(Note: This is my Hindustan Times column dated 2nd Aug 2015.)

Today we celebrate Friendship Day in India, and by ‘we’, I mean teenagers and people who watch Bindass TV un-ironically. The concept of Friendship Day was first promoted in 1930 by Joyce Hall, the founder of Hallmark Cards. This was followed by McDonald’s promoting Cholesterol and Self-Loathing Day. According to noted historian Mr. Wikipedia, the Friendship Day fad ended in the US by the ‘40s but much like Bryan Adams, it did well in Asia despite being dead.

The concept lived on thanks largely to the efforts of an organisation in Paraguay called – and this is true – the World Friendship Crusade, who introduced the concept of World Friendship Day in 1958. Their plan was to turn the world into a giant Black Or White music video. Maybe it’s just me, but calling it a ‘crusade’ probably wasn’t the best idea. That word stands for friendship in the same way Bombay stands for green open spaces.

A World Friendship Crusade just sounds like a bunch of savages galloping from village to village, forcing people to tie friendship bands around their wrists while singing Purani Jeans. In fact, you can make the nicest, most innocuous thing sound fierce and warlike if you add the word ‘crusade’ to it. If you want to appear extra manly, don’t tell people about your first kiss – tell them how you went on a Hormonal Tongue Crusade.

The World Friendship Crusade continued to pester lobby the United Nations until 2011, when the UN General Assembly declared 30th July to be International Friendship Day. And people wonder why nobody respects the UN. It’s hard to, when you see them spending time on a concept that’s already covered by the most competent authority of all – Bollywood.

Bollywood is the place that first taught us that ‘ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahin ho sakte’ unless the ladka and ladki are actors being interviewed by people whose idea of journalism is ‘tell na who u making sexytime with’. Classic Bollywood is how I learnt to make friends, especially with the opposite sex. The basic procedure went like this:

  1. Be the college stud.
  2. Wear jeans, jean jackets, jean shirts and jean banyans.
  3. Spot the new admission. She’ll be the pretty one in a frock that looks like a Monginis cake threw up on her.
  4. Make a move only to get rejected because The Song hasn’t happened yet.
  5. Chase her around with your mawaali friends while singing about her nakhra, which is all just code for ‘Y U NO LET ME TOUCH’
  6. The girl smiles and eventually gives in to the creepy denim gorilla.
  7. Stockholm Syndrome complete.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. There were other lessons I learnt i.e. celebrate Friendship Day by losing to your tomboy friend at basketball and then marrying her when she gets hot.

It was pop culture like this that led to students cutting up perfectly good ribbons and turning them into friendship bands. When I say students, I mostly mean girls, who expressed love with meticulously crafted bands and handmade cards involving six types of glitter. Meanwhile, the boys stabbed each other with dividers.

This isn’t to say that boys aren’t civilised. As a kid, I once handed over a card to a guy friend on Friendship Day. It wasn’t handmade because that would be weird and as an ode to our manliness, it featured a commode and some pun about poop. Who’s immature now, huh??

Friendships work differently now, especially in frenetic, stressed-out cities like Mumbai. The older you get, the harder it becomes to make friends, mostly because there’s no time and everyone thinks everyone else is weird. The loneliness eventually leads people to take extreme steps, like arranged marriage.

You do end up accumulating a lot of acquaintances though. It’s easy to mix the two up, but an acquaintance is someone you bump into at bars and make small talk about football with, whereas a friend is someone you can get embarrassingly drunk around, trusting him or her to not turn your stupidity into a viral video. Consider yourself lucky if you have more than a handful of these around. Keep in touch and if you’re feeling extra nice, grab yourself a divider.

My Big Fat Indian Wedding Video

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, aka shaadi on steroids. It’s been twenty years since the film premiered at Mumbai’s Liberty cinema and for all I know, is still going on.

So much has changed since 1994: Madhuri Dixit skated off all the way to the States, Salman married a bottle of vodka, and Alok Nath turned into a meme and even made a Twitter account (after he figured out how to un-glue his hands from their permanent namaste position). But HAHK firmly occupies a place in our hearts, like cholesterol, so even now, it has the power to make us look back and wonder, “What the hell was everyone huffing back then?”

