Thursday, November 12, 2009

Top 10 Foreign Locale Bollywood Songs

Rules governing selection of the songs :-
a) Some part of the song has to be shot on an undisputed Foreign Locale; i.e. outside the political boundary of India as defined by the Govt. of India.
b) One song per film
c) One song per country
d) One song per Hero-Heroine Pair
e) As far as possible, the song must be logically integrated into the story (by Bollywood standards and not by MIT-Harvard-Princeton-Stanford PhD dissertation committee standards). This implies all those dream sequences or other similar occasions for a sudden unexplained leap abroad are prohibited.
f) At least 6 of the 7 continents must be covered; i.e. Antarctica can be omitted. I have no doubt that in the future we will have the "pleasure" of listening to something like"Antarctica Mein Ek Raat, Penguino Ke Saath".

Readers are advised to add their own foreign locale song, and as a sweetener, they will NOT be subject to the aforementioned onerous rules b-f.

10) My Name is Ali; Film : Dhoom 2;
Place : Rio, Brazil, South America

I will admit this song is selected primarily to conform to rules b-f, especially to get South America into the picture. Additionally, I will also admit this song barely registers on my likability index. However, being a normal red blooded male; I have to admire the architecture of the buildings in the background (Yeah, that's the ticket!!!). And I hear Brazil has an excellent sugarcane ethanol industry, at least watching this movie makes environmental sense.(some consolation since I could find no other reason.)

9) Shayad Meri Shaadi Ka Khayal; Film : Souten;
Place : Mauritius, Africa

If you don't believe Mauritius is in Africa (I did not as well), here is the proof. The CIA Factbook also confirms this, so direct all your complaints to Langley Virginia.
I actually like this hummable song, and I get some flak for my viewpoint. The turquoise water sea-shore and picturesque beach resorts remind you of the Caribbean. Tina Munim is easy on the eyes, and you can always chuckle/guffaw at the sight of a much older Rajesh Khanna pursuing her.

8) Do Lafzon Ki Hai Dil Ki Kahani; Film : The Great Gambler;
Place : Venice, Italy, Europe

Another iffy film, but a nice song; check out that Italian crooner rowing dude. Perhaps Zeenat could pass for a local "La mia stella brillante!", but can Amitabh shake off that Mawaali image. Oh all right, since this is Italy we shall be charitable and call it the Sonny Corleone look.

7) Kiya Kiya Kya Kiya; Film : Welcome;
Place : Dubai, Asia

I can't believe I am about to say this is the best film so far. And with Nana Patekar & Anil Kapoor hamming it up, the song is catchy & entertaining. Do not miss the brief appearance of Feroz Khan, I share his hairstyle. There certainly are shots of Dubai in this song, but I can't be certain all of it is filmed there. Nevertheless, since the movie is based in Dubai, this complies with my rules. Remember I said reasoning based on "Bollywood Logic", and not something you would find in say "Causality, Models Reasoning and Inference" by Judea Pearl.

6) Kal Ho Na Ho; Film : Kal Ho Na Ho;
Place : New York, USA, North America

You certainly get a grand tour of New York, what with visuals of the Brooklyn Bridge, the various skyscrapers, Central Park & the Statue of Liberty. Pipe down New Jerseyites, yes that statue belongs to you; New Yorkers will retaliate "That's why its back is towards NJ". This song does advise you to "Live Life to the fullest", a sentiment heartily shared by New Yorkers. However, the film and the main thrust "Kal Ho Na Ho" i.e. "There May Not Be a Tomorrow" certainly misses the spirit of this city which firmly believes "There will always be a better and brighter tomorrow."
Apparently this SRK, Saif, Preity & Karan Johar film was a big hit with NRI's, I would any day prefer Woody Allen movies or The Godfather or Wall Street. But, I will admit the song is decent.

5) Phoolon Ke Rang Se; Film : Prem Pujari;
Place : Switzerland, Europe

Many readers may complain that DDLJ is the best example of songs in Switzerland, and would accuse me of rigging the rules just to get my favorite hero in here (Note I already assigned a song to SRK). Although DDLJ was certainly a better movie than Prem Pujari, this song is much better than any of the Switzerland/Europe DDLJ songs. And anyways personally I thought "Mehndi Lagake Rakhna" was the best DDLJ song, and it was shot in India. This best song in Prem Pujari is shot slightly off the beaten path, on the spectacular Meiringen to Grimsel Pass road. Even today few Bollywood Producers film songs in Alpine passes, and to have done so back in the late 60's/early seventies is certainly creditable.

