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One of the positives of the extensive travel my job entails is that I get to see a lot of hotels and airports around the world. It is a pain in that the trips typically are just the airport, a hotel room, the venue of the meeting(s) and back to the airport.

I have been to Japan over a dozen times over the past 2-3 years and seen Mt Fuji only once – from an aircraft as I flew from Tokyo to Seoul! I have been to Beijing and not seen the Great Wall and had actually been at least 5-6 times to Orlando for various conferences before I actually set foot inside one of the theme parks at Disneyworld.

But I digress. The huge positive is the sheer number of airports that I get to see. And my favorites are (in order):

1. The new Kuala Lumpur International Airport (http://www.klia.com.my/ ). An absolute masterpiece, the cornerstone and the flagship of the stated direction of the Malaysian government to ensure their nation is classified as a Developed nation in a few years. It is by and far one of the best airports for transit passengers – there is little else that I could have asked for from amenities, quality lounges, great shopping and very comfortable seating in the common areas. I have never been into Kuala Lumpur so unlike the other airports on this list, that one thing remains a question mark – on ease of access to/from the city.

2. The Incheon Airport serving Seoul, S Korea (http://www.airport.or.kr/eng/airport/) – which is a testimony to what the city of Seoul wants to become! Its 5th birthday is coming up on the 29th of this month and is a magnificent work of architecture with its soaring highlights. As one very well equipped terminal handling all the traffic, it is very very easy to navigate. The only drawback to this airport is that it seems rather lifeless, perhaps because though it does handle a very high volume of traffic (passengers and cargo), its construction and opening seemed to coincide with a downturn in the Korean economy which is now being overshadowed by the explosive growth of China and the emergence of Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport as an alternate hub.

3. The new Hong Kong International Airport (http://www.hongkongairport.com/eng/index.html) – beautiful struture, very lively and humming with activity, flights go to almost every corner of the world from here and one sees a veritable smorgasboard of nationalities and skin-tones in the transit halls. Slightly removed from the city – but that is its only drawback. With the floor-to-ceiling windows offering fantastic views of the Hong Kong Bay and more, this is truly an awesome airport!

4. The Greater Pittsburgh International Airport

I first flew into the PIT in 1974 – remember flying on the Allegheny Airlines to NYC then but that is all. My more conscious memories stem from my visit there in 1987 – it was a tiny airport still then serving this burgeoning region of western Pennsylvania, South-Eastern Ohio and West Virginia.

But all this had changed when I flew in again in the late 1990s – by now they had built this spectacular new airport (http://www.pitairport.com/AboutUsServlet?option=pit_background) and actually made it like a complete mall inside. No airport’s retail initiatives were harder hit by the security restrictions post-9/11 than PIT. The volume of transit passengers has never been too high – this has mainly comprised regional travellers from the immediate catchment area transitioning over to a longer-range jet at PIT. Hence the airport mall was designed for the good denizens of the Pittsburgh area to come in and shop at. Now they cannot even enter the terminal.

Pittsburgh is where I was introduced to the concept of “landside” facilities v/s “airside” facilities. Thus an airport restaurant may be considered “landside” if it is located outside the security check area where visitors and so on can also access its services. “Airside is just the converse”.

That being said, PIT is one of the most efficient airports for passengers planning this as a destination, and is an outstanding option for those planning to only transit through. By and far the best airport in the US, surpassing even the newer ones in Minneapolis and in Detroit. The sheer length of my association with this great city makes the Pittsburgh Airport one of my personal favorites.

5. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport: An airport that is still very good inspite of its advanced age – the only one on this list that was constructed primarily before 1990. Inspite of that, it has a unique character, ease of access, an in-airport casino and an actual in-airport edition of the Rijk Museum with original Rembrandts on display, and so much more. Must be one of the great all time airports simply for its longevity and continued relevance.