Sooraj Barjatya has gone on record to say that his goal with HAHK was to make the audience feel like they’d come to visit a large joint family that was preparing for a wedding. Of course, by ‘family’, he meant ‘people who act so sweet that they appear deranged’. Seriously, they were like the sanskari version of the Addams family. In keeping with the theme of annoyance, even the dog they got was a Pomeranian. That breed is like the KRK of the canine world. (Fun fact: They say that Tuffy was so soft and white that Bhai once tried to snort him.)

But jokes aside, I still watch a bit of the movie whenever it’s on TV. I especially like the song that goes ‘Yeh mausam ka jadoo hai mitwa’, because that’s the only time you’ll see people singing and dancing happily, not caring about the fact that Salman is driving a motor vehicle in their immediate vicinity. It’s so weird to watch the scene where he goes to pick up Madhuri in his Gypsy and says, “Aaj pehli baar ek ladki meri gaadi ki front seat pe baithi hai.” You can almost hear Madhuri thinking, “Take the hint, bro. Take the goddamn hint.”

Hum Aapke Hain Kaun is said to have revolutionised ‘90s Bollywood, mostly because it did not feature Shakti Kapoor drooling over things. This was a time when action films were the norm, so it was refreshing to see a film where the villain was a staircase. (The only other remotely negative character was played by Bindu, who you might remember as The Vamp That Is Not Aroona Irani.)

One of my favourite parts from the film is the bit where MF Husain watched it and became besotted with Madhuri Dixit. This was front page news back in the day, with the artist claiming that he’d watched the movie some 85 times, just for Madhuri. Or maybe that’s how many times you need to watch it for all the characters to register.

After this, he made Madhuri his muse and gifted her a bunch of her portraits, which just proves that it’s okay to be creepy as long as you’re a famous intellectual. It would never work otherwise. I mean I’d love to land up at Deepika Padukone’s door and go, “Hey, I’ve watched your film 384 times – here’s a stick figure drawing I made of you. Wanna frendz?” I’d get kicked out quicker than Sajid Khan at his next pitch meeting.

For all its legendary success, HAHK seems pretty irrelevant to today’s generation. Unlike Mohnish Behl and Renuka Shahane in the film, nobody just magically falls in love and agrees to marry someone their parents picked out like half an hour ago. Nope, not unless they’re lonely and past a certain age and all their friends have gotten married, so they convince themselves to settle because at least they’ll get a kickass FB album out of it.

But here’s the thing. If you’re in your late teens, HAHK is still relevant to you, because it apparently influenced the Indian wedding scene in a huge way. So it’s possible that you were created because the movie inspired your then single parents to hook up and do some dhiktana. It could’ve been worse. They could’ve named you Tuffy.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 10th Aug 2014.)

We Are One Nation, One People, One Face

Bollywood has been called many things – ‘colourful’, ‘exotic’ and ‘vibrant’ are words thrown around by westerners trying to be polite – but nobody thinks of it as sensitive or authentic. We’re talking about an industry that allowed 26/11 to be retold by Ram Ganja Verma, so let’s not even pretend that we have standards.

This is why it’s surprising to see the outrage against Mary Kom being played by Priyanka Chopra in the upcoming biopic titled ‘Hopefully This Will Make Up For Babli Badmaash’. It smacks of disrespect and racism, they say, to have Priyanka Chopra play a Manipuri, given that she looks as Manipuri as I look like Dakota Fanning.

Now Priyanka Chopra is a fine actor who’s turned in many great performances, like the time she convinced the world that she was an actual singer. The trailer, which released this week, looks good too. It’s hard to mess up a sports film, given that they all follow the same graph: a fiercely talented underdog overcomes obstacles – social, financial, political – to rise, then fall, then train using brutal montages, the mere sight of which gives normal people a hernia, then rise again before winning the ultimate prize, i.e. dancing on Cross-Dressers With Kapil Sharma.

So the argument isn’t about PC’s talent or the eventual fate of the film – it’s about the fact that Bollywood was too risk-averse to search for an equally talented actor who looked the part. Of course, we can’t know that for sure. Maybe the casting team tried really hard, but couldn’t find any North Easterners hanging out at the Lokhandwala CCD.

To make matters worse, there were reports that prosthetics would be used to make PC look like an authentic Manipuri. And by prosthetics, I mean six army guys hanging around the set at all times. Also, Bollywood takes commercial viability really seriously, which is why I’m glad that they at least chose Priyanka, because things could’ve been way worse. I’m sure that at some point, the suits investing in the film had the following conversation:

Suit 1: What do we do to make sure this is a guaranteed 8000 crore megasuperblockbuster?

