Bollywood-the charge of the Outsiders!

It looks like my musings about Bollywood continue!

Like every other field, Bollywood has kept its tradition of launching the star kids. The Hindi movies became a more significant business in the 70s and 80s. Till then, the Kapoor and the Dutt family from the acting side and a few other families from the production or directorial team were prominent. They tried to launch their progeny some successfully and others not so successfully. When Shah Rukh was trying to find his footing in Bollywood, Rishi, Randhir and Pinchu Kapoor were already there, and so was Sanjay Dutt.

In the 50s and 60s, most were from Northern part of India or had come from Pakistan after partition. Everyone else joining the films in those days was an “outsider”! Amitabh was a sales executive in a Calcutta company. Rajesh Khanna and Jitendra came from a lower middle class area (there was no higher middle class in those days) of Girgaum, in Mumbai. Jitendra used to live in a building called Ramchandra building- the building still exists- next to Girgaum Portuguese Church!


Red Church and Building on the right is Ramchandra Building!

The “outsiders” came from various hues. Some financially okay but most had tough times in the maximum city, Bombay. Most managed to live off friends and relatives in the initial phase, but many slept on benches and footpath. The urge to join Bollywood was so strong that they would sleep with an empty stomach.

What is it that makes people take lots of risks in attempting to join Bollywood? Glamour? Fame? The simple, understandable urge to graduate from drama stage. Many of the “outsiders” have come from drama background. Rishi and other Kapoors were conventionally good looking, but there were those with unconventional looks like Amitabh, Shah Rukh. With their non-filmy and sometimes non-city backgrounds, they were initially awkward. Amitabh was from a well-known family, but Shah was a typical Dilli ka Chora. Kangana, though good-looking had an awkwardness of not being city-bred. But they all had a fire in their eyes and their belly.

Our own Pune also had its share of people whom Bollywood bug had bitten. The statistically surprising part is that Smita Patil and Rohini Hattangandi were from Jaya’s school; Rohini was Jaya’s classmate. Mohan Agashe is a friend ours from school and college days. Smita Patil was from a rich financial background, but Rohini and Mohan were from families like ours. Smita was considered experimental off-beat movie artist but ended up dancing with Amitabh in a typical Hindi movie rain dance song! It looks like that movie bug and cricket bug have been prevalent in India for a long time.

How many of these outsiders or even insiders make it to the top? I know that the success rate is minimal, but still, people keep on trying. Rajendra Kumar’s son, Dev Anand’s son, are the classic examples of people not making it to the top. Even from the famous Kapoor family, Pinchu went nowhere in his career though he got great opportunities because of Raj Kapoor.

Another route taken by these outsiders was modelling, and beauty pageants; and Aishwarya Rai, Priyanka Chopra, Sushmita Sen are some of them. Many others remained on the fringe of stardom. Priyanka Chopra, Sushmita Sen were the winners in the same year, but their careers took the path very similar to that of Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli. Chopra now fits the idiom, “the world is her Oyster”! She has done so well, and by the time we realised she had become an international personality and swings between Bollywood and Hollywood. Just a small tidbit. She has produced one Marathi film called “Firebrand”!

Years back I was watching a Ranji trophy match on TV. I saw a young guy batting and called Jaya to watch him bat. She said, “Who is this guy?” I said, “He is a guy from Bangalore, called Rahul Dravid but is batting beautifully.” Rest as they say is history. Okay, I am not claiming that I “found” Rahul.


Shah Rukh in “Circus” in 1989

Similarly, I remember watching the DD series “Circus” in olden days. The series was good, but Jaya and I would watch it mainly for Shah Rukh though there were many other good actors in the series. He had some spark, and his boisterousness was seen even in those days.

Another interesting thing that one can see these days is that many of the aspirants have taken at least college-level education. In a few cases, like happened in the case of Sachin, it does not occur. Priyanka Chopra got so busy at an early stage that she could not go to college.

One more aspect we see these days is that all the successful and not so successful, I am talking commercially, actors have good financial consultants. They invest money wisely in most cases. One feels sad to read the story of the famous actor like Bhagwan of Sham Dhale fame living in poverty in the latter part of his life.