4) Koi Jab Tumhara Hriday Tod De; Film : Purab Aur Paschim;
Place : England, Europe

This is the seminal Bollywood film about India-West differences in values and culture. Back in the early 70's its India being morally & spiritually superior to the West theme commanded a lot of attention and following. Note the suggestive "low morals" cigarette smoking blond Saira Banu being mentored (if mentored is the right word) by an "Indian" Manoj Kumar. One could probably write an entire thesis on this movie, touching on an independent India coming out of the shadows of its earlier ruler England, and fighting for recognition respect and equality. As time has passed and India & Indians have become more self-confident, the central theme has become less relevant. Still, one cannot deny the almost sublime nature of this song, and the "fits-like-a-glove" portrayal of then Indian attitudes towards England.

3) Tanhai; Film : Dil Chahta Hai;
Place : Sydney, Australia

Most Bollywood songs filmed abroad focus on love & romance, this one brilliantly introduces loneliness. For once a famous landmark (Sydney's famous Harbor bridge) is skillfully interwoven into a song's flow; and serves to emphasize the main point. The song is excellent, and Aamir proves himself to be amongst the rare "thinker" Bollywood heroes.

2) O Mere Shahe Khuban; Film : Love In Tokyo;
Place : Japan, Asia

This one (like Phoolon Ke Rang Se) would rank very high in just a list of songs. Add to it the exquisite Japanese countryside with blooming cherry blossoms, classic fountains, distinctive temples and looming mountains; one is almost tempted to get on the next flight going there. Asha Parekh is as lovely as always, but Joy Mukherjee is just competent; the lead couple being unimaginatively touristy is the main reason as to why this song is ranked #2 & not #1.
Also, this is one of those songs where I could use a good English translation; several words like Shahe Khuban, Jaane Janana, Justju, Iltaja, Sehrame, Jarro, Diyapha, etc. went over the head of this "Apun" "Kaiko" & "Khali-Peeli" learned author.

1) Raat Ke Humsafar; Film : An Evening In Paris;
Place : Paris, France, Europe

The first and most obvious reason for this song being #1 is most Bollywood songs filmed abroad are romantic and Paris is the ideal spot. Another genius touch is the focus on night-time Paris with fountain backdrops and that wonderful lighting. A complete lack of well-known tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc De Triomphe, and Champs Elysees is to put it mildly; brilliant. Consider the Eiffel Tower, arguably Paris' most famous landmark; but a significant number of French think it does not belong. I think it is slightly overrated, certainly standing in line and going up is to be avoided. Instead, visit the in-film shown Trocadero fountains and the not-shown adjacent gardens for a picnic lunch with wine.
It is often said that being a Parisian women is extremely difficult, not only do you have to be slim, beautiful and elegantly coiffured, but at times convey a haughty regal demeanor, and be ready to discuss Sartre or Camus while attired in a fetching swimsuit. Sharmila Tagore delivers all this including a then-modern "bouffant" hairstyle, and a fetching swimsuit in another song. Wikipedia informs us that the "bouffant" hairstyle was developed for Marie Antoinette, and 70's Bombay Film Magazines confirm the similarity by labeling her "La Tagore". Shammi Kapoor looks extremely handsome, and the pair look as if they have been living all their life in Paris.

Friday, October 16, 2009

10 "Over The Top" 1970's Bollywood Songs

The 1970's were a unique era in Bollywood, one that saw the first SuperStar, as well as the first dethroning of the reigning SuperStar with a "angry young man". Hindi films & stars, especially male, threw of the yoke of Hollywood with original styles. Some may charitably label them as somewhat unorthodox, others would use the stronger "certifiably lunatic". I prefer "Over The Top"; a phrase defined byWikipedia as "Bold; Beyond Normal, Expected, or Reasonable Limits; Excessive; Outrageous".
Supporters of these stars can use these songs as examples of their greatness, and simultaneously, their detractors can use them as examples of egregiousness. This, I suppose, is the beauty of these songs; and I might add of the entire 1970'sBollywood era.

I present 10 songs that fit this category, readers are encouraged to add their own.

10) Saala Main To Sahab Ban Gaya

Dilip Kumar made a career playing serious roles that won a lot of acclaim. Even a highly respected and seasoned star like him was not immune to the 70's "Over The Top" bug; and this song is a great example. Dilip has earlier alcohol related songs, and they are in keeping with his status; this one just crosses over the limit.

His colleague Dev Anand also has some songs that fit this category, one is from the Bullet --- "Bullet Bullet Bullet, Dekho Ye Kya Hai"

9) My Name is Anthony Gonsalves

The angry young man SuperStar Amitabh Bachchan won his title with several song-less films for his character. Then he did a 180-degree turnaround in "Amar Akbar Anthony"; with songs and a happy-go-lucky character. He perfected the "Bombay Mawaali", and this song typifies it. When this film was released, this song may have been just "Over The Top"; now it is a timeless classic.