Suit 2: Ooh, let’s get Salman to play Mary Kom!

Suit 1: That’s insane. For obvious reasons.

Suit 2: Like what?

Suit 1: Duh. Bhai will only play Mary Kom if a South Indian dude has played her first.

This isn’t the first time that a Priyanka Chopra film has been accused of racism. That honour would go to Fashion, where her character, Generic Model McTemplate, goes into a drug and booze-fueled spiral that results in her sleeping with a random black guy. It is this encounter that causes her to re-evaluate her life, because like they say in India, ‘Once you go black, you better not go back because log kya kahenge?’

Of course, it’d be unfair to say that Bollywood’s only good at racism. We’re great at reverse racism too. Case in point: a largely forgotten film called Gandhi to Hitler, where Raghubir Yadav played Hitler, Neha Dhupia played Eva Braun and a bunch of neo-Nazis went, “Bro, show some respect please.” Watch this film if you haven’t, because where else will you see a bunch of brown people fight for white power? Okay, maybe in every fairness cream ad ever, but you get my point.

But to come back to PC and Mary Kom, one thing is certain: it is a story that deserves a glittering showcase and the film, like it or not, will be a hit. It will hopefully inspire young people, especially girls, to follow their dreams, so that one day they too might have their cultural identity misappropriated for an audience that’s too dumb to appreciate them otherwise.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 27th July 2014.)

Dhoom 3: Are You Watching Closely?

Dhoom 3 is this year’s big Christmas release, so I guess that makes Aditya Chopra Santa Claus. The difference is that Santa Claus has actually been seen in public. Now no matter what you say about the Dhoom franchise, it accomplished something that no one thought possible: it made people emulate Uday Chopra.  And by people, I mean biker boys from Bandra East who sincerely believe that if they don’t use their 100 cc crotch-rockets to overtake you from the left, they’ll end up going to hell, or worse, school.

D:3 is the best film of the series, which is like saying Kim is the smartest Kardashian. An important cinematic feature that works for it is the absence of Sunheri “Are you like checking me out like funny guy” from Andheri. (That character was possibly the most offensive representation of people from Andheri, which is saying a lot. We’re talking about people whose entire resume is ‘Once made eye contact with Ram Kapoor at a urinal’.)

D:3 opens in 1990, which is also where most of Bollywood’s comic interludes come from. The Great Indian Circus, owned by weed’s gift to pop culture, Jackie Shroff, is about to go under for failing to repay its loans to the Western Bank of Chicago. The only thing that might be able to save it is a private performance for the bank owners, who are thankfully not played by Tom Alter anymore. (Bollywood’s choice of token firang is now Katrina Kaif.)

But the show fails to convince the head honcho, who asks Cirque De India to pack up. A distressed Jackie pulls out a gun and pops himself, and we cut to the present, where Aamir is intently staring out a window. (Trivia: To prepare for this staring shot, Aamir went through a rigorous training regime that involved having eyes.)

First up, I’m just happy to see the return of Jackie Shroff (Latin for ‘Bhidu’) How can you not love a man who names his kid Tiger, knowing full well that his own name is Jackie? What are the Pomeranians in the family called? Rajiv? Also, Jackie’s last words, right before he shoots himself, are “Bank waalon, tumhari aisi ki taisi” which is so odd. Let’s face it – Jackie Shroff isn’t known for an insult like “tumhaari aisi ki taisi”. No, the man is the Picasso of cuss words and will create masterpieces that star your maternal aunt, a minimum of six body parts, three vegetables, one religious artefact and two types of farm animals. And that’s while saying hello.

Aamir’s tap dance in the opening song is great, because if you listen closely, you realise he’s stomping in Morse code that says, “Suck it Chennai Express!” There are also little pangs of Dark Knight nostalgia brought about by the Chicago setting. I half-expected Batman to walk in and help, especially since the cops offered keen insights as follows:

Bank Bigwig: Who committed the robbery?

Abhishek: All we know is, he was a thief.

Bank Bigwig: Wow. Who wrote this amazing dialogue? 

Abhishek: It was a writer.

Bank Bigwig: You’re from the CBI, aren’t you?

Abhishek: I LOVE LAMP!

The film takes the robbery theme seriously, because someone seems to have stolen all the heist sequences from the print. Seriously, all you ever see is Aamir fleeing a bank after the robbery. It’s like watching a porno where you see the woman open the door for the pizza guy, and then it cuts straight to the end, i.e. a crippling sense of shame and drowsiness.

