Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ghitorni and Karan Johar

So Delhi it is.

For many people, Delhi is an excellent place to live as long as you're equipped with the basics of life, like multiple firearms, huge stacks of banknotes, large cars, political power, corruption, and, well, that organ of the body whose enlargement procedures often turn up in the form of raunchy pictures on illegal movie download pages. Also, chauvinism is optional, but it does make you feel like a proper Delhi-ite.

Having said all that, the average Delhi-ite isn't really a bad person. He rides the metro, eats a lot of rajma and pneer (paneer for anyone outside Delhi), makes the most wonderful kababs, and takes a lot of pride in living in the capital of the country.

I was asleep in my guest-house, rather peacefully, on a Sunday morning, as all mortal working people are supposed to do. There was a call. Two, actually. However, they ended up being missed calls, since I was doing what every sensible person does on a Sunday morning - which is to cuddle up against a stack of pillows and dream of Mila Kunis.

It was, of course, Bimbabati the Short. She and Satrajit the Tall (both from Patha Bhavan, and hence very cool individuals) wanted to go to a Film Festival at Siri Fort. The worrying bit was that they were keen on taking me as well, for whatever reason.

The schedule read thus:

Auditorium II:
3.30 PM - Dharmputra (A national award-winning Yash Chopra movie that almost no one I know has seen)
6 PM - A discussion panel on 100 Years of Indian Cinema, featuring the four directors of Bombay Talkies: Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar, and Zoya Akhtar.
7 PM - The premiere of Bombay Talkies.

Auditorium III:
1.30 PM - Shonar Kella
4.30 PM - Ghare Baire

Blanket rule: everything was free and open to all, but entry was strictly on a first-come-first-serve basis.

I had long, in-depth, somewhat intriguing conversation with Bimbabati the Short (who shall subsequently be referred to as Bimbabati) and Satrajit the Tall (who shall be referred to as Satrajit the Tall anyway: tall, big-hearted people deserve long names).

There was another critical parameter, though. Bimbabati's maid had not arrived, and without her, that wonderful girl's life was as useless as a dyslexic spell-checking application. So the three of us had another discussion from various locations in Delhi, and built a priority list:
Top priority: Bimbabati's maid; the entire schedule will be laid out as per her arrival
Second priority: The premiere of Bombay Talkies
Third priority: The discussion panel
Fourth priority: Shonar Kella
Fifth priority: Ghare Baire
Sixth priority: Dharmputra

There was a catch, though. As mentioned before, the entire Film Festival worked on a first-come-first-serve  basis; this meant that if Priority Two needed to be met, we also had to sit through Priority Three, which was not a problem. However, this also meant that Priority Six had also to be met - since we needed to be on time for Priority Three.

This meant that we had to sacrifice Priority Five. We could have done Priority Four and then moved on to Six (and then move on to Three and Two, in that order), but then, Priority One took over. The Maid did turn up sufficiently late for everyone to skip Priority Four.

At this point everything was laid out perfectly: we meet at Green Park Metro Station at 3 PM, watch Dharmputra from 3.30 PM (obviously, reaching before that didn't make any sense: after all it was Dharmputra - and who cared about Dharmputra?).

***

This meant that I could not sleep past 1 PM, which was a tough ask on a Sunday morning with no chore to attend to (including consumption of a breakfast largely comprising of butter- or ghee-rich parathas). So I slept on and on, till I was woken up by that ridiculous alarm tone of mine that could have driven Gautam Buddha mad enough to strangle Bimbisar or whoever existed in his proximity.

I woke up, had a light lunch (by NCR standards), and set off. I took one of those overpriced little green monsters (that are affectionately referred to as auto-rickshaws in this part of the world), reached the metro station, and boy, was I impressed!

It was nothing like the Kolkata Metro, which, I must remind everyone, had started in 1984, and at that time, was voted the the best metro in the world by BBC. However, they haven't really evolved in the subsequent years, and currently looks as out of place as Dev Anand and his mufflers would do in a Durjoy Datta book.

