Tag Archives: films

Coolie No. 1, Another 2020 Disappointment

I interviewed the poised and reticent Shikha Talsania in mid-December for Coolie No 1, starring Varun Dhawan and Sara Ali Khan in the lead. Normally I would have posted the review based on her comments but she did not reveal anything about the movie other than quoting  “it’s a refreshed version” and “ a family movie”.

So, I watched the movie on Christmas Day with my family. Although I had forgotten the scene by scene roll out of the 1995 blockbuster, the raving zest of Govinda, his side-splitting interactions with Kader Khan as Hoshiarchand. The credulous “Barbie-like’ mannerisms of Karisma Kapoor had left a mental imprint. Twenty-five years ago, I remember borrowing the VCD tape from a street vendor in Manhattan over a long holiday weekend, watching it with my friends and being flabbergasted by the song “Main to ladki ghuma raha tha...Tujhe mirchi lagi toh main kya karoon?” At the same time marveling as to how the lyrics-tune beat combo “Husn hai suhana ishq hai deewana had created a cult-like appeal.

As I watched the 2020 David Dhavan remake, I was catapulted back into the frenzied hip-hop of the roaring 90s! Apart from that, the new movie was unable to cast a spell. Varun Dhavan is a handsome and talented actor who has cast a spell in Badri Ki Dulhaniya and other films. Sara Ali Khan is glammed up (though costumes are not tasteful) but her acting skills are untapped. I wish David Dhavan would have reimagined the storyline after a quarter of a century! If he is thinking of vesting money and energy in remaking other Govinda movies with Varun, he must rethink it. 

There are a myriad of stories and current real-life issues to be explored and presented to the audience in commercially successful cinema. I hope to see Varun, Sara, Shikha, and other stars cast in original socio-economic-political narratives to entertain and enlighten the audiences. If the lure of “rags to riches” theme is too hypnotic to ignore then there are stories like that of Ambani, a son of a village school teacher, and Narendra Modi selling tea at Vadnagar railway station. Although the remake has a backstory, it could have been more creative! Bollywood must come to grips with the fact that the 2020 filmgoer finds it ludicrous to believe that a change of costume can conjure a completely different identity, whether that be of twin or not.

The story is as follows: Humiliated by a mercenary hotelier, Jeffrey Rozario (Paresh Rawal), matchmaker Jai Kishan (Jaaved Jaaferi) avenges himself by introducing a railway coolie Raju (Varun Dhawan) as Kunwar Raj Pratap. Raju is smitten by the photograph of Jeffrey’s daughter Sarah (Sara Ali Khan). Sarah gullibly believes Raju’s tall tales. It might have been more interesting to see the daughter Anju (Shikha Talsania) marry Raju’s friend Deepak (Sahil Vaid) rather than team up with a fictional twin of Raju. 

If the movie was made as an homage to the original, it falls short. If it was made to erase the original from our memory, it fails hopelessly. Govinda’s unexpected words, irrational antics, and outlandish costumes are unforgettable, as are his bona fide dance moves in those loose trousers! Govinda pulled off a con in Coolie No 1 by holding the audience spellbound but Varun Dhawan’s over-rehearsed expressions and mimicry failed to tickle the funny bone. Paresh Rawal’s limericks, or Rajpal Yadav and Javed Jaffrey’s pranks did not do the trick either. I feel that the entire cast was so much in awe of Govinda’s comedic high jinks and they lacked the oomph to overshadow the original Coolie No 1. It’s like comparing an original Indian soda to the same soda in a fancier bottle but with more sugar and less fizz! Although the songs will be good for zoom zumba the movie fails to dazzle! Coolie No 1(2020) is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and Hotstar.

 


Monita Soni has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, and the other in her birth home India. Writing is a contemplative practice for Monita Soni. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books: My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.

At the Marienplatz with RK

Last October, my husband and I, newly empty-nested, decided to visit Europe. One evening in vivacious Munich, we were roaming the celebrated Marienplatz Farmers Market (real name: Viktualienmarkt). Strolling past the effervescent crowd at the outdoor beer garden, we made our way to the numerous stalls selling spices and spice mixes. We came upon a stall where the vendors were singing what sounded like ebullient German folk songs—we stopped to listen and check out the merchandise. The stall had several bins of richly colored powders in hues of red, orange, and brown—I counted more than seven different types of ‘Italian Bruschetta’ mixes. I looked up to see a vendor on the other side of the bin eyeing me with a smile on his face. He was a portly middle-aged man, dressed in a white t-shirt and green apron like the other merchants in his stall.