Like in normal life, Bollywood gang too has had its share of early deaths. Irfan Khan died at the age of 53. Smita Patil died at the age of 33; she also a child out of wedlock with Raj Babbar. Meena Kumari died at the age of 36 of liver cirrhosis and Madhubala of a heart ailment at a similar age. Amitabh had a near-death experience after an accident on the set of the Movie Coolie!

Some fascinating stuff is done by Bollywood gang currently. During the pandemic, Akshay Kumar, Sharukh, Sonu Sood, Salman and many others are donating tons of money to help the needy. It indicates their gratitude towards the society which has made them rich and famous.

Another outsider Marathi Mulagi who has reached the pinnacle is Madhuri Dixit. She is from a typical Maharashtrian family from Vile Parle, who made it to the top! I am mentioning this because in Maharashtrians going into Hindi movies is not the norm- actors graduate from Marathi movies and TV serials. But Madhuri straightaway started playing Test match cricket without even playing Ranji Trophy match.

One interesting thing that has nothing to do with insiders/outsiders is the risk taken by some of them. In olden times actors like Raj Kapoor would put in personal money to achieve their ambitions and follow their passion. They had kept the homes where they lived as collaterals. Amitabh tried to make films under the banner ABCL and had almost become bankrupt in the early 90s. What saved him was Kaun Banega Crorepati!

There are so many exciting and fascinating anecdotes in Bollywood. One thing is sure; you are as successful as your last film! Whether you are son/daughter of an insider or you are an outsider, it is you and me who decide their fate!

Error 404, Page not found! 

canation1

We try to communicate with each other by different means. But the era of communication and thereby miscommunication can be divided into two different times, BI and AI. BI is before the internet, and AI is after the internet! “Error 404, Page not found” is the typical well-known error from AI times. All of us are familiar with this error. When we are looking for something on the computer, there is miscommunication in the systems. The buzzword for this is protocol issues. Whatever we were searching is not loaded; hence the device gives us the message!

Galgali

But it is enjoyable when we use old methods in modern times. A friend was celebrating his birthday yesterday. As I prefer, I called him to wish instead of sending a message like HBD on WhatsApp! All of us are happy when someone calls us to wish on a birthday or to celebrate an achievement. I was standing in the balcony of my condo while talking to him. He lives across my condo about four hundred meters on the opposite side of the road. I am on the seventh floor, and he is on the 9th floor. I jokingly said, “You have never come to my house, but if you were standing in the balcony, I would be able to see you. I am on my balcony.” He does not have a balcony, but he came in the large window of his house. The photo above shows the building where he lives. I have used a zoom lens for the photo- the building is not close as it looks! It was difficult to “see” at such a distance and height. So I told him, “ I will wave a red bandana to you!” I waved it, he saw me and so could I! We were both happy, like children. I simply used time tested method of waving something bright. There we were enjoying the chat and the thought that we could “see” each other in the lockdown times.

I have this seen in Hollywood movies. Two guys not known to each other want to meet. Then one of them would say, “I would wear Red Carnation on the Blue Lapels.” That is the way to send the signal to recognise others. I was wondering why this combination?

It is a common notion among men. The wearing of a flower in one’s lapel is the least used gestures of elegance seen in modern times. Much of this stems from the perception that flowers lie within the domain of the fairer sex. Sean Connery as James Bond would wear this combination.

Carnation

I sometimes wonder how we communicated at all during BI times. In the year 1980, Jaya was in the US for her MS, Sachin, and I lived in India. Jaya would write to me to fix the “meeting” time. We spoke every fifteen days. In her letter, she would confirm the time of her call. I did not have a telephone at home. So I would go to the designated place to receive the call. I know of someone who called his parents twice in about fifteen years from the US in those days. Both the times it was to inform the birth of his children.

Till my Inter-Science in 1967, I was in Mumbai for education. My father was transferred to Jalgaon, and I lived in hostels. After the examination, I decided to take up the engineering course in Pune. I don’t remember how I communicated with my parents. Maybe I shared the information by post!

There was a fancy instrument called telegram used by the post office. You had to go to the post office to send a telegram. Writing a telegram was also an art. The charges depended on the number of words use. There was regular and urgent telegram. In those days, getting a telegram was mostly connected with bad news. On some occasions, you got a telegram informing that you passed a particular competitive exam with flying colours. Also, ran like me were guaranteed never to receive such telegrams. The information in a telegram was communicated by using Morse code. For those who have forgotten about Morse code, here is the definition.

carnation2

Morse code is a character encoding scheme used in telecommunication that encodes text characters as standardised sequences of two different signal durations called dots and dashes or dits and dahs. Morse code is named for Samuel F. B. Morse, the inventor of the telegraph.

