Sunday, August 26, 2007

"Kothay Jachhen,Tarapadababu?"

(Where are you going Tarapadababu?)

There is something about Rays and Bengali literature - the only two authors whose entire work adore my bookshelves are Satyajit and Tarapada. For years, actually decades - years spent in wasting my college days; years where I tried to overcome the early workplace excitement and, subsequent frustration; single years where I tried to find meaning of everything in things like Beer and Kababs -- books like "Ko Kho Ga(w) Gho", "KandogYan", "Bidyabuddhi", "Sheshmesh" were a part of my bedtime routine. Heck, even my wife - who understands but cannot read Bengali - nagged me regularly to tell "funny stories from that mota boi" ("Golpo 365" - anthology of Ray's humorous writings). Tarapada seemed to have a life made of dreams - childhood spent in East Bengal in a big family that includes every unknowing neighbor; experimenting grandparents; weird relatives; youth dedicated to "Krittibaas Movement" - that was all about late nights in burning ghaats, drinking (and often smoking LSDs brought in by likes of Alen Ginsberg), and writing stuff that were never written before
-- and above all -- a solid, secure, executive level job with Govt of West Bengal that ended as soon as Buddhadeb Bhattacharya took over!

He claimed most of his jokes were "copied" from Joke books he bought used from Berkeley (where his son teaches) bookshops, but not all - not even most of it were lifted from foreign sources. I live in US for a decade and never seen an English joke book with ShilNora jokes! Most jokes were either on him, or on his brother (Sajal), his sons - Dodo and Tatai, his wife - Minoti, his East Bengal neighborhood, Calcutta offices, Shibram Chakraborty and late-night drunks (read - Shakti Chattopadhhay). He tried funny fictions too - namely the ones with a detective named 'Patal laal' (pronounced as one in Bengali) and an aging heroine 'Julekha'. Puja special numbers for daily "Aajkaal" usually carried this series. He wrote - and loved more than writing anything else - enormous number of poems, some excellent ones. Lately, he delved in some real auto-biographical stuff too -- the title of this blog being title of one such book (read - his jokes with actual character names on it). But like every other successful funny man, he carried a burden to prove himself to be "non serious". Thus poet Tarapada remained sidelined to the joke writer! To me, some of his poems would rank the same as early Nirendranath Chakraborty - same lucidity, similar Calcutta-East Bengal identity dilemma, and not overtly just about chasing skirts (actually, saris!) when drunk.

Tarapada Ray died yesterday. News of death - as we grow older - becomes more painful. But when a humorist dies, it becomes unbelievable. Like Tarapada, Art Buchwald - whom the former had tremendous respect for and had actually met in US - also died of kidney complications. Buchwald worked on a book titled "Too Soon to Say Goodbye" in his final days. This book contained eulogies prepared by his friends, family and media that were drafted earlier when a false news of his death was reported. After the day of his death New York Times posted a video obituary where Buchwald himself said "Hi, I am Art Buchwald and I just died". Knowing Tarapadababu, he would never do the video part, but probably would have done the book by all means. My eulogy on him would just be - "The first man in billions of years of Universe who wrote jokes on Moshari and Gamcha is no more. Airplane economy class travel would no longer be the same without his books unraveling why one bajaar never has more than one pagol and one shaaNd!"

Glossary -

Moshari - Mosquito Net. Discovered way before Rasagolla and perhaps a truer identity for every true Bengali.

Bajaar - Fish Market. Vegetables - namely, potatoes - can also be sold, but as long as there is no fish (not frozen, fresh) - it is not officially a 'bajaar' for Bengalis.

Pagol - A lazy folk -usually perfectly alright - who adorns a locality, a bajaar or the book store near a bus stop. Neighborhood gladly welcomes one pagol, but gets divided in their support when there is more than one. It usually ends in bitter physical fight between two pagols for territory. Bengali folks can pay money, or, more usually, misses work to witness such fights.