“So many!” I said to him. “Which one is good?”

“All very good, Madam!” he replied with gusto. “All best!”

I smiled at his selling skills.

“You want spicy?” he ventured.

“Yes!” my husband and I declared, simultaneously.

“Ha ha!” guffawing at our vehement, synchronous response, he asked, “You, India?”

“No—I, California. America!” I answered, trying to match his energy and mirth.

“Aah, California!” he echoed. “But first—India?”

“Yes,” I conceded. “First from India.”

Then, it was my turn to be amused as he broke out in song.

“Main shaayaar to naaheeen!”

I laughed, feeling a rush of joy at the unexpected reference to one of my favorite songs.

“You like that song?” I ventured, “You saw the movie?”

“Yah! Baabby!” he stated immediately.

“Yes! Bobby,” I agreed.

Rishi Kapoor (so cute!) Dimple Kapadia (so hot!) in Raj Kapoor’s ode to young love that was released right around the time that I, and all my friends, were coming of age. Of course, we idolized everything about it — not a girl in my school had not brandished the Dimple half ponytail and everyone had a crush on Rishi.

The conversation at the Farmers Market reminded me of the bygone ‘encounter’ with Rishi. The year was 1970 and another RK movie, Mera Naam Joker, had just been released. It was, one can say, not quite the blockbuster that Bobby was three years later, but it was Rishi Kapoor’s first significant role; he played the teenage version of Raj Kapoor, the namesake Joker of the film. The city was Vadodara — we called it Baroda then — and the movie was to premiere at the trendy Sadhana Talkies. The theater was owned by my aunt’s family, and her two children and I, all of us between nine and eleven years of age, spent many a warm afternoon in the air-conditioned cinema hall for at least a few minutes to watch a favorite song or scene from whatever popular movie was playing at the time. All we had to do was run down the stairs and ask the doorman to let us in, for the family’s home was right above the cinema hall.

We were immensely excited to learn that, to promote the film, the cast of Joker, including Raj and ‘Chintu’ Kapoor, as Rishi was known then, were to attend the premiere! An actual Bombay style premiere was to be held at Sadhana Talkies! By default, since I was constantly spending weekends with my Sadhana cousins, I was included in the welcoming committee.

As we stood, in our best attires, on the steps leading from the street level lobby to the theatre’s balcony and offices, I recognized a shy young Chintu Kapoor ascending the stairs. We had seen photos of the cherubic eighteen-year-old and heard that he had given a wonderful performance in his debut film. 

Rishi kept his head down as he climbed, smiling to himself at the shouts of “Chintu! Chintu!” from the huge crowd gathered in the street below. He wore a suit, I recall, and pulled demurely at his jacket. He did not look up until—to the incredible delight of my young self—Raj Kapoor, following his son up the stairs, stopped in front of me. Bending down—his green eyes looking into mine—he gently tugged at my cheeks and extolled, with his trade-mark charm, “Kitni pyaari bacchi hai!” What a sweet girl!

Rishi looked back—our eyes met, and he smiled!

An RK fan for life that day was made and the grown-up Rishi Kapoor of Bobby only further consolidated the deal. The faith of millions, like me, was well placed in the young man, as he proved to be a versatile actor and entertained audiences for many years with exemplary performances, from the romantic Hindi film hero to the nuanced characters of his later years. His untimely death in April has left the film industry undoubtedly poorer. 

Back at the Marienplatz, having completed our purchases, we were about to walk away when I heard someone call out.

“India!”

Of course, it was my German friend. As I looked back, he held up a finger—just a minute.

“Ghe ghe ghe ghe ghe, pyaar mein sauda naaheen!” he sang. His eyes danced, waiting for my reaction.

Laughing, I crooned back, “Ghe ghe ghe ghe ghe, ghe re saahiba, pyaar mein sauda nahin.”

We were attracting an audience of fellow merchants; some of them started to hum the tune.

“Do you know what it means?” I asked. “There is no trade in love. You should not take money from me—just give me the spices for free!”

We walked away to sounds of laughter and cheerful banter in German. Rishi Kapoor — to borrow the immortal words of O. Henry — makes the whole world kin.

Bela Desai, Ph.D., has been working in biotechnology in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than twenty years. Besides science, she enjoys reading and traveling to different places around the globe. She loves to dabble in singing and writing as well.

