Kailash Kher, leaving NYC

 Kailash Kher, leaving NYC

After winding up a long and fascinating interview with singer Kailash Kher this weekend, just before he departed for Bombay, I asked if he wouldn’t mind  a few pictures too.  

The seemingly always good-tempered man happily agreed, and this was the most amusing of the shots.

Here’s a wee bit of trivia: sure, we all immediately recognize his voice from such Hindi film songs as O Sikander and Mangal Pandey, but did you also know that he’s  one of the vocalists on Rangu Rangamma from the 2008 Tamil film Bheema?

A Tale of Two Cities

gatewayofindiapigeons%202 A Tale of Two Cities  

This is a story I did that appeared in the June 13, 2008 issue of India Abroad.   For the filmi connection, have a look at the postscript.

Consider this patch of humid land, sitting at the nation’s edge, packed with people of all income levels, trying to make a go of it while more arrive every day.   Real estate prices are ridiculous, the infrastructure crumbles regularly, the traffic is frequently thick and slow.   And yet, it’s the nation’s financial capital as well as home to actors, writers, publishers and filmmakers responsible for much of the country’s arts and entertainment.  

I’m referring to Mumbai -

washingtonsqpark%202 A Tale of Two Cities

…and also to New York.  

Nisha Sondhe, a photographer who calls both cities home, is busy pairing them up in a multi-year visual project she calls Bombay v New York.   At her online portfolio, visitors compare and contrast images of people, architecture and landscapes both here and there.  

A Lexington Avenue construction worker in a yellow hardhat and white tee-shirt, his back to the camera, is twinned with two smiling sari-clad women, metal containers of broken rocks balanced on their heads.   A picture of rows of Bombay duck on the beach precedes freshly hosed sides of beef in the Meatpacking District.   A Sikh man in a crisp turban gazes out a suburban train window; a young woman wearing tell-tale white iPod earbuds sits in a subway car.   And so she shoots, on an on, from Coney Island and Chelsea to Koliwada and Crawford Market.

paanwallaeid%202 A Tale of Two Cities

cigarillos%202 A Tale of Two Cities  

The 38-year-old woman behind the lens, a Cleveland native who settled in New York ten years ago, received her first camera from her father when she was ten years old.   “I got into photography because there was nothing else to do as a kid in Ohio,” Sondhe says.

[Read more...]

Wikipedia personals ?

Just had to share this little nugget I happened to notice under the Wikipedia entry for the movie Lakeer, under the “Cast” section:

* Nauheed Cyrusi as … FARHIYO AHMED i love the girl in this movie she is so hott i swear i die for her i don’t know if she have a man but i sill love you………. please if you see this messege please write me back i love you so mach..

Mozhi

quartet Mozhi

Mozhi surprised me.  

I don’t know what exactly  I was expecting, probably some sort of a love story, eventually  the  kalyanam at some wedding hall in Madras, women in saris and jasmine, and maybe a fight scene thrown in to keep the mens happy.   And honestly, the cover of the DVD was a little too family-friendly for me.

But I bought it anyway on my last shopping stockpiling expedition to Landmark for two reasons: first, I remembered there had been a lot of favorable buzz when it hit cinema screens last year, and second, it has Prakash Raj in a lead role.   Show me a film where he has more to do than play the older cop/buddy/Dad and I’m there.

prakash%20raj Mozhi

So, the film starts with these two friends Karthik (Prithviraj) and Viji (Prakash Raj), and no, the lead actresses don’t have “Raj” in their names.   The guys are in the music side of the Tamil film biz and they get an apartment together.   The crabby building secretary finds out they’re singletons and declares they must move, “˜cos bachelors are too much trouble. (Don’t I know it; they’re almost as bad married men!)

Viji says to Karthik “Why don’t you get married?” and the ever-idealist, ever-romantic Karthik explains he has to first fall for the girl, complete with lightbulbs and bells going off.  

He’s out on the street and happens upon the modern, liberated Archana (Jyothika, wearing trousers and  shirt with a messenger bag slung across her body) and sees her beating up a wee twig of a drunk man who’s  been abusing his wife.  

Karthik thinks the  wife of Surya is damn cool, plus  she reminds him of his Mom (er, okay”¦.).   Bulbs and bells go off and he’s in love.   Cue the dream sequence (Jyothika in a frothy purple gown, then as a cop, then a tough girl on a motorbike.)

jyothika%20alone Mozhi

And lucky Karthik, it turns out Archana  lives in the same apartment complex.   He tries to chat her up and gets nowhere.   Finally, after rescuing her ailing grandmother, and still not getting a rise out of Tamil filmdom’s heroine, he says “What is your problem, girl?”   and just then, he learns, as we the viewers do, that she’s deaf and mute.

She’s also traumatized.   Archana’s father split when she was a kid and then her mother died, leaving the little girl in her grandmother’s care.

Archana and her best friend/translator, the widow Sheela, become friends with Karthik and Viji, and love grows as the quartet hang out.   Karthik learns sign language, and wants to marry Archana, who freaks out and tells him to go away.   The rest of the film is what happens afterward.

jyothika%20face Mozhi

Now, when I say this film is different, please don’t take that to mean “dark”, because it’s not;   there are some exceedingly sweet moments in this film (I personally found the little soap carving of a violin that Archana gives Karthik rather  corny).   But it is part of that current wave of Tamil films that show more of the day-to-day lives of people, without so much dishoom and no item number.  

Viji is that always cheerful guy you’d like to have as a friend, and my favorite scene was the one with Prakash Raj dancing around in only a towel to Hava Nagila Hava, of all things (and you thought all those Kosher dosa places on Curry Hill were the only link between Israel and southern India).   It’s quite funny to hear a man of his years and not insignificant figure refer to Little Prakash Raj as his “shame shame puppy shame.”

