A woman with the potential to make it big. It is not that she cannot: she simply will not.
The closest anyone has come to being an adopted daughter.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Women, Five

This is a post on women, which, by definition, makes this a serious post. In my opinion, all blog posts published on Women's Day are supposed to be based on women. Yes, I know that this is not Women's Day, but that's hardly relevant.

The objective is to choose The Five Famous Women in my life. Ideally, I would have called them The Famous Five Women, but had I done that, Mary Pollock may have cringed in her grave.

Let me make this clear first: these are not women I know personally. These are famous women who have affected me in some way or the other in various phases of my life. Doing the same on known people would be as foolish as a unicorn trying to cook a sausage using its horn.

The list is probably supposed to cross something like a hundred, but I will restrict it to five. Five seems to be a cool number. It's odd, it's prime, and it's a four-letter word that begins with F. It also rhymes with words that mean a lot to me,like jive.

As mentioned above, this is going to be a serious topic. There will be no intentional silly jokes, puns, or even passes at Fardeen Khan. I promise you that. I even forhans and colgate.

There are multiple reasons for me liking these wonderful individuals. Of course, there are multiple reasons for me liking other women as well. For example, there are two very good reasons for liking Ayesha Takia, and a few other ladies as well. On the other hand Lisa Sthalekar was a legendary all-round cricketer who batted, bowled, and fielded well, writes insightful articles, and has an excellent sense of humour. However, she did not exactly have an impact on me, so she doesn't qualify.

This, then, is an ode to The Five. In chronological order, they are:

Dame Agatha Christie
"I specialize in murders of quiet, domestic interest."

The above quote is enough to fall in love with anyone, man or woman, tall or short, blind or blonde, homosexual or heterosexual, shoe size five or nine.

One of the reasons that I repent not being born, say, seventy-five years back, is the fact that I was not a contemporary of Dame Christie. To make things worse, she had passed away a year before I was born - so any chance of having a conversation with her did not happen (like that would have happened if I was, indeed, her contemporary).

The only way, thus, of reaching out to Dame Christie's brilliant mind was through her books. She was the Queen of Mysteries - and even if you leave out Parker Pyne, and Tommy and Tuppence, you still get two major detectives - the likes of which have arguably never been replicated in the history of literature.

There have been writers richer in language (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) or in philosophy (GK Chesterton). Both Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown are peerless personalities. Perhaps, from a critic's point of view, Dame Christie would probably have come third in the list.

However, in terms of weaving a logical plot - and, more importantly - the characterisation of her two protagonists, she has been peerless. Despite all his eccentricities, you cannot help but fall in love with Poirot (and by that I do not mean David Suchet). And Miss Marple, well, could well have been your grandmother's friend from next door.

What set Dame Christie really apart from her peers, was the step-by-step way in her stories unfolded. It almost seemed that you were working on a mathematical problem when you worked your way through the labyrinth of her plot. Seldom has an author been able to write book after book - so logical in structure, so gripping despite the unassuming style of writing, and left the reader so gaping for the climax.

It would have been fun. I mean this. I can really see myself sitting in front of her in front of a fireplace (fireplaces are cool), as she would read the stories out to me in various stages, placing a bet that I would win a fortune for every error I would have been able to point out in the plot; and lose every time.

But unfortunately, as she has mentioned, "The best time to plan a book is while you're doing the dishes."


Diane Keaton
For a long time in his career, Woody Allen, the next thing to God in terms of script-writing, had written his scripts entirely from an proud, somewhat obnoxious, intelligent, skeptic, New Yorker's point of view. He had never even considered seeing life from a woman's viewpoint.

That changed with Diane Keaton.

It is actually difficult to choose one from Keaton's performances. Just have a look at the power-packed performance against Al Pacino in the Godfather series. Or the portrayal of an ageing author in Something's Gotta Give, where she matched the genius of Jack Nicholson, frame-by-frame.

Look at her from 1:45 to 2:00. Had I been Al Pacino, I would never have been able to close the door on her face, irrespective of what the script had said.

Show me one person who looks this adorable while crying. Being a blogger (which makes me a poor man's writer), I know exactly what she is trying to express. The difference is - she can express.

However, it was Woody Allen with whom she formed the greatest on-screen pair that ever was. No other person would have done justice to Allen's magic - and Keaton was more than up to the task. The chemistry was magical. It was not about a single movie - the outrageous brilliance spread across Allen's creations. If Allen brought out the best in Keaton, she was the one who could do the most justice to Allen's masterpieces.

