Geet Mein Dhalte Lafz

I have spent all my life in urban Indian settings. I have always only been to English medium schools, where being fluent in Hindi was considered trivial and fluency in English was stressed upon. Thanks to my South Indian roots, since childhood we were encouraged to speak and think in English. But since I grew up in North India, Hindi was the first language I picked up and till date it’s the only language that enables me to make comfortable conversations.  But what kind of Hindi did I pick up anyway? The kind we use every day, casual and unrefined. The kind we treat as a means to an end while bargaining with shopkeepers and riksha walaas without really understanding its potential depth and beauty.

Being a millennial, the songs that were popular during my teenage years were Just Chill, Dhoom Machaale, Dard-e-Disco, Salaam Namaste etc. I do not mean to say that there were no meaningful songs written those days, it’s just that I did not have the sensibility to comprehend them. Even today the songs that catch momentum are not necessarily the most lyrically appealing. In fact, sadly the songs that become top hits these days are Baby Doll, Munni Badnaam, Laila Teri Le Legi etc that sow the seeds of vulgarity in young minds and do nothing to popularize the finer dialect.

Probably the first time I really enjoyed the lyrics of a song was when I heard Aaoge Jab Tum (Jab We Met). In an album that had chart-busters like Mauja Hi Mauja and Yeh Ishq Haye, I could not stop listening to Aaoge Jab Tum. Soon my mp3 player was filled with Naina Thag Lenge (Omkara), Yeh Honsla (Dor), Ha Raham (Aamir), Sapno Se Bhare Naina (Luck by Chance), Arziyan (Dilli 6), Maula Mere (Chak De! India) and many more such songs. It was also around the same time that I got my hands on a CD of Manna Dey classics and a CD of classics from ’50s-’80s. All these made me relish the language (Hindi/Hindi-Urdu). Here, I would like to mention my favorite lines from few songs mentioned above:

Sone chamak mein, sikkon khanak mein-milta nahi

Dhool ke zarron mein, dhoonde koi toh- milta wahi

Kya majaal teri marzi ke aage, bandon ki chal jaayegi

Taane ungli jo tu katputli ki chaal badal jaayegi

Ha Raham, ha raham farma aye Khuda

Mehfooz har kadam karna aye Khuda

(One does not find happiness in wealth, search for it and you’ll find it in trivial things. How dare we think everything will proceed according to our will when we are but mere puppets in Your hands? Oh Lord show some mercy, protect us at every step.) – Ha Raham (Aamir)

 

Poocho na kaise maine rain bitaayi

Ik pal jaise ik jug beeta

Jug beete, mohe neend na aayi . . .

Na kahin chanda, na kahin taare

Jyot ke pyaase mere nain bechaare

Bhor bhi, aas ki kiran na laayee

(Do not ask me how I spent the night; moments felt like ages. I could not sleep as ages elapsed. I could not spot the moon or the stars; my eyes deprived of light. Even the dawn could not bring a ray of hope.) –Poocho Na Kaise Maine Rain Bitaayi (Manna Dey)

 

Door he se sagar jise har koi maane

Paani hai woh ya reth hai yeh kaun jaane?

Jaise ke din se rain alag hai

Sukh hai alag aur chain alag hai

Par jo yeh dekhe woh nain alag hai

Chain toh hai apna, sukh hai paraye . . .

Sapno se bhare naina, toh neend hai nah chaina

(To the distant viewer even the sand appears as the ocean. Only the one who dares to venture knows about the struggle of finding the ocean. Happiness and peace are as different the day and the night, the one who sees this difference is the one with a different vision. Peace accompanies us but happiness continues to be elusive…Eyes filled with dreams can find neither sleep nor peace) –Sapno Se Bhare Naina (Luck by Chance)

 

In recent times if there is a writer who has made my heart pound with happiness with his writing, then it’s Varun Grover. He uses the most unadulterated Hindi in his songs. He manages to bring out the beauty of the language like no other present day writer. His songs have made me fall in love with Hindi all over again. As the writer of the film Masaan, he infused the story with beautiful shayaari and poems. In times when most songs and dialogues are written in hinglish, here is a film that celebrates classic Hindi literature and yet tells the story of modern India. The song Moh Moh ke Dhaage from the film Dum Laga Ke Haisha is in my opinion, the best written romantic songs of recent times. In the song he writes:

Ke aisa beparwah mann pehle toh na tha

Chiithiyon ko jaise mil gaya, jaise ik naya sa pata

Khaali raahien, hum aankien moondein jaayien

Pahunche kahin toh bewajah.

Yeh moh moh ke dhaage teri ungaliyon se jaa uljhe

Koi toh toh na laage, kis tarha girah yeh suljhe?

