5 Off-beat Hindi films that I love

Films have always been an integral part of India and the very fact that we churn out the maximum number of films in the world every year confirms my statement. Indian cinema has been divided into two ‘types’ – Mainstream and Parallel or Commercial and Art House. This distinction was correct also but over the years things changed and so did the cinema and so did the audience. Art-House/Parallel cinema became Off-beat. The line between the two ‘types’ of cinema started to blur and we saw that off-beat films can be commercially viable too. I wouldn’t say that the line between the two has completely vanished; however; we now see a greater acceptance of all kinds of cinema.

In this post, I write about 5 ‘Off-beat’ Hindi films which I saw and why I loved them.

1. The Lunch Box

The Lunch Box is one of the most beautiful and ‘delicious’ love stories that I have seen on screen. I love this film because it takes an unconventional path with respect to storytelling. In the age of SMS and internet, this love story develops over hand-written notes delivered via lunch box. There is a comfortable ingenuousness in the notes which the protagonists exchange. There is an intense vignette of loneliness; and what’s interesting is that the characters talk about their life, experiences, and problems to each other but never really profess their love or meet each other. But, the magic is that still you can feel the love that grows between them and that is the beauty of the film.

2. Stanley Ka Dabba

Well coincidentally, Stanley Ka Dabba is another film based around food & lunch box that I absolutely love.  There are many reasons why I adore this film. One of the many reasons being that it is a slice from our lives. It takes us back to our school days when the lunch time was the most cherished hour with friends. The time when we used to play, fight, laugh, cry and of course share food with our classmates. Stanley Ka Dabba also brings back innocence into the kids. The kids here are just their age and not the over-smart or overly matured bunch of kids as shown in most films. Around all this, the film conveys a deeper message against child-labor. It isn’t easy to address serious issues through a film and not sound stodgy. Stanley Ka Dabba excels here!

3.  B.A. Pass

Based on a short story ‘The Railway Aunty’, B.A. Pass is a gritty story about sex and betrayal. The film shows us a Delhi that is beyond India Gate and Lal Quila. It shows us the deep dark and ruthless city that it becomes as the neon lights are switched on. It exposes the life of middle and upper class people where the middle class is battling with hypocrisy while the upper class is battling loneliness.  Amid all this is enveloped the story of a boy who is forced into male prostitution and the film tells his tale brilliantly. It also talks about sex from a woman’s perspective; how physical needs are not just meant for men. Women too yearn for physical satisfaction. There aren’t many films which have touched the subject of male prostitution; B.A. Pass does and it passes! For all these reasons I love the film.

4.  Dhobi Ghat

Most films have stories which are set in some city but we seldom come across a film where the city forms a character in itself. Dhobi Ghat is one such film and one of the major reasons why I absolutely loved it. It is the story of a city with four people living in it. In fact, it can rightly be called an ode to Mumbai. The film takes you to the chaotic lives of the people of Mumbai from all walks of life, their daily struggles; sometimes with themselves and sometimes with others, their hopes, their desires, their dreams. Just like a free flowing river, the film has a free flowing narrative and it’s still interesting how the four people are connected to each other in the film. It’s a painting of Mumbai with people filing colors into it.

5.  Ankur

Shyam Benegal’s Ankur is one of my favourite films of all times. Interestingly, this was the first film of Shyam Benegal and Shabana Azmi who created the path for parallel or off-beat cinema as it is called now. Based on a true story, Ankur is a film that mirrors the brutal feudal system which prevailed in India and the evil social customs that had (still have) chained India. The beauty of Ankur is that it addresses various social issues from alcoholism and casteism to inequality and dowry; yet it is more about the underlying human relationships. The title of the film also has many connotations left to our imagination. It can refer to Lakshmi whose womb is waiting for an offspring to grow in it or the seedling of uprising that takes birth against the feudal system and social customs. However, if I have to pick one reason as to why I love this film then it is because of Shabana Azmi who shines in the character of Lakshmi. She excels as a coy yet strong house servant who submits to her master who is attracted to her. We don’t know whether Lakshmi also loved her master or approved of the affair or whether she used him to get the child she had been yearning for. Her eyes speak of the emotions which churn within her. Ankur is truly class apart!

This post is a part of the Miss Lovely Activity in association with Blog Adda.

Miss Lovely, an off-beat film directed by Ashim Ahluwalia is set in the lower depths of Bombay’s “C” grade film industry. It follows the devastating story of two brothers who produce sex horror films in the mid – 1980s. A sordid tale of betrayal and doomed love, the film dives into the lower depths of the Bollywood underground, an audacious cinema with baroque cinemascope compositions, lurid art direction, wild background soundtracks, and gut-wrenching melodrama. Miss Lovely is scheduled for commercial release on 17 January 2014.

You can check the trailer of the film


TRP Mev Jayate!

Last Sunday saw the ‘holier-than-thou’ Aamir Khan’s television debut and after a month long promotions Satyamev Jayate finally aired at 11.00 in the morning simultaneously on Star Plus & Doordarshan. I had zero expectations from the show and I thank Aamir because he did not disappoint me. So, here I shoot!