8) Are Rafta Rafta Dekho Aankh Meri ladi Hai

Dharmendra borrows from another "Over The Top" star of Marathi films, Dada Kondke, the Marathi attire and song lines speak for themselves. Could this be a solution to the regionalism issue in India ?; a person immigrated from another region has to wear (at least once) a costume of the home region.

7) Gori O Gori Prem Karle, Aisa Premi Phir Na Milega

All Gori's are hereby ordered to loose their senses (er!, fall in love) by His Lordship the First Earl of Shotgun. Please remember this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, do not squander it. Who says Hindi Movies do not contain any originality ? I defy anyone to find the original Shatrughan Sinha in any other film industry.

6) Do Bechare Bina Sahare Dekho Pooch Pooch Kar Hare

Two yesteryear stars stuck in either serious (Ashok Kumar) or villain (Pran) roles, break out of the mold with zany performances. Their sense of comedy is quite hilarious, the scenes inside the mandir are a stroke of genius. Gratuitous addition of the eunuch & the main villain make this song go "Over The Top".

5) Sundari Aye Hai Sundari, Apun Ko Bhi Ek Nazar Dekho Na

Let us inventory this "gentleman's" assets :- a) A broken down cottage b) One flowery printed shirt c) A colorful scarf tied around the neck d) One pair of cheap sunglasses. e) Most probably a career in "import-export".
What more could any Sundari want ?

After Amitabh, Jeetendra was the best at playing the Bombay Mawaali; his defining song from the 80's movie Mawaali --- Main Hoon Mawaali

4) Jitna Zaroori Man Ka Milan, Tan Ka Milan Utna Hi Zaroori

Feroz Khan (may he rest in peace) was always oh so cool in his own productions, probably a sense of scientific exploration lead him to do this third-party film. He desires to perform some "birds & the bees" experiments with his in-film wife Rekha. Remember the hilarious scene between Anthony Hopkins & Hugh Grant in "Remains of the Day"; the one where AH explains "birds & the bees" to a young adult HG. Instead, AH could have shown this song to HG; all would have been clear. Or would it ? Remember this is 1970's Bollywood; and even with an "A" certificate all is you get to see is this pair dressed in garishly colored lungis rolling on the bed at arms length. But wait, there is a topless scene at the end of the song. OK simmer down, it is just Feroz.

3) Duniya Mein Logon Ko Dhokha Kabhi Ho Jata Hai

The then reigning SuperStar Rajesh Khanna emphatically creates a new mantra for the 70's. "Over The Top" costumes & songs earlier reserved for "comic" actors, can be the domain of heroes & heroines (That is Mumtaz in a blond wig). A recent cult hit "Kaminey" pays homage to the enduring "magic" of this song, by including it in its soundtrack. Rajesh's supporters probably have a hard time justifying this song, his detractors certainly have ammunition for their stance.

2) Naach Meri Jaan Faata Faat Faat

Mehmood defined "Over The Top" in the 60's, but in the 70's he took it to another level. The lyrics of this song (imploring a lady to shall we say "dance rapidly and at once"), and the colorful neon costumes certainly prove the case.

1) Guni Jano Re Bhakt Jano

The top spot has to be reserved for the most zany eccentric genius of them all, Kishore Kumar. Not only did he provide the playback voice for other stars in other movies, he himself acts and sings in this under-rated classic. Note the almost synchronized movements of the devotees, add to it a mild spoof of then Bollywood heroes, and subtle digs at the Taxman; this most certainly deserves the #1 spot.

I would like to add some of the inspirations for this post, something I should done earlier, but better late than never.
1) Shanti "The Reviewer's" post on "Tapori Songs" from another website.
2) Top Ten Song Posts of Memsaabstory.
3) Top Ten Song Posts of DustedOff
4) "Sita-Ji's" brilliant posts on Bollywood.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SuperScribbler Award

The Bestower

The Rules

Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to five most deserving blog friends.
1) Abba-Girl
2) Mr-Bharat
4) Aussie
5) Nano

Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author and the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.

Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog and link to the original post at The Scholastic Scribe which explains The Award.

Each blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit the original post at The Scholastic Scribe and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who wins This Prestigious Honor.

Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules to his/her blog.

Ava has written very eloquently about this award, and I cannot do better.
She is a very sophisticated and accomplished lady who reads voraciously, and writes in an unconventional & uplifting manner.
I hope there are more like her on these blogs.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Yet Another Tag

CP's latest tag

1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn on page 18 and find line 4.
This is not premature optimization; it is avoiding gratuitous pessimization.

2. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can & catch air?
Legends, A collection of Asha Bhosle CD's.

