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A novel by Khalid Hosseini
Book Review

My readings in the recent past have been erratic. But I try to catch anything new and happening that might rock the literary world, caries other than keeping update of Jeffrey Archer‘s releases (which, price I admit with a heavy heart, have not been really great in the past two cases Cat O Nine Tales and False Impression). Most times I am left sorely disappointed. And I end up going back to tried and tested P G Wodehouse or Agatha Christie to satiate the reading urge.

But The Kite Runner deserves all the accolades and praises it receives. It’s been quite sometime since a novel touched, moved, stimulated and inspired me the latter is a huge criterion, since I write my own stories as well. Dan Brown was one, but that was over two years ago.

Khalid Hosseini‘s The Kite Runner is to put it in one word scintillating! With his words he weaves a riveting yarn about guilt and redemption, about growing and maturing and about life and living. The story is in first person, about Amir, his yearning to get his father’s approval, his inner fears and of course, his guilt. In the winter of 1975 (after a successful kite-flying tournament)he witnesses an act against his faithful servant-cum-friend-cum confidante Hassan, which Amir could have prevented but doesn’t do so because of his own fear and cowardice. That one cold evening will shape his entire life, leading to more wrongs, revealing other secrets in his mature years and finally taking the story to its logical conclusion.

Set against the turbulent backdrop of Afghanistan, The Kite Runner charts its course keeping in mind the unrest that unleashes on the country post-seventies.

The novel is a success because of three major reasons- a) it brings alive the characters. Amir, his father Baba, his father’s friend Rahim Khan, the guileless servant Hassan and many others are people that seem to jump up from the cold words and get a warm life in your hearts and minds; b) the details are strewn in the most unassuming manner at various places, not giving away all at once, and not unnecessarily hiding it to fool the readers; and c) the twists are beautifully brought up, just when you are not expecting them, hitting you in the plexus like a sledgehammer; and despite it not being designed as a page-turning thriller it ends up being just that. Of course, it has a few contrived scenes, but then I will grant that to writer s liberty and frankly, when the whole is so beautiful, nitpicking on a few warts and moles is being damn petty. I also wish that the ending was trifle happier, though in no way can it be called tragic or failed.

It’s after aeons that a novel managed to bring a lump to my throat and moisten my eyes – nay, the tears flowed! The section where Amir and his father re-build their ravaged lives in America is one of the finest pieces of writing ever published. I had to in-between keep the book down only to absorb the overwhelming feeling that drowned me, and I kept staring at the ceiling long after, flush with countless emotions, thinking of my own father and my relation with him. I don’t know when I snuggled into sleep, but when I woke I could still feel my wet eyes. Anyone who has had even a fleetingly close bond with his/her father shouldn’t miss this novel ever. There is also a brief but charming track about Amir’s romance with Soraya in this section.

Hassan’s unflinching devotion towards Amir is the novel’s keystone, which not only sets the foundation for the story, but also is the motivator to take it forward. The relationship between the two, through their childhood years, is captured with all the innocence that those years carry. It brought back memories of Harper Lee’s masterpiece To Kill A Mockingbird. In this section, the kite is a character of its own, as one relationship disintegrates during a kite-flying tournament and another is built in the climax in yet another such tournament. Successfully, Hosseini avoids making any judgements – if Amir is weak, he is so; that’s a human folly and there is no need to make unusually moral hue and cry about it. But then, the novel actually is about how he falls and rises – more so, in his own eyes, within his own parameters and structure.

Lastly and extremely importantly I read the novel voraciously analyzing the way Hosseini has built the scenes, the manner in which he constructs the sentences, the usage of similies and metaphors and the deployment of words and grammar. It is simple, short and succinct, without using crutches of heavy words or long sentences. And I re-read some key portions to understand the machinery behind the scenes. Absolutely A-class!

Overall – Simply Don’t Miss It Ever!

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Standing on my balcony late last night, rehabilitation I looked in the darkness towards where Taj Mahal is. I wondered if it realized that millions would be watching about it’s fate in the New Seven Wonders list on their television sets (and live in Lisbon). Did it understand its own grandness? More importantly, nurse did the callous city which houses it realize it’s importance. During my stay here I have heard several derogatory comments against it (many industries had to be shifted/relocated due to the environmental pressures, leading to a lot of unrest and discomfort amongst the business community).

Unfortunately, the cable here chose to vanish and I couldn’t catch the New Seven Wonders results. Today morning as I made way to pick up the newspaper, I stopped again to look at the white marble wonder, standing dignified surrounded by rain-clouds, and I hoped that it would have made it through to the new seven wonders.

It has!

Here is the final result of the New Seven Wonders List, as announced in a glittering function in Lisbon (Portugal), attended by our very own dusky siren Bipasha Basu and Agra’s mayor.

The New Seven Wonders list has evoked several responses – from excitement to indifference to cynicism to controversies (after all it’s just a private new list, without even the official sanction on UNESCO! The Egyptians pulled out of the vote in a huff!). Then some found the ‘false patriotism’ unleashed the past few months to enable voting highly distasteful.