Social Distancing With Vintage Hindi Movies

It’s easy to burn through all the new shows and movies on Amazon Prime and Netflix when you’re quarantined at home. Bet you didn’t think to go back a few decades and find films that are reminiscent of your childhood. Here is a list of vintage Hindi films to watch after you’re done working from home, of course!

Kaala Patthar (1979) Prime

Before Yash Chopra went rogue with romance in the 80s, with the exception of Mashaal (1984), he belted out all-round, thoughtful dramas with a social tinge such as Deewaar (1975), Kabhie Kabhie (1976) and Trishul (1978). They were all multi-starrers, Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor were common stars in all of these. Chopta finished off the decade with the rough cut diamond Kaala Patthar, inspired by Chasnala mining disaster. Shatrughan Sinha played to the gallery with a crackling performance. Raakhee, Neetu Singh, Parveen Babi and Poonam Dhillon had limited presence. It had a taut screenplay by hit writer-duo Salim-Javed however it had an average run at the box office. The movie is the full package though, it never misses a beat. 

Gol Maal (1979) Netflix Prime

This Hrishikesh Mukherjee classic is double trouble and multiple shots of fun for all moods, times and tides. Just give in to the craziness of the world of Gol Maal where Ramprasad/ Laxmanprasad (Amol Palekar in his elements) fools his boss Bhavani Shankar (Utpal Dutt, outstanding) for a live hockey match and is caught in a web of lies to cover up his first one. Both  actors won Filmfare Awards (Best Actor and Best Comedian). Dina Pathak shines as the fake mother while Bindiya Goswami charms as the actor-girlfriend. Those were simple times when Mukherjee could easily swing walk-in guest appearances from Amitabh Bachchan, Rekha, Hema Malini, Zeenat Aman and Lata Mangeshkar. Definitely a winner!

Doosara Aadmi (1977) Prime

Yash Chopra produced Doosara Aadmi for his assistant director Ramesh Talwar, who directed his independent debut. It comes with some glaring gender-biased morality flaws but is still a refreshing take on the complex nature of frayed relationships before marriage, after marriage, during romance and in offbeat quieter friendships. Raakhee plays reclusive Nisha, an advertising professional who falls for Karan Saxena (Rishi Kapoor) as he reminds her of her late boyfriend, Shashi Saigal (Shashi Kapoor). However, Karan is newly married to Timsy (Neetu Singh) and Nisha has a close friend Bhisham who loves her. It is laced with stunning, blockbuster music by Rajesh Roshan, sung by Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi. Sample the myriad moods of love with Chal Kahin Door Nikal Jayein and  Aao Manayen Jashn-E-Mohabbat, Jaan Meri Rooth Gayi, Nazron Se Kah Do and Ankhon Mein, Kajal Hai. It’s worth a watch or two.

Kabhi Kabhie (1976) Prime

Kabhi Kabhie tops my list of the Yash Chopra romance. It covers all seasons of love in its full glory. Amitabh Bachchan’s Amit Malhotra plays a poet to Raakhee’s pristine beauty as Pooja Khanna. Their love remains unrequited as parental love leads them to arranged marriages. Pooja marries the boisterous Vijay (Shashi Kapoor), a man with a conscience and ability to question his own flaws. In an exact opposite scenario is the quiet marriage of Amit and Anju (Waheeda Rehman). In a twist of fate, the hopeful love of the younger couple, Vicky (Rishi Kapoor) and Pinky (Neetu Singh) brings the two older pairs together. It has the usual elements of romance, drama and entertainment along with poetry, poignance and humour. The performances and music are cherry on top. Khayyam and Sahir Ludhianwi won Filmfare awards for Best Music and Lyrics. Pyaar Kar Liya To Kya remains my favourite capture of the Rishi-Neetu romance. You can’t help but shed a tear when Pooja sings Kabhi Kabhie on her wedding night even as Vijay delicately removes her wedding jewellery. I do wonder about that song though, the definition of consent has walked a considerable distance since.

Chupke Chupke (1975) Netflix Prime

For those feeling trumped and beaten, there is always a fun movie around the corner to watch. Hrishikesh Mukherjee recycled Bengali fare Chhadmabeshi to create Chupke Chupke, an all-time classic comedy for Hindi cinema. Newly married couple Sulekha Chaturvedi (Sharmila Tagore) and Parimal Tripathi (Dharmendra) fool their family, Raghavendra Sharma (Om Prakash) and Sumitra Sharma (Usha Kiron), into believing they are “not married”. Joining the fun of the scheming couple are bumbling Professor Sukumar Sinha (Amitabh Bachchan) and sweet Vasudha Kumar (Jaya Bachchan), navigating their own new romance, and Lata Kumar Srivastav (Lily Chakravarty), Prashant Kumar Srivastav (Asrani) and Haripad Chaturvedi (David). The lyrics and music by Anand Bakshi and S. D. Burman fit in perfectly. Ab Ke Sajan Saawan Mein ticks all boxes of situation, performances, music, lyrics and singing. Sharmila Tagore is devilishly divine. So is the movie. 