3. What is the last thing you watched on TV?
CNBC Talking Heads, what else

4. Without looking, guess what time it is?
12:15 am

5. Now look at the clock, what is the actual time?
12:27 am

6. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
Like CP, a fan; also some birds chirping.

7. When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
When I came home from the office, opening my garage door.

8. Before you started this Q&As, what did you look at?
Some songs on YouTube.

9. What are you wearing?
Jeans and a striped shirt, stripes just wider than pin-stripes.

10. When did you last laugh?
At work today.

11. What is on the walls of the room you are in?
A map of the world, a map of USA, several post-it notes (I really am not that geeky.)

12. Seen anything weird lately?
My passport photos, How come these and driving license photos always look weird.

13. What do you think of this quiz?
Becoming a tad repetitive.

14. What is the last film you saw?
Julie and Julia, recommended, hope to write a review soon.

15. If you became a multimillionaire overnight, what would you buy?
Depends upon from which direction,
Thousandaire -> Multimillionaire --- Services of a Tax Accountant.
Billionaire -> Multimillionaire --- Services of a Psychiatrist.

16. Tell me something about you that I dunno!
Like CP, I too hate to drive.

17. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?
Eliminate Corporate Taxes; Poverty will eventually be eliminated.

18. Do you like to Dance?
Yes, but all dancing efforts end in Amitabh's Mawali style.

19. Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?
We did name her Roma

20. Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him?
Name of our son, Jai

21. Would you ever consider living abroad?

22. What do you want GOD to say to you when you reach the pearly gates?
Since I do not believe in GOD; I hope "Fooled you didn't I ?" (instead of "Just exactly who do you want your neighbor to be in HELL ?")

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ava's Alphabet Tag

Answering Ava's Alphabet Tag, (Finally)

A – Available/Single? - Legally Married, but available for **** (My wife will be filling in the ****)
B – Best friend? - Several
C – Cake or Pie? - "Those who don't have bread can eat cake" (Marie Antoinette, circa way before I was born).
D – Drink of choice? - Wine, Cognac, Champagne, some Liqueurs
E – Essential item you use every day? – Wine Bottle Opener, a glass
F – Favorite colour? - Blue
G – Gummy Bears or Worms? - Neither.
H – Hometown – Summit (New Jersey, USA) & Mumbai (Maharashtra, India)
I – Indulgence? – My kids
J – January or February? - Neither, really cold & snows a lot
K – Kids & their names? - Roma & Jai
L – Life is incomplete without? - Taxes
M – Marriage date? - Present on my Marriage License.
N – Name? Your real name!! - Tumhara Naam Kya Hai Basanti ?
O – Oranges or Apples? - Both. Racked my brians to come up with a cool response, but no dice. "Woh Do The, Aur Phir Bhi Waapas Aye, Khali Haath".
P – Phobias/Fears? - "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" (FDR, March 4, 1933)
Q – Quote for today? - IBM @ 119.87, MSFT @ 23.79, US 30 YR @ 95-13+, Oil @ 73.00, Gold @ 950.80
R – Reason to smile? - Refer to D & E
S – Season? - Spring & Fall; unless you meant season food while cooking --- Yes with pepper & salt.
T – Tag 3 People? – Usually all tags stop with me, this is no exception.
U – Unknown fact about me? - This is real, I have never been drunk in my life.
V – Vegetable you don’t like? - Catsear, Chrysanthemum leaves, Dandelion, Epazote, Fat Hen, Garden Rocket, Good King Henry, Komatsuna, Kuka, Lagos bologi, Lizard's Tail, Melokhia, Sierra Leone bologi, Winter purslane.
You mean to say you have not tried Lagos bologi Paneer with Good King Henry parathas ? (
W – Worst habit? – I am "Bug-Free"; you pay for the features, all "bugs" are free.
X – X-rays? - Yes, A couple of hairline fractures
Y – Your favorite food? - French
Z – Zodiac sign? - Aries

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Women's Stormy Coming of Age Tale

Growing up with a grandmother who lets you in on her female anatomy maintenance secrets, at most is eyebrow raising material. Add to that a home in an exclusive suburb with a view of year-round snow capped mountains, in a country that is probably the worlds largest producer of caviar, saffron, pistachios and almonds. Throw in a possible fact, the world's earliest wine was discovered here; and Readers would be justified in asking "What is so Stormy about growing up here ?". Reasonable geography experts would have guessed by now, the country in question is Iran (Persepolis is an ancient Iranian city). And when the years are mid 1970's to the early 1990's, "stormy" should almost be self-explanatory.