But in all this, my contention is simple – however stupid or silly this list be, however private it be, however useless it might turn out to be in the long run, if there is a competition that has attracted world-wide coverage, why shouldn’t our country be participating (considering we have such a rich historical and cultural lineage)? Why should we be left behind? Let there be a new found interest whipped up towards India. After all, we have all rejoiced when our women won Miss Universes and Miss World titles, so why not this time again? (And let’s not get into the utterly deplorable argument about how the cell-phone companies are actually making money out it! My one vote will only cost me Rs 6-7 or thereabout, an amount which we wouldn’t think twice in spending otherwise, especially while downloading those sickening ring-tones and dialer-tones!)

The Taj Mahal itself stirs up varied reaction. The romantics view it as an ultimate tribute of love. The skeptics see it as a monumental waste of money. Add to this the various contradictory stories and doubts floating around it’s origin – from the popular view to this one recounting that it was originally a Hindu Shiva Temple!

Our films, forever the keen reflection of society, have captured it probably the most effectively in two of its most enduring numbers. On one hand we have Lata Mangeshkar and Mohd. Rafi exhorting its virtues when they claim Ek shahenshah ne banwake haseen Taj Mahal saari duniya ko mohabbat kii nishaanii dii hai (penned by Shakeel Badayuni for the movie Leader and composed by Naushad). On the other extreme, perhaps in the same year (1964) Mohd. Rafi sniggers at the monument urging his beloved that Meri mehboob kahiin aur mila kar mujhse, since (as he says in a wonderfully fiery climax of the number) Ek shahenshah ne daulat ka sahara lekar hum garibon ka udaya hai mazaak (written by Sahir Ludhianvi for the film Ghazal and tuned by the ever-dependable Madan Mohan) (Incidentally, the song is amazingly tuned and Rafisaab adds extraordinary life to it). Two sides of the same coin! Take your pick…

Earlier, I had many misgivings about Taj Mahal. I had always wondered what is it about a building of white marble, which doesn’t hold anything of importance to the common man inside it, that it could evoke so much passion for four centuries and more! But the moment I stepped into its compound and beheld it with my own eye, all other thoughts vanished and my heart literally skipped a beat. For one, it is much larger than we imagine and the various photographs don’t do full justice to it. And second, the sheer symmetry and elegance (despite it’s size) is actually to be seen to be believed. (And it’s not about the marble only; for that I would request everyone to also see Jai Gurudev Ashram en route to Agra, at Mathura, on the National Highway No. 2 to realise how plastering marble and having domes doesn’t make a Taj Mahal!!!)

Whatever be the misgivings, the doubts or the skepticism, Taj Mahal has won. And there is a surging pride in me as I again stand by my window viewing its handsome dome looking proudly up towards the darkening skies (the rains are ready to pour, probably to rejoice in the celebration).

If only now, the Mayor on her return to Agra, would clean up the city and make it living worthwhile. If nothing else, at least she can ensure a cleaner and wider approach to the monument (and certainly not have generators spewing out venomous fumes in the curio shops just outside the gates, while the entire city’s business has been penalized for this very purpose!)

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Veer Zaara
Music Review

Veer Zaara…mmm, sildenafil how does one even start writing on this one without getting stuck in quagmire of clichéd superlatives and stock praise phrases. The music is way beyond a review or a critique; it is also way above the claustrophobic confines of communication clutches.

Like a well nurtured and matured wine, this album has to be sipped and savored in small spurts. Unlike beer, it does not give instant gratification. Hear the soft cadences of santoor, sitar and Lata soak your sensibilities in a musical equivalent of a softly diffused photograph. However, the sepia toned tunes are given a strong swish of contemporary brush.

With a great burden of expectations, I approached Veer Zaara with lot of doubt, apprehension and cautiousness. At the end of the first listening I tried to shake it off,but like a well trained pet, the music just stayed back with me. Ever since, I have been trying to dissect it but every time I fail, and get carried hopelessly away by the sheer sway of the tunes. Veer Zaara is a monumental dazzle of bright lights…this is the Diwali of Hindi film music!!!

The music is extracted from an unspent treasure trove of the genius Madan Mohan- probably a first in the history of films, wherein a dead composer’s music has been so thoughtfully resurrected. But to say that these are purely Madan Mohan’s compositions would be a fallacy. In Kyun Hawa, the chorus at the beginning harks back to Shiv-Hari’s prelude in Silsila’s Yeh kahan aa gaye hum; the rhythms of Mai yahan hun remind of DDLJ and Mohabbatein; a snitch of Sharara gets attached to Hum to bhai jaise hain; and lo, was that a glint of Ladki kyun in the second guitar interlude of Mai Yahan Hun?

That, however, does not mean the score is not original. Far from it- the songs are as fresh and fragrant as a freshly powdered baby! And equally tender too! But suffice to say, this is a Yash Chopra score-with a strong dash of Madan Mohan ( just the way Kahin aag lage lag jaaye and I Love My India were Subhash Ghai songs, and nothing to do with their respective credited composers).

From the opening piano bars of Tere liye to the closing saxophone/trumpet strains of Jaane kyun, the album is stacked with myriad emotions-a musical rainbow-with multifarious song genres- love, sad, patriotic, festive, qawwali, et al. The CD contains 11 fulsome tracks-no repeats, no remixes, no redundancies.