They try and make up for the lack of this totally irrelevant detail – I mean who shows heist sequences in a heist film? – with the chase sequences.  There’s one where Abhishek drives a rickshaw, as a fitting tribute to his U.P roots. (He then refuses to chase the baddies because “Gas nahin hai gaadi dene ka time ho gaya hai”)

But my favourite is the one where Aamir rides his bike off a bridge and as he’s falling towards the water, the bike turns into a jet-ski, races along the surface and then dives underwater, y’know, as things that are designed to float often do. (Trivia: To turn his bike into a jet-ski, Aamir actually studied mechanical engineering under Optimus Prime.)

All this happens in the first half, which is the entertaining love child of Chris Nolan and Rohit Shetty. The second half goes full Yashraj, as a love angle takes sixteen hours to reaffirm the old adage of bros before ladies. At least I didn’t spend 900 bucks on the IMAX version. That version is called “Audience waalon, tumhari aisi ki taisi.”

(Note: This is my HT humour column dated 22nd Dec 2013.)

There Is A Krrish Inside You, So Call A Doctor

I watched Krrish 3 in a theatre packed with whatever you call those little humans that are composed entirely of Happy Meals, and the film can pretty much be summed up by the following conversation that I overheard:

Mother: It was –

Young girl: (interrupting) Awesome!

Mother: Absurd!

Young girl: Nooo. Awesome!

Mother: *puts child up for adoption*

Yes, kids will love this film, but then again, they also love to eat mud so what do they know? Having said that, Krrish 3 isn’t nearly as bad as the promos made it out to be, even though Hrithik refuses to ditch that raincoat made out of garbage bags. Seriously, every time I see his billowing lehenga, I imagine him tittering and trying to hold it down while Marilyn Monroe goes 6000 rpm in her grave.

This instalment actually has a story, which was written in collaboration with the writers of X-Men even though they don’t know it yet. Krrish battles Kaal (Vivek Oberoi), a telekinetic, quadriplegic genius who looks like the love child of Professor Xavier and Edward Cullen. Kaal has spent his life trying to cure his paralysis and in the process, has created a bunch of mutants that include Kaya (Kangana Ranaut), a shape-shifter who was designed using “girgit ka khoon”.

(See, that’s the problem with doing science-fiction in Hindi – certain terms don’t translate very well. For example, in English, a guy with ten arms is called a mutant, but in Hindi, he’s “INDIA TV EXCLUSIVE: JAUNPUR MEIN MILA DUS HAATH WALA AADMI SHOULD WE KILL HIM OR WORSHIP HIM I AM SO CONFUSED!”)

The trouble begins when Kaal needs to inflict a lethal virus on a large population and has to choose between India and China. Here’s how it plays out:

Kaal: Did you unleash our flesh-eating virus on China?

Kaya: Yes, but –

Kaal: But what?

Kaya: They made a soup out of it. It’s now an international delicacy.

Kaal: Dammit. Let’s hit Mumbai.

Kaya: We already put the virus in their water supply.

Kaal: And?

Kaya: The local BMC toxins pointed and laughed at it till it died of shame.

Kaal: What about aerial dispersion? Let’s poison the air.

Kaya: Bro let me tell you about Saki Naka…

Rajesh Roshan’s score is magical because it takes you back to the 90s, when Bollywood music could be clubbed into two categories, i.e. ‘Rickshawallah Favourites’ and ‘Sounds Like Macarena’. The Krrish 3 OST falls into the category of ‘I would rather be stabbed in the ears with Himesh’s tongue’.

My favourite was the super cool dance number, Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram which, like every other Bollywood song, has an African guy doing a fake Jamaican voice in the middle. It’s quite sad that a Bollywood dance number is the only place in India where a black guy is treated with respect. Everywhere else, it’s just a series of “Aye how much for coke?” and “Aila! Akon!” which is no way to talk about the American President. (His name is Tyrone.)

There’s also a giant Krrish statue that’s unveiled during a song called ‘God, Allah Aur Bhagwaan’, which made me turn atheist three times over. In a dramatic twist, it is revealed that the government spent 2000 crores on the superhero statue, as mandated by the Ministry of Hollow Pride Rox Poor People Can Suck It. Then a Prime Ministerial candidate claims affinity with Krrish, at which point the statue smacks him across the head and migrates to Mars. I’m glad that all this is just silly fantasy and would never happen in real life.