Gamcha - originally hand-woven cotton spread with different shades of red used to wipe water off Bengali body after a bath. There could be as many as 139 types of red color in one single gamcha. Best gamchas are usually available in Sealdah. Even though "towel" became a French sounding "towaale" in Bengal-land, true Bengalis stick to gamcha (or the gamcha colors stick to them).

Shaan(d) - Ox. As lazy as the pagol. Lives on the vegetables from bajaar that remain unsold.

ShilNora - A two-part stone tool used in Bengali Kitchen to ground spices. ShilNora's average life is about 145 years. In other words, no new shilNora has been made after Bidhan Roy had died. So, if you use one, thank your grand mother.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

My World This Week

(1) Yesterday (Aug 10) was "Lazy Day". I rapidly forwarded this valuable piece of information to my colleagues and to my manager. However, a question. How do lazy people celebrate such an occasion? My guess is they don't. Otherwise, they won't be lazy. I worked!

(2) Rediff has started a feature where you can send your experience of growing up with celebrities, along with picture. There are people who actually "studied" with educational luminaries like Kareena Kapoor, Twinkle Khanna etc. Cool.

"I was in the same school as Shahrukh Khan. Even then he was so much in love with himself that he never ever flushed his poop."

(3) Reading "Dhus(h)or Canvas" (Grey Canvas) by Tarun Kumar Bhaduri (Amitabh Bachchan's father-in-law). A lively take on Bhopal - old and contemporary (80s). Tarun Kumar was an esteemed journalist with "The Statesman" and had written a few interesting books like "BehaD Baagi Bandook". His "Bilkis Begum" once caused sufficient controversy in Calcutta drama circle . The book starts as the writer wakes up in Intensive Care Unit of a Bombay hospital. He died a couple of years later.

Originally published in "Desh", it has number of interesting anecdotes about Urdu poets, and other interesting characters from Bhopal. Like this one -- worried about his friend's drinking habits, who also was a devout Muslim, Tarun asked how he could drink when his religion is so against such vices. His friend, also a famous Urdu Poet, replied "Yaar, Islam mein peena haram nahin, nasHa haram hai". ("Drinking is not forbidden in Islam, getting drunk is!").

(4) Best movie quote of the week - Will Ferell to Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite guy) in "Blades of Glory" -- "I see you still look like a fifteen year old girl, but not hot".

(5) This feature on Bruce Willis -- just before his "Die Hard 4" --could be a great lesson for people who do Celebrity Profile / Interviews. I loved the part where Bruce Willis wants to change a part of the script and calls the studio. The studio boss was not very keen to make the change, and the call went like this --

He kept saying, 'Uh-huh, uh-huh.' And then he said, 'Let me ask you this: Who is your second choice to play John McClane? Thought so.' And then he hung up. It was just as cool as that."

(6) Finally watched Disturbia. Loved it. "Rear Window" has been remade so many times, it feels as regular as shaving to watch one. Anyone remembers "Pehla Nasha" - another remake in Bollywood with Deepak Tijori? One song went like -

"Main deewana, tu haseena.
Un hoon Un Hoon...
Aisi akeli raatooN meIn mujhe
Neend na aaye
To kya karoon"

Disturbia added a nifty teen romance (pretty hot at that ;)) to the base storyline. Thus the guy - about 17-18 year old here - was not only looking at murders, but also at the new next door hottie in her swimming pool. Nice Hollywood formula movie that entertained.

(7) Anil Kumble scored a century in Kensington Oval. Anyone knew this series is "Pataudi Trophy"? MAK Pataudi (who never played for England unlike Senior) apparently saw four balls coming from bowlers - after of his eye accident - and just chose the one that appeared less defused. Sweet! Anyhow, I was talking to a friend asking him whether Kumble's century was even more painful to watch than Ansuman Gaekwad's painstaking 201 against Pakistan. He said yes! Doesn't look like I missed much.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

"Bombaiyer Bombete" - A Late Review

Making a bad film is not necessarily an easy thing to do, especially from a popular piece of literature portraying a generational hero, unless the director (a) ignores the story and brings on his own, or (b) messes up with the casting, or (c) makes something of zero or no production value. Sandip Ray somehow managed to do all three - and much more - in this movie.

