and her family had to flee to Surat. Because clearly, when you want to stay away from right-wing fanatics, Gujarat is the place to be.


2012 will also be remembered as the year Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement from ODIs. You could see this coming. He’d already taken up the Rajya Sabha offer, which, on the ‘I Am Now Ready To Be Useless’ scale is one step away from hawking Sandhi Sudha. Sachin has done more for the popularity of Marathi than any political party. Every Indian is now familiar with his catchphrases, ‘Aila!’, ‘Aai-guh’ and ‘Aey Vinod, chala gaadi park kara c*****!’

In other sports news, our athletes won six Olympic medals in London, which is six more than the Centre expected them to win. The government honoured the athletes’ grit and determination by reinstating Suresh Kalmadi as Chairman of the IOA. This is like going off to fight at Kargil and returning to find that your mom has married Musharraf, and there’s karela for dinner.

And in this way, 2012 kept moving from idiot to idiot, from the ordinary to the frivolous, just like any other year, until two weeks ago, when a girl got on a bus to go home, and everything went horribly wrong.

I’m sorry, but at this point, I’m going to stop with the jokes and talk about Amanat. The news of her death came in at the time of writing, and I address it here not because I think my words will make a difference, but simply as a way of trying to comprehend the insanity of it all.

It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to shut out the world, curl up in a foetal position and drink yourself senseless, but that won’t do. Not after that one girl showed more courage and resolve than the entire collective leadership of the world’s largest democracy. Not after she made a goddess-worshipping nation confront the horrors that have been, and are being inflicted on its women, day after day, year after year. Not after we failed ourselves, as a society, as a nation and as human beings. No, that won’t do.

I don’t have a solution, but I’m looking for better minds that do. If you know of such people and endeavours –bereft of myopic hysteria – that could use some help, please do let me know here. And on that sombre note, I wish that the coming year brings us hope and sanity. We’re all going to need it.