This stunning soundtrack is a gift of gratitude by Yash Chopra to his favorite muse, Lata Mangeshkar. Lata has sung all Chopra-directed (and some produced) film songs since Kabhi Kabhie. This perfectly symbiotic relationship has lasted a concrete thirty years in an industry full of nebulous negotiations.

Lata returns the gesture with full vocal support, completely belying her true age! As a critic points out “Her indescribable virtuosity carries us through a universe of romance, nostalgia, patriotism and festivity that is a feast for the ears. What a wonderful birthday gift for her fans!”

From this vast spectrum of sonority, my most favorite track is the Lata-Udit duet Yeh Hum Aa Gaye Kahan (Javed Akhtar does a naughty twist of words from his own Yeh Kahaan Aa Gaye Hum from Silsila). The simple tune is further heightened by a tickling sitar motif that comes in front of each antara. The tune of the antaras is a catchy breathtaking glide from high to low- a waterfall of emotions and melody falling into the fresh water lake of the mukhda. Lata sounds so young when she sings naughtily ‘tumhe mil gaye pyaar ke sau bahane‘ that one is naturally expected to wonder that is she really 75? Her voice conjures up the image of a winking, dimpled Preity Zinta-that is her true genius!!! The musical arrangements, slight and unassuming, are first-rate.

Only Yash Chopra could have coerced her to sound sassy and saucy in the spicy Hum to bhai jaise hai waise rahenge– a rebellious number with a strong Arabian undercurrent. The hum in the beginning sets the mood to a vivacious winner. And don’t get taken in by the delightfully simple façade; like all Madan Mohan compositions, a more complex sub-terrain simmers. Some critics point that perhaps Asha would have done a much better job at such a number? My rejoinder: this is a silly hypothetical question, which can only be countered with another more potent query- would Lata have done a far better job at Mera kuchch saamaan? Also, that the critics think of Asha for such a song (and not for the rest) just proves my point on the limited ability of the singer!

Another ditty bathed in moonlit melody is Do pal. Sonu Nigam does a wonderful job, while Lata provides him ample support. The structure looks back at Ek duuje ke vaaste from Dil To Paagal Hai. The sitar and santoor conjoin together in a heave of an enthralling fountain, only to part ways, like the ill-fated lovers. RS Mani’s musical arrangements, like the flow of a rustic beauty’s dupatta in sylvan surroundings, with just a hint of sorrow in her deep expressive eyes, is visually abundant.

Tere liye hum hai jeeyeis definitely the most perfect tune; hence, also the opening number and the theme song. Once again, Madan Mohan’s favorite instrument sitar finds a pride of place. The laid back languish pace is steeped in nostalgia; the structure of the antara conjoins the mukhda at the end in a seamless amalgamation. Madan Mohan’s strength lay in creating the antara with lot of care, without the effort showing; I would take this song as its prime example, though the rest follow the same pattern. This is undiluted Madan Mohan- impeccable in architecture of tune. Writing verse to already composed tunes is not an easy task; yet, Javed Akhtar pens some sober heart felt lyrics, especially in this one.

The contemporary sounds have irritated most purists; I found the combination quaint- except in Jaane kyun lagta hai, where the jazz like saxophone does not merge well with the overall tune.In fact the opening guitar riffs sound stolen from some English song. Yet, this is a song where Madan Mohan’s basic tune tears out of its arrangements, searing the heart with a passion of warmth. Do I have to add that Lata sounds blissful? My only grouse that Chopra refrained from keeping a typical Madan Mohan-Lata combine song is partially fulfilled with this number.

My last pick from the melody basket is Lata-Jagjit Singh’s Tum Paas Aa Rahe Ho; together, the singers recreate the magic of Sajda and Nargis (the last is a ill-fated film that never got released but had some sumptous numbers like Dono ke dil hai majboor pyaar se, Arre too pawan basanti, Mai kaise kahoon janeman, Kaahe ab ki ae bahar).

From the three choral songs, Lo aagayi lodi ve is a topper; with a tune more infectious than flu, the short staccato antara is filled with a remarkable joi-de-vivre; also, in parts it resembles Raamlaxman’s Didi tera devar deewana. Gurdas Maan’s rough rustic voice is a neat foil to Lata’s honeyed one, this time in a cute and perky mould. Udit Narayan comes in for a wrap up line at the end of each antara (as in Mohabbatein’s Soni soni ankhiyon waali). Yash Chopra transcends trends by creating probably the first song based on this little known North Indian festival.

The other, Aisa des hai mera, is a brilliant patriotic number where Javed Akhtar takes the front seat with some first class imagery of the bucolic life. Largely dominated by Udit Narayan’s expressive and restrained singing, the song has snatches of popular Punjabi folk songs. Pritha Majumdar (who sang most of the songs in Mohabbatein, alongwith a hoarde of others), gets to do a couple of lines. She is the only other female playback singer in the album.

The third, a situational qawwali, is the only let down; it is not of the class as in Henna’s Der Na Ho Jaaye or Parampara’s Mujhe Ishq Ho Gaya! Or perhaps, qawwalis do not motivate me enough.