FAKENESS Personified

The opening monologue by Aamir Khan – “Main ek actor hi nahin, Insan bhi hoon” was enough to turn me off and I knew that this was just another attempt by the sanctimonious Khan to show how good a human being he is compared to his contemporaries who chose silly game shows to make their television debut. In fact, the whole opening credits sequence – AAMIR KHAN Productions, Core Creative Team AAMIR KHAN, Conceived & Created By AAMIR KHAN gave me a feeling that somewhere the show aims at telling us how great the man is. He is a crusader, the modern day JesusAs @CilemaSnob calls him )  who is here to solve all the problems. Mr. Khan also says that he feels pareshan and udaas when he sees certain things in the society. But in his more than two decade old career as a superstar what has he done to improve those ‘things’? Why have I never seen him do any of the philanthropy stuff which actors love to do. No charity? No donations? No NGO to support?  The only time I remember him speaking for ‘poor’ was when he participated in Medha Patkar’s Narmada demonstrations when his film Fanaa was about to release but he ran off from the scene when Gujarat Government threatened to pull out his film. Oh Yes! And he recently attended a rickshaw puller’s son’s wedding too.  Also, he did some social service when he gave a free hair cut to people while promoting Ghajini (If that counts). Also, if he is so much perturbed by the situation & feels he should do something then do it for free na! Why take 3 crores/episode? And if you are taking then STOP being so pretentious!

Even as a host, Aamir Khan is a massive disappointment. The whole grim and stiff-necked look on his face looks forced. Though he is one of the few good ‘actors’ which our country has produced; he sucks on the show. Where is the spontaneity which Mr. Bachchan, Shahrukh & Salman brought on their shows?  For example; the first scene where Aamir is standing & doing the talking but later goes on to sit on the stairs. In this 10 second scene only one can feel that he istryingtoo hard.  And not to forget the scene where wipes off his tears which never really came out. Why Aamir, Why? Don’t we have Rakhi Sawant for nautanki?  And what made me feel more angry was the way Aamir interacted with the 3 ladies on the show who told their stories. Aamir like a heartless and coaxing news reporter kept asking “Aapko Kaisa Laga”? “Phir Aapne Kya Kiya”? Fuck You Aamir!

Moving on, audience plays an important part in our reality shows and adds the needed masala into the show. Here, like the superficial host of the show, the audience is also superfluous. You have an intellectual looking Aunty ji with hair half dyed & spectacles hanging around her neck, a sophisticated urban woman who wipes off her tears with a slight flip in her hair, an uncle ji who looks fits the bill of a dadaji & some teenage girl & boys to balance the whole thing. This is the perfect mix to connect with the aam junta as it caters to people from all walks of life. Actually, it was quite like the one’s sitting in Zee TV’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Show! It was so bloody irritating to see the made up reaction from the audience in the form of Hawwwwws”, “Ohhhhhhs . And going by the response online (twitter) and after talking to my Mom I can say that the attempt was quite successful. This is exactly what gets you TRP’s and keeps the producers happy!

As the show reaches end, Aamir Khan uses AIRTEL’S 3G technology to connect to a village in Harayana and also promises to write to the Chief Minister of a state if we send an SMS to a number as the proceeds through these messages go to charity and Aamir Khan’s friend Mukesh Ambani’s RELIANCE Foundation will also contribute.  So we all can now feel good about having done our bit for the girl child this week, homosexuality the next week, dowry the week after… Who says push-button activism can’t work! But SMS? Are you fucking kidding me Aamir?  

It is a proper commercial show on a proper commercial channel backed by corporate sponsors and anchored by a celebrity. Can this show take up causes that will conflict against its corporate interest? Coca Cola, the company that Aamir Khan endorses is accused of spoiling waters resources in Kerala & Rajastan, Will Aamir dare to take up such issues?

Eventually, Aamir called lyricist Swanand Kirkire & music director Ram Sampat to perform a (lovely) song ‘O Re Chiriya’. I am told that every episode will have one song. And I can guarantee that towards the end of the show Audio CD’s of all the songs will be out in the market under some music company’s label & we would be promised that the amount will go to charity!

Sorry Aamir, but your new show is a colossal disappointment. It is like your perfectly imperfect film Ghajini. You talk about change. It took Mr. Bachchan several years of campaigning to help in eradicating Polio from India and here you expect to bring a change by talking about issues every Sunday! Next Sunday you will talk about some other issue, week after some other issue & after 10 weeks with 30 crores in your bank you will go!

You can’t even be credited for coming up with something “new” on Indian television because the Indian audience is not alien to such type of shows. IBN 7 has a show Zindagi Live which is very similar in format, which again is emotional, emotive, passionate, real issues with the real people and real protagonists in the studio, it’s a talk show but there of course the difference is Aamir Khan! Those who have already given a ‘Godly’ status to Aamir, a word of appreciation for IBN7 Journalist Richa Anirudh also who is hosting the show since 2007 & bringing up different issues in mainstream media. Meetu Khurana, who was one of the guests on Aamir’s show was on Richa’s show in 2010. I am sure nobody gave a flying fuck then because you need an Aamir Khan to realize what is wrong around you!  

I wish all those issues that he’ll take will hit the society as hard as we think it will and will not remain a tea-table talk and will not remain a one time emotional outburst!