Nominated for the 2007 Best Animated Film Oscar, Persepolis is based on an Iranian women's autobiographical book by the same name. The film is a stirring account of Marjane Satrapi's experiences from childhood to adulthood; spanning the Shah era, the Islamic revolution, the war with Iraq, and living in an Islamic Iran. Since Marjane eventually emigrated to and settled in France, the film is originally shot in French. Eminent performers lent their voice to the original; Chiara Mastroianni as Marjane, Catherine Deneuve as her mother, Danielle Darrieux as her Grandmother, and Simon Akbarian as her father. Filmed primarily as a flashback in black & white, while color is used to signify the present.

The 9 old Marjane leads a typical child's carefree life, worships Bruce Lee and considers herself a prophet. She likes and supports the Shah; but soon realizes that a revolution against him is in progress. Some history lessons from her father awaken her to the reality of the Shah's repressive and unjust rule, and she soon joins the opposition. She is exposed to unsettling episodes such as a shooting death of a young anti-Shah demonstrating neighbor. Political prisoners also enter her realization; a friend's father is released from jail, and she also hears about her jailed communist uncle Anoosh.

A year later the Shah abdicates his throne and leaves Iran, signaling victory for the revolutionaries. Her uncle Anoosh is released from prison, and times seem to be improving. Hopes of democracy and freedom abound, and young Marji spends a lot of time getting close to and learning a lot from uncle Anoosh. However, the first dark clouds arise on the horizon; in the form of election victors --- Islamic fundamentalists. They soon begin chipping away at the new found freedoms, such as introducing compulsory hijab for women; and re-arresting and executing uncle Anoosh for his communist beliefs.

War with Iraq exposes the young girl Marji to its horrors, and also brings more hardships and more intolerant measures from the ruling Islamists. Young Marji having learnt about resisting repression from her uncle Anoosh, now starts exhibiting a more non-conformist personality. She indulges in now banned black-market western music and clothes, and also speaks out vehemently against the pro-Islamic rule hypocrisies and outright lies being taught by her teachers. This naturally gets her into trouble; and fearing for her safety, her parents decide to send her to a boarding school in Vienna.

At the tender age of 14, a lonely teenager Marjane begins experiencing life in a foreign land. She is comforted by the freedoms and the large amounts of material goods available in the West. Her rebellious nature leads to clashes with the nuns in the convent residence, but that is simply resolved by moving to another paying guest accommodation. Several student friends enter her life, and over time she experiences puberty, male homosexuality, boyfriends, sexual initiation and heartbreaks. A defining moment is her realization of pride and love for home country, and she vigorously defends Iran to a bunch of dismissive Western students. This love for country soon makes her homesick and depressed, and one day she decides to return to Iran.

I have intentionally disclosed a little more of the plot than normal, but there is still more left about her struggle after returning to Iran. Intentionally, since the story in its most basic terms is probably the best presentation of Marjane's coming of age experiences. Making this as an animated movie enhances its impact, the viewer is always drawn to the innovative presentation. Animated movies have a reputation of being crafted for children, but this one will convince the viewer of their suitability for more adult-oriented themes. The directors (Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud) have effectively used animation as a means of presenting such a complex tale, and are helped by the fact that the book itself was in a graphical illustrated format.

Although the movie contains several dark moments, it is sprinkled with humor which elevates it into the near perfect and great category. You cannot but admire and laugh with Marjane when she confronts some of the neanderthal Islamic revolutionaries. She keeps this spunk even when dealing with Catholic nuns in a Western convent, and also with flippant Western students. Just to be impartial I believe she would have dealt with almost any fundamentalist in the same manner, and yes that implies Hindu chauvinists as well (Unsheathe those NU's).

A standout in the movie is the Grandmother, yes the aforementioned female anatomy secrets dispenser. Another strong outspoken character, she advises Marjane to get a divorce rather than endure a failed relationship. Her flashes of humor keep us entertained throughout the movie.

How to vigorously protest against repression and religious excess, and yet express love for and pride in ones country; is the enduring lesson of this movie. Marjane Satrapi upon winning a prize for this movie in Cannes reportedly said "Although this film is universal, I wish to dedicate the prize to all Iranians.". Iranians did not deserve the megalomaniac Shah, and do not deserve the current crop of Islamic Fundamentalists; here is hoping that someone like Marjane Satrapi is in their future.