Although Lata is the sole female playback singer (barring a small two line by Pritha), there is an array of male vocals ranging from the expressive Jagjit Singh to the throaty Gurdaa Maan. In this, a special note for Udit Narayan’s immense control of voice and music is definitely warranted. In both his duets with Lata, he holds fort with an amazing grace, only to shine out on his own in his sole solo track, Mai yahan hoon, a song that has all ingredients of being a super hit. Sonu Nigam’s shining glory is Kyun Hawa; unfortunately for him, Lata’s alaaps and hums, overshadow. ( Remember how she took the entire song with her by just a couple of alaaps and a word ‘aaye haaye’ at the end in Bholi si surat aankhon mein masti). As a song, the overtly western semi-rock-and-roll kind of rhythm did not really appeal me.

This year, if Tumsa Nahi Dekha steered Hindi film music to its original course, Veer Zaara lands it up at its rightful destination. The difference is that where TND is good, VZ is great. Actually, it is blasphemy to even think of Veer Zaara with anything that our contemporary musicians create. Let us not even waste time in futile comparisons; like Taj Mahal, Veer Zaara is exclusive; you cannot compare a Taj to a Petronas ever!!

Yash Chopra has maintained an unique clique of exclusivity in the past three decades by signing on non-commercial music directors- Shiv-Hari, Uttam Singh, Khayyam. Largely, this has ensured that the style he has so lovingly cultivated has remained confined to his films only. This time around, he has simple wiped out any means of self-plagiarism.

To sum up, I will quote a review that I read on the net : “The sumptuous score accommodates 11 tracks and as many moods, all culled together to pre-empt all out tomorrows in a clasp of beauty and harmony which is as precious for its fragility as it is for its strength… an album of tremendous melodic value”

The advertisements state ‘listen it to believe it’. For once, I agree. A small fear also creeps up, will today’s generation fed on a staple diet of techno-induced metal sounds and heave-hop of remixes appreciate this evocative, intimate album? This is revival of melody- enjoy it for you will not hear such a monumental score in a long time to come!

For the skeptics, please do listen to it again- a challenge given to a fellow blogger stands for all: I guarantee, if listened to with your heart, Veer Zaara will stay in your soul forever. Like Silsila and Kabhi Kabhie, Yash Chopra gives one more eternal album!

Though I tried to, I just could not find enough effusiveness as this reviewer has done. Please do read this link

Overall: A collector’s album.

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Madan Mohan is not an unknown name to any music lover. He is truly one legend whose work has (to use an awfully overused cliche) survived onslaught of time, unhealthy and that too when originally they weren’t on the most popular stars. Yet, the power of his melodies were such that someone like me, who was barely two years old when he left for the heavenly abode, it has given me an immense satisfaction. In the past years, I have made a conscious effort to seek and unearth many of his unknown and rare gems, and they are exactly that – gems!

On the occasion of his death anniversary, which falls on 14th July 2007, a musical show has been organized by Keep Alive (Manohar Iyer) at Borivali, Mumbai.

And on this day, a book would be released titled ‘MADAN MOHAN – AN UNFORGETTABLE COMPOSER’ (they really couldn’t have thought of any better way to describe him!). I am right now a bit constrained to speak on the book, or its authors/contributors, but it has a number of celebraties who have written their own views on his music. It would be priced less than Rs 500, and it will be an ‘easy-read’ book, giving insight to a man who did wonders when he entered the recording room.

I will definitely let you know about the book once it is released – and will leave with just one tiny information that it has an article by yours truly as well. I just cannot describe the kind of pride I feel right now, having my piece in a book dedicated to my favorite composer!!!

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Thirty-two years back, bulimics Madan Mohan (or ‘Melody Maker’, malady as popularly known amongst his fans) left us – leaving behind fervent music lovers sobbingly clutch a wide range of mellifluous melodies; melodies that stood the fierce test of time, and that only grew in stature as time went about its cruel chore. On his thirty second death anniversary (14th July) Manohar Iyer’s Keep Alive, true to the group’s name, brought alive some of his finest tunes in the packed Prabodhankar Thackeray Hall, Borivali (West), Mumbai in a show titled ‘The Mystique Moods of Madan Mohan’.

As my hosts (a wonderful couple, M&R, but more on them a little later) and I hurriedly collected our passes, Mr Suresh Rao, co-editor of the book that would be released during the show, warned us, ‘The show will start on time’. I was skeptical, but needn’t have been. Barely had we seated ourselves that the curtains parted to the mystical strains of ‘Hamare baad mehfil mein afsaane bayaan honge‘ – a most apt way to begin the show. ‘Bahaarein humko dhoodhengi na jaane hum kahan honge’ the song says, and truly, music and nature, mind and heart wondered where the maestro had gone. Thereafter, I immersed into the music, discarding aside all sense of time.

The stage was set like the great Madan Mohan’s music – simple yet not frugal. The musicians sat in a wide arch, on spotless white seats; the percussions on the left, the keyboards on the right and the sitar – Madan Mohan’s most favorite instrument – prominently in the middle.

The chief guests for the show were Madan Mohan’s family – son Sanjeev Kohli (CEO & Director, Yash Raj Films), his wife and his son, Akshay; and Madan Mohan’s second son, Sameer Kohli.