Abhimaan (1973) Prime

Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed this compelling take on professional rivalry between a singer couple, Subir (Amitabh Bachchan), professionally successful, and Uma (Jaya Bhaduri), a newly born star. Along the way, his career dives as Uma soars, becoming more successful, throwing Subir into a jealous despair and straining their marriage. A definitive masterpiece, in terms of its subject and ensemble of mature performances. And of course, the terrific music which blended beautifully into the movie, by Sachin Dev Burman and Majrooh Sultanpuri’s lyrics

Namak Haraam (1973) Prime

While Anand (1971, also on Prime) is definitely the better known tragi-classic starring Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna, I thought Namak Haraam was more layered and compelling as a subject. Two warring friends are caught amid rising unions of Bombay‘s textile mills and inflation in the early 1970s. Ironically, the two superstars were at opposite ends of their fates and journeys, Khanna handed the success baton to Bachchan unknowingly with this movie. Fresh from the success of Zanjeer, Amitabh had sealed the deal with the audience and together the stars made the 5th highest grossing film of 1973. Khanna’s performance was not in question at all, he excelled as loyal friend Somu (Rajesh Khanna) who agrees to help out Vicky (Amitabh Bachchan) and then realises he is on the wrong side of his own ideals after closely experiencing the plight of factory workers. RD Burman’s music was right on note with Diye Jalte Hai, Nadiya Se Dariya and Main Shayar Badnaam and lyrics by Anand Bakshi.

Seeta Aur Geeta (1972) Prime

Salim-Javed’s feminist take on double roles, inspired by Ram Aur Shyam, resulted in Seeta Aur Geeta, Ramesh Sippy’s second directorial venture. Hema Malini landed the role quite by chance after Mumtaz said no. She was a dynamite and an absolute hoot, winning the Filmfare Award for Best Actress that year. A pair of identical twins (played by Hema Malini) lose their parents at birth and are also separated, they are raised by different sets of people and have distinct personalities. When they swap places, fun and madness ensues. For once, both the heroines got the centre stage to do things as she pleased while the men indulged and supported them from the sidelines. Sanjeev Kumar matched Dharmendra, dimple to dimple, charm on charm, both looked dapper, adding their candid take to the comic explosion. 

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women and social equity.

Eastern Dreams on Western Shores: Aditya Patwardhan

From Indian engineer to international filmmaker, Aditya Patwardhan is making a mark in Hollywood and we need to keep an eye out for him. Aditya is rare – his filmmaking combines aspects of engineering, music, cinematography, and multilingualism. 

Relocating from India to LA to pursue his passion, Patwardhan has worked on a multitude of projects, from documentaries to series pilots and shorts; some of his works included Kiski Kahani (music director), Red House by the Crossroads (director), Red Souls (director) and are in international markets including in the US, India, Baltic and Eastern European countries, and South America. 

Though it may seem that the skills between the two careers are non transferable, the Indian diaspora might disagree. Indian culture is entrenched in the arts and it can be traced back to one of the first comprehensive books on performing arts, Natya Shastra (NS), written in 200 BCE by Bharat Muni. Far beyond the theatrics, the NS is ingrained in almost every aspect of Indian society. It has influenced Indian sculpture, architecture, painting, poetry, day-to-day normal conversation, forming the connection between Indian mathematics and music. So when Aditya felt drawn towards filmmaking, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. 

Aditya confesses that switching from engineering to films was borne out of a natural subconscious process. It was during his time as an undergraduate in engineering college that he created a few ‘zero-budget’ musical videos, with his friend and music composer, Hiren Pandya. 

He took a bite into filmmaking and liked the taste. 

Graduating from engineering college, Aditya knew his calling but the path wasn’t linear. 

Aditya got a big break in 2013 during the Vidhan Sabha (state legislature) elections in the Indian state of Rajasthan. He worked in the IT and social media department of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). His group ran a very successful social media campaign and the BJP won in a landslide. From IT to social media, Aditya began deviating from the standard.