(My heat was never this careless before. All letters seem to have found a new address. On empty roads, I am walking with my eyes closed; hoping to reach somewhere for no reason. These threads of endearment have entangled themselves on your fingers; there is no compulsion, so how will this knot get resolved?)

My favorite work of Varun Grover is the song Mann Kasturi Re from Masaan. When I first heard the song, it sounded very fresh and appealing, but honestly I did not understand much about what the song was trying to tell. A few months later I came across an interview in which he briefly explained the song. Intrigued by this, I searched for a detailed explanation online and realized how beautiful the song is. Here, he says our heart is similar to a musk deer, which goes around searching for the scent of the musk, not realizing that it is within him. He writes:

Khoje apni gandh na paave

Chaadar ka paibandh na paave

Bikhrey bikhrey chhandh sa tehley

Dohon mein yeh bandh na paave

Naache hoke phirki lattu

Khoje apni dhoori re . . .

(My heart is searching for its own essence, cannot find it. It cannot find the pattern to this existence. It wanders like scattered verses; it cannot be tied into a couplet. It spins like a top in search of its own axis . . .)

My love for Hindi is extremely vague. I never considered it as a serious subject in school; in fact I struggled with it. I even dropped the subject in 8th grade to pursue French. I struggled to read and write in Devanagari.  However, it is also the only language that I have ever used to think to myself. My love for Hindi grew as my love for Hindi cinema started developing. Today, I still have a tough time reading and writing the language but I feel my dialect has improved. Sometimes my sister calls me a banarasi because of the kind of words I use while speaking, I happily accept it as a compliment! I have a very long way to go on my path of becoming a Hindi geek but I can only hope that many more such amazing songs emerge to accompany me on this journey.

Finally, I am going to end this post with a shayaari by Bashir Badr which was used in Masaan because I absolutely love the film and this couplet:

सितारों को आँखों में महफूज़ रखना, बड़ी देर तक रात ही रात होगी| मुसाफिर हैं हम भी, मुसाफिर हो तुम भी; किसी मोड़ पर फिर मुलाकात होगी|

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Geet Mein Dhalte Lafz

Why Hunterrr is an Important Film.

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There isn’t a dearth of films talking about sex and sexual relationships in Hindi cinema. What is appalling is the manner in which this subject is dealt with. Every second week we are served with sex comedies or erotic thrillers that revel in their double meaning,sexist and immature humor. In the backdrop of such films Hunterrr stands out and impresses.

As a society, rarely do we talk openly about intimacy or sexual appetite. Even in the most urban households parents are hesitant to educate their kids about sex, sex education provided in schools is either ridiculous or non-existent and among peers it boils down to just banter and humor. As a result, many of us don’t have an honest conversation about passion and desire even with ourselves for the longest time. I strongly believe that at any given time, cinema and society ape each other. This is the reason why there is a paucity of stories that deal with such subjects in a mature manner and present them as simply and casually as any other subject.

Our protagonist in Hunterrr, Mandar Ponkshe(played by Gulshan Devaiah) is an average looking, regular guy who just happens to have a higher appetite for sex. The film doesn’t give an explanation as to why he is the way he is, because it really isn’t required. He is not a porn star, or an addict and neither is he a poster boy who gets all the female attention. Mandar has to work to find a match for himself and with years of hard work  he has learned to score with ease. Quite simply put Hunterrr is nothing but Mandar’s love story.

All major and minor characters are very well written and played out. Each of them come across as people we meet and know in our own lives. The locations are real and the dialogues flow out as normal conversations. The film has an understated humor which adds to its strength. Coming to the performances, Gulshan Devaiah plays Mandar with utmost honesty and conviction. Sai Tamhankar shines as Jyotsna. She has a smaller role, fewer dialogues and most of her scenes are presented in a montage but her presence is felt vividly. Finally, its Radhika Apte as Tripti  who steals the show with her subtle yet powerful performance.  She makes viewers fall in love with Tripti. The role is not particularly challenging on paper but what Radhika brings to the character is worth experiencing. She and Gulshan manage to create a very pleasant chemistry from the word go.

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However, despite amazing performances there are times, especially in the second half of the film, when the writing stops engaging you the way it did in the beginning.  There are times when it feels almost exhausting to invest more time and emotions on Mandar. The climax of the film could’ve been better had it been presented in a much simpler way. Unnecessary cuts between real and alternate events add no value whatsoever. All this being said, Hunterrr should be watched for its mature and simplistic dealing of a subject that is grossly presented in Hindi films and of course for the kick-ass performances.

Why Hunterrr is an Important Film.

Firaaq

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Firaaq is a heart wrenching movie set one month after the Gujarat carnage of 2002. It captures the repercussions of the riots for people across different religious and economic boundaries. The film, as it asserts, is a work of fiction based on a thousand true stories. It is co-written and directed by Nandita Das. I have admired Nandita for her portrayal of strong and meaningful characters in Fire, Earth, I am and Bawandar but  it is her directorial venture Firaaq , that affected me the most.