Manohar Iyer compered the show, taking us into an insightful journey of Madan Mohan’s life chronologically (that’s how the songs were presented), peppering it with lots of information and anecdotes – some, that are now part of Hindi Film Music folklore, and some that were even new to me.

My jaws dropped several times as he narrated incidents or talked about songs – undoubtedly, he is a walking encycolpaedia on the genius composer! For example, once he mentioned how most Madan Mohan songs have a question in their lyrics (Aap kyun roye or Kise pesh karun or Rasme ulfat …nibhayein kaise ) almost as if its a rhetorical outburst from his heart. In another instance, he talked about ‘the eyes’ in his songs (Naina barse or Meri aankhon se koi or Pyaase naino ki pyaas bujha le or Naino mein badra chhaye or Teri chamakti aankhon ke aage, so much so that his debut film was called Aankhen!) – and the various effect used thereon. He also spoke about rhythm patterns, how earlier on dholak or matki were used, and in later stages tabla was deployed. We also learnt that Agar mujhse mohabbat hai was originally composed for Anpadh, but not used and thereafter incorporated in Mohan Kumar’s own production house’s debut film Aap Ki Parchaiyan.(sadly, they didn’t perform this number; instead, they chose Rafisaab’s equally outstandingly shimmering number Mai nigahein tere chehre se)

Madan Mohan and Lata Mangeshkar – two passionate artists, collaborated in numerous ventures, and as Iyer pointed out, even the show is ‘Lata-dominated’ (that’s the reason some other Lataji’s hits were left out to make way for the male songs from the same films, e.g. Dekh Kabira Roya or Aap Ki Parchaiyan). Their first recording together in Adaa is momentous, and the next song was picked from this film: the heart wrenching solo Preetam meri duniya mein do din toh rahe hote. Other hits from this illustrous collaboration included Chand madham hai aasman chup hai (Railway Platform), Na hanso humpe zamane ke hain thukraye hue (Gateway of India), Unko yeh shikayat hai ke (Adalat), Woh chup rahein toh mere dil ke daag jalte hain (Jahan Ara), Meri aankhon se koi neend liye jaata hai (Pooja Ke Phool), Naina barse rimjhim (Woh Kaun Thi), Aap ki nazron ne samjha (Anpadh) and many more. What marvellous magnificent and magical music! And as can be readily seen, so true to the title of the show!

Despite creating some flippant numbers (including the almost-frivolous but delightful O Madam do se ho gaye ek hum from Ashiyana), Madan Mohan never really got any flak for any of his compositions. In fact, the only time there was a whiff of controversy it revolved around his unabashed salute to Sajjad Hussain’s Yeh hawa yeh raat yeh chandni, which under Madan Mohan’s baton metaphorsed as Rafisaab’s brilliant Tujhe kya sunaoon main dilruba (Aakhri Dao), equally brilliantly re-created on stage this evening, sung by Srikant.

Manohar Iyer pointed out that even though Madan Mohan had created ghazals as early as in his debut film (Aankhen), the more reknowned ones are usually associated with the late-fifties onward, basically because with Adalat, he introduced it in the ‘Dadra shaili’ – the more popular style of the royal courts. And that he could create a geet or a ghazal, depending on the mood, with almost similar lyrics was demonstrated by back-to-back rendition of those two Ghazal classics: Naghma-o-sher ki saugat kise pesh karun and Rang-aur-noor ki baraat kise pesh karun (the former is the ghazal, the latter a geet)

Talat Mahmood & Madan Mohan had worked earlier at All India Radio. There, he had promised to utilize Talat’s silken voice, if ever he became a composer. The promise was fulfilled in AshiyanaMai paagal mera manwa paagal (sung with feeling by singer Gaurav on stage). Other Talat numbers featured in the show included Hum se aaya na gaya (Dekh Kabira Roya) & that pathos-laden towering solo, Phir wohi shaam wohi gham (Jahan Ara). Manna Dey sang few songs under Madan Mohan’s aegis, but some of them are extremely sensitive ones – two such numbers presented here were Kaun aaya mere mann ke dwaare (Dekh Kabira Roya) and Tum bin jeevan kaisa jeevan (Bawarchi).

Of the lyricists, Madan Mohan’s five most prominent associations were mentioned – Rajinder Krishan, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan (who worked him in Madhosh in 1952 but had a tiff due to which the two didn’t work together until Anpadh), Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kaifi Azmi & Naqsh Lyallpuri (he attended the show).

From 1950 till 1964 were covered in the first half. When the curtains fell, I checked the time. 10:30. A good two-hours had passed, and I hadn’t felt it at all!

Pre-interval, Sanjeev Kohli released the book Madan Mohan – An Unforgettable Composer* Edited By V M Joshi & Suresh Rao. (More on the book in a later post). He spoke passionately about his father; and the pain behind the industry’s utter callousness towards his father during his lifetime could not escape the audience. In his younger days, he dreamt of having his father’s excellent tunes sung by top-notch stars like Amitabh Bachchan or Hema Malini (the numero unos of those days) – a dream which got fulfilled with Veer Zaara; not only did it have the current top-stars but it also had the Big B & the Dream Girl in a special appearance (singing Lo aa gayi lori ve in the film!)

