Meeting Jeffrey Archer

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God bless Juhi Chawla! The actor keeps getting more beautiful by each passing day. The grace & maturity with which she has handled age & motherhood is a rare phenomena in our industry. Not only is she looking absolutely stunning, illness she has also retained her inherent charm & elegance in a variety of understated (& often seemingly effortless) performances. And look the way she has carefully shifted gears from your usual heroine roles without compromising on either quality or quantity and yet not stuck in the mother/bhabhi/sister routine stuff (Bas Ek Pal, denture My Brother Nikhil, dosage Jhankar Beats are some of her excellent post-marriage roles). Kudos, Juhi – you rock, and in Bhoothnath, your unobtrusive young-mother act is another shimmering example of how you can remain in the background yet ooze your presence…just like a mother in an average household!

In this film, she reveals yet another facet of her personality- that of being a very very competent singer. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she has rendered the female portions of ‘Chalo jaane do ab chhodo bhi’ .

Juhi & Shahrukh make an excellent on-screen pair. Homely & average. Perhaps, that’s what director Vivek Sharma wanted to capture. Your Sharmas are just your average next-door yuppie couple, shifted into an idyllic Goan bungalow (given by the husband’s company), alongwith their brattish but cute second-grade child. In fact, they aren’t without their little quirks and weaknesses – the wife is a bit lazy sometimes, the husband has long tours to do, the child can be both naughty & caring at different times. Well, as I said, just your average next-door couple. The director outlines all this in little nuggets tucked away in everyday dialogues.

However, there is a twist – and a simple one! The house they inhabit is just not your every-day next-door household (unless you have a fetish for living in haunted colonies!). The house is home to a dirty and cynical & angry old man.. err, ghost Kailash Nath (Amitabh Bachchan) – who as you can very well guess, sheds all his dirt & cynicism & anger once he befriends the naughty brat. Their friendship forms the crux of a major bulk of this short film.

For most parts, Bhoothnath is a simple fable, told in a sweet entertaining & very direct way. The debutant director, mercifully, doesn’t show off any bizarre camera movements, or any slick editing tricks or too much of photographic stunts (except for the necessary ghost-induced scenes). All Sharma displays is a straight-off-the heart story telling narration style, that should endear both the kids and the adults. Even though it lacks the punch to be ‘that great film’, still (especially coming on the heels of such bakwaas as Tashan), it is surely worth watching once at least!

Barring that silly Baghbaan-kind-of-past about Kailash Nath (revealed towards the end), Bhoothnathis on the whole a very watchable fare.

Other than Juhi Chawla, Amitabh Bachchan is superb. In true sense, he is the ‘spirit’ of the film. Watching him enact the ghost traveling a gamut of experiences from horror to honor, you know that you are really watching India’s greatest actor perform. Now which idiot had asked him to retire sometime back? I suggest, he watch this film. And one can now safely bury the ignonimy of Ramgopal Verma Ki Aag!

Vishal-Shekhar’s music carries two wonderful songs – ‘Samay ka pahiya chalta hai din dhalta hai raat aati hai’ & ‘Chalo jaane do ab chhodo bhi’ . Sukhwinder’s solo ‘Banku bhaiya’ is also listenable.

Overall – Worth watching!
Well, recipe not so much ‘meeting’ as it is ‘seeing’ him.

But to think & imagine, unhealthy that I’d ever be in the same room as the author I have adored, viagra revered and often emulated, was – till a few days back – beyond thought and imagination. My excitement began building up the day I read he was in India, and it reached its zenith when I learnt he’d be visiting Landmark, the bookstore, just a few blocks away from where I live, on 20th May 2008.

In fact, in my eagerness I went to the store a day earlier than his scheduled visit only to return obviously disappointed. After all, that day was a holiday and I could reach on time. I had to twist my schedule a bit to make sure I reached on the 20th, which I surely did, but still thanks to the awful Mumbai traffic and a fire-fighting item that took up some talk-time, I reached the venue a bit late.

There he was – in a packed room. Priyangini (oh yes, she is alive, radiant, full-some) had already informed me of the crowd, to which I had expressed my astonishment. He surely has a considerable fan-following in Bombay. Although much aged than what the photos on the jacket covers reveal, his youthful wit and humor and sharpness energized the crowded hall – much like the characters and stories that he so very skilfully narrates.

He disclosed how 17 publishers had rejected his Not a Penny More Not a Penny Less. (Personally, I can only pity those fellows). An enterprising lady in the audience even asked him whether he ever met those 17 losers again and rubbed the fact in. He merely smiled that success itself is a big revenge on them.

On writing, he expressed that one should write honestly and not to follow a trend – and certainly not write with an eye of making a movie. ‘So when you write, don’t write for Bollywood!’ he commented. I winced, & tried as much to avoid Priyangini’s all-knowing smirk.

He had done his homework well on India, its movies, its politics, its cricket and its authors. Vikram Seth, he admitted, is his favorite, and since Seth is such a multi-talented personality, he joked that ‘it’s a wonder that he doesn’t open India in the Twenty-twenty game!’

