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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Nostalgic Foreign Affairs 

Ta Ra Rum Pum was watched yesterday. For starters, the movie makes my previous post even more relevant. Please go and watch the movie as a complete validation of my post - every word of it, including Mama Shona's nice advice "Khushi ho ya gum .. blah blah karengey hum ... ta ra rum pum pum, ta ra rum pum pum ..."

But the movie had something else too. It was another entry of India's recent obsession of basing their movies in New York. Manhattan, Queens and other parts of NYC was used aplenty and there were lots of international artistes jigging their booty. This made me remember two stalwarts whom we, as Indian movie goers, never gave their due. It's still not too late - lest we forget later - let's talk abt my homies Tom Alter and Bob Christo.

For starters, if you dont know who these two ppl are, you should be ashamed of yourself. You know the guest list of ASh-Abhi's wedding and the fact that some sweet seller distributed tons of sweets to bystanders, but you morons couldn't care a little bit abt your heritage and the role Tom Alter and Bob Christo played in it. How will you feel if your children ask you fifteen years later, "Who's Rakhi Sawant?" Will you be able to look into their eyes ever again - NO, right? So in case you don't know who I'm talking abt - put your favorite search engine to good use and figure out first, will ya. Yanyway, back to reminiscing.

When I talk abt TnB (Tom and Bob is too monotonous to type every time), I talk abt two really talented business students. They were the fathers of market analysis and emerging market studies. The Britishers forgot that they ruled India for a few hundred years and it was just a matter of time before Indians would get back at them in their movies. But who would play the British baddies in these movies? TnB saw a gold mine here and stepped in. T had a square jaw and B had a clean shaven head - and we all know that in Bollywood these are the best assets after a padded breast size and carved torsos. Shetty had retired. Hindi movies needed a new menacing baldie who could get beaten up by Dharmendra and the angry B. Bob Christo volunteered. He had it all in his favor. Tall, muscular and zero knowledge of Hindi. So when he uttered "Kutte ... kutte ... baccha kutte" (yeah, his Hindi sucked), Hindi movie goers relished him getting bashed up. T on the other hand did not look very physically menacing and was also more gifted with his Hindi. So he became the shrewed higher ranked Brit baddie who got to speak more lines and play the scheming strategist. The one who would actually get a close up shot; the one who would then say "tum ha ree mummy hum ar ee pass locked hai ..."

The movies in the 80s only helped the cause of these two greats further. These two were the NYC of the 80s. That statement doesn't even make sense you say??? Hear me out. Today film makers show that they have great resources by moving the story to NYC and giving the audience an international feel. In the 80s money was scarcer and the only way to infuse internationalism in the movie was to infuse a "foreign smuggler" angle. Remember, the baddy whose face would never be shown till the end of the movie but whose accented voice could be heard from behind a silhouette. The one everyone referred to in awe and say "Mr. X India aaa rahey hai". Yeah, that's what I'm talking abt. What this meant was unlimited roles for TnB who lapped up every foreign character that came up. Also, something that fascinated me abt these characters is that they never had full names. They were always referred to as Mr. something. We never heard of a baddie called Peter Andrews. It was always either Mr. Peter or Mr. Andrews. Why were we so parsimonious with our names :(( The least we could do for these people is give them full names, right?

Incidentally, as an uber interesting aside, a point worth mentioning here is the importance of our very own baddie Prem Chopra in these movies. In all these movies where we needed foreign villains, we never gave up the central villain's role to TnB. They were always there but the main bad guy was someone else. And that someone else was more ever that not - Prem, Prem Chopra. There was something very malleable abt Prem uncle's face that could be twisted to make him look like any race. I've seen him play Chinese, Brit and even Portuguese characters in various movies. Does anybody remember that??

Anyway, TnB flourished in the 80s and early 90s. While B was better suited for leching at the women, attempting molestation and getting the crap beaten out of him, T was more suited for roles that required him to be sinister and shrewed. And then Aamir Khan and Salman Khan appeared and brought along a fest of mushy romantic movies - movies where the foreign baddies were replaced by evil uncles and aunts and feuding families who wouldn't see eye to eye (somehow that sounds like someone who is dyslexic - he he). Yanyway, these family mush fests had no scope for TnB. There was no role for Mr. Peter in a movie that was abt Khanna Uncle and Kapoor uncle's feuds over who is richer. Yuk!!! I remember the last big role I saw B in, was where he was reduced to playing a lusty villain in Sridevi's Gumraah. As he lecherously looked at the heroine and made passes her, I sadly shed a tear - realizing that this might be one of the last performances of a great!!