There was something about Annie Hall (not Annie Hall) that keeps you awake at nights, thinking hard and hard over the woman in the movie. The eccentric yet intellectual brilliance, the natural sense of humour, the unmistakable essence of womanhood, the outlandish vintage men's wardrobe, the carefree laughter that makes you stare open-mouthed - in other words, the woman of your dreams. She's too good to be true - and once you've seen Annie Hall, it's a lifetime thing: you'll never be able to get over her.

And the thing is, just like Annie Hall, that not-being-able-to-get-over thing holds good for Diane Keaton as well. Always. Always. It's impossible to get over her once you've got the hang of her. She could make Annie Hall make it past Annie Hall.

Unlike most others, she has graced with age, and looked as gorgeous as women three decades or so younger to her. She did turn up for the 2003 Oscars in a tuxedo and a bowler hat - and looked more in place than any woman else that has ever existed.

If you really want wit, I give you wit as well. Here you go:

Show me a woman who can do better - impromptu. I will be indebted to you forever.

 If only I was Woody Allen.

La-dee-dah, la-dee-dah, la-la.


JK Rowling
JK Rowling ruled my life for close to a decade, and actually continues to do so; the attraction bit has now spilled over to the next generation. I've read stories about her struggling days and her charity, but it's her world that won over my heart. If Dame Christie had been the Queen of Logic, 'Jo' is the Queen of Storytelling.

There has never been a better storyteller. It started with a concept. It ended up being the epic of our times. It spanned over three thousand pages, remained a bestseller for over a decade, has a theme park named after it and has inspired eight nightmarish movies, each one worse than the other.

Comparisons with other champions of the genre, especially JRR Tolkien, are unavoidable. What makes Rowling stand out, though, is the unputdownability of her style. I had committed the same mistake seven times - I had started a Harry Potter book for the first time in the evening. This inevitably meant that I had to stay awake till well past midnight - sometimes even past dawn. That had never happened to me with The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings.

There are other masters who have created parallel universes of their own. Rowling's triumph lies in the fact that her world was not a world of superheroes: it was about the success of mortals over the superheroes, the victory of our intents over our abilities.

I can quote Rowling quotes just like that (can you see me snapping my thumb and middle-finger, rather audibly?), but there is no point. Everyone knows them by heart. It's difficult to point out a single piece from the largest jigsaw puzzle of all time.

I will point out something else, though, that may interest you. It is mentioned here, in the Harry Potter part. Isn't she a genius?

When I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the morning (yes, you've read it right), my insides were filled with a vacuum I've never come across, before or afterwards. Ever. The thing is - she had felt the same as well.

Just like Dame Christie, I wish I could be there with her when she planned out the entire series. During her writer's block before Order of the Phoenix came out. When each and every character was planned out. Talk about being at the wrong place in the wrong time.

"Always", Ms Rowling. "Always".


Madhuri Dixit
Growing up in India in the 1980s without being a Madhuri Dixit fan was an impossible feat that no man has achieved. I know quite a number of female fans as well - possibly the only Indian actress (isn't that a politically incorrect word these days?) with unanimous fan-following across genders.

Yes, there were a handful of Sridevi fans here and there, but they were always treated with disdain. They sometimes uttered words like Lamhe or Sadma, but no one seemed to bother. Madhuri was the only actress who could make any script work - against any lead actor (or without one), and adorning any costume.

She could pull off any role. Or any dance number. Even if it involved posing as a fisherwoman. Wearing the most ridiculous costume. Against an orange background.

See what I meant? See? See?

The nation mourned in unison on 7th October 1999. I was among the millions who could not have a proper meal on that day. This is probably the entire nation had felt like on that day (don't miss out on the assortment of emotions). And I was no exception.

Remember that I was well past my teens. I was well past my school days - when my school-bag, and hidden nooks of the house were packed by numerous Madhuri Dixit picture-postcards worth 50 paise otherwise. They could not have been revealed for obvious reasons in a household where Bollywood was perpetually considered taboo.

I shudder to think what they would have done, had they got to know about the Stardust and Filmfare cut-outs. But then, there is a lot you can do for the woman who can outdo an overhyped woman easily.

Why did you have to vanish, Madhuri?

Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.

Chitrangada Singh
I first saw Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi in 2006. I saw it thrice in three days, and was in a sort of trance. It seemed to me Geeta, played in the movie by Chitrangada Singh, was the greatest female character created in the history of Bollywood. Ever.