Being politically correct is the last thing that this movie is concerned about. It does not shy away from pointing towards the participation of the state in the riots but at the same time  isn’t  about the blame-game. It quite simply states the facts and captures the aftermath. One of the distinctive and most impressive feature is that there is hardly any violence depicted in the movie, yet there is a lingering sense of fear. In the opening scene we see a graveyard where a truck drops off a load of bodies in front of the diggers, who cry helplessly as they bury them. This scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie. At one point a character says “Inssan, Insaan ko maar raha hai iss baat ka gham hai” and this is exactly what you feel throughout the movie.  The movie does not end on a hopeful note and does not want us to feel as if everything is going to be okay in the world again. Sadly, the movie finds its relevance even today.

The film cuts through different narratives and consists of a highly eminent ensemble cast. The gist of different story-lines is given below:

Arati and Sanjay (Deepti Naval and Paresh Rawal): Arati lives in the guilt of having denied shelter to a Muslim lady who came knocking at her door. Her guilt only increases on hearing about the slaughter of Muslim women through news channels. Ironically, her brother-in-law was involved in gang-raping of a Muslim woman and robbing stores and her husband is trying to prevent his arrest. I found this to be the most chilling story-line. We see Sanjay complaining about how media never adequately reports about Hindu deaths and defending his brother’s action by stating how can you dishonour someone who has no honour. He also asks his brother if he enjoyed “the taste of the fruit”.  Deepti Naval’s performance is my personal favourite in this film. She single handedly depicts the guilt of a large section of the society for being the silent spectator.

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Muneera and Hanif (Shahana Goswami and Nawazuddin Siddiqui):  Muneera and Hanif return to their home from their hiding only to find it ransacked and burnt. Hanif sets out to take revenge along with his friends while Muneera struggles to trust her friend Jyoti’s innocence.  The Muneera-Jyoti story line is extremely well written and played out very well by Shahana Goswami.

Khan Saab and His Servant(Naseeruddin Shah and Raghubir Yadav):  Khan saab is an elderly music teacher who is an optimist and is almost in denial of the gravitas of the current state of affairs while his servant keeps informing him about the mishaps.  Khaan saab realizes the magnitude of hatred perpetuated only when he comes to know about the overnight destruction of Wali Gujarati’s shrine. He accepts defeat to his servant and says  “sirf saath suron me itni kaabiliyat khaan ki aisi nafrat ka saamna kar sake

Anuradha Desai and Sameer Shaikh (Tisca Chopra and Sanjay Suri): Anuradha and Sameer are an inter-religious couple who decide to move out of Ahmedabad for a peaceful living. During a conversation with their friends Sameer opens up about the insecurities that he has to live with due to his religion and his anger at not being able to proudly proclaim his religion in public. I personally feel that this sub plot had a lot of potential but it couldn’t be tapped mostly due to weak dialogues.

Lastly there is the little kid Moshin who is orphaned during the riots and witnesses violence as his character cuts across the sub plots. In the end, we see Moshin stare  at us deeply after being robbed of his childhood innocence.

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Despite its few short comings Firaaq is an honest film that manages to hold a mirror to the impact of the carnage. It forces us to question the actions of our fellow citizens and deliberate about the times that we live in and the society that we are leaving behind for the future generations. The film consists of some exceptional performances and manages to trigger all the emotions that it aimed to.  As we debate about tolerance even today this movie reminds us about the most heinous acts carried out due to intolerance in the past.

This movie is freely available on Youtube!

Firaaq

Kahaani.

Let’s talk a bit about the 2012 thriller Kahaani. The film is about woman’s search for her missing husband in a city foreign to her and about the mystery that unravels as her search progresses. I remember being glued to the edge of my seat till the very end of the movie.

Kahaani was a movie that belonged to Vidya Balan in every sense. For the majority of  Hindi movie-goers she was the only known face in the film and man, how she delivered! There isn’t a scene in the movie where she hit a false note. She gave Vidya Bagchi an aura that was both vulnerable and strong. The scene where she looks out of the window, the one where she expresses anxiety and frustration as she tries to drape the saree and the vengeful look at the climax were all fresh in my memory as I watched the movie years later for the second time.

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In an interview, Vidya talked about how she prepared for the role. She mentioned how very early  in her career Mohanlal had advised her to always place art before comfort and that resulted in her decision to stay in that small hotel room for the entire shooting schedule. She gained every bit of my respect for this dedication.

If Vidya was the star of the movie the biggest supporting character was none other then the city of Kolkata. No movie has made me want to visit a city as much as Kahaani did. The cameras penetrate deep into the heart of the city, into the gullies and the streets, into the chai stalls and the tram depots. You feel like you’re walking with Vidya to every corner of Calcutta. The  depiction of Kolkata on the day of Vijayadashami (the crowd and the noise) is simply spectacular!