When another audience member expressed her joy at one of his lines from the latest Prisoners of Birth (and how the book got its title), he divulged that it just comes on – and in this case it came through in a flash in (probably) the fourteenth draft (yes, for Prisoners of Birth he wrote some 16 odd drafts, before the final version came out), once when the basic story has been narrated, and when the author is finalizing the finer points. He also admitted that Prisoners of Birth is inspired from Alexander Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo.

He also remarked (tongue-in-cheek) on the city’s traffic and how it took him two hours to cover a mere distance of 15 kilometers.

Thereafter, he promised to autograph books – and solemnly pledged that he will not leave till the time he signed the last book. Hence, there is no need to crowd or get into a mad rush.

Seeing the awfully long queue, Pri and I loitered a bit at the mall’s food court (and I devoured off a 6inch Sub & a plate of Ragda Pattice from Kailash Parbat counter while Pri just toyed with her Hot Choco-latte from Cafe Coffee Day). As I munched, I told Pri there were so many questions I wished to ask – how he wrote (computer or by hand) or what changes the various drafts underwent or did he write the way the sequences in the manner they appear… to which Pri laughed and remarked wryly, ‘He’s not going to give you a writing course’ How I wish he could and would!

On return, we found the line a bit depleted.

After a small wait in the queue…there I reached in front. My heart somersaulted in the rib as I offered my copy of Prisoners of Birth for him to autograph. I stammered something about being a huge fan of his, and how I have read all his works and in the short time I even managed to convey that as a fan False Impression disappointed me, and that I prefer his ‘saga’ style works like As The Crow Flies or Sons of Fortune or Kane & Abel. He raised his brows at the last comment and smiled and said something that I don’t now recall – but the look on his face was an amused one. By that time, the gentleman behind me was almost tripping on my heels, and the usherer would have happily shoved me off the dias! The queue had resumed its original length (as people had sauntered in after their ‘coffee breaks’ from the food court).

I clutched the signed book, and made my way out – happy, excited, contented, joyful & proud!

That’s one down on my list of ‘must-meet celebrities’. Two more to go!

Comments

  1. I was thinking might you met someone from the blogworld 😛 but you meet Jeffery Archer the author you liked :). Wow.

    Will read the post in later and comment.

  2. oh it must be really something to meet the author in person. I have never felt the urge to meet authors maybe because I felt it would never be possible but considering that there are possibilities, it must be really nice and if the author is someone I loved, I would have felt like asking all the questions that came to your mind while you were sitting with Pri.

  3. Hello sirjee!
    Remember me na?
    Your ever-growing and forever evolving blog has inspired me to do this! (Don’t ask me what!!)
    I guess we all should have a little reunion! 🙂

  4. I’m here to comment 😀

    See even the author is saying that what I’ve been telling you since starting. I mean about your writing style. I have been strongly suggesting (actually forcing) you to leave the bollywood stylish of writing if you WANT to be an author and get your work published. And you know very well about the reason behind saying it.

    And another thing I have been telling you there are many authors whose work have been rejected more than 20 times. Examples are Ayn Rand, J.K.Rowling and many more. And see in that many more Jeffery Archer also comes. So do not let your spirit down and dreams to doom. One day your work also will be accepted. But besides following your dreams and keeping your spirit high you have to do the other most important thing is to change in your writing style. You remember and I said I will keep saying this unless and until you do so :P. With our best wishes we are always there to support and help morally or whatever the form that could be.

    Well, more or less, you are also a writer. Hey do you still remember my request. Seems you have forgotten it after reaching the most happening Mum-BHAI :P.

    Don’t ask excuses saying I was not settled 😛

  5. hey, this post is going to open up the hereto forgotten point of when will you resume writing. I am not bugging you now a days but looks like people are eager to hear another story.
    and about the bollywood style, though I did have an i-told-you-so smirk I should add that it is a lot of fun to read.

  6. Juneli – Gold aapka…

    … and writing is so far away from my mind these days 🙁 I hardly get any time for myself, leave alone writing…

    Arunima – Come to think of, it’s the first time i met one. But then most i like are either very far off, or no longer living (eg Agatha Christie).

    Anks – Ha ha , he always inspires me… but … but…

    Aks – Welcome back! And yeah i did visit your site y’day 😀

    Priyangini – *rolling up eyes* no! i dont think i can manage it with my current schedule now… i hardly get time to update this place!

  7. Hi Dj
    hats off bro! for a lovely post.
    Believe me ‘tum bhi kissi se kum nahi’ 🙂

    “Don’t ask excuses saying I was not settled”. Junaili bhi ek hi hai…
    I like reading her comments:-)

  8. Seems you didn’t understand that I’m talking about here “My Request”. Of course the writings too but it was something else…. I think I’ve to remind you by mail once again.

    @VANDYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY :P, ;). I mean to say the house searching problem ;).

    Ma’m! You like reading my comments but not post :(. It’s not fair haan

  9. Well…you can make it one more to go…uve been lucky enough to meet me ;)…he he….on a serious note…WOW! is that awesome or what… as for the bollywood style…DJ ( i wish you could see the smile on my face:P)

  10. BTW…..where are you missing???? no blog hopping or what? or are you undercover to come out with a story?

  11. can you please tell me if this make any sense?

    मैं आप मेरी लड़की से प्रेम

    thanks