It was during his time working in Social Media Management that Aditya came into contact with a musician and composer, Gaurav Bhatt. Gaurav, a Jaipur-based musician who had trained in the famous Bhatt Gharan, had composed a few Hindi songs and was looking for someone to help popularize them on YouTube. The two collaborated and created a music video. Grainy images shifting through a dreamlike narrative, overlaid with the poignant Indian classical fusion melody of Garauv Bhatt created magic; it received considerable attention and was featured in local newspapers and TV, including The Rajasthan Patrika and The Times of India

 “The success I received in these low-cost music videos gave me the confidence to enter into filmmaking professionally,” Aditya fondly recounts.

Newfound success and a heavy dose of determination brought Aditya to Hollywood. Eager to learn the tricks of the trade, he enrolled in the Masters in Film and Media Production program in the Los Angeles branch of the New York Film Academy. His thesis – ‘Red House by the Crossroads’ – a film about a Jewish family in 1970s Poland who were facing the backlash of the Nazi era occupation – culminated in a showcase at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.  

Aditya hasn’t looked back since.

He is versatile and diverse, much like the background he comes from. His documentary ‘Eastern Shores of the Western World’ explores “cultural, linguistic, and genetic similarities between India and Eastern Europe.” And in the same breath, he has made films with social and environmental causes. In his soon to be released ‘Rivers: The Upstream Story’, he takes on the issue of river-water depletion through a civilizational lens. 

Filmmakers, like Patwardhan, with a voice and cultural competence are filling the gaps in global cinema. Aditya Patwardhan is slowly becoming a household name, as he continues his journey of Eastern dreams on Western shores. 

Afters spending several years in IT, Avatans Kumar now works as a Columnist and PR professional.  Avatans frequently writes on the topics of Indic Knowledge Tradition, Language, Culture, and Current Affairs in several media outlets.

Edited by Assistant Editor, Srishti Prabha.

Kabir Singh too Misogynistic? Instead, Watch…

Tired of misogynistic portrayals in Bollywood?  Kabir Singh gets a thumbs down. Dream Girl has some problems. War wins.

Kabir Singh: Consent is a tricky, fuzzy area as it is. Kabir Singh sh*ts all over it by showing a hyper masculine male character against a super submissive female character. Basically serving rape and domestic violence to Indian men on a platter.

Shahid (Kapoor) sweetie, you do have a cute ass, now climb into it and stay there.

Sandeep Reddy Vanga, what you tell Indian men is “order” your girlfriend around, while treating other women with disrespect including your own mother. I guess, the amount of times you used the mother gaali shows your own (narrow) expertise you have when it comes to women. Go fu*k yourself, is all I will say. I am guessing that is the worse thing you can do, pretty much like your retrograde character.

12th highest grosser. Wow. Just. Wow.

It’s just a movie. Yah.

A movie in India. Where rape and domestic violence is rampant and Bollywood is the biggest influencer of how men and women treat each other.

Well done, a**holes.

***

Dream Girls: Right off the cuff, let me say that Ayushmann Khurana sizzles in “dil ka telephone” like never before. It won’t be surprising if he starts the trend of husbands cross-dressing to their wives’ fantasies, and swaying hips to seduce them.

Dream Girls connects to the heart in many parts, and drops the line big time in some. Khurana plays Karamveer Singh, aka Pooja, with a golden voice, who poses as a girl on a silky ‘hot’line, drawing men to her ringing voice.

Among the negatives were jokes with sexist tones, mocking of an older male looking for companionship, susheel sundar, khana banayegi kind of dialogue in parts, and preachy tones towards the end. One single mattress rape innuendo mouthed by Khurana is not cool and irresponsible. Its many parallel tracks are confusing. As a result, it loses focus and tempo in parts. The superb supporting cast, Annu Kapoor, Vijay Raaz, Nidhi Bisht, Abhishek Banerji, saves the day. Sadly, Nushrat Bharucha‘s contribution is limited to feeding Ayushmann soup and redeeming his character Pooja in the end.

Khurana proves yet again he can pull in the crowd and entertain them with the snap of his fingers. He is flawless.

3.5 it is.

***

 

War: Moby’s Extreme Ways (Bourne film series) background hangover apart, which was distracting as I hoped Matt Damon would show up, War is a slick and sassy masala action entertainer. You have Hrithik Roshan instead, wrinkled, pepper-haired, and deliciously wicked as Kabir, a role he devours with relish. Tiger Shroff is no less, scrubbed, sincere and pumped, the kiddo has the good looks of his Dad and acting skills of his own. Hrithik indulges Tiger and keeps his shirt on, letting the young actor shed his.

