Friday, July 29, 2011

6 things I did in June

1) Planted flowers
Well, like I said in an earlier post, I really didn’t think I was a person who could actually manage to keep plants alive. Flowers wilt, which is the most natural thing in the world. They fall off the stalk when they die, a fact that used to make me burst into tears and go running to bed in a nosedive with a book, fleeing the scene of the crime, ignoring them even more, till they finally all just withered away and disappeared FOREVER. If I were ever given a Native American name, it would translate into ‘She Who Kills Flowers'. But this time, I persevered, like Robert the Bruce, and voila! Living, breathing plants!

2) Watched 'The Kids are All Right'

 Well, I watched a whole lot of movies, but this kind of stood out. Apart from the fact that it stars the amazing Annette Bening (she was nominated for an Academy Award for this role) and the equally awesome Julianne Moore, it also gives us a glimpse into the lives of a lesbian couple and their kids. The reason why this movie lingered on in my mind for longer than any other I watched in June was because it got me thinking about family. 

Family has ceased being the father-mother-kids structure that we grew up believing it was. The definition of marriage has also changed. New York recently became the sixth, and largest state in the U.S. to legalise gay marriages, which you can read about here. There are those who think, 'Those Americans are too permissive and that country's on a speedboat to hell anyway.' But being gay is not choice, like deciding 'Hmmm...I think I'll be a vegan from now on...' and Indian parents are slowly coming to terms with the fact that their kids are gay, and accepting them, though still  with a ‘what will the neighbors think?’ trepidation. I’ll be getting off my soapbox in just a moment, but  all I really want to say about this is that everyone, irrespective of caste, creed, colour, religion, or sexual orientation, has a right to live exactly how they please without being judged by the rest of us.

So, getting back to the film, and without giving too much away, the couple has two kids by the same sperm donor.Their family life is disrupted when the kids bring him home (Mark Ruffalo, oooooooh!) and try to integrate him into their lives. The movie plays out just like any other would, with family issues, teenage rebellion and an extra-marital affair, which was the most interesting part of the movie for me, because it made it very apparent that when an undeniably gay woman has an affair with a very heterosexual man, it is not about sex. It is about attention.It is about validation. Definitely worth a watch.

3) Went on a picnic
To Lavasa! I'd been hearing about it quite a bit, and since I live pretty close but had never really been there, I decided to go. The drive there was pretty enjoyable, and the road full of hairpin bends. Just before I reached there, suddenly, out of nowhere, loomed the Temgarh dam, which took me so much by surprise, that I totally forgot to take a picture of it. Ahem! 

Once I was up there, however, it was pretty neat. I was actually up in the clouds, and since it was the monsoon, there were a number of little waterfalls with signs in front of them that said 'Caution' and something to the effect of 'This is pretty dangerous so don't come close unless you want a couple of rocks falling on your head and knocking you out cold.' Well, no, that's not what it said, but that's the gist. But in our attempt as Indians, to prove that we are absolutely fearless (or supremely stupid), and do the exact opposite of what we've been told specifically not to do, everyone who wanted a picture stood, where else, but under the waterfalls.

I liked the architecture (charming)--- 

 And the colourful buildings (like a gaudy cake, begging to be eaten)


This made me hungry, so I headed over to the All American Diner, which was an attempt to create the look of, well, an American diner, and almost succeeded, but not quite. 

Though the pictures on the walls of Lucy and vintage cars do give it a quaint air, there is a feeling of having tried a bit too hard. 

The food, though, was overpriced. Since I'm not a BIG eater, I ordered a chicken hoagie, which is this--

But there's a choice of a few more restaurants, and you can try The Oriental Octopus, or the pub, Past Times, all highly overpriced too, I'll wager. 

But I didn't really care, because I was in a good mood, since the promenade gave me enough photo-ops-

Pretty, no? And for the die-hard shopaholics, you have a couple of shops that you can pop into too!

