Saturday, 28 January 2012

Chikni Chameli sans whistles

'Watching a movie is enjoyable only in a cinema,' said my friend looking at Heer Palace, once the grandest cinema of Kanpur.

By cinema, my friend meant those cinemas which nowadays have been rechristened as single screen theatres.

As a kid, it was my dream to watch at least one movie in Heer Palace.

Sitting imposingly at Mall Road, in the heart of Kanpur, Heer Palace is still the grandest cinema of Kanpur. But it is losing to multiplex theatres.

I recalled my friend’s words while I was watching a reality comedy show on television.

A contestant posing as an ‘old theatre’ came on the stage and started pleading – ‘Please do not kill me; please don’t demolish me. Save me.’

His partner, posing as a multiplex theatre said, ‘Huh! Who cares for something old like you?’

The ‘old theatre’ said, ‘It was I who introduced cinemas to people.’

The multiplex theatre said, ‘But I give choice to people.’

‘I showed the Golden era of the Indian cinema to people.’

‘You have weathered. I am young and swanky.’

The conversation, full with satire and humour, continues.

At the end of the act, Sohail Khan, who was one of the judges of the show assures the ‘old theatre’ – ‘Your days are not numbered. You are not going to die.’

Sohail Khan said he watched the premiere of his movies only at Gaiety Cinema, a single screen theatre at Bandra, Mumbai.

‘It is only in a cinema hall that I get to know the reaction of the audience to my movies,’ said Sohail Khan.

Reaction to a typical Indian movie means clapping, applauding, hooting and whistling.

What did Sohail Khan mean?

Do people react only in the so-called single screen theatres and not in multiplex theatres? Has the audience in multiplex theatre become cultured or sober? Or more snobbish?

Abdul Hamid was my source of inspiration. Not the Indian soldier who died fighting Pakistani forces in the 1965 war but his namesake who was my elder brother's classmate.

I don't remember the exact year. It was 1983 or 84. I tagged along with my brother and Abdul to watch a movie in a neighbourhood cinema.

As Abdul stepped into the dark hall, he inserted the thumb and forefinger of his right hand in his mouth and let out a very sharp and loud whistle.

I was both shocked and impressed by his brazenness. He became my hero and I decided to master the art of whistling.

I started devoting hours to mastering the art. I dreamed that whenever I went to a cinema, I would also whistle.

But in any cultured family, whistling in public places is taboo. Hence, learning to whistle at home can invite dangers, especially if your mother believes only in corporal punishment.

In my home whistling was considered a weapon used by school and college dropouts and unemployed bums to tease girls and women in public places. Or a way of enjoyment for the 'uncultured' lot who occupied lower or rear stalls in cinemas whenever the vamp gyrated to a raunchy number or the hero bashed the villain.

Braving the dangers, I started working hard to become a skilled whistler. The early results were poor. But as the days passed, my perseverance paid off. The loudness and the sharpness of my whistles increased, as did my parents' admonitions. But I persisted and the final results were excellent.

But whenever I was in a cinema, I would get engrossed in the movie and would forget to whistle.

I watched the new or ‘dedicated’ version of Agneepath a couple of days back as I wanted to know if people react in multiplex theatres.

The Chikni Chameli song is in rage and I thought here was a song that would generate mega- whistling. I impatiently waited for the song.

Katrina looked stunning as she jerked and gyrated. But nobody whistled. I felt uncomfortable.

When the movie ended, I wanted to ask the young men coming out why they didn't whistle. But I kept my mouth shut.

Have audiences become cultured? No doubt, no man will dare to whistle with his girlfriend sitting beside him. But have guys stopped watching movies in groups? Have we lost the small joys and innocence of making a little mischief?

Monday, 23 January 2012

Blowing hot and cold

At times I feel like settling in a place that has mild climate throughout the year.

Winters are very cold, summers extremely hot and monsoons too wet in Kanpur.

The temperature starts dropping from the third week of December.

The New Year always begins on a chilly note.

The mercury level as if to tease hovers just above the freezing point, threatening to fall anytime.

If the low temperature is not enough, the fog adds to the woes.

My day goes haywire if I am forced to skip my morning walk.

I push my head out of the quilt in the morning and can see only fog outside my window. I curl up and once again go to sleep. I get up hours later and fume at myself.

I cannot move freely due to the fog.

I am forced to wear many sweaters. My movement is crippled.

A time comes when even rum fails to provide warmth.

The sun remains invisible for days.

The heater fails to work due to frequent power failures.

Summers are just the opposite and equally torturous.

The temperature starts rising in the middle of April. In the second or third week of May, it hangs just below the 50 degree Celsius mark and once again teases.

The blazing sun starts scorching the skin from early morning itself. Morning walks become irritating.

The land dries up. Grasses turn yellow and trees brown and leafless. Hot, dusty winds blow throughout the day. Everything becomes gritty.

The desert cooler or the ceiling fan becomes useless due to long power cuts.

After the hot months, nothing is more welcome than rains.

The dust settles. The air becomes cool. Grasses and tress become green.

But soon you find it is pouring incessantly. Roads get waterlogged.

You wait for the sun to shine brightly but get no respite.

But should I only curse the weather?

Is not the weather in north India enjoyable too?

I have fascination for Christmas as it is celebrated at the peak of winter. I find the idea of carol singing on cold nights thrilling.

One morning despite the extreme cold I went to the park early in the morning for a walk.

I saw a figure emerging out of the fog. He was an acquaintance.

“You are continuing with your walks even in this weather?” I asked.

He stopped and said, “People spend money and go hill stations to experience similar weather conditions. Why not enjoy here without spending money?”

Another morning, I decided to walk in my neighbourhood instead of the park. I could not see anything beyond 10-15 metres due to the fog.

Roads were deserted and shops yet to open.

A country liquor bar was open even at 7 am. I walked into the bar. It was steaming. An old man was washing the bar.

A person sitting on a table. His glass was beside him. He took a sip and sang –‘Dil ka bhanwar kare pukar, pyaar ka raag suno_ _ _ _’

The person was enjoying the weather. I realised Dev Anand is finally dead.

Winter is towards its end.

An old saying goes - if winter is here, spring can’t be far behind.

Dahlias, petunias and chrysanthemums are in full bloom in my house.

The winter rains have washed the dust. The sky is blue, the sunshine bright and the wind cool.

Once you are out in the sun, you can remove your sweater. You can lie down on the grass and doze off.

It is the time for celebrations. Basant Panchami, Valentine’s Day and Holi are near.

After Holi, the wind starts getting warmer and stronger. You can feel summer is approaching.

Summers are also pleasant. The days are hot but the nights cool.

You can lie on your terrace and watch the sky and stars till you fall asleep.

Monsoons follow the hot summer months. I get drenched in the first showers. It is my way of welcoming monsoons.

I go out in the veranda in the night for a smoke. The stillness of the wet night is disturbed only by croaking toads and chirping crickets.


Talking about seasons, most Bollywood poets have captured the magic of only one season – monsoons.

Gulzar has captured the shades of winter and summer in the song – ‘Dil dhoonta hai phir wahi, phursat ke raat din_ _ _ _ _’in the movie aptly named Mausam. Watch the song - and enjoy.

A perfect song for an idler.