The choice has not changed. Never has a female character been as desirable, as sensuous, and as, well, you get the point, right? If you don't, you need to watch the movie - multiple times, if possible.

If Diane Keaton was the epitome of intellect and Madhuri had the most attractive face ever, Chitrangada Singh is the most attractive woman ever. I had never thought someone so young will ever make it to the list, but there you go.

Sadly, her later movies have never been able to produce another Geeta - but then, after Inkaar, I really haven't given up hope. She will pull off another Geeta. Sometime. Some day. Shortly.

I just know this.

Bonus entry: Mila Kunis
Enough said.


  1. Is this piece from the heart or the mind?

  2. Did I tell you that I stayed in the same building (4th floor) as Chitrangada Singh (13th floor)? We used to meet in the lift quite often and my son used to play with her son.
    *puts on cool shades*
    *struts away, whistling*

    1. 1. Is this a lie, to avenge AB's letter?
      2. If not, will you, er, *blush*...

  3. Men cannot choose one woman now,can they?

    1. This isn't really about choosing a life-partner, is it?

    2. They ALL have a slice of your imagination ;)

    3. A lot of others do as well. My imagination is one of those things I'm rather proud of.

    4. Hah,your imagination?
      Bollywood movies,matches,school days and work all dancing and bobbing in the washing machine of your mind.

    5. Now, aren't these synonymous aspects of life?

  4. (Ki bhodro post eta!! Loke jodi ekbar janto tumi eder niye ki ki bhabo :/ puro "good boy haate ney bajarer thholi" marka image.)

    Jagge, lekha ta besh hoeche. Shundor porichonno. Ar oto boro list ke 5 tay namiye anar jonno bhishon pithh chapralam. Amar list ami kichutei 30 er niche ante parchina. Tai bodhyoy amar agey tumi post ta likhe phelle :(

    Diptakirtir neighbour chilo CS. Eta sajano ghotona noy. hinghshute ekta!

    CS bolte mone porlo, the greatest gift Mr. Husband has given me till date.
    ME: JD, what are your views about Chitrangada Singh?
    JD: I don't like her.
    (endless giggles, butterflies in the food pipe and invisible dances followed)

    PPPS: Ektao Bangali nei keno list e shuni?

    1. 1. Egulo baje obhijog. Ami moteo eder niye kharap kichhu bhabina.
      2. Amar lekha shundor, porichchhonnoi hoy.
      3. 5 noy, eventually 6. Mila Kunis was indispensable.
      4. Diptakirtir kopale dukkho achhe. X(
      5. This pleases me immensely as well. One competition less. And JD is one serious competition.
      6. Bangali, well, ami shobaike chini bole amar dharona.

  5. Very very happy to see my hero at the top of your list. Thank you.

    1. It's a chronological list, BTW. But still, She rules.

  6. What about our beauty queen.Abhishek does not like Aishwarya? :P
    and is your better half jealous?


    1. Aishwariya is possibly the dumbest-looking woman that ever was. Dumber than Ameesha Patel, perhaps.

      I am the better half, BTW.

  7. Interesting that no Indian women writers made it to the list :)

  8. You love these women for their screen presence or for the characters they gave birth to.Never their real persona,that you had no chance to encounter.
    It is the Mystique of literature,the feminine siren,that holds you in her thrall.That perfume shall never wear off.Even if there is no other woman in your life.
    Like a belly dancer from arabian nights she teases your imagination,and you submit willingly.

    1. I think you have read the names, not the article. Especially the disclaimer.

  9. Jaak ge. aantlami r bajare ami amar madhuri devotion ta besh lukiye raakhi..mohila r proti amar ekta heroine worship chilo. Tumi o bhokto jene bhalo laglo.. :) ar Dame Christi r byapare sompurno ekmot.

    1. Madhuri is Madhuri. Madhurir opor kono kotha hobena.

  10. Hve you read jhumpa lahiri?
    She's a great writer( though only 3books old)+ a bong+hot. Three in one.

    1. Of course. She is a GOOD writer, not GREAT. And please refrain from using the word 'Bong'.

    2. Amused.Why not 'bong'? I'm a southie btw.
      I find her prose touching.

    3. 'Bong' is a rather hideous slang instead of 'Bengali'.

      I find Ms Lahiri's prose touching as well. However, as I have mentioned, she is good, not great - unlike the two champions mentioned here.