6. Sydney Airport: A relatively small airport, but beautifully equipped and maintained

7. Singapore’s Changi Airport: The general seating is not very comfortable, the signage not very clear and the shopping very very in-your-face. Also, very small and thus crowded always. That being said, it is like all things Singapore – very controlled and correct, every check-box for a good airport ticked off including orchids all over to provide some pale imitation of greenery and so on.

8. The new McNamara Terminal at the Detroit Metro Airport: If you must fly into Detroit, the only way you should do so is by Northwest Airlines so that you get to land in the new McNamara Terminal there. Spacious and sumptious, this is everything the old Metro Airport is not. With a single one-mile long terminal, the elevated tram linking end to end complemented by moving walkways at the floor level, great eateries and more, this is truly amazing. There is very little local feel to it however, and also the fact that this is only used by NW Airlines (and its alliance partner) passengers prevents it from securing a higher ranking. However, it is by and far the best airport in the US after Pittsburgh International.

9. Honolulu Airport: This is exactly how the gateway to Hawaii should be. Very wide open, low-slung and spread out, the excellent vistas and more make it much better than San Diego’s Lindbergh Field with which it shares several attributes. The Honolulu Airport has actual greenery growing all over the terminal (and much more natural, not force-fitted into the structure as at Singapore’s Changi). It is however, much more of a domestic airport in terms of amenities and shopping – plus as an airport in Hawaii, it is intended as a destination airport and not a transit one.

10. Zurich Airport: One of the most family-friendly airports in the world. Very well appointed with observation decks to watch flights take off and land, great children’s play area well designed to address the need of the tired parent, excellent shopping and fabulous views of the Alps outside.

Yet there are some airports that are distinctly overrated. The prime example of this category is Shanghai’s PuDong International. Now if one goes by the assumption that China and its amenities (till a few years back) were comparable to the pathetic ones provided in India, then the PuDong International (as also the Beijing National) are both evidences of a magnificent transformation.

However as compared to the great ones around the world today that China is truly vying with, the PuDong International is at best very functional and adequate, lot of the Soviet/Mao era design features continue including shapeless open halls and more; shopping very very limited; ok destination airport especially with the new high-speed MagLev connnection to downtown Shanghai

The bad ones:

1. Frankfurt Airport: Very busy, very cluttered, very poor quality seating, the smell of cigarette smoke pervades all over the terminal, the signage is pathetic with way too many ups and downs, the airline lounges, esp the Lufthansa ones, are utterly substandard in space, amenities and seating

2. Tokyo Narita International: An airport that has by and far outgrown its purpose. The biggest positive is the high speed Narita Express train connecting it to downtown Tokyo but even this is undermined by the enormous number of escalators one needs to climb (with your baggage) to get to the checkin area. When you land there, god forbid you are forced to land at one of their so-called “bus-gates” on either a cold day in winter or a wet day in July…

3. Bangkok International Airport: Another airport showing signs of its age. Or perhaps that it is still a 3rd world country’s airport and that it is not yet fair to compare it with the ones in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore. For those in the US, this is like the old Detroit Metro Airport where it was possible to check in on time and miss a flight by the time you walked to the gate proper.

4. The Abu Dhabi Airport: Which would not have figured at all but for two trips in-transit through this of all available airports. It is a strange design – with tiles more akin to bathroom tiles (in shades of deep blue and white) plastered all over the dome shaped (actually more donut like with a dip in the middle of the dome) ceiling. Very jarring on the eye and characterized by a clutter for seating.

5. London Heathrow: Distinctly showing signs of age now. A creaky, outdated structure redeemed by the excellent connections to downtown London and the very lively passenger waiting area. However, moving between terminals is a time-consuming challenge, and the signage pathetically inadequate.

6. Atlanta’s Hartsfield – badly designed relatively new airport with the sole redeeming feature being the excellent train connection into downtown Atlanta

7. La Guardia and JFK -in New York enough said.

8. Boston’s Logan International – unless you are landing and taking off on Delta out of the completely rebuilt Terminal A, the terminal experience is pathetic. Compound this with the hopeless traffic arrangements, the difficult to reach rental car terminals and the totally inadequate Blue Line connection to the city, this is a pity of an airport.