The Delhi Metro, though, is completely on another planet: it's convenient, ticket counters are aplenty, the trains are frequent and comfortable, the announcements are clear, the overall look is quite snazzy, and unlike the linear route of its Kolkata counterpart, it connects the entire city and its four adjacent towns in an intricate network. When I was in Delhi fifteen years back, travelling to Old Delhi from Katwaria Sarai ('Kats' for us) usually involved the same time taken by a newborn to reach a midlife crisis, but these days the distance is covered in a jiffy.

So, Delhi Metro is cool. The train arrived. The doors opened. I stepped inside. The doors closed. I found a seat (this was Sunday afternoon). There was a petite, pretty girl seated next to me reading Amish Tripathi (which, I guess, is a rather common spectacle in a Delhi Metro), leaving me torn between two very strong emotions.

Now, don't get me wrong on Amish Tripathi. He has excellent business strategies, and has a huge fan-following: it's just that I do not like his style. Maybe I'm jealous of his success the way I am of Durjoy Datta's.

Anyway, back to bigger things. The train was traversing the long stretches of green that Delhi has always been. And then, after a few halts, it reached a station called Ghitorni.

Ghitorni.

Now, when I was in Mumbai (rather non-affectionately referred to as paawpuri by me in the past), I had come across some horrible-sounding names, like Ghatkopar, Chinchpokli, or Koparkhairane, and Bangalore has her very own Bannerghatta. But I guess Ghitorni takes the cake.

Ghitorni. Ghitorni. Ghitorni. Ghitorni. Ghitorni. Ghitorni. Ghitorni. Ghitorni. Ghitorni.

Just hearing the name a few times may make you want to jump from a multi-storeyed building, then poison yourself, then hang yourself from the nearest ceiling fan, swim in a lake with giant weights tied to your feet, and then sit casually on the red bench-looking rail of a metro track.

Or worse, go on a lifetime diet of oats, peanut butter, and boiled beetroots. Listening to Himmesh Reshammiya. Reading Amish (there I go again). Watching Fard... oh well, forget it. You get the idea, though.

But still, Ghitorni.

***

Anyway, I got down at Green Park, and was soon joined by the other two. And then, off we went in an auto - the three of us - the very tall youth, the very short youthess, and the very overweight I. The auto meandered through the alleys of the city that boasts of Rahul Gandhi and Jyoti Randhawa, arguably the two most envied males in India right now.

Anyway, we reached Siri Fort, and then bumped against a wall as hard as brick and as contour-free as Arjun Rampal. No, not literally.

THE BOMBAY TALKIES PREMIERE HAS BEEN CANCELLED.

No, I kid you not. They had advertised the premiere on their website all along. That was also the chief reason behind us dragging ourselves from the comfort of our beds. And now, it has been cancelled. And replaced by a 24-minute short film called Bawra Mann based on an extremely convoluted plot revolving around an author who writes erotica.

What was worse, they did not provide anybody with a reason anywhere. No one bothered, either. This, after all, was the city where Chetan Bhagat's first novel was based. The second one too (or was it somewhere else?).

We had a quick discussion. What came first? Sitting through Priority Six (which would guarantee a seat for Priority Two), or Priority Five, which would get over in an-hour-and-a-half or so (but would virtually rule out an availability of seats for Priority Two)?

***

We went for the first.

But before that, let me elaborate on the foyer. You have to give it to the organisers. It was a very informative display, starting from the history of cinema to the regional movies, complete with interactive small screens. The information was so vivid that it even had Tapas Pal's name on it. Beat that.

Dharmputra, as it turned out, was a quite decent movie, though it had seven very, very lengthy songs. It involved BR Chopra's trademark title music, a bearded Ashok Kumar, a very thoughtful Manmohan Krishna, a young, vivacious Nirupa Roy, a perpetually crying Mala Sinha, a slim Deven Varma, a rare sighting of Indrani Mukherjee, and a very skinny Shashi Kapoor making a topless appearance.

