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Friday, February 23, 2007

ekalavya the royal gaurd

" Ekalavya the Royal Guard ." is the title of the latest magnum opus of Vidhu Vinodh Chopra ,who is said to have presented the big B the hero of the film with a Rolls Royce phantom as a gift for acting in the movie !!
Amitabh Bhachan and several others with their healthy ripe beards and colourful turbans look good in profile in the stills of the movie .
The film starts in low key with whispered dialogues and dark interiors of a Rajput palace ,one looks forward to the mystery of the desert which is strengthened by the strangling of the bed ridden rani ( sharmila Tagore ) by the old Rana ( Bomman Irani ) for uttering the name of the royal guard Amitabh as the father of her twins the heinous act is watched by the mentally challenged twin sister of Saif ali Khan
( prince Harshavardan ) the heir .
She promptly paints the scene and keeps it a secret till her brother discovers it to plan his revenge ,after much bloodshedding and half the characters of the film eliminated the remaining victors become king and Pitamaha ..
Photography is excellent with the desert palace shimmering in its magnificience and the royal guard shows his skills by slicing off a ghungroo tied on to a flying pigeon claw and catching it , all done blindfolded as requested by Sanjay Dutt ( pannalal ) the low caste DYSP !
Poor Sanjay is wasted with a presence so short and insignificant ,probably he was added because he looked good in the profile .He did a good job even then .
So are dear Jackie Shroff the villainous brother of the Rana .( Vidhu could have saved a few crores by taking lesser actors without much difference and a couple of Malayalam films could have been made in the bargain )
All royal intrigues and backstabbing are shown with finesse and desert sequences with running camels and chugging trains executed with élan .
The only song in the film is melodious and worth listening .
Amitabhs baritone is the redeeming feuture ,he thunders in the silence ,even his low key whispers are husky and appealing .
Good movie surprisingly for a hindi one , but something seemed missing
Probabaly it was the too earnest effort to make it different .
Watchable .

Sunday, February 18, 2007


The milling crowds were what that stood out in Mumbai on my recent visit ,they were vibrant , palpable and everywhere .
The city was alive and transmitted its cheer to all .
On a Sunday evening traffic came to a standstill as people waited for the big B to emerge out of his Juhu villa for the weekly darshan given when the great man drove to his old house in the next street from his new one ,once he passed away the crowd melted into thin air and life was back to its normal frenetic pace .
Very typical of the city which could spring back to life with renewed energy after any event like Jackie chan in his fights .
Railway stations were excellent for people watching if one could manage to find a niche to do so ,the overbridges were mini shopping malls laden with goods and haggling vendors .They had their own custom and so did the up station malls with their expensive wares.
Eating in the streets seems to be the national pastime for the Mumbaite whose culinary list began with patata vadas and ended with masala dosas sugarcane juices ,kababs ,and what not .
People ran ,ate ,spat ,smirked ,caught trains ,snoozed ,played cards ,jostled gawked and grumbled with equal intensity day and night .
Some finesse was required to alight on a suburban trains at peak hours ,the best way was to be alternatively passive and aggressive ,to be pushed by the crowd into the train and to resist with all force not to be pushed by the same crowd through the other doorway ,if one could manage this the art of traveling in Mumbai came easy and was even a pleasure .
The buses were less crowded but more slower as they grinded through the leaden traffic .
Towering skyscrapers dwarfed crowded slums of international repute like Dharavi where enterprise was as big as in Nariman point and where many a mafia don polished his skills .
Bollywood was always in the background as grinning Sharukh Khan billboards stared at you from railway platforms . .
youngsters dressed like their heroes ,women of different hues and colours and sizes ,topi clad dhabbawallas doing their world renowned balancing acts armless beggars and overdressed eunuchs were part of the collage and confusion .
The border between night and day were inconspicuous as people moved like ants late into the night under the brilliance of focused lights .
Marine drive resembled a diamond necklace adorning the blue neck of the Arabian sea ,pigeons fluttered a welcome in the gateway of India which echoed the resonant beats of many bands from the past .Distant ships winked their lights sad on leaving dame Mumbai and its pleasures .
The mahalaxmi temple shone resplendent in the morning sunshine as waters lapped just behind it ,the crowds were huge with people jostling in a sea of colours ,nearby haji ali durgah was a short walk up a causeway which would get filled up with tide ,huge cauldrons were being washed in the sea water for the days biriyani preparation and fishing baots kissed the causeway .
after the long dreary trudge back we gulped down the cold mango slice offered in a famous fruit shop at abominable prices
Wayside Gods went to sleep after the priests left them alone ,the solitary chime of a deserted church bade goodnight ,
Amchi mumbai is best remembered by these sounds ,sights , and tastes .
The curtain came down with the clacking sounds of a disappearing train stored in the subconscious for the sake of nostalgia .