Towards the end, Kaal transforms into something that looks like Robocop – that is, if Robocop was assembled by blind monkeys using aluminium foil from your lunch box. Krrish and Kaal pummel each other while 9/11ing half the skyscrapers in Mumbai, which is ok, because they were guilty of FSI violations anyway. One of the buildings that gets destroyed looks like Antilla, so even Rakesh Roshan must think it’s ugly. That’s how you know you’ve failed – when you get a lesson in aesthetics from the man who made Koyla and King Uncle.

Krrish 3 offers some intense emotional moments as well, like the scene where you spot a garlanded portrait of Priety Zinta and shed a tear for the demise of the word ‘bubbly’.  They’ve also integrated a ‘Kids, do not try this at home’ message into the film, which is also what Hollywood said to us about superhero movies. For better or worse, I’m glad we ignored them. It’s what the X-Men would’ve done.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 3rd Nov 2013.)

Ready Steady Poda

Chennai Express hit theatres this week, on the occasion formerly celebrated as SUV Nikaal, Bhai Ka Pikchurr Aayela Hai. The release brought joy to millions, because it meant that Shahrukh would finally stop with the zillion promotions that made the Ra.One marketing blitz look like a Baba Bangali poster.

Now here’s the problem with talking about Rohit Shetty films: Your criticism doesn’t matter, just like his scripts. I’ll make all the jokes I want, knowing full well that Rohit Shetty will read them on a golden toilet while pooping diamonds. (Although I don’t think these guys read anyone apart from the venerable Mr. Adarsh, who probably described the film as “DROOLTASTIC AMAZEBALLS ROHIT BHARO MAANG MERI BHARO!”)

Chennai Express runs for 143 minutes, where each minute feels like an hour spent with your nose wedged into a Dadar armpit. Thankfully Deepika looks smashing, whether she’s in a saree or a lungi. And because of that, I’ll be reminded of her every time I see a lungi, which will make things awkward between me and my nariyalwala.

The story follows a perfectly logical sequence of events: First, Shahrukh appears on screen. Well, not all of him. Just his spongy fefda being squeezed. There’s tar oozing out, along with a carton of cigarettes that he probably inhaled whole. Very realistic performance.

Shahrukh plays the 40-year-old Rahul, who tells us that he is single partly because his Dadaji blocked all his attempts at sexytime. The last time an old guy did that to Shahrukh, Aishwarya became a ghost and we witnessed the debut of Uday Chopra’s nipples.

Dadaji pops it pretty soon, and Dadi tells Rahul that he wanted his ashes to be scattered at Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu (pronounced ‘Kozhikode’). But this clashes with Rahul’s Goa plan, so he tricks Dadi into believing that he’s going to Rameshwaram by getting on – in his words – “koi bhi South India jaane wali train”. That train will also be taken by Deepika, or Meena, the daughter of a don called Durgeshwara Azhagusundaram (pronounced ‘Ooty’), who had run off to Mumbai to escape an arranged marriage to upcoming don, Tangaballi (pronounced ‘Giant protein shake in a kurta’).

The two meet in what is a funny take on the much-flogged DDLJ train sequence, giving you just a sliver of hope. Five seconds later, hope shoots itself in the face as SRK goes full hamtard, and you realise that this is the worst thing to have happened to the Indian Railways since Naxalites and IRCTC.

There’s a dazzling display of comic wizardry throughout the film. Much of it is based on linguistic mix-ups that you’ve never heard before. For example, what happens after Shahrukh is asked something that sounds like, “Tamil teri maa?”:

a) He spreads his arms

b) He reflects on what his films have come to, weeps, and spreads his arms

c) He says, “Meri maa ke baare mein kya bola?”, causing waves of laughter to erupt from people whose parents are siblings.

At one point, Shahrukh meets a midget wandering about in the forest, as if he were a Tamil Tyrion (Of House Lannistiyer. Sigil: Green card.) He communicates by making tock-tock noises, and this is hilarious in the Shettyverse because the Shettyverse is in Malana.

There’s also a great moment when Shahrukh lends Deepika his phone – a Lumia – but not without going off on a spiel about its awesome features, like the fact that it’s not a Blackberry. If Dharavi kids had pooled in and offered money, they could’ve gotten Shahrukh to belt out a Tum Toh Thehre Pardesi on the train, complete with clacking stones and TB.