1) Wikipedia

1) The Books Persepolis I & II by Marjane Satrapi, also in illustrated graphic format.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Another Tag

The rules for this tag are as follows:

1. Link the person who tagged you
2. The display of award on your blog with these rules
3. Reply to the questions below
4. Tag 7 people deserving the award according to you
5. Come back to BLoGGiSTa iNFo CoRNeR (PLEASE DO NOT CHANGE THIS LINK) at and leave the URL of your Post in order for you/your Blog to be added to the Master List

My Answers:

1. The Person who tagged you : CouchPapaya
2. His/her site’s url:
3. Date when you were tagged: 21st July 09
4. 7 people I tag are :- None, all I know have been tagged.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Crazy Merry Parsi Upbringing

"Sir I don’t know the Marathi word for subtlety", epitomizes the subtle humor abundant in Little Zizou, a film about two feuding Bombay Parsi men and their families. My often complaint with the well-made movies of Mira Nair are that they are heavy handed. Her scriptwriter Sooni Taraporewalla’s maiden venture is an unusually eclectic comedy, one that brings forth comparisons with "My Big Fat Greek Wedding".

The movie is narrated through the eyes of little Xerxes, the motherless son of a Parsi evangelist Cyrus Khodaiji. Xerxes has a passion for soccer player Zinedine Zidane, hence the name Little Zizou. His elder brother Artaxerxes is engrossed in creating cartoon like illustrations and building a Boeing 747-400 simulator with a group of zany friends. Artaxerxes also has a soft corner for neighbor Zenobia, the daughter of Cyrus’s arch-rival newspaper editor Boman Presswala. Boman and his wife Roxanne have two daughters, the elder Zenobia and the younger Liana.

Apart from the main theme of conflict between the religious con-man Cyrus and the liberal editor Boman, Little Zizou provides a warm glimpse into the lifestyle of Bombay Parsis. Shot mostly in English and Gujarati with some funny doses of Marathi and Hindi, this movie has a relaxed style mixed in with several episodes of eclectic humor. Although mainly a movie about Parsis, its theme of religious conflict is universal in nature. Some brilliant acting combined with interesting music and topped with skillful direction makes this a must-watch movie.

Boman Irani steals the show as the liberal newspaper owner-editor Boman Presswala, in more ways than one. Watching him dance is a feast for the eyes; he appropriately deserves the moniker "Parsi Travolta". In a promo Sooni Taraporewalla exclaims "After watching Boman most women over 35 would want to marry him". I cannot speak for any women (much less one over 35), but I wish I had a fraction of the charm, coolness and grace he exudes. He is utterly convincing and funny as a liberal Dad attempting to knock some sense into coming-of-age elder daughter Zenobia (Dilshad Patel). The rapport shared between him and his wife Roxanne (Zenobia Shroff) is another treat to watch. And finally, his confrontation scenes with Cyrus Khodaiji (Sohrab Ardeshir) are immaculate.

Imaad Shah as Artaxerxes delivers an intelligent finely nuanced performance. He is convincing as the slightly tormented geeky teenager/young adult. Especially worthy is his depiction of being rejected by Zenobia, and truly outstanding is the final confrontation with his father.

Zenobia Shroff as Roxanne effortlessly delivers a natural performance, one that does not miss a beat. She is equally at ease whether it is warm and fussy with Xerxes (Jahan Bativala), a little strict with Liana (Iyanah Bativala), or slightly indulgent with Boman.

The two little kids Jahan & Liana Bativala are adorable and a true find. They share an amazing chemistry with each other, and each play a different detailed character. Naturally Jahan has the bigger role, and he is superb at displaying longing for his dead mother, excels at fighting and bonding with his brother, and is in his element gaining favors from Aunt Roxy. Iyanah is at her best throwing irritated killer stares at Jahan.

Shernaz Patel as Miss Patel the assistant of Cyrus Khodaiji is absolutely hilarious and overshadows her boss. This is really the movie’s Achilles heel, the competent but not great performance of Sohrab Ardeshir as the dictatorial evangelist Cyrus Khodaiji. Sohrab tries hard, sometimes too hard, but just does not reach the necessary heights. Try as he might, and possibly due to his inexperience, he cannot shake the impression that in reality he is good at heart. What this role needed was someone more capable at playing an outwardly rule-bound and old fashioned religious purist but inwardly a con-man, someone such as Naseeruddin Shah. In Naseer’s hands the confrontations between Cyrus and Boman would have taken on a whole new dimension. As it stands, these confrontations are slightly insipid; with both Boman and Imaad towering over Sohrab.

Sooni Taraporewalla makes a commendable entry into direction; she handles her cast with great skill. Her writing prowess is clearly on display, with numerous intelligently etched scenes. Some drawbacks are her letting the movie be a little too indulgent at times, and the inability to extract an outstanding performance from Sohrab Ardeshir. However, taking into account her Harvard & NYU background; perhaps this was the real subtle message all along ---
"Wish Religious Extremists/Con-Men were this Inept".

