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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Monday, January 01, 2007


I have often wondered if I would have been so wildly optimistic not to mention crazy about Indian cinema had I stayed on in India. As a typical Army brat, growing up meant taking the toss between either the Tuesday or the Thursday show - that is the English or the Hindi. The big deal, in those days wasn't quite the movie, it was the popcorn, the canteen Cola and the oil drenched hamburger.

Since our choice was narrowed to one movie a week, we always opted for the angrezi show, even if it meant sitting through the 'Guns of Navarone' for the 50th time in different stations. I can count the number of times I've either given classics like 'Sholay', 'Aandhi' even 'Don' a miss, because these Hindi movies were considered 'just so boring no.'

It was hip to maro the fake English accent, which could be easily acquired after one and a half hours of being transported through dialogue half of us didn't even comprehend. Though throwing lines like, 'how about a drink, mate' sounded way cool in those days. And whoever delivered it with the max punch had a style quotient rising faster than the fizz in the shaken and stirred cola.

So it was that I would get a major stomach ache if my parents threatened to drag me to 'Amar, Akbar, Anthony' or 'Khubsoorat' or 'Satte pe Satta'. Never mind that it was treated with an awful dose of Pudin Hara, which would make me sick anyway. I'd rather see 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.'

Even after I grew up, my only fatal obsession with Indian content - movies and on telly was with 'Shanti'. That was till a couple of movie reviews were sent my way. 'Oh if you can write about art, you can do movies too' was the Editor's logic when I was handed my first review for none other than 'Roja'. One movie followed the next and my long overdue love affair with apna cinema slowly but surely started.

Moving to Singapore, meant movies became the great connector. Over the years, as the number of visits back home dwindled, the number of movies that we ended up watching increased.

Then came the IIFA Awards ceremony. Getting ready to speak to the stars, meant not just reading all about them but re-visiting their work too. What a spectacular journey that turned out to be. There were lots more movies to be seen, lots of comparisons to be made and tons of proud moments. Like seeing the time the security barricade almost gave way when the Big B and the King Khan strolled down the red carpet. The photographer lose their footing and almost their shot when Shilpa Shetty breezed in. The look of shock around me when the stars spoke. I still remember the comment from someone beside me, "they actually make a lot of sense." I mean what else did you expect - they are our best ambassadors. In one sitting, the Big B could talk about his films, politics, the economy to his pen collection.

Their work on and off screen has been phenomenally impressive and after years of talking about it, I finally managed to put together a print and TV piece together as my year-end tribute to Bollywood. Yes, they hate the term, but it still works.

The colourful telly tribute showed how 2006 was a year that said it all for Bollywood.

With 'Don' we showed the world we know all about the twist in the tale that is rendered with all the glitzy stuff. 'Lage Raho Munnabhai' showed how to appeal to everyone from a demographic of 3 to 90. 'Omkara' how Shakespeare should be told. 'Khosla ka Ghosla' tugged at the heart strings and showed us how to win a battle. 'Dor' brought two worlds together, '15 Park Avenue' established beyond a shadow of doubt that there is nothing the enormously talented Konkana Sen Sharma can't do. 'Kabul Express' that we don't have to pass off Poland for Kashmir, we can make real films, about real places, with a real star cast.

Yes, our cinema failed us at times. 'Umrao Jaan' being the biggest dud in point. But when the bigger story of Bollywood is doing the talking, I'm not about to go into complaining mode. As I mentioned in the piece, with all the big releases slated for 2007, it looks like history could be repeating itself. My eyes, for obvious reasons, are peeled on 'Eklavya' for starters. A friend who saw my interview said "I sounded very patriotic", but the likes of Mani Ratnam, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Farhan Akhtar, Nagesh Kukunoor - among a host of other talented film makers give me every reason to feel that way about our films.