But all in all, a controversial plotline and a powerful script that had caused a lot of uproar in the early 1960s (including riots at the theatres) - and possibly an example of what Yash Chopra could have been like, had he not been lured by European grasslands covered with tendrils of smoke where women in chiffon sarees either sing or whisper to each other.

That, and the information that a temple is also called butkhana ('but' should be pronounced like 'put', but with a soft T - somewhat like বুৎ or बुत). That was probably the high point of the movie.

We did not get seats, though - as a surprisingly high number of people had turned out to watch Dharmputra, which is a quite intriguing fact: Satrajit the Tall, Bimbabati, and I kept on discussing the probable reason for this. Could they have taken the same strategy as we had? Could that many Delhi-ites have realised that the only one to catch the talk show was to sit through Dharmputra (which turned out to be a rather good movie in the end)?

Anyway, we sat to the left of the audience - on the ground - and soon became immersed in the movie. We could not leave for any reason, since the ground seats were in demand as well. All in all, fond memories of film festivals came to my mind, as we shared a single Pepsi purchased by Bimbabati at the foyer.

Somewhere around the Interval (when the word INTERVAL became etched in blood on the screen), a not-too-slim woman started a commotion at one of the side-gates; a few security guards became busy, and she had to be ushered out of the auditorium.

However, as Dharmputra approached a breathtaking climax, Bimbabati, bless that girl, somehow managed to overhear a few stray comments - something related to the fact that the talk show was being shifted to Auditorium I (which was scheduled not to host anything for the day).

This was serious. Surely they couldn't do this to us? I got up and confirmed with one of the guards, and yes, it had indeed been shifted to Audi I (the abbreviation they used to refer to Auditorium I). So we got up and rushed to beat the rest of the Dharmputra audience to Audi I.

***

Despite a rather overweight, middle-aged woman's desperate attempts to misdirect us, we found our way to the humongous Auditorium I - and, surprise, surprise - we even found seats!

There we were, perched atop comfortable push-back seats, waiting for Anurag Kashyap and the rest of the quatret to appear on stage. A heron-like woman clad in a sari kept on announcing (about 771 times or so) that the premiere of Bombay Talkies has been cancelled, and people should take their seats for the discussion panel to take place.

And then, just when we thought nothing could go wrong from there - the girl on stage brought out what she definitely thought was a winning smile, and announced the names of the guests: Kaveree Bamzai of India Today (who was supposed to anchor the show), Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee, and - hold your breath - Dhritiman Chatterjee.

I had half-expected Jai Arjun to host the show. I could not think of anyone more appropriate. But then, you get what you get.

THERE WAS NO ANURAG KASHYAP. HE HAD APPARENTLY LEFT EARLY FOR A FLIGHT.

Now, I have nothing against Dhritiman Chatterjee. If anything, I admire him a lot for his performance in Pratidwandi. But, then, this was supposed to be a talk show on Bombay Talkie, a movie to commemorate a hundred years of Indian cinema - and it was only appropriate that the four directors would assemble together.

Less than 24 hours ago, Diptakirti had given me a first-hand account of how Anurag Kashyap had pulled out of another discussion panel. On that occasion he had been waiting for the scripts of Gangs of Wasseypur to arrive from Spain (his luggage had been misplaced). I just hope that we get to see a masterpiece at our expense, and become a part of history.

I guess you should not expect any more from a city that goes vegetarian once a week because The Great Ape was born on that day.

Anyway, the talk got under way. To her credit, Ms Bamzai held her self quite well among the stars, and so did Dhritiman. It was enlightening to learn that Dhritiman had acted in movies in two different South Indian languages, and Karan Johar used to watch movies in a loop, and was inspired greatly by Guru Dutt. Karan Johar was smart, Dibakar Banerjee quite witty ("you don't have to clap after everything"), Zoya Akhtar dignified, and Dhritiman Chatterjee insightful. All in all, a good session.