Some cool, funny and eclectic incidents from the movie.
1) Artaxerxes exclaiming in a terrible Russian accent "The Russians are coming. Everybody from street". Adapted from a classic Alan Arkin line in the 1960’s Hollywood movie "The Russians are Coming ...".
2) On their first date, Artaxerxes taking Zenobia to a romantic wine dinner on a boat off the Gateway of India.
3) The subtle ending to the post party dance.
4) Brought in to fix a Boeing 747-400 simulator, the justification of Makarand the IITian’s qualifications.
5) Upon the newly arrived good-looking women accurately recognizing the Boeing 747-400 simulator, Artaxerxes’s foot-in-mouth question "Are you a stewardess ?" and its emphatic put down answer.

PS --- I still do not know the Marathi word for subtlety.

My Rating 3.5/5

Thursday, March 5, 2009

25 Things You Never Knew About Me

Thanks to Ava for tagging me.

1) My favorite color is blue. (typical male)
2) I am afraid of medical needles. When young I used to get dizzy given a couple of injections. (typical male)
3) I once piloted a small aircraft for about 3 min, and threw up the rest of the hour long flight. I suppose there ended my dream of ever going into outer space.
4) I cannot handle amusement park rides either, the worst was the space simulator @ EPCOT. My daughter sailed thru' it without a hitch, I was woozy for the next 3 hours.
5) I would very much like to look like my favorite Hindi actor Dev Anand, unfortunately the closest I resemble is Shetty. On second thoughts, that may not be so bad; remember that in those days only villains could really get close to heroines (really evil HeHeHe).
6) These are some Hindi movies I could not bear to see past the interval, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Dhoom (1 & 2), Bunty Aur Babli, Guru, KKKG, DevDas (with SRK).
7) Pt 6 for English would be Titanic, Da Vinci Code (actually slept thru it; can't believe a movie containing the Louvre, Versailles, Westminster Abbey, the English Countryside & Tom Hanks can be so bad), Matrix, Mission Impossible, Eyes Wide Shut.
8) The last movie I saw in a theater was "The Reader"; loved it; Kate Winslet deserves her Oscar. I recommend it to everyone, most certainly to book lovers.
9) I have never programmed a VCR, and probably will never do so.
10) I have yet to send a text msg (SMS) from a cell phone, although this is something I probably will do.
11) I have however programmed in FORTRAN using punched cards (IBM 370), in assembly(Intel 8085, Z-80), & paper tape (PDP-11).
12) The first email I sent must have been in the mid-1980's.
13) The first on-line blog I posted on was soc.culture.india (early 1990's, and using text editors, graphical internet browsers were not invented yet.). This blog had the 2nd highest traffic in those days (naturally the 1st was; "more talk less action" was the theme common to both.)
14) Although I have spent the last 14+ years developing Real-Time Fixed Income & Derivative Trading Systems for Wall Street, I have yet to personally trade any security.
15) One of my favorite Wall Street trader story is on Dec 31 1999, a trader told me to take the rest of the millennium off.
16) I was in New York City on Sep 11 2001.
17) My favorite card game is Bridge, although have not played it in a long long time.
18) My favorite sports are Cricket & American Football; again have not played either in a very long time.
19) Currently, bicycling, mountain climbing, and swimming are my physical activities.
20) I have julienned vegetables, made a bouquet garni, baked a quiche and roasted whole turkeys and chickens.
21) My favorite food-wine pairing is Salmon with a Red Burgundy.
22) The less said about my artistic abilities, the better.
23) I cannot play any musical instrument.
24) Although I do not believe in palmistry (or astrology or religion); I do have "The Simian Line" on my right hand.
25) I share my birth month (April) with Adolf Hitler & Saddam Hussein. My birth year had significant military episodes in both the countries I have been a citizen off (India-China War, The Cuban Missile Crisis.) [No, this is not a plot for Omen 17 1/2]

I cannot think of anyone to tag (all I know have been tagged); hence stopping for now.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Explanation/Prediction of the Financial Crisis

Amitabh (Vijay Gupta) in his first meeting with Sanjeev Kumar says "Main Paanch Lakh Ka Sauda Karne Aaya Hoon Aur Meri Jeb Mein Paanch Phooti Kaudi Nahin Hain".

Now fast forward to the early 2000's to a hypothetical US homebuyer (say VJ Gutkowski) in say Las Vegas --- "I have come to buy this Five Hundred Thousand $ House, and I have No Down Payment."

Sanjeev Kumar (a builder of homes and owner of Raj Constructions) agrees to sell the plot to Amitabh. Upon hearing that Amitabh is going build a colony of houses on that plot, a financiar Prem Chopra agrees to lend five lakh rupees.