Post-interval, we traversed the last decade in Madan Mohan’s life – including some splendid hits like Baiyan na dharo (Dastak), Naino mein badra chhaye (Mera Saaya), Yeh duniya yeh mehfil mere kaam kii nahii (Heer Ranjha), Hum hain mata-e-koocha-o-baazaar kii tarah (Dastak), Rasm-e-ulfat ko nibhayein kaise (Dil Ki Rahein), Aaj socha toh aansoo bhar aaye (Hanste Zakhm), Dil dhoondta hai phir wahi phursat ke raat din (Mausam) and finally rounding it off with Tere liye hum hai jeeyen (Veer Zaara – incidentally, the only duet presented in this evening).

As Manohar Iyer so correctly said- some songs of Madan Mohan’s seem to be thoughts that he wanted to convey to us or probably what we wanted to tell him – Jaana tha humse door bahaane bana liye, to which probably he would say Meri yaad mein tum na aansoo bahaana, for which our reply would be Kaise kategi zindagi tere beghair. Finally, the curtains dropped on a thought that must have been on the music moghul’s soul that evening – Mujhe yaad karne waale tere saath saath huun main, jo kabhi khatm na hogi wahi dil ki baat huun main…

…undoubtedly, Madan Mohan Saab, yeh wohi dil kii baat hai jo kabhi khatm na hogi.

Before I conclude, a word of praise for all the singers, especially the ladies who did a wonderful job in replicating Lataji‘s tough numbers: Sarita, Brishali & Priya were simply awesome. Gaurav did a deft job with the baser voiced singers like Talat Mehmood, Bhupinder or Manna Dey & Shrikant sang Rafisaab’s portions with elan!

As regards the wonderful musicians, here are the names: Jay Madan (arranger and guitar), Zuber Sheikh (sitar), Srikant (keyboards), Vijay Tambe (flute), Vishal Mhatre (rhythms), Vijay Jadhav (rhythms – octopad) & Deepak Borkar (side rhythms).

Lastly, a mammoth praise for Mumbai’s appreciative audience – to the extent that some members were actually whistling, which irked Manohar Iyer a little; but overall, I could sense that the audience had really gathered for the love of music and not just to ‘show-off’ (something that I’d expect more in Delhi).

[This post has been included in the Carnival of Music]

*Madan Mohan: An Unforgettable Composer is an analytical look at the composer’s work, a book that every music lover should have. Edited by V M Joshi & Suresh Rao, the book includes articles by Sanjeev Kohli, Akshay Kohli, O P Dutta, Uttam Singh, B R Ishara, Dr. Ashok Ranade, Alka Deo Marulkar, Mridula Joshi, Dr. Kirti Sachdeva, Deepak Jeswal and many more, and contains interviews with Lata Mangeshkar, Shreya Ghoshal, Mahalaxmi Iyer & Rehana Sultan, other than containing Madan Mohan’s filmography & statistics. The book is priced at INR 450 & can be obtained by emailing: skumar482002@yahoo.co.uk

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“Will you be able to recognize me?” she asked on the phone, prosthetic after informing her flight details. “I guess so, treatment ” I replied, and not very confidently. I had seen her photo only once earlier. “In any case, I will carry a placard,” I laughed. The phone disconnected, and I continued the drive to Delhi – excited about the upcoming meet.

RS, as she chose her on-line name, is not an unfamiliar name for the old-time bloggers here. Her humor in everyday bitter-sweet situations and family life packed in a solid punch hitherto unseen on the blogs, and all of it in the most artless and unassuming manner. The simple abundance in her blog is …well, abundant! We first ‘met’ online on a common blog-haunt, commenting on each other’s space, moving to chats on the Yahoo Messenger, and eventually exchanging mails. She quit blogging a year back, but her page is alive with her animated writings, for those who would want to check it out.

At the designated time I reached airport, amused that her flight was to land at 12:35, a time which in our school days had spawned off a corny joke (try saying it aloud in Hindi in Anglicized accent). The flight showed ‘on time’ and even as the clock moved ahead of the hour, it still showed ‘on time’. Was it actually delayed? Still, to be on the safe side, I stood near the railing, amongst myriad another tour operators/friends/relatives, holding an A-4 sheet carrying her name in bold black letters.

I think I was lost in trying to juxtapose the hazy memory of her photograph, seen on the mail, with the people exiting the airport – perhaps, a bit too lost. Suddenly, a lady swooped on me, taking me completely off-guard. “Are you looking for me?” she asked. For an instant second, I was about to say, “No”, before reason – in a rare shimmering display- took over. “R?” I asked, as if females are generally just about waiting to pounce upon yours truly *wink*! She nodded. She looked so different from her photos – or whatever, I remembered of those photos! Finally – and mercifully – reason and logic settled fully, and so did an assurance that I hadn’t actually picked up the wrong lady, and we walked up to my car.

The realization that we are actually face-to-face each other also sank in. For three years, we have chatted online, exchanged mails, had a few phone-conversations…and now, she was actually here. All the way from Canada!