This is the kind of achievement that some PPT-loving brand manager will flaunt for years to come. It’ll definitely go in his matrimonial ad:

WANTED: Fair, super-educated but homely girl for marketing manager who made the biggest superstar on the planet hawk his brand in the middle of a movie. DOWRY SAJA KE RAKHNA.

Chennai Express is supposedly an homage to DDLJ, in the same way that getting AIDS is an homage to Freddie Mercury. Some of the inside jokes are about films like Baazigar and Dil Se – reminders of what once set Khan apart from everyone. At almost 500 a ticket, this Shettyfication of Khan should come with a free drink or six. Or as a philosopher down South once said, “Apdi pode pode pode.”

(Note: This is my HT column dated 11th Aug 2013.)

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)

Warning: Objects In Rear-View Mirror May Be Rubbish

Welcome to 2013. Or as a common reaction to the new year goes, “ZOMG IT’S 2013 ALREADY?? WHERE DID THE TIME GO? What am I doing with my life? Why haven’t I accomplished last year’s goal of sleeping on a bed of money, or of strapping on a jetpack and flying to my job as Freelance Jetpack Flyer?”

We react like this every year, as if time did something totally unexpected – like it was supposed to give us a foot massage instead. The panic is understandable. After all, my generation has seen Sachin retire, that kid from Home Alone is now thirty-two, and apparently a heroin addict, and our birth dates are closer to the ’62 Sino-Indian war, the Cuban missile crisis and the moon landing, than they are to the iPhone 5.

At this point, it’s easy to fall into the nostalgia trap, and reminisce about how much easier and nicer the world was in the 80s and 90s. And it really was, if you were Michael Jackson or Saddam Hussein.

But otherwise, nostalgia is overrated, especially if you grew up in India. Our GDP was about sixteen rupees, tucked away safely under Pranab Mukherjee’s monkey cap. Yes, things were cheaper – petrol was 2 bucks for a 100 litres – but what was the point? You could still only use it in a Premier Padmini, which was basically a chunk of metal held together with rust and hope, that could hit a top speed of forty-seven kilometres per hour if thrown off a cliff.

We also complain about how smartphones have made us detached and distracted, and that we can’t go two seconds without – oh look, a potato that looks like Arnab LOLZ SHARE PIC! Um, so like I was saying, no lament on the modern era is complete without a yearning for the good ol’ days, when placing an STD call meant taking three months off from work, plus an additional two weeks for therapy. And that was just to get a connection.

Then you dialled the number and approximately four years later, were connected to a system powered by an asthmatic rat on a hamster wheel. It was quicker to just take a train and visit whoever you wanted to call. The internet came in much later, and despite its basic, tedious form, was still pretty amazing. Those early days are the reason why so many men still get turned on at the sight of a pixelated hourglass and the word ‘buffering’.

I also don’t get people who romanticise train journeys. Yes, a lot of us took trains back in the day, because our flight options were limited to ‘expensive’, ‘more expensive’ and ‘Air India: We’ll fly you back in time’. But now, why would you willingly spend 20-odd hours in a confined space with chatty old people, kids who’ve just discovered their vocal cords, and newlyweds trying to suck face amidst this chaos? Also, why should I use train toilets when I can experience the same fun by asking homeless men to rub themselves all over me?

Then there was the phase that Bollywood went through in the 80s and 90s, described by film historians as “OH GOD WTF MY EYES MY EYES!” Every film had pretty much the same story: Boy meets girl, girl meets boy, she’s filthy rich, while his dinner is a pinch of salt extracted from his mother’s tears, the two fall in love, Goga Kapoor makes crazy eyes, and then, because this is a wholesome family film, Shakti Kapoor walks in and rapes whoever is available, after which Alok Nath dies.

We watched this tripe only because we had no other option. You could’ve put Amitabh Bachchan in a ballerina outfit and made him sing out Das Kapital in the original German, and we would still have lapped it up. (It would also have been less embarrassing than Lal Baadshah)

Even society seems slightly better now. All around me, I see people ignoring norms, bucking the trend and forging their own paths – like Indian traffic, minus the rage. Careers that didn’t exist ten years ago are now considered mainstream. (Although ‘Social Media Evangelist’ is not a real job. It’s like saying ‘Pixie Sandal Washer’, or ‘Entertainment Journalist’) I see more openly gay people around, and if there’s enough alcohol, I see some bisexual women too. All in all, it isn’t a bad time to be alive. Now can we please get started on those jetpacks?

(Note: This is my HT column dated 6th Jan 2013)