The action is spectacular. Who would go wrong with Goldilocks Roshan and Hulky Tiger? Hrithik hangs from the sky, breathtaking, suspending our jaws in disbelief. Tiger conquers the ground with his moves and strikes. Watching them in tandem kicking, dancing and firing guns is a lesson in balance and coordination. Tiger matches Hrithik eye to eye, stunt by stunt, muscle on muscle. They are a match made in heaven. Pity this marriage won’t last.

When a Hindi movie delivers on entertainment and superstars, the question about story and authenticity is automatically moot. Siddharth Anand directs this box office bonanza, sharing his story and screenplay credits with Aditya Chopra and Shridhar Raghavan. Abbas Tyrewala pens the snazzy dialogue.

War is a theatre watch, miss at your own peril specially if you are a Hrithik or Tiger fan. You don’t want be restraining this twin package on your tiny TV screens. It would be criminal.

As for J2S2, it delivers, and how. The colors, the bustle and movement bedazzle as Hrithik and Tiger explode on screen. Thy breath is taken and tossed around and you only hope to crawl out and make it alive.

3.5 on 5.

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women and social equity.

This article was edited by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain.

Photo credit: Facebook

Athlete and Hollywood Actor On A Mission To Inspire Hope

Indian-American Navin Kumar is on a mission: to defy all odds laid against him. He is proof that people with medical issues and/or disabilities can lead not only productive, but extraordinary lives. The list of Navin’s accomplishments is surely longer than his health conditions. He is a Hollywood movie actor, a Table Tennis athlete representing the USA in international competition as part of the Para Olympic program, a musician, and a motivational speaker!

Navin has survived five major open heart surgeries that led to a partially mechanical heart and a pacemaker. Six years ago, at the age of 39 he was diagnosed with young onset of Parkinson’s disease. Despite his medical challenges and nicknamed the “Bionic Man” in the competitive Table Tennis world, Navin continues to represent the USA (for Table Tennis) in international competitions, with the next one being in October at the inaugural International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Parkinson’s Table Tennis Championships in Pleasantville, New York. He is determined to win a gold medal for the US.

In June 2015, Navin represented the USA at his first ever international Table Tennis competition, the “Spanish Para Open”, in Barcelona, Spain. Though he did not win any medals Navin believes that the privilege to participate and represent his country in itself was equivalent to winning a gold medal. 

Navin made history in December 2018 at the “US Open Championships” in Orlando, Florida, when he became the first ever medalist with Parkinson’s and congenital heart condition to win two bronze medals for the USA at the US Open for Table Tennis.  

As if his athletics were not impressive enough, Navin made his Hollywood movie debut earlier this year in the movie, “Attack of the Unknown” which is scheduled to be released in theaters across the country, at the earliest, this fall. He plays the role of a SWAT Team police officer named Atul, who is in charge of driving the armored SWAT van. Not only does he have speaking lines in the movie but  he has also served as an executive producer! The movie role holds a special place for Navin because his maternal grandfather, originally from Karnataka, was stationed as the chief of police in Vijayawada, a town in Andhra Pradesh. Navin dedicates his movie performance to his late grandfather who passed away a few years before Navin was born. 

As a young boy, Navin performed Bollywood-style vocals and played the violin at Indian shows and weddings. This strengthened his fearless attitude to eventually speak on stage as a motivational speaker. Navin currently travels all over the country, sharing his story. He also uses social media, online features and television interviews to inspire people to not let their struggles stop them from achieving their dreams. In his motivational speeches, he teaches his audiences strategies to deal with the tough times in life. Navin’s motto is “Never give up”. Though life has knocked him down several times, he has fought back and picked himself up with a positive attitude and a smile. He conquers his health challenges by staying physically active and having a positive attitude. Navin has chosen to feel “ENABLED” and not disabled. 

An IT professional for the Federal Government, Navin currently resides in the Washington DC Metropolitan area. 

US Open: https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Table-Tennis/Features/2019/January/27/Kumars-Table-Tennis-Passion-Lifting-him-to-New-Heights

Movie: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm10297504/

Source:Based on Navin’s bio

Anita R Mohan is a poet and a freelance writer who lives in Fairfax, Virginia. Her passion is writing about people who are making a difference by inspiring others. Anita is also a volunteer Adult ESL tutor at the Chantilly Regional Library in Virginia. 

 

Reel Life and Real Life Weddings!