  11. I had the opportunity to shake my hands with Mrs Nene :)


  12. "Like a unicorn...sausage.."-what a metaphor...hehe
    What are d 2reasons u like miss takia? Lemme guess-
    How could you miss madam dutt ?
    my personal favourite- barkha dutt.Sparkling lass.

    Can you write about 5men and 5movies(english)?

    1. 1. Eyes
      2. Acting skills
      I thought that was obvious.

      I typically do not watch news channels.

    2. Wha...takia has no skills to speak of.She'd only look good being a showcase doll.
      Is sri not in the list coz of her personal life? I know many would give the spot to mads only for that reason.
      Have you seen ma lady penelope cruz? Beats takia neday.

    3. 1. Sridevi is an actress. Madhuri was the empress.
      2. Takia can act, actually. She has an a style of her own.
      3. Why this argument on Takia anyway? In case you haven't noticed, she has not made my list.

    4. I don't like actresses who never try comic roles-chalbaaz and mr India...lately english vinglish was something very different that sri tried.
      Have you seen penelope dancing in lbd?
      don't you like Indira Gandhi? Emergency was ended so that you could take birth :D

    5. Ah, I guess you're one of those seventy-odd Sridevi fans who dared to take on seventy million-odd Madhuri fans. I appreciate your guts.

      And if this discussion comes down to Ms Gandhi, this conversation becomes redundant, and ceases to be a serious one.

  13. I was hoping to see Enid Blyton on the list. I just see a mere mention; that too as Mary Pollock. :(

    1. I guess I've outgrown Ms Blyton. I could not disown her, though - hence the mention.

  14. You still have those madhuri dixit posters i suppose,since you've not outgrown that starry eyed phase?
    Chitrangada singh's resemblance with smita patil had anything to do with it?
    Agree with Jo but what with kunis? She reminds me of a pert fox.Don't know why.I'd include frieda kahlo to the list.You should read her biography.

    1. No, the posters have unfortunately vanished somewhere. :(

  15. Bujhech! ebar ekta 5 top listed men er list na baar korley,tumi sob footage kheye nebey!"Very well written"- but thats a repetition.

  16. Mila Kunis - Enough said.

    Agreement all over my face, brother :D

    Very enjoyable!

    1. Thank you. I'm glad you agree on Mila Kunis. Isn't she, like, a lot of unmentionable-in-public-place adjectives?

  17. For the piece on Chitrangada Singh, which I maintain should be renamed Geeta, I'd personally go for that dormitory kind co-sleeping snippet if I had to show a glimpse of her in little time. Or, may be, where she says "its not about you, it's about me!" - how hard and how rare it must be to forego the provocation to find a blame, an excuse? Or may be that, when she steps into her just-rented room, and how she wants a shoulder but, just a shoulder! :)

    But for your choice of video, I understand your "desiring" perspective :)

    1. Yes, Chitrangada is Geeta, and Geeta is Chitrangada. It has been seven years, and I still haven't been to get over Geeta.

      Geetas, I guess, don't happen in real life. They're too good. Or simply too bad. Or whatever.

  18. Could be, I don't know. But for that matter, Vikram's do happen in real life. Yes, they try to overcome being Vikram, by getting socially hitched and settled down apparently, but when the call comes they are right there before anyone else can imagine. And, the call does not have to be loud, Vikrams would still sense it out. And, though a Vikram may not find it too obvious, a typical Geeta knows, somewhere deep in that same heart where she had never ever let Vikram find a place, that the Vikram will come to her leaving everything behind, when need be.

    I know this too closely to comment so conclusively. Somehow.

    1. I guess this calls for a viewing of HKA together. As soon as possible.

    2. Right after this, the Rituparno thing happened, and we never got a chance to talk Geeta or Vikram again.

      Someday, hopefully.. :)

    3. That will happen some day. Do not worry.

    4. Reading this conversation again. Am still trying to figure out who gets the trophy - Geeta or Vikram. I mean of course, a Vikram would be happier to let Geeta take it away.

    5. Vikram obviously. Geeta is the ultimate trophy.

  19. JKR and Ms. Dixit have certainly played their part in 'affecting' my life. But the one female who stands out tallest has to Enid Blyton. I'm fairly confident I've read ALL her works!

    Aside, did you get a chance to read The Casual Vacancy, JKR's first "adult" novel? Very different - setting, tone, style, viewpoint - from her other works. Highly recommend it.

    ~ Krishanu