In the USA, Sanjeev Kumar and his company would be any homebuilding company; and Prem Chopra could be a well known investment bank. VJ Gutkowski was categorized as SUBPRIME, and probably held an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM). His reasoning was "House prices are rising and I will probably sell this house before the ARM resets to a higher rate.". The investment bank took his mortgage and other similar mortgages and securitized them, i.e. created mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and collateralized debt obligations (CDO).

Amitabh creates his own construction company (Shanti Constructions), and begins competing against Sanjeev Kumar. Both attempt to purchase more land to build more houses, and end up bidding against each other at a land auction. The net result is an inflation in land prices, with Amitabh outbidding Sanjeev and wildly overpaying. Revenge is Amitabh's reason for doing so, he was born out-of-wedlock and Sanjeev is his father.

Spurred by the low interest rate policy favored by the US Federal Reserve (US Central Bank) many people (PRIME as well as SUBPRIME) rush to buy homes. Since MBS & CDO's diversify risk and increase profitability, Investment banks make home lending a priority. This causes land and home prices to inflate, leading VJ Gutkowski and other Americans buy more houses. Note that the initial impetus to the housing bubble may have been different (Trishul-Revenge Vs. USA-Low-Interest-Rates-MBS-CDO's); but the effects are similar.

The Indian Govt. creates a scheme to promote affordable housing, and both Amitabh and Sanjeev tender bids. Using underhanded means (gets the senior Govt. official to believe that Amitabh is trying to bribe him), Sanjeev Kumar wins the bid. An incensed Amitabh purchases all the available adjacent land and advertises his intent to build sell and better houses at half the price. This naturally leads to a collapse in housing prices, and brings a lot of trouble for Raj Constructions. Suppliers start demanding immediate payment and investors/bankers are loath to lend any further money. Sanjeev Kumar has to mortgage his home and office in order to borrow money to keep his business afloat.

What the Federal Reserve gives, the Federal Reserve taketh away. From 2004 to 2006, the Fed hiked the Fed Funds rate from 2.0 to 5.25; thereby effectively pricking the US housing bubble. Homebuyers saw their house prices collapse and simultaneously their ARM's adjusted to a higher rate of interest. Many subprime homeowners defaulted on their mortgages, and this lead to an increase in losses on the underlying MBS & CDO's. To prevent further losses, Banks began to tighten lending standards.

Sanjeev Kumar enlists the help of Prem Chopra to try and prevent Amitabh's colony from being built. Prem also controls cement distribution, and refuses to supply Amitabh. An enraged Amitabh informs the police who promptly sieze Prem's assets. Prem and Sanjeev gang up and plot to kill Amitabh. Meanwhile, Amitabh has purchased all of Sanjeev's mortgages and IOU's; and in a grand gesture returns them back to Sanjeev. After the obligatory fight scenes, the movie ends with Sanjeev sacrificing his life, and Shanti & Raj Constructions merging to creating Shanti-Raj Constructions.

Remember that Prem Chopra in the US is an investment bank, and one that is deeply affected by the housing/MBS/CDO collapse. This investment bank declares bankruptcy, leading to a severe credit crunch. Again different reasons for the discontinuation of Prem Chopra/Investment Bank; but again the effects are similar --- credit crunch.

A reader may well insist that no such credit crunch happened in the movie, if anything in the movie "All's well that ends well". But did all really end well ? Note that the two merged companies still owned a surplus of houses that were rapidly depreciating. Also, Amitabh must have had to go into debt to be able to buy all of Sanjeev's debt (note that in a distressed environment even his assets must have collapsed.). Add to this fact that one major financier had disappeared and others will unwilling to lend --- has to result in a credit crunch.

OK, OK, OK; this economic stuff may finally be too much for some people --- peace.
Trishul happens to be one of my favorite Amitabh Bachchan movies. I apologize for taking some liberties in this review, my intentions were to try and explain the circumstances leading to the current financial crisis. Both Amitabh and Sanjeev deliver powerful performances, and are ably supported by Shashi Kapoor, Hema Malini & Rakhee.

On a more serious note, to better understand some of the issues and some possible solutions; I recommend the following books/sites.

1) Structured Finance & Collateralized Debt Obligations - Janet M. Tavakoli.
2) Monetary History of the United States - Milton Friedman & Anna Schwartz
3) Essay in the Great Depression - Ben Bernanke
4) Writings and Commentary of NYU Prof. Nouriel Roubini (

Some definitions
SUBPRIME - Persons with an irregular or incomplete salary history, probably had a bankruptcy in the past. (FICO score < 620)

ARM - A mortgage whose interest rate changes at pre-defined points in time. The new rate is a fixed spread added to well-known rate such as LIBOR.

MBS - A bond that pays interest and principal from the monthly mortgage payments of the underlying pool of mortgages.

CDO - A derivative instrument that uses MBS and other securities.