“Let me show you around Delhi, then” I offered, as she said that she wasn’t in much hurry to check into the hotel. (Her hotel choice and the fiascos thereon can make up another full post!) We talked nineteen to dozen, filled each other with missing gaps – on my life, on her life and of course, on sundry others’ lives as well.

We had a small lunch at United Coffee House, at Connaught Place – a quaint restaurant in the inner circle, that has an old-wordly charm to it. Our talk didn’t dry up. Frankly, by that time, it just didn’t look that we had met for the first time. All the conversations over email had maintained a steady connection. Her work, my work, her family, my family, the bloggers, the country, her holiday, the cities (Pune & Delhi) – it just rolled on.

Before we realized, it was time to move. To another part of the meet. Two days back I had called up Anubha and Ashish, informing them about R’s arrival, and we had tentatively finalized Vasant Vihar as the rendezvous point, around 3:30 pm. So off we went there.

The four of us swarmed at Barista at Priya Cinema Complex, Vasant Vihar – and had a blast (quite literally too, since I had ordered something heavenly called ‘Barista Blast’). We talked, and talked, and talked more – on blogs, on people, on life, on Blogeratti. In between, we clicked snaps for posterity’s sake. With Anubha, I had been in touch, but digging out Ashish was a remarkable feat. There was lot to update. There was some bit of nostalgia as we remembered our peak in blogging. The fun of posting, and then waiting desperately for the comments to pour in – ‘the box-office collections’ as Ashish and I used to say.

Both R and Ashish are off-blogs these days. And have no immediate plans to return. But it is my immense good fortune that I met them at that time, and forged a great friendship. Lest Anubha slaughters me ;), let me add that with her it’s a constant exchange of fun-repartees, and always fabulous – but then, I have been meeting her off and on in the past year.

Time slid by – a bit too fast for my liking. We said good-byes around 5:30 or so, and went our way. I dropped R at her aunt’s place, nearby.

A memorable day, for me at least. And I hope I made it memorable for RS as well – so that when she returns to Canada, she should always remember she had been to the dil-walon ka shahar – Delhi!

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It’s not the first time I am in Aligarh. But each time the feeling is the same. It’s like stepping into time-machine and setting the knob to the late seventies/early eighties of Delhi. There is indeed a quaint charm that never fails to attract, prescription be it the cemented roads, ampoule or the old-fashioned houses and shops and a general aura of languidness that permeates in the very air that passes over Aligarh. It forces open nostalgic childhood memories – especially, tadalafil of all those holidays spent in Ludhiana, in my nanihaal. The city exemplifies tehzeeb and the welcome and the hospitality that I receive here is tremendous and very touching.

Yesterday, while sitting at Deepak Restaurant at Aligarh’s ‘most happening’ area – the Centre Point – I viewed the place with interest. And the first thing that crossed my mind was the movie Chameli Ki Shaadi. Remember the place where Anil Kapoor dates Amrita Singh the first time – the Pinto Restaurant? Deepak Restaurant seemed to have jumped out from that movie’s set – the same long sofas with mica-covered tables and waiters in loose cotton and crumpled ‘uniforms’, worn for the sake of wearing one. It’s a place where the local Majnu will get his besotted Laila, sit in the corner-most table and chat non-stop, nonsense-nothings over a slow intake of one Coke (well, if only Campa Cola was still there, the setting would have been complete!). It’s an outlet that has those over-used menu cards covered in stained plastic. And, it’s a place that would invariably play some old hit Hindi film song.

After a widely successful meeting, my colleague and I chose to ‘discover’ the town. Earlier, the visits were always hectic – meetings and more meetings, and even if we stayed the night, we usually ended up being too exhausted to venture out. But yesterday, despite the fatigue, we decided to ‘hit it’.

Earlier, when I had asked about Aligarh’s night life, another colleague (and a local here) raised his brows lewdly and asked, ‘What kind?’ ‘ Well, not the kind that you are hinting to,’ I replied hurriedly, in a mock-horror tone, and added, ‘I am sure there must be more to the night activities than just that.’ Though within the ambit of ‘that’ there seems to be a lot happening – including an amusingly horrifying tale about how a man was smuggled into some girls’ hostel, ‘raped’ seventeen times and left to die off; how the ‘sex mafia’ of these womens’ hostel operates and should some man (say, a lover of some inmate) cross the dreaded gates, he is bound to be ‘sexually abused’!!!

As it turned out, there wasn’t actually much to do.

So we went to the only market that would be open on Tuesdays – a ladies one, at that. Amir Nishan, quite near the Medical Road leading to Medical College, is a long and thin road stacked with shops on both sides selling colorful saris, suits, dupattas and other knick-knacks, covering from the low to middle class and some very high-profile shops as well, with the store names written on iron boards in English and Urdu. Intermittanly, there were the ubiquitous snacks-walas selling gol-gappas and sundry other ‘Indian fast-food’. The market was alive and vibrant, brightly lit and extremely colorful.

We strolled the entire length, upto Dodhpur, where it ends and another one takes over – more general in its category this time. There were kirana stores, and biryani houses, and other general item shops. Somewhere we also noticed an old bank, with signage that seemed to have stayed there right from the time of its installation.

As we loitered, my colleague started humming Rukh se zara naqaab hatado mere huzoor and I naughtily reprimanded him – wrong choice of song! The place was full of women in the hijaab.