Agreed no top-notch criminal would use an airport pay-phone today, or anyone could be arrested in a long gone MISA (POTA, probably?). Heck, Tabasum's "Phool Khile Hai Gulshan Gulshan" was last telecast about two decades ago. In post-Satya age, it was a mockery of the hero to see Feluda 70-s style attacked by two funny-looking, skinny goons. Last I saw someone attacked like that and fight out so was Biswajeet in one of his eternal ending in speed-boat chase movies with Babita and Shetty! Also, why did Feluda not scan the address book from the mobile phone of the fallen goon? They were already being phone stalked before the attack ensued. Chances are he might have found more solid clue by just dialing the last 10 numbers or so!

The movie starts with a green ambassador - same as Lalmohanbabu owns - blown up. So, you cannot really be blamed for elevated expectations. In a few moments after the title though, the movie tries very hard to get the identity of a shaky, low-budget, made for TV film. "Satyajit Ray Presents" was actually a made for TV series too, and the difference between these two are just about the same as the difference between whatever little success Rohan Gavaskar has achieved today and whatever he could possibly have achieved had he not been a Gavaskar!

I generally love movies, and number of movies panned by me is perhaps less than the number of students flunked by your high school drawing teacher. Even by that scale, BB is so horrible that when the trio watch Pulakbabu's last movie "Tirandaaj" -- and award-winning snippets like Venkatesh fighting an evil woman inside a green airplane in turbulence, or Rambha shaking her ample behind are shown -- one may actually pray that the fantasy continues rather than the idiocy.

Some other questions -

(1) Why the hell was Feluda's and Lalmohanbabu's hotel rooms were raided? This did not plug in with the rest of the movie and was not mentioned ever again. This was a wasted sequence.

(2) Why Pulakbabu is senior to Jatayu? And what was with Pulakbabu's extremely irritating accent? If they were trying to ape north Calcutta (Gorpaar) accent - they just had to watch Mondar Bose in Sonar Kella. If they were trying to show how lame Bollywood directors are, they could have just watched any of Ramgopal Verma's movies instead - where he regularly copies likes of Johars and Chopras and Lahiris too!

(3) How come Jatayu never remembered the chit from Sanyal, but when Feluda asked for it -- he produced it in a jiffy? This actor should also remember that Jatayu is not at all about hand and neck movement - in opposite alternating directions - with every sentence. People comparing him with Santosh Dutta should just stop at the baldness gene and go no beyond.

(4) "The Life Divine" is a pretty thick book - with about 1000+ pages on hardcover. Jatayu's version of "Bombaiyer Bombete" is very much like Ray's - about 130 pages. Even for Jatayu it would have been hard to mix one package up with the other.

(5) Hopefully, the loud "shooting noise" in the climax train scene is planned - and not just because they ran out of cash before sound-editing that part. It did sound very distractive, dissipated any tension that may have built up near the end and perhaps one of the worst train scenes ever filmed after "Ramgarh Ke Sholay"!

I grew up in boarding school. One of my worst nightmares was using my roommate's toothbrush sleepy eyed. Worse than other dreaded teenage nightmares like feeling a bullet in your spine, or drowning in the fishpond as the fishes start eating you -- of course after de-boning carefully to get rid of the femur and likes; the tooth-brush bit used to wake me up with sweaty palms, dry throat and an immediate eekie-eewie current making my body shiver. Watching "Bombaiyer Bombete" just so nearly mimicked the experience of using someone else's toothbrush first thing in an otherwise fine morning. Satyajit's movie version was so noticeably distinguished that Sandip Ray should really have left Feluda alone.