4) Turned a year older
That is an undisclosed age, but those who know me well know what it is, and should never divulge it, because I know where you live, y'all. But each year is like a check-point, when I believe that I should stop and take stock. And I should be able to answer, with some sense of clarity, and entirely truthfully - what do I really believe in, and what do I stand for, because answers to these questions are really the answer to the much greater question-Who am I? A few of the lessons I've learnt over the past few years is that ---
  • Pretty smart people do pretty dumb things. 
  • Some things can't be undone.
  • That I am angry at the people who taught me that God is an infinitely wise, albeit bad-tempered being, waiting to exact revenge on anyone who dares to cross him, loving some people and punishing others. Behaving like a human being. That is not God. That cannot be. And if it is, I do not want to believe in such a God.
  • I also believe that some people are just not good for you. That some people emotionally use you, they drain you of all your positive energy. They are leeches. Just being around certain people is akin to the sensation of scraping your fingernails on a blackboard. I've learnt that it's okay to not be around such people, and it's okay to not be liked by everyone.
  • But I have also learnt that despite it all, 'everything's gonna be alright, rockabye'!
5) Learnt 26 new words.
 Well, I actually meant to learn one word for each letter of the alphabet, but then I just went haywire and learnt them randomly. And, the words that I learnt were (drumroll!)-anneal, bivouac, confute, cater-cousin, ersatz, eisegesis, fugacious, goster, heliotrope, irenic, irascible, justitia, kerf, lucubrate, orison, oppugn, prolix, pusillanimous, quiesce, simpatico, splenetic, truckle, unctuous, vociferate, xenogenic, yarely. And this is courtesy of, that pops a word into my inbox everyday and dares me to not open it. It seems to taunt me, in an evil Voldemort-like whisper, 'Go on, check it out. You don't know this word. Go on! You know you want to!'

6)  Fell in love with Bruno Mars
When I was a teenager, one of my hobbies was to write the lyrics of songs I liked in a songbook. It was a pretty book, covered with green velvet paper, and with pictures of pop stars that I had cut out of old copies of magazines that my cousin had given me.On every page of the songbook, I wrote the lyrics painstakingly, in my best handwriting, song by song, stuck relevant pictures in the spaces, and created a work of art! How I loved that book! And every time I fell in love with a particular song (or pop star), I would take that book out and sing along to the song that was playing. That was when I was in love with George Michael (and which girl wasn't, truthfully?) and poof! (no pun intended) one day, he goes and proclaims that he's gay! I was all like, somebody rip my heart out and leave me here to bleed! Teenage drama. Nothing quite like it. And the next person who ever came close to the dishiness of George Michael was the fabulous Ricky Martin with his wild pelvic thrusts. And whaddya know! There he went too! Which is why, after a while, I was afraid to even think of Enrique Iglesias, in case know... 'cause I'm telling ya, that will just be cruel, cruel, cruel! But I digress (as I often do). 

There were songs like Ben and I wanna hold your hand. And then came Guns N' Roses with lyrics like 'Welcome to the jungle! You're gonna diiieeeeeee!', and Shaggy with 'Saw me b****** on the sofa, it wasn't me'. Not exactly lyrics that you want to rush and write down in a songbook. And when Eminem took over with 'If she ever tries to f****** leave I'm gonna tie her to the bed and set this house on fire!', I located that songbook and tore its yellow pages out and burned it. The end of an era.

And then I heard Bruno Mars singing Just the way you are, and I missed that old songbook. So I learnt the lyrics by heart, and I sing along every time it plays, and it just makes me feel like that happy kid all over again.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sunday afternoon with the 'mantal bwoyz'

Sunday is the most crucial day of my week. I try to keep myself entertained and in good spirits, because that usually sets the tone for the rest of the week. Towards this aim, I try and expose my fickle mind to neutral or feel-good 'content'. So no Bollywood sob-fests for me, (where a character invariably named Raj) dies, or loses his vision, or worse, one of his limbs. And definitely no movies where the guy doesn't get the girl. Getting The Girl is very important. On any other day of the week, I can deal with it if that doesn't happen, but not on Sunday. My mind goes all like, 'What? I have to go to work tomorrow and the guy's not getting the girl today???'

So it was with much trepidation that I headed out to see 'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara' or, ZNMD, as we shall refer to it from this moment onwards, in current Bollywood fashion. Now, considering it's starring Hrithik Roshan, who does that thing with his dirty-beer eyes, I was hoping I wouldn't have to rush out and gulp down a strip of Disprin to stop the inevitable headache that would ensue after watching his hamming that people are willing accept as acting due to his looks and dancing abilities and of course, his fab bod. D-uh!