We returned to the hotel as the shopkeepers called it a day and the shutters downed. It was an enjoyable, lazy and laid-back evening – a slice of time I will treasure in my memories, and one that will remain fossilized in its multi-hued nostalgic contours on my mind and on this space.

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For someone who has spent a lifetime on television making fun of other’s movies, sickness I had expected Sajid Khan to churn out a whacky and whopper comedy – even if it were superbly slapstick or insanely double-entendre laden! Alas, Khan proves to be simply an arm-chair critic and an atrocious film-maker. Heyy Babyy is neither a full-fledged comedy nor a perfect emotional blaster, and in the end you return from the theater mourning the loss of money and time wasted on this corrupted kitsch.

The film is supposedly borrowed from Three Men and a Baby. It could be, but that is just till the first half – or till about three quarters of the first half. In the rest, it gets all emotional – including a tediously lengthy song that the three nasty-bachelors-turned-nice sing to the cute little one. Knowing Sajid Khan, he would surely have watched Dharam-Hema’s Tum Haseen Main Jawan (where a womaniser Dharam is found clutching a figure far too smaller to his liking!). Why couldn’t Khan take a leaf from that film? Despite all the seventies cliches and contrived situations, Tum Haseen Main Jawan was way more entertaining (and with good music to boot, courtesy Shankar Jaikishan!).

In the second half, the film concentrates on Akshay Kumar and Vidya Balan’s romance-cum-tiff, who it turns out is the mother of the child, and has returned to claim her right back. Poor Riteish and Fardeen are reduced to sheer side-kicks mumbling unconvincingly about how they miss the kid and help Akshay regain Vidya’s trust. This portion has a few genuine laughs. But then, it’s too little and too late.

It’s a current norm to reference old movies; in this one we are reminded of Chupke Chupke (Fardeen Khan doing an impersonation of Amitabh Bachhan pretending to be Dharamender) and DDLJ (with SRK sauntering in for a guest appearance). But why is it that such back-referencing almost always comes in movies that have nothing of their own to proffer?

Other than Shahrukh Khan, Sajid ropes in a bevy of beauties for cameo appearances – Amisha Patel, Neha Dhupia, Minisha Lamba, Hrishita Bhatt, Koena Mitra, Malaika Arora Khan, Diya Mirza and some more. Ok, we got it, he has stong links within the industry and carries immense goodwill. Perhaps, he should have extended this goodness and goodwill to his script-writer as well, who could have at least avoided that lengthy hosptal-scene or that shockingly cliched climax!

Peformance-wise Akshay Kumar tops – and is the clear winner with his boisterous act, though he falters somewhat in a few emotional scenes, but that is being extremely finicky. Riteish is his usual self. Fardeen is very average. And Vidya Balan? Goodness, does she have to wear western clothes?! Agreed, she is all fire and fiery, and does well, but when she puts on that coy act it’s time to tell her that Parineeta is long over. Try something new, please! Other than those horrendous wigs, that is!

The music is pretty average – and only two songs remain with you after exiting the theater – ‘Jaane bhi de’ and ‘Dholna’.

In the end, Heyy Babyy, is a strictly average fare, with a few laughs in between, here and there, but largely an unpalatable concoction that wouldn’t be remembered two weeks later. Numerologically, the producers have added some extra ‘y’s to the title. Perhaps, it’s an oblique question – why, o why, did they make this?

Overall – Average, Avoidable

[A very good review is available here, and I tend to agree with the author!]

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11 Responses to “Heyy Babbyy”

  1. Madhu says:

    Kya baat hai! Aaj hi dekhi aur lightening speed mein review bhi aaya! 😀 Thats what I was wondering why I didnt get reply to my sms ;).

    He he he I know how much U hate Vidya. What abt Zinnie baby? 😉

    I dont think I’ll be able to watch this movie. Hats off to Ur patience!

  2. […] I was waiting for some review on heyy babyy before watching it .. found some nice reviews at random expressions. review summarizes movie as average and avoidable. […]

  3. Poonam says:

    I agree with you too. I remember Sajid Khan coming to the sets of a TV serial Comedy Circus to promote his film Hey Baby, and saying this” Please buy the tickets for Hey Baby now, as next weeks tickets won’t be available. ” And I thought, next week would the movie be in the hall? 🙂

    His film is more about star value rather than quality.

  4. Ektaran says:

    I’ll probably wait for the DVD(pirated).

  5. priyangini says:

    I finally saw Chak de India but Hey baby was house full too, while waiting for the show to start saw the faces of the people who came out of the Hey Baby screen, most had bored expressions and I knew I could avoid this film.

  6. sunflower says:

    Its time for all the directors Sajid Khan made fun of to get together and make fun of him!!!!!


  7. nice blog, wanna exchange links??

  8. kaush says:

    okay that says it! I shall wait to watch it err….online!

  9. kaush says:

    Priyangini did ya like Chak De India?

  10. priyangini says:

    Hey Kaush, yeah, liked it a lot. A good movie after a long time. Makes me believe once more that SRK can actually act if he wants to.

  11. Daniel says:

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article Heyy Babbyy, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

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