Reel Life and Real Life Weddings!

As a child in 1970s Delhi, shaadi season was my favorite season. Homes were bedecked with strings of lights, band-baja-baraat (wedding party) music emanated from uniformed band-wallas, and there was raucous dancing in front of the white mare, often to the tune of “Aaj mere yaar ki shaadi hai” (my bro is getting married). Sugar high, twinkling lights, shehnai music.

The modest, stay-within-your-means wedding was like nothing my young self had experienced on-screen. Bollywood offered two choices when it came to weddings. One was a genial Alok Nath saying “Yeh shaadi dhoom dham se hogi.” (Big fat Indian, mostly Hindu, wedding or BFIW). The second was a scowling Amrish Puri saying “Yeh shaadi naheen hogi.” (No wedding, no way). The latter was usually because of a mismatch between religion, caste, class, or janmakundalis (horoscopes.)
Reel weddings versus real weddings? Time for a closer look.

Bigger and Fatter in America?
Had the BFIW reached American shores? And did it need to go on a diet? I decided to embark on an informal survey. The response of my friend Sujatha Suresh,who runs an event planning company called Running Dreamz Productions in California, made my eyes widen and my brows almost touched my hairline.

“Flowers are now flown from India to achieve the authenticity of a South Indian ceremony. Decorations from Rajasthan and Gujarat make the mehendi ceremonies feel like the sets of a Mani Ratnam movie. The jago and dholki at the Punjabi weddings are accompanied by live music by performers well versed in the traditional songs. An upcoming Tamil Brahmin family is interested in flying one of the top Carnatic music performers out for the reception performance.”

Sujatha Suresh is seeing these trends first-hand: “I am incredulous about the Bollywoodization—or should we say Karan Joharization—of the Big Fat Indian Wedding. Boring Indian weddings are now a thing of the past. The mehendi and sangeet cocktails are ubiquitous across India and have become an essential part of the festivities. Choreographed dances by the bridal party as well as middle aged friends of the parents are now de rigeur.”

Another wedding planner who coordinates Indian weddings in the Hawaiian islands confirmed these trends. “The excitement around island destination weddings is higher than I’ve ever seen it,” reports Mira Savara of Mira Savara Events, “The weddings tend to be 50-200 guests, which is quite large by Western standards, but small compared to the weddings we see in India. This allows the families to focus on a “wow” experience for their intimate guest list, and yes, we are seeing some real “Bollywoodization” of traditional Western weddings as well—pops of color, decorations that showcase an Indian flair, and choreographed dance numbers!

Destination weddings? Flowers from India? Choreographed dances? Are weddings now all about Bollywood production values and set design?

A friend shared her ambivalence about the professionalization of modern weddings: “My aunts used to sit over a cup of chai wrapping gifts for the wedding. Now, when I walk into a wedding, there is no place for trays wrapped in simple cellophane, bearing gifts for the bride or the groom. The trays have been color coordinated and stacked. The flowers are perfectly matched, the outfits of the bride and the groom and their families have been planned keeping the backdrop for the wedding photos in mind.”

I needed to turn to some people who had done some thinking about the Big Fat Indian Wedding.

Elite Status Weddings
Delhi-based sociologist Parul Bhandari has researched elite weddings in India extensively. In the status-crazed circles that Bhandari describes, “the elite Indian wedding is not simply an ostentatious celebration involving an unabashed display of money and taste. It is about competition, conservatism, and assertion of power. It is nothing less than the coronation ceremony of an elite status.”

Bhandari continues: “In this professionalised approach to wedding planning, elites have begun the trend of celebrating some of the most traditionally muted rituals with much glam and glitz, which would otherwise be celebrated with austerity especially in a middle class setting. For example, at the elite weddings I attended, for the small ceremonies of haldi (smearing the bride and groom’s body with turmeric powder) and gharcholi (bathing the bride and groom with holy water), a troupe of singers was invited and silver coins were given to the attendees.”

In the upper echelons of Indian society, “the practice of giving a dowry is also modified… [and] assumes a muted presence, shrouded in the ostentatious display of wealth and generosity of gift-giving. At one elite wedding I studied, the groom was given an Audemars Piguet watch costing approximately £10,000, a BMW 7 Series car, and £50,000 in cash. There is an insistence, especially by the father of the bride, to treat this not as dowry, but only as a gift, as the bride-to-be too, it is argued, is gifted expensive jewellery and clothes by her in-laws.” Her research echoes that of sociologist Patricia Uberoi, who writes that weddings are “the most visible site of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous waste,” in South Asia.