It reminds me of a couple of historical incidents.

Siddhi Johar led the Bijapuri force. Discovering Shivaji’s location, Johar laid siege to Panhala fort. Netaji Palkar made repeated attempts to break the Bijapuri siege from outside but failed.

Shivaji, Baji Prabhu Deshpande with a select band of troops, decided to attempt to break through the siege at night and make for  Vishalgad. To deceive the Bijapuri forces, who would give a chase once they found that Shivaji had broken the blockade, Shiva Nhavi, volunteered to dress like the king and let himself be captured.

On a stormy full moon’s night (Ashadh Purnima), a band of 600 selectmen, led by Baji Prabhu and Shivaji, broke through the siege. The Bijapuri force hotly pursued them. As planned, Shiva Nhavi allowed himself to be captured and taken back to the Bijapuri camp, fully comprehending that he would be put to death once the charade was discovered. This sacrifice, however, gave the fleeing Maratha force some breathing space. Shivaji escaped ahead, and Bajirao and his me kept fighting the suicide mission. The firing of three cannon volleys signalled Shivaji’s safe journey to Vishalgadh.

Narayanrao Peshwa was killed because of the forgery in communication in the communication given to his captors. The message was in Marathi – “नारायणरावांना धरा.” It was changed by his aunt Anandibai to मारा instead of धरा. The infamous treacherous act from Peshwa history is known as “ध चा मा”; the meaning of the message was changed from धरा meaning HOLD to मारा kill! A change in a single alphabet led to the killing of Narayanrao Peshwa.

I meandered from my waving of the red bandana to older methods of communications. But it is fun to delve into older techniques. Now, of course, communication methods have changed. But one issue scientists have not overcome. When the spaceships go to the backside of the Moon, called dark side, the communication stops!

Communication methods return the same as fashion, at least name wise. In the stone age, we used to write on walls; now we report on the Facebook wall! We used morse code but now use the technique of one missed call- “I am late”! Two missed calls- “I have come!” Three missed calls- I have cancelled!”

The human brain is innovative and keeps on finding new ways of communicating. Police still use a good old wireless walkie talkie. HAM radio usage is almost gone after the invention of the Satellite phone. But some people always keep on celebrating technology among the closed group. Probably it is for the old times’ sake.

And the winner is!

Cannes1

People excel in many fields. Some excel over a long time. In recognition of their work, organisations declare prizes or medals. Great! We are always happy when others appreciate us. It could be for our looks or success in an examination. It may be for achievement in art, science or sports! The recognition helps us achieve more, to better ourselves.

Parents encourage their progeny when they are growing up. It is a joyful day in any household when a child puts independent steps without any support. The same is true when the same child cycles on its own. The child is further elated when it rides, shouting, “Ma, no hands!” It has bettered itself.

But there seem to be some organisations and people who make this simple process, complex and controversial. Recently a photographer from India, living in Kashmir, was awarded the Booker Prize. The prize seems to be awarded to Indians to create controversy. Another such person to get the Booker Prize was Arundhati Roy, first Indian to get it. In the first case, the person is not controversial,  nor is the photograph. It is the citation that created the controversy. After Pakistan, so-called, globalised the Kashmir issue, there have been attempts by some people and organisations to keep the issue burning, all the time. Instead of bypassing the regional controversy, they mention words like Indian Occupied Kashmir in the citation. But this is a non-Indian organisation, but there are Indian politicians from a national party who toe the line and blow their trumpet. They could have easily avoided this by congratulating the person for excellent photography and making a statement against the organisation for stoking regional controversies.

But no, they don’t do it. These people practically endorse it. The photograph mentioned above is excellent, but Roy’s book, The God of Small Things, was beyond the understanding of most ordinary people. I bought the book and tried to read it at different times, but to no avail. I have discussed with many friends, and they also had the same opinion. It appears that the persons of her ilk seem to get a license to rubbish the Indian state at all levels, every time. These people will say terrorism is terrible, after 26/11, but will try to link it to the persecution of the people post-partition. She tied 26/11 to Kashmir issue and kept on justifying. When they are asked for a solution, they will say it is for the government to find it; she is only going to criticise. It could be a Narmada dam project or Naxalite issue. She will always be on the side of the sufferers. There is no question that the rehabilitation of displaced people must be done. The reasons behind Naxalite issues are justified, but the means adopted by Naxalites can never be justified.