Imagine a mash-up of Dil Chahta Hai, Due Date (without the gross bits) and any American road trip movie, without the mandatory busload of buxom blondes and crate-loads of beer. Instead, we have three very-well behaved boys who go on a very civilized bachelor road trip, and indulge in some harmless, albeit juvenile pranks. Not so much as a single dirty joke. Which is how I like it, actually. I hate it when movie characters go all American-Pie on me. The Akhtar siblings do seems to have a thing for trios of friends, (as in DCH, Rock On and now this). Co-incidence? Maybe. Or probably because two friends sitting around talking is boring, like in those snotty French movies, but add a third, and you have the potential for a play-off of personalities to make it more interesting.

Now if you're sick of KJ's San Francisco-New York-London locales, then Espana is a welcome change. Breath-taking, heart-stopping beauty in every frame. The cinematography by Carlos Catalan left me speechless. The La Tomatina festival and The Running of the Bulls (which to most of us are the most familiar things about Spain, thanks to TLC & NGC) is woven into the plot, so that we don't feel like virtual strangers in a strange land.

We have the uptight, money-minded stockbroker, a free-spirited and sometimes immature copy-writer, and a goody-two-shoes who go on a bachelor road trip. On the way, they discover love and adventure, face up to their fears, indulge in some pop psychology, and in the bargain, realise some truths about themselves. The characters are all very likeable (except Hrithik's in the beginning), but once you realise where his insecurities arise from, you start to like him a bit better as well. Very conveniently, he also speaks Spanish, which I imagine is a language he learned while filming a certain 'Kites' with a certain Ms. Mori. Ahem, ahem. They sing (I read somewhere it's actually their vocals in 'Senorita', and you can actually tell when Abhay Deol's singing because it's not a pretty sound).They dance (they attempt the flamenco, no less). And though this is considered heresy, I'm going to say it--I actually prefer Farhan Akhtar's dance moves to Hrithik's. He is more graceful when compared to Hrithik dancing with wild (and I mean wild) abandon. No, I haven't lost my mind. This is a democratic country, where people can speak their minds freely. Liberty and justice for all, and all that. Wait, that's America, isn't it? But my point really is, Abhay Deol should not dance either. Really. It's probably a Deol thing, but you know, there are some things you can get away with, and some that you simply cannot. But boy, can that boy act!

Lilting music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, amazing poetry by Javed Akhtar, and the beauteous Katrina Kaif, who is like a cool summer breeze here, mouthing infinitely more tolerable lines here like "Mujhe afsos karna nahin aata" instead of screaming the jarring "You dirty dog!" in 'Tees Maar Khan'. Her character reminds me of Kirsten Dunst's character Claire in Elizabethtown, (one of my all-time favourite movies), only less nauseatingly sweet. I love the chemistry that the friends share, and I appreciate the fact that the writers don't put them into typically Bollywood-esque dilemmas, where they need to prove their undying loyalty and devotion to each other. They're just regular guys looking out for each other, getting into brawls and telling each other off, much like friends do in real life.

Naseeruddin Shah makes a brief but powerful appearance as Salman, Farhan Akhtar's character Imran's real father (spoiler alert! spoiler alert!). He tells Imran very matter-of-factly that even though he abandoned him, he thought about him many times, but didn't contact him because he just thought it was better that way. Just like that. Just like it is in real life, instead of in reel-life, where the father is overcome by remorse and blubbers and begs for his son's forgiveness, and they are then forever reunited in a deafening swell of music. I believe that when you have a progressive woman director, you also have more believable female characters. Which is why Katrina follows the car in which Hrithik is travelling to kiss him goodbye properly, instead of playing the bashful damsel pining away for what could have been. The only glitch for me was the ending, that I wish had been handled a little differently. Other than that, no headache, no regret. Win, win.

So go, without very high expectations, and you might be pleasantly surprised. And even if you're not, big deal. It's only three hours of the zindagi that you won’t get to live dobara.