Tag Archives: Nostalgia

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.)

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Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Maruti!

I’m not saying that the world is actively trying to make me feel old, but they recently phased out the Maruti 800, and this makes we want to go drown my nostalgia in a bottle of Goldspot. The last 800 was sent off from the Gurgaon plant with much fanfare, and understandably so, given that it’s an integral part of the Indian success story, along with liberalisation and Baba Sehgal. (The colour of the last model is officially called ‘Firebrick Red’, which is like regular red, but with a coating of MBA drool.)

Before the advent of the 800, Indian roads were ruled by the Ambassador, which was the size of a 3BHK and also handled like one. Then came the Maruti 800, which was the size of a 3BHK in Bombay.  It was touted as the go-to vehicle for small families, and was brought to India by Sanjay Gandhi, a man known for being a fan of small families. The first sale was a pretty big deal, and involved an elaborate ceremony wherein the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, handed over the keys to one Mr. Harpal Singh from Delhi. This happened on 14th December, 1983, at 3 p.m. By 3.02 p.m, there were six woofers on the car, along with one bartender who lived in the boot.

The 800 will remain Maruti’s most iconic car for years to come, because it was the first car for many Indians, and also because a lot of their other cars have the appeal of jaundice. Take, for example, the Omni, which boasts of a great minimalist design, in the sense that your knees double up as crumple zones and the airbags are your lungs. Then there was the A-Star, which was great if you wanted to drive a frog, and the Swift Dzire, which looked like the Swift after a session with Anushka Sharma’s plastic surgeon.

My family didn’t own an 800 when everyone was going nuts about it, but eventually, we did manage to buy a Zen. This was a big deal for my parents, especially for my father, because it was his first car, which meant that he treated it with the kind of respect usually reserved for prophets of major religions. Thankfully, this did not stop him from teaching me how to drive even though I was technically thirteen. I jumped at the offer, not realising that there was a huge difference between learning to drive at a motor school, and learning to drive from your father. This is what it’s like at a motor school:

Instructor: Turn key in ignition.

Student: *turns key*

Instructor: Arey wah you are ekdum Michael Shoemaker give 500 rupiss take license!

Student: But –

Instructor: Give 1000 more, and take MiG-29 license also.

And this is what it’s like when you learn from your father:

Father: Mirror alignment off by six degrees. 3 microsecond delay in clutch release. If you were on the highway, you’d have killed at least eight people by now.

Me: I don’t think that’s –

Father: THIS IS NOT A JOKE THIS IS SERIOUS TU ROADIE BANEGA SAALE???

Me: *develops new-found love for walking*

After learning the basics at 13, I had to sit back and watch my first set of wheels be used for exciting things like carrying bags of aloo and bhindi. But as soon as I turned 18, my parents allowed me to use the car, because – and I say this with the utmost love and respect – they were insane. Seriously, what kind of normal person hands over the control of a two-ton missile to a teenager? We’re wired to do stupid things. For example, when I was only permitted to drive “within the colony”, a friend and I sneaked out and drove to Pune simply because we knew of a bar there that served nice beer. Yup, I drove almost 400 kilometres for a beer. Then there were the countless races and attempts at drifting contests, where the only safety precaution was, “Finish your beer before you start.” (NOTE TO YOUNG READERS: I was stupid and lucky. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever do this. It will most certainly kill you, which will suck because your parents will never trust you with the car again.)

My first car is still around and it’s still functional, just like so many 800s around the country. If you take away the nostalgia, you see those cars for what they really were: little tin-pots with no airbags, no Bluetooth, no power steering, no power windows… damn, those were good cars. And they taught me the most important lesson of all: Never have kids.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 23rd Feb 2014.)

Men In Tights, Brought To You By Testosterone

This week saw the passing of a man who had made a living by carrying around a mystical urn that granted powers to his friend, an undead beast with eyes so empty and soulless, you’d think they were donated by Arjun Rampal. If this makes no sense, then you’ve missed out on one of the most important aspects of childhood – watching grown men fake-fight each other for a shiny golden belt that signified the triumph of blood, sweat and steroids.

I’m talking about William Moody aka Paul Bearer, manager to The Undertaker, and one of the most iconic characters in WWE WWF history. He was a fat, chalk-faced man – imagine a Neil Nitin Gadkari – whose superpower was distracting the Undertaker’s opponents with animated shrieks, thus allowing him to kill them with his finishing move, ‘The Tombstone Piledriver’, because calling it ‘98% Chance Of Quadriplegia’ would be too boring.

When I, and guys my age, heard the news, we were immediately taken back to when we were kids who believed in undead wrestlers and magical urns, and when puberty hit, we believed in Silicone Sable as well. Several times a day. On cold, lonely nights too.

I clearly remember the first time I watched wrestling. It was 1993, and I turned on the TV to see a man in a wrestling ring, wearing what was essentially an America-coloured thong, preening in front of a three-mirror setup, and flexing biceps the size of speed-breakers. This was “The Narcissist Lex Luger”, who’d have an aneurysm if he ever tried to spell ‘Narcissist’. But that’s okay, because he only had to be good at two things: a) Working out – I’m pretty sure he had triceps on his fingers as well, and b) Bodyslamming Yokozuna (Japanese word that means ‘Ram Kapoor’)

After that, I was hooked, just like every other kid I knew. Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, The British Bulldog, Tatanka, the Ultimate Warrior, Macho Man Randy Savage, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Typhoon, Razor Ramon, Papa Shango, Repo Man, Doink the Clown, Bart Gunn, Billy Gunn, Bam Bam Bigelow, Shawn Michaels and Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart are just a few of the names that one can use to hit the requisite word count for this column.

OK no, these were the stars we idolised and more importantly, these are the men that made me realise that having kids, especially boys, is a bad idea. Because no matter what you do, they will find the stupidest way to hurt themselves, and practise until they get it right.

Case in point: The Unofficial Unsupervised Wrestling Championships, Class V. These were held every lunch break, and featured my friends and I trying out every move we’d seen on TV, but on a concrete surface. I’m talking bodyslams, chokeslams, dropkicks, submission holds and a bastardised version of the Razor’s Edge, which is where you stand back to back with your opponent, hoist him up by the arms, slam him down neck first and hope his parents don’t find out. (DISCLAIMER: If there are any kids reading this, please do not try any of these moves ever. They will cause severe brain trauma, which makes you do daft things like become a writer.)

The appeal didn’t just lie in the fact that Bret Hart never had to do stoopid homework, or that teachers would never scold the Ultimate Warrior for not getting a haircut. No, these guys were star athletes, and watching a perfectly executed Sweet Chin Music, Stunner or Tombstone was as much fun as watching a Sachin straight drive. Probably more, because a Sachin straight drive never hurt anyone, except maybe Kambli.

(My parents did try to convince me that wrestling was fake and scripted. But you don’t say that to an eight-year-old boy. It’s like telling the Pope that the whole ‘Ctrl+R Jesus’ miracle didn’t really happen.)

The last contest that I followed keenly was the Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart Iron Man championship match at Wrestlemania XII, an epic hour long bout that Michaels won. His victory was made even more incredible by the fact that he wore crotch-hugging pants festooned with sequinned hearts, and still managed to look tough. Then again, The Hitman wore purple-pink sunglasses.

I have no clue about the WWE now, but I’m sure there are enough guys jumping about for the benefit of kids and the mentally-deficient. I’d like to keep it that way and not mess with the nostalgia in my head. Besides, there’s no way I’d be able to pull off a Razor’s Edge now. Too much body fat and common sense.

P.S. RIP, Paul Bearer.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 10th March, 2013. Cross-posted from here.)

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)