When the US attacked Afghanistan after 9/11, using force against terrorism was not the solution as per the lady. Probably there should have been a face to face meeting in Davos or St Moritz in some convention centre with the terrorists to resolve issues. When Naxalites have a problem, they attack and kill about a hundred policemen, using landmines. But when the government forces counter-attack, it cannot be justified. There are many such “liberals” who get the Prizes, but they are not staunch enough in their stand against India.

Then there are other organisations which are equally controversial but fortunately not so harmful; sometimes I feel that they are funny! Such organisations have become an industry formed because of the film industry, the world over. It could be Hollywood, Bollywood and film festivals. Films have a place in the modern world. The heroes and heroines become heartthrobs, and people follow every action by them outside the movies too. Hundreds of people wait outside their homes on their birthdays.

Surprisingly, we Indians have not overcome the awe we feel about anything foreign. India produces the maximum number of films in a year. We have our yearly ceremonies like Filmfare awards. In the US, it is Academy awards. The award ceremonies have become a business, and many organisations sponsor these ceremonies. There are popular categories and critics categories. In all these years, Critics and Popular awards have never been given to the same movies. Why is that so? It only indicates that the popular demand is quite different than those liked by critics. Last year there has been a big controversy that the winner of majority awards was favoured, slyly, over other good films.

Anyway, in any area where ranking is done, controversies are bound to be there. But these have reached a stage where a better actor like Amir Khan has stopped taking part in these ceremonies. The surprising aspect is that now he is not selected for these awards. He could be given awards in absentia. But that is not done.

Indians in general and Bollywood gang are enamoured by Hollywood. We get excited when someone from India gets an Academy award. Another thing observed is that Indian movies which show about India’s poverty are preferred movies for International awards. One should be happy and excited if the person receives a prize. It is the recognition of their work. It is a recognition of the work in a movie. But over some time, it is seen that people get a lifetime achievement award. The criteria it seems is to be alive on that day. Some of the persons who have received this award were never famous for their acting skills or versatility.

Then there are national awards given by a government body. In this category too, popular and critic views are in a total mismatch. I will not call these awards processes sham, but these indicate the realities of life. Sometimes favouritism takes place, but it is not the norm.

 

Now the last and the most exciting part of the filmy drama. There is something called Red-carpet walk. When the actors come to these ceremonies, they are decked for the show. They spend a vast amount of money on dresses. For the female actors at Academy awards or Cannes festival, the norm is to show off the biological assets. There is a competition going on to expose more and more. The gossip magazines and photographers are waiting for a moment which is famously called dress malfunction. In the dress malfunction, sometimes a breast pops out for a split second. Sometimes the innerwear of these ladies makes a fleeting display. Oh! Come on! Who is bothered? If you say this, then you are from a minority group! These photos are industry by themselves. If a videographer can catch this on a video, he has made it!

To me, the controversies in giving prizes, that create an issue about the sovereignty of a country, are a problem. If citizens of that nation are not bothered about these controversies, then there is more problem. But the dress malfunction is probably sometimes done on purpose! Your take, please!

I am okay with controversies because people have a different opinion. But when large nations like India have to suffer, I can not appreciate it.

The beauty of the golden period!

Why do humans want to live longer? The logic is, more the merrier! The thought is that the more you’ll enjoy life, you keep on living longer. By doing this, you make friends, know more people, build a network, and so on. It means you have more friends later on in life, which means you’ll enjoy life more when you’re older too. When you enjoy life, you want to live longer. It is probably too unrealistic to think of your death, especially when you are alive and healthy. 

If a question is asked to people how long would they like to live, their answers will be dependent on their attitude towards life and the age at which the question is asked. It will also be dependent on the people’s area of work. Currently, a lot of research is going on any many startups, run by young peopleto increase life expectancy in many different ways. These people must be thinking in terms of unlimited life span. Older people in the same startups may talk of increasing the life expectancy by a decade or two, more than the current average.  