Then there are ones that are so bad that they are off the charts entirely.

This category has to be headlined by the Indian airports. All the Indian airports – Bangalore’s is a joke but even Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai are hopelessly inadequate and out of keeping with the increasingly global role India plays – are absolutely pathetic. Ranking the airports in India from best to worst is an interesting exercise in itself but worth doing…

1. Chennai’s Meenambakkam Airport: Easy transfer between the domestic and international sections, adequate though small lounges, like all Indian airports pathetic in-airport retail, all are compensated by the relative efficiency and cleanliness of the airport. Getting around is another thing entirely, with the Madras cabbies and auto drivers historically notorious and only getting worse.

2. Mumbai’s Santa Cruz Airport: The Sahar International is bad and badly in need of a total overhaul – the Santa Cruz Domestic Airport, esp the new departure terminal, is quite modern though badly architected. The big plus here is the ease of getting to the city from here and the in-airport retail and lounges are nice. A big reason to use the airport is the Hotel Royal Orchid just outside – just what the doctor ordered for tired transit passengers.

3. Hyderabad’s Begumpet Airport: One of the most accessible of Indian airports, this has a very elegantly designed (and adjacent) domestic and international terminals a la Chennai. Very clean bright lines characterize this airport – only rumors have it that it will be “retired” once the new airport comes up in the southern outskirts of the city near Shamshabad. I hope it is not – it still has a key role as the urban airport quite like Chicago’s Midway and the Washington National.

4. Kolkata Airport

and the comments from back then…

Aruna said…
Very interesting! Was wondering why any aiprort from Africa and South America dont feature on this list?? Your travels havent taken you there or they are completely off the radar?!!!What are your thoughts on Soekarno-Hatta aiport, Jakarta? I have found their domestic airport quite passenger friendly. Was amazed to see the number of domestic airlines that fly in that country!

12:48 AM

Buck said…
You were spot on with your first observation – that my travels have never taken me into either Africa or continental South America. In fact the only place I have been south of the Equator is Sydney……have not been to Jakarta either – though you have just provided me with incentive to accept the next invitation to head there!

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One can understand the exuberance of Vishal Bharadwaj and the ones who (mis)managed the publicity for Omkara that caused them to play up the Othello angle.

Mismanaged because by simply calling Omkara an adaptation of Othello, they are doing a great disservice to the multi-talented Mr Bharadwaj. Yes, it is a great juxtaposition of that great Shakespearean tragedy into the rough and tumble of politics in Western UP. One appreciates the cleverness of the character names – so that Othello becomes Omkara, Desdemona transforms into Dolly and so on.

But what this over-emphasis on Othello does is to totally undersell the ability of a great director to interweave every possible element of a masala Hindi movie into a gripping, blink-and-you-miss-something narrative. The music (by Vishal Bharadwaj himself) is epic in its own right, and Gulzar’s lyrics are brilliant as always. The dark light effects, the sweeping panoramas, and the mercilessly coarse and blistering dialogues all contribute to the making of one of the great Hindi movies of our generation. Bipasha Basu’s beautiful cameo with Beedi Jalaile ranks along with Aishwarya Rai’s Kajra Re from Bunty aur Babli and Rekha’s Kaisi Paheli Zindagani (Parineeta) as one of the great “item numbers” in Hindi movies.

Kareena Kapoor is adequate as Dolly, Viveik Oberoi looks his part (though his histrionic limitations come forth in the more dramatic scenes, of which there are many), but the 3 I would pay to see again and again are Ajay Devgun as Omkara (and to think that the first time I went to see a movie starring this worthy – Jigar – I actually walked out 45 minutes into the film), Saif Ali Khan in the much-appreciated role of Langda Tyagi and Konkona Sen Sharma as Indu Tyagi.

Superb movie – and not surprisingly not a great success at the Box Office. I am sure in the years to come, like Guru Dutt’s Kagaz Ke Phool, Omkara will be pulled up for reference