***

After the discussion panel the audience was asked to ask questions - which is when the real fun began. The first question came from a random person, who asked Karan Johar "Sir, I have written a script on a Muslim girl - how do you think I should make it into a movie in Mumbai?"

I guess I should mention here that this followed a long, heated discussion on censorship, mostly related to the restrictions they had to face from the Governments of various states and multiple religious groups. It was unanimously accepted that such restrictions were beneath normal individuals, and everyone trying to make a mark as a filmmaker had to face such hurdles.

Obviously, such a question did not go very well with the men on the stage. Karan Johar snapped back  immediately, asking him whether he had tried at all. Dibakar Banerjee was less polite, when he retorted that if the only salient feature of the script was the fact that it was based on a Muslim girl (the man mentioned nothing other than that), then it was a doomed script to begin with. Zoya Akhtar maintained her dignified self., and Dhritiman looked somewhat bored, with a what-am-I-doing-here look.

After a couple of more questions came the killer question (amidst a lot of boos): "ye jo aajkal ke movies mein itni chhoti kapde pehne ladkiyon ko dikhayi jaati hai, ye jo vulgarity hoti rehti hai, iske baare mein aap kuchh nahin kar sakte?" (Can't you do something about the fact that women in contemporary movies wear revealing attire, and the amount of vulgarity has increased with time?)

All hell broke loose. Zoya Akhtar could not hold herself back anymore. For someone who sat somewhat quietly for the past hour or so, she showed surprising aggression, and virtually ripped the man apart. In fact, she shouted so much that her words became almost indecipherable.

Karan Johar reacted as well: he simply asked the guy the name of the last Bollywood movie the man had watched, in response to which he simply stammered. But it was Zoya who really ripped him apart:
Aapne Agneepath dekhi hai? (Have you watched Agneepath?)
Jee haan. (Oh yes.)
Kiyun? Kiyun ki aapne chikni Chameli dekhi thi TV pe; aur phir aap dekhne chale gaye. (Why exactly? I'll tell you why - because you had seen chikni Chameli on TV and then went to watch it on big screen.)

The man kept quiet. Someone (one of Karan Johar and Zoya Akhtar) yelled "you think just like a rapist!" The auditorium responded in a tremendous applause. It took me some time to realise that I was staring open-mouthed, gasping at the audacity of the man: making such statements in a group, or among peers was something else: how on earth did he muster such courage to ask such questions in person?

Is this what the world has come to? The moral police doesn't only attack in group, they stand up - alone in an ocean of (supposedly) educated people - and voice their opinions, attacking a few renowned film personalities in public? Mind you, I'm not a Karan Johar fan - I never was - but that's not the point: whatever be the quality of art, it should not be restricted. Certainly not by a bunch of morons whose sole purpose for watching movies is to ogle at women's cleavages during item numbers.

I wonder what Anurag Kashyap would have done to him.

The rest passed peacefully (though there was a roar of laughter when one of the enquirers presented himself as Dr Rajinikanth), and everyone left in peace. The heron-like woman (can I call her Heronica?) announced the end of the discussion panel, and we left.

***

There was a small bit left, though. The foyer was decorated with The Master's artwork - including the rarest of print commercials (Satrajit the Tall took a few pictures) I have never seen before. There were book illustrations, book covers, movie posters. There were even photographs clicked by Him. It was only fitting that I am writing this on his birthday.

We headed for Hauz Khas Village for a hearty meal, but that is another story.

***

PS: I had to pass Ghitorni again on my way back.

Ghitorni. Ghitorni.

***

PS 2: Ghitorni should be pronounced as ghee-tore-knee.

56 comments:

  1. Overall, an enjoyable-as-usual word-picture of your experience at Siri Fort. You passed through my old stomping ground, so to speak. I was transported once again to those days of mine.

    Your narrative could, however, have easily done without the gratuitous mentions of the weight and body-shapes of various women you encountered during your sojourn.