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The supporting cast does thorough justice to their roles. Bob Biswas sends chills down your spine as the polite assassin.  Rana shows his attraction towards Vidya brilliantly in subtle ways and Nawazuddin Siddiqui is outstanding as the ruthless Intelligence Bureau officer, Khan.

I loved how the movie built mystery around smallest of things, like the kid’s radio or the receptionist at the lodge,  forcing the viewers to suspect every character.  The point where the movie breaks off for intermission is just brilliant and so is the concept of coinciding the climax of the movie with the climax of Durga Puja.

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What doesn’t work for the film is climax being heavily inspired by that of the Angelina Jolie starrer Taking Lives, so much so that the style of attack and the weapon used are also similar. I was hugely disappointed when I found out about this as I really wanted this movie to be wholly Bollywood’s brainchild. Despite this, Kahaani was one of the few Hindi movies where I saw the city turn into a character, where a female actor carried the whole movie on her shoulders and where a man could not help but fall for an already pregnant lady!

Additional Notes:

  1. The album consists of an amazing track Tore Bina performed by Sukhwinder Singh. I heard bits and pieces of this song for the first time on TV at my college food-court and it was the first thing that made me want to watch the movie. You can listen to the song here.
  2. The above mentioned interview of Vidya Balan can be found here.

 

Kahaani.

Piku

I remember watching the trailer of Piku the day it was out and almost instantly decided to catch it on the first day of its release. It was mainly because Mr. Bachchan’s character seemed hilarious, Deepika looked stunning as usual, there was Irrfan, the director had made Vicky Donor and the trailer sent out a very fresh vibe. I had a few friends asking me if I was sure I wanted to watch a movie which would be about shit! I dragged them along with me to the theater and even I had no idea what I was about to experience for the next two hours.

As of today, I have watched Piku over five times and I know I’ll watch it a number of times in the coming years. I still can not get over the simplicity of this movie. The film doesn’t have a start or an end to a story, rather it presents to us life, as it is, and regular discussions. Sure there have been movies like Before Sunrise and its sequels that are largely based on conversation between the protagonists, but Piku is still different. This film is not about profound and romantic conversations but rather about the mundane discussions and still manages to be hilarious and witty!

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The Dialogues:

The dialogues flow out effortlessly throughout the film. The language is simple and the humour never goes over the top. To mention a few crispy dialogues, there is a scene where Piku tells Bhashkor “Din me ek baar potty nahi hua toh you don’t have to do taandav.” and another one where Rana yells at  Bhashkor “Kuch baatien kaan ke andar nahi padegi toh pralay thodi aajayegi.”  These had me in splits.

The  Relationships:

The film portrays the father-daughter relationship so beautifully, be it the arguments or the love and concern, that it almost captured the essence of the bond I share with my dad. The Piku-Rana relation is a realistic depiction of how people flirt as they start getting to know each other. There isn’t a touch yet the chemistry is infectious. It is wonderful how Deepika and Irrfan manage to build it up just by expressions. The party at Champa Kunj(the Kolkata home) when they barely manage to keep their eyes off of each other is amongst my favourite scenes in the movie.

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I love the way the hints are dropped here and there about the relation between different characters, like about how Piku and Syed are more than just friends or how Chhobi mashi and kaaki don’t get along well.

The Performances:

Amitabh Bachchan’s performance is nothing short of perfection. His comic timing is spot-on and so is his accent as a Bengali. Irrfan Khan is effortless as always. He is not so much acting as he is being the character. Deepika doesn’t go out of rhythm even for a second . Her performance is my favourite in the film. Her eyes express anger, arrogance, concern and attraction as and when required. I just loved the scene when Deepika sits on Bhashkor’s bed and quietly weeps. No melodrama here. Moushumi Chatterjee is hilarious as Chhobi mashi and I also enjoyed the performance of actors portraying Budhan and Nabendu.

The Music:

As the opening credits  roll out, a soft Sarod score is played and the film had every bit of my attention since then. This score is used often in the background and also at the very end and its just beautiful. The background music also consists of a classical song during  the Banaras sequence and two joyous Bengali songs all of which add to the mood of the scene. The album consists of fresh tracks and what is even more amazing is how they blend with the scenes. Bezubaan is my personal favourite and I also love Shreya Ghoshal’s work in The Journey Song.  I hope Anupam Roy composes more for Hindi films in the future.

All in All:

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Piku is a film that has urban Indian culture at its heart. It gives out a warm message without being too preachy. It reminded me of  Hrishikesh Mukherjee films that were based on simple and realistic characters and story. Its gonna take me a while to get over this one.

Picture Credits: https://twitter.com/PikuTheFilm/media

 

 

 

 

Piku