Wedding costs are growing at 30 percent annually in this $25 billion industry. Indians routinely spend one fifth of the wealth accumulated in a lifetime on a wedding ceremony, sometimes pledging their land as collateral.

Why this fascination with a big, over-the-top Bollywood style wedding? Has real life started imitating reel life or is it the other way around?

Bollywood Weddings
Screen weddings offer Bollywood a vehicle to show off designer costumes and jewelry, folk songs—a fun tamasha! No wonder Bollywood is obsessed with weddings, and weddings, by all accounts, are obsessed with Bollywood.

To remind myself about just what on-screen Bollywood weddings were like, I began rewatching, in earnest, several movies I could think of that included, among others, the mother of all wedding films: Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (HAHK). Plot lines of all variants abound. Each Bollywood film seemed to be having a conversation with modernity versus tradition. Patricia Uberoi calls the Alok Nath-style cultural propagation of “sanskaar” and images of large, happy joint families—as in HAHK as contributing to a conservative “ethnicisation,” of Indian family values against the modern culture of the West.

In HAHK, the subject of dowry comes up, with the clownishly vampy Bindu gnashing her teeth at Arti Shahani’s lack of dowry. To his credit, the patriarch Alok Nath sticks up for this dowry-less girl. Folk traditions are evident during the film. A great deal of fun is had over hiding the groom’s shoes.

Modernity and tradition face off again in the Kal Ho Na Ho wedding. Since the film is based in New York, some liberties can be taken. Saif Ali Khan genuflects, Western style, to ask Preeti Zinta’s hand in marriage. Yet there is Punjabi folk music at the wedding “Pyaari Banno” full of nostalgia, Indian style.

In Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, the destination wedding to a Rajasthani palace hotel, and much dancing and partying is in evidence. In the song “Dilli Wali Girlfriend,” Deepika Padukone makes a reference to a bride’s weight in gold. Gold, that precious yellow metal around which so much revolves. There is a shadow behind all that shiny gold jewelry.

In Monsoon Wedding, the simple and touching romance and wedding of the working class Vijay Raaz who falls in love with the maid, Tilotama Shome outshines the wealthier versions. This is the film that stole my heart with its subtle depiction of family dynamics during a middle-class Delhi wedding.

Naseeruddin Shah’s embarrassment when he needs to borrow money for the wedding highlights the financial burden on the bride’s father.

Bollywood itself serves as a cultural forum for competing values. Not surprisingly, Bollywood depictions of weddings include the uncritical as well as the socially aware. Everyone loves a good party, and if you’ve got the money, surely you are entitled to flaunt it? Yet societally, a culture of extravagant weddings too frequently translates to debt and financial difficulty as an aftermath. Sadly, this burden has traditionally been disproportionately borne by the bride’s family. In India, dowry-related crimes are rising in a culture of rampant greed. Something about this stinks, and the fragrance of even the most beautiful wedding flowers can’t disguise this whiff.

Bidai: The Sendoff
Dhoom dham is all good and fine. But at some point, the Bollywood movie comes to an end, and we return to reality. After the bidai (farewell) and the tears, after the honeymooners have left in their flower-strewn car, and the pandit has departed, and the wedding planners and caterers have been paid, I wonder who is left holding the bill for the Big Fat Indian Wedding!

Geetika Pathania Jain, Ph.D. is a frequent contributor to India Currents.

Plot lines of all variants abound, and my mind boggled with the sheer variety of themes that emerged.
Spoiler alert!

. Girl has prior boyfriend but gets married to the chosen bridegroom (Tanu weds Manu, Monsoon Wedding)
. Girl does not want to get married to the chosen bridegroom and skips matrimony altogether (Bazaar, Veer Zara). Boy does not want to get married to chosen bride (Hasee toh Phasee, Roja)
. Boy and girl want to get married, but what to do (Kal Ho Na Ho, Mughal-e-Azam). Girl gets jilted, embarks on solo honeymoon (Queen)
. Girl gets jilted, embarks on speech about virtues of Haryanvi women (Tanu weds Manu Again). Boy and girl get married once again (Tanu weds Manu Again)
. Singles mingle at a friend’s/sister’s wedding and end up together (Tanu weds Manu, Yeh Jawanee Hai Deewanee, Hum Aapke Hai Kaun)
. Boy meets many eligible Patel girls (Meet the Patels)
. Boy and girl are from different communities (Two States)
. Boy and girl are from different social classes (Mughal-e-Azam)