    These were rather cheap shots, perhaps designed to elicit cheap laughter at the expense of those people. This is a move more in line with the ethos of a Chetan Bhagat or an Amish Tripathi, but surely - as one would have expected - this is beneath your dignity? Your writing is amazing enough to stand tall without the deplorable crutch of fat-shaming and othering of these human beings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the nice words.

      As for the women, they were not, well, 'cheap' shots. They were merely honest, innocent observations.

      But yes, I will keep that dignity bit in mind. Thanks for the honest opinion.

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. Thank you, and welcome back to my blog. I missed your presence.

      Delete
  3. Wow, this writeup goes in as one of my favourites.Extremely alive, fresh and well written.

    PS: A lifetime diet of peanut butter is actually a great thing :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Peanut butter tastes like the excreta of an armadillo. I'm sure about this.

      Of course, thank you for the nice words. Unlike my usual articles, this was a very slow one, and took more concentration than usual.

      Delete
    2. That's definitely not true. Thing is, it just needs some enhancements. Not everything is as perfect as Nutella after all.

      Delete
    3. Hmph. Peanut butter is an uglier and way, way, way, way, way inferior version of Nutella.

      BTW, if you're wondering how to scrape the last traces of Nutella off the jar (even after you're through with pushing the finger in every possible corner), here's an idea: put ice-cream in it, allow it to melt, pour it out, and re-freeze.

      Delete
    4. how do u know? have u ever tasted armadillo excreta? peanut butter is just yummy....

      I'm not sure but this must be one of your longest blogs

      Delete
    5. I said "I'm sure of this", as opposed to "I know this".

      And I guess I have written many longer blog posts, mostly on mythology or fiction.

      Delete
    6. Nutella and peanut butter are both yummy; someday try mixing them together to experience bliss.

      Delete
    7. I will not contaminate Nutella. And this is not exactly a place to discuss recipes.

      Delete
  4. I do similar thing to scrape off the last bit of Nutella from its jar, actually, I normally add French pressed strong coffee, not a bad choice I believe, if not as good as adding Vanilla ice-cream instead. But already I get much of my share of reprimands for eating too much Nutellas, so coffee might be better for me.

    And one should write an ode to Nutella jars. Be it 100 g. small tumbler or the big one, that 200 g. jar; in this dark age of pet bottles they are few of the goodness of the old world that are still left behind.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. However, I would have preferred them to be wider, flatter, and without any contour. It may have brought a remarkable change to the world.

      Delete
    2. Mukherjee da, then buy the 100 g. jars in bulk. They are dainty. https://www.capriflavors.com/images/Nutella_ferrero_made_in_italy.jpg

      Delete
    3. No. You won't tempt me. You are aware of my girth.

      Delete
    4. Girth-wala bypar i botey. Ghitorni, I just remembered, I had this obsession with the word and the thing called "Ghritokumari"; why on earth someone named Aloe Vera as such? Beats me. It doesn't go with the disposition of the plant Aloe and its utility.

      Delete
    5. I have no idea as well. Mane, what relationship does it have with ghee?

      This is like calling a walrus (and not a sea-horse) shindhughotok.

      Delete
    6. yup. sea-horse, sindhughotok aar "daria-i-ghora" - all of them are different species.

      in fact , hojmi guliteo deoa thakto - iha gora-lebu, jooaan, ghritokumari diye prostut, iha bayunashok. As if, Ghritokumari is a kind of mythical virgin butter, and it heals belly ailments.

      Delete
    7. eini Dariya-i-ghora :http://bramanswanderings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/20120613-214721.jpg

      Delete
    8. What, in the name of the left half of Poirot's moustache, is this? :O

      Delete
  5. BTW,you don't like 'Snickers' that much, I presume.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And no, I do not like Snickers a lot. I prefer either dark or white chocolates. Nothing in between. I guess I am from a bygone era.