When in school, we were always told that humans lived to the age of 100. But in reality, we never saw such older people. The oldest person I knew in those days was my grandfather; he died at the age of 89, but by then, my age was 25. So, I had lived some life and knew that 100 was a hypothetical age. I rarely saw people as old as my grandfather. But in those days, even seeing people in their 7th decade was a rarityOn averagemen died within a few years of retirement at the age of 58! But I remember having seen many women who were in their 7th decade, though many of them did not look healthy.  

Another myth has been that when the expectancy is 60, we start thinking that as soon as someone becomes 60, he or she dies in the next few days. In real life, it does not happen that way. But statistics is a tricky and funny science! When we calculate life expectancy, the early deaths are also consideredthe percentage of deaths during childbirth was comparatively quite high in olden timesSuch deaths reduced the average life expectancy by sizable numbers.  

I was trying to look at the real-life situation as the average life expectancy started going up, with better hygiene, better medicine; increase in the number of people world over started getting enough food, starvation did come down. Discovery of Sulpha and Penicillin avoided many deaths. In the last fifty years, computer-based drug development and imaging technology have helped the doctors save even more lives. Early cancer detection helped reduced deaths due to cancer.  

What and how we think can be compared with knowledge! A little knowledge at young age makes one arrogant, be bit more reasonable, and finally, age makes you humble. Youthful arrogance mellows into affable modesty as one grows old and it finally sublimates into self-effacing humility.  I think that the following statement is appropriate. “Now, with age, sitting against the silhouette of a setting sun, I ruminate and introspect. I look at my whole life from a deeper perspective.” 

I read one beautiful passage about old age, and I am giving it below verbatim!  

It is the beauty of the final phase of human life. One gets an altogether new perspective, looking back at the variety of events and experiences in life. Life can only be judged in its totality when it reaches its logical end. Like icing on the cake, the advanced years make one more understanding and pragmatic. During one’s youth, there’s often an irrational and romantic fascination for cutting short one’s life, which’s called “intellectual harakiri” or the “James Dean Syndrome,” after the Hollywood heart-throb, who acted in the cult movie, ‘Rebel without a cause’ and died very young. It is a passing phase. 

In the golden phase of our lives, we can look at life and death with equanimity. When you are not afraid to discuss death, including your own, you can enjoy your golden phase. Create a so-called bucket list but honestly to me it is not essential. Basically, do what you want, but never got the opportunity to do it in your busy life 

The beauty of this phase is most of your family responsibilities are over, and you can give time to whatever you want to do. I have a friend whose passion right through young days has been Hindi movie songs, starting from the year 1935 songsHe initially had records, then the tapes. Later he got these songs converted into CD’s, and now the songs are stored on one-drive! Everybody does not want to go to see the midnight sun or go to the Rocky mountains! Each has his or her own list of what they want to do.  

We have a tradition of burning Ravan (the evil) with arrows during Dassara! It is the battle between good and evil. But in this golden phase, if given a choice, this group of people will talk to Ravan and help him mend his evil ways instead of burning him.  

I am giving below two different quotes. 

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 “Youth is the most beautiful thing in this world—and what a pity that it has to be wasted on children!” It is a famous quote by George Bernard Shaw!  

 I also read recently another quote, “Wisdom is wasted on the old.” 

What do both these statements mean and how can we interpret them? Youth have new way of thinking and many ideas, but they are most of the times a bit immature, and the ideas do not get implemented properly. If older men could get such brilliant ideas, they would enjoy and execute them well.  

On the other side, older people do not get new and brilliant ideas because of their wisdom; they become overcautious in everything and are not willing to think out of the box. So wisdom gets wasted because they continue with their old ways and kill innovation. To me, this is applicable while you are working. Once you are in your golden phase, you have already acquired your wisdom, but you can think out of the box and do what you want. You can start taking risksYou can start learning to paint or sing. At most, what will happen? You will fail in both but who cares? You wanted to do something and did it! 

You know that you have little time left with you or maybe more extended time with physical difficulties that can accompany old age. Till that time have fun!  

I met a friend of mine after a long time. Both his children were married and settled. Instead of saying that his responsibilities are over, he used a Marathi term. “I have now become बेजबाबदार– irresponsible in English!” It was an absolutely hilarious way of saying that his responsibilities are now over! So become बेजबाबदार and do what you want! The golden phase is HIS gift to you!