The final blow came in early 2000s. The new millennium brought in new cash flow in Hindi movies. We could now actually afford second tier foreign actors for actual roles. Lagaan started this trend and a bunch of movies (Dil Chahta Hai, Salaam Namaste, Rang De Basanti etc.) continued this trend. Take a second and imagine Tom Alter playing the evil cricket captain in Lagaan. Or Bob Christo playing a gay man who replaces the girl to play the character who teaches Aamir Khan how to play cricket - wouldn't that be cool? Or imagine Rang De Basanti to feature a Mr. Tom who wants to shoot a documentary in India. How nice would that be? But NO. We had to spoil it. We had to get pretty women and Shakespearean actors for a niche market that was once dominated by just two guys. Aaaaargh!!

TnB - no matter what they say. I will miss you.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

No Kidding! 

Me and Hemo were having our standard "once a week movie catch up" session and today's topic was kids in Hindi movies. We both agreed that we hated Hindi movie kids. They are disgusting. Yeah, we both liked Masoom and I think the kids in Mr. India did a great job too but barring these handful of exceptions most Hindi movie kids are as pleasing to my senses as someone dressed in red and yellow polka dots with a silver tuxedo is.

For starters, Hindi movie kids are way too wise. I think it might be my lack of intelligence but these kids are way wiser than their age and always have a lot of knowledge to impart. And you know where all this knowledge comes from? Yup! Their over pious folks who were either (i) separated from them at birth or (ii) killed or (iii) never paid their remuneration and hence chopped off from the script even before they appeared. Hence it is always either "Meri maaa kehti thi ke sab log blah blah" or "Mere papa kehtey thein ke har insaan blah blah ..." You know what my dad told me and my sister as kids? "Don't mess with other kids. Chances are they'll kick your ass. And if they do I won't defend you coz chances are their parents will kick my ass" My mom was a tad bit more protective. Every activity of my childhood was peppered with the one advice of being careful lest I get kidnapped. "You are going to play cricket? Don't play with anyone you don't know. It might be a kidnapper" "You are going to your aunt's house. Don't eat anything anybody else gives you. You might be kidnapped." Come on mom. It's our aunt's house. We'll go in the car with you and come back the same way - so unless you want to kidnap us - I'd say we are pretty safe. So you can imagine why I hate Hindi film kids all the more - coz I can't share no "Meri maa kehti hai" advice coz the line "Meri maa kehti hai ke beta kidnap mat hona" is not the best line for an adult conversation.

Next comes the songs. How come every freakin family in Hindi movies has a family song. As a kid everytime I sang, my mom would gently rub my hair and nod sadly, accepting that indeed the musical talent was missing. Sometimes she would add "Don't sing too much. You might get kidnapped ..." Arrrrgh. Seriously, I don'y even remember us singing the Indian National Anthem together as a family, forget any "yaadon ki baraat" type trip down memory lane.

And finally all the Hindi movie kid romance. Yeah sure. Every time I see a movie where they show two kids share an innocent childhood lovey dovey moment I get yukked out. Remember the 80s when kids would fall in love in their childhood itself, get separated and then grow up and actually find their childhood love (Betaab, Disco Dancer), or the 90s when kids would innocently hold hands and occasionally peck each other's cheek (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai) - a trend that seems to be continuing even now (Honeymoon Travels). Yeah sure!!! As a kid my parents sent me to an all boy's school. I was told if I talk to girls I'll "have a baby" - a thought that I thought was true till I left school. By then all my classmates had talked to multiple girls and some of them I think even had babies (hmmm, so maybe my parents were right).

So yes. You might shed a tear when the obnoxious kid from KKHH holds on to SRK's hand and says "tusi naa jao". You might even say a "cho chueet" to make the moment even more gooey but all I can think of then is "Tusi jao and saath mein in saarey bacchon ko bhi le ke jao".

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