Friday, February 16, 2007

Sun and Sand

Dawn in the desert was cold and the two shivered wrapping their regulation blankets tightly around .
Soon the sun would be up gobbling the earth with its red tongue , the sands would burn and the heat would blaze .
Life in this frontier outpost of kutch border wasn’t a joke for these air force men .
They were left alone for days but loneliness after some time was depraving .
It was their job to climb up the huge tower and steer the sights to the target built miles away so that they could asses the angle at which the fighter pilot had made a hit on them ,with two other towers at equi distances from the target giving their calculations all that the officers had to do was to collate the data to find out the markmanship of their ace pilots .
In the early seventies this was the way things were done .
Pillai and Varun Pandey would have been unmatched anywhere but in the Airforce they have been chums for many years so much so that pillai often spoke chaste Bihari and Pandey talked mallu lingo .
They had been posted in this Godforsaken tower with their meager stores for a week now and were hoping that the supply truck would come to give them a reprive .
Their dream came true as the truck laboured down the sand and they were given a twelve hour off and dropped in the nearest town .
They were expected to be ready by dawn the next morning waiting for the truck at the appointed place .
Time flew fast for the soldiers ,the local bar and other colourful entertainment made up for their days of penance .
The drunk men sang raucously as they got out of the thatched cinema hall and retired to their hotel room to sleep soundly .
Morning came and went and so did their truck as the men slept on .
At ten am Pillai woke up with a start and shook Pandey .
They were in dire trouble and could be court martialled for this mistake .
They ran to the nearby bus stand and made enquiries of any transportation to their destination ,a turbaned man told them to rush to the railway station and catch the passenger train which would take them some eight kilometers away from the border ,this was the only option ,if the train reached by late noon they could run the distance and be in their tower by dusk .
They caught the train ,and soon were on their way in a crowded compartment filled with the colors of Rajasthan .
When they reached their destination it was hot and dry .
The station was a single room in the wilderness and the old stationmaster cum porter cum signal man cum guide told them that they had a long hot walk ahead of them before disappearing into thin air .
They jogged ahead the goat path into the wild sands ,made good progress initially ,slowly becoming slower as the sun dipped into the west .
Sunset in a desert was a magnificent sight to behold but the two were hardly in the mood to enjoy the finer aspects on nature ,their throats were parched and their meager water reserve had ran out .
It became dark and cold and like a changing set of an opera show the star studded sky replaced the resplendent sunset .
No tower was in sight as the men trudged wearily ,their doubts of losing their way had become a certainty now .
It was their tough military physique that stood them in this hour of crisis .
They decided to rest for the night and try to find their way in the morning .
They lay down in the sand and went into an exhausted sleep .
At midnight they woke up with a start chattering their teeth in the cold .The cutting wind was icy and knawed into their bones .They put all the dresses they had and tried to build a small fire an impossible task in the open with a blowing wind ,they could hear a werewolf howling nearby .
Pillai could stand the cold no more and started shoveling the sand on himself ,he found this sand tunnel gave him some warmth ,soon both of them had only their heads above the sand and slept with their eyes open for the dreaded wolf .

Morning came at last ,they emerged from their coccon and dusted themselves ,slovenly they trudged ahead as the sun became bigger .
After some time they came across a rustic goat herd and the boy told them in sign language they had come miles away from their tower to another abandoned one near the border ,he also gave them some water .
Reaching the tower they clambered ahead and broke open its shuttered doors ,inside there were two flares as they expected .
They fired one and waited ,there was silence and nothing else ,they fired the second and last one and their final hope of rescue ,as now even the goat herd was nowhere to be seen
The flare brightened the sky in its glow ,still nothing ,they lay down in the dirty tower dejected and worn out .
All that they wanted now was to live ,damn getting court martialled .
Suddenly they saw a return flare in the distance and their hearts leaped with joy .
It was a couple of hours more before their rescue truck came and took them home .

( A true story recounted by Mr. Pillai to me recently ,
names changed of course )


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