      Delete
    2. deep fried Mars with extra Caramel, it's the junk food befitted for gods.

      Delete
    3. Salads. Boiled vegetables. That's what I'm supposed to have.

      Delete
    4. Knacha Salad o marattok jinish. Onek ke Albendazole er dose nite hoy, beshi knacha shaak-pata khele.

      Delete
    5. Na. Emni salad. Ar boiled vegetables. The occasional boiled chicken.

      Delete
  6. Sidhuism er por Abhiism. Tui parish.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ki naam.

    Ghitorni Ghitorni Ghitorni!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed. Try repeating the name a dozen times, and you may feel like banging your head against the nearest wall.

      Delete
  8. Asmanyo...
    Observations:
    1. tall, big-hearted people deserve long names--- Thanks... Tapabrata is even longer than Satrajit!

    2. Fardin Khan is replaced by his able substitution Durjay Dutta

    3. Heron to Heronica... ehh? Here's the google search result for Veron: https://www.google.co.in/search?q=veron&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=k_aDUZjtDIKurAfp_oGQBw&biw=1366&bih=667&sei=nPaDUYzkH47orQfSwYDACg

    4. Chena lok-eder niye lekha porte sob somoy i darun lage!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1. Tapabrata, you possibly mean taller.
      2. Fardeen Khan is not replaceable.
      3. Anyone resembling a heron should definitely be called Heronica. No doubts about that.
      4. Agree 100%. Ritanjaner golpota porechhili?

      Delete
  9. Ghitorni. Ghitorni. Ghitorni.

    btw, when I went to Barcelona, a man kept on speaking about a place called Girona. Girona. Girona.

    And why on EARTH would you go to a discussion panel , well , if the premier was cancelled?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We got to know that the premiere was cancelled only after we reached the venue. The discussion panel was the next best thing. :(

      Delete
  10. a bit of heads up if you ever decide to visit pune. they have places called chinchwad, hinjwadi, aundh, baner, kothrud, magarpatta to name a few :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the heads-up. Pune sounds mouth-watering. I need to go visit Pune ASAP, it seems.

      Delete
  11. Ah,another post on city.
    After Kolkata and Mumbai,this time it's Delhi.
    I live in Delhi and attended college here.
    What made you come to Delhi? What are the good things about our NCR?

    Dhari

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, paapi pet ka sawaal.

      I have mentioned a few good things about NCR. More coming up, as and when I explore the city (cities) more.

      Delete
  12. Delhi,Delhiites,Delhigiri,brought a whole lot of memories back. Wonderful article,as usual you have an uncanny capability to bring a smile back on my face.Jio!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. But never forget Ghitorni. I repeat, Ghitorni.

      Delete
  13. Ghitorni...Weird name indeed...but the sight of delightful cozy restaurant with Kashmiri cuisine just next to the station..' Kashmiri Kitchen'.. is a pleasant sensation..

    Good one...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the hat tip. Is the food any good, or is it just about the delightful cosiness?

      Delete
    2. Food is ' different'.. good in a subtle way i guess..not the usual Delhi tomato onion stuff.. distinct flavour, mild taste.. and the best part all non veg...:)

      Delete
    3. Is the taste subtle? I love food with a subtle, proportionate blend of spices.

      Delete
  14. Don't you miss your Delhi days?
    How long will you be in Delhi?
    It was for a reason britishers shifted their capital from kolkata to delhi.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I miss my Delhi days? I did not stay in Delhi long enough to miss it - and whenever I was in Delhi I stayed inside a campus, which is hardly equivalent to staying in the city.

      Delete
  15. ...and what's the hype with bombay talkies?
    Dus kahaniyan also had directors coming together for such a venture.Or darna mana hai.Lesser known,but better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I loved Dus Kahaniyaan. Darna Mana Hai had one director, though Darna Zaroori Hai had many.

      But Bombay Talkies is better than all these. All the four movies are about cinema, and the best bit is - all the movies have been above a certain standard.

      Delete

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