While Prithviraj plays him with great reserve, Karthik is written as such a decent  hero that you almost expect to see a halo over his head.   And his strength in resisting the repeated pouty advances of the sexy neighbor girl seemed rather super-human to me; I think most men would have been flattered and given in.   But Prithviraj is credible as this guy with a heart of gold, and his lisp is endearing.

prithviraj Mozhi

For Tamil movie fans, there’s an opening movie-within-a-movie sequence where Karthik and Viji work on the film’s score.   When commenting on the plot of the film, Prakash Raj (who not only acts in Mozhi, but is also the producer) says to his buddy “I pity the landlords’ daughters in Tamil cinema, they only find beggars for husbands.”

The film was shot in and around Madras, so anyone feeling a bit homesick will catch some glimpses of Marina Beach and several shots at MusicWorld and the food court at Spencers Plaza.

mozhi%20dvd%20cover Mozhi

And a brief word about the DVD I watched, a Moser Baer version.   For Rs. 34, I think it’s a great deal.   The picture quality is good, the English subtitles were there, and there were even extra features!   (A long press conference and the music release.)

See it or skip it

See it!   In spite of being a little too long (did we really need the storyline about the Professor who was stuck back in 1984?), and having one or two snafus on the subtitles (“banquet” instead of “bouquet”), the movie is a lovely change from a lot of what has come before.   The characters are all older than undergrads and so their stories involve more than hanging out and flirting at the local Barista, even if the plot still evolves around the ubiquitous filmi concern: marriage.

And by the way, when was the last time you saw a filmi heroine who wore trousers through all but two or three scenes in a film?

Oh no he didn’t!

NBC legal expert Dan Abrams, appearing on NBC’s nationally televised Today show, just declared Bollywood a “loser” for the choice of Sly Stallone as the actor who would be involved in the  Hindi movie Kambaqt Ishq, one part of the bigger story  that’s been so much in the press this week.

You can see a clip here.   They get to Bollywood around minute 1:50.

The Love Guru

poster%202 The Love Guru  

So here’s the thing: normally it takes Eddie Izzard, George Carlin, Damon Wayans or Bill Maher to get me to laugh out loud, and yet, the other evening, arriving at the cinema in not a good frame of mind at all, I actually found myself laughing through most of Mike Myers latest, The Love Guru.

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I guess there was something – in the goofy juxtaposition of the Guru Pitka living in a marble palace ashram twanging out that old Dolly Parton working class number “9 to 5“ on sitar as he goes through his morning ablutions,

sitar%202 The Love Guru  

or the PowerPoint presentation of trademarked self-help platitudes dispensed to the vacuous Left Coast faithful, or even some of the sight gags (Justin Timberlake’s Treasure Trail tattoos) – that pressed the right buttons and had me chortling in spite of myself.

justin%202 The Love Guru

The story on which these gags are built is this:   an American kid is raised in an Indian ashram and becomes a guru in order to get girls.   He becomes an expert in advising people on les affaires du coeur, but is still a constant runner-up to the man he considers his rival:   Deepak Chopra.   One of his handlers (John Oliver) tells him that if he can re-unite Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco) a Toronto Maple Leafs player whose estranged wife has taken up with the famous opposing team member Quebecois Jacques “Le Coq” Grande (Timberlake), thereby ending his troubles on the ice as well, Guru Pitka will get booked on Oprah, which he considers making it to The Big Time.

Along the way there are midget jokes, many, many, many jokes having to do with male genitalia, and quite a few having to do with bodily functions.   Stephen Colbert, Verne Troyer and Sir Ben Kingsley are part of the cast, and Deepak Chopra even makes an appearance as himself.  

Former Bollywood Dreams star, Manu Narayan, has a major role in the film as Rajneesh, Guru Pitka’s ever-present, ever-helpful assistant and moral compass.   He has a sweet face and his real musical talents come into play when he performs a duet of “More Than Words” with Mike Myers.

more%20than%20words%202 The Love Guru

There’s an early mise-en-scène where Pitka preaches to a rapt audience and is sought out afterward by Jessica Simpson, Val Kilmer and Mariska Hargitay (whose name he uses as a greeting in place of “Namaste”).   Upon encountering Jane Bullard (Jessica Alba) the owner of the failing Toronto Maple Leafs, Guru Pitka is smitten and has a true filmi moment as his mind wanders off into a dream sequence, imagining himself frolicking with the lovely Ms. Alba in true old-eshtyle Bollywood song picturization mode, complete with bizarre onscreen lyric translations (e.g. there was something about “”¦lugubrious recalcitration..”)   This is the first of two filmi scenes.

The main character is rather smug (in spite of his DeepakChoprian Achilles heel) and annoying, but then again, my hackles go up when anyone tries to preach at me, and I smiled at his early comment about “”¦when the student becomes the teacher, or some such bullsh!t.”   Pitka sports a hrishi-like hair-do in one scene, and Indian clothes and accessories throughout, but what Myers is sending up is not Hinduism, but rather the scores of people who blindly buy into these “neo-Eastern” wealthy, self-help, self-important con men.  

See it or skip it?

It’s got a lot of cheery colors, moves at a quick clip, has lots of gross-out humor and a LOT of Mike Myers.   If you don’t object of any of that, and you’re in the mood for a light, silly movie, you might enjoy The Love Guru.

Not everything was fair game for my funnybone.   I could have done without the wee-soaked mops hitting people in the face, and the two poor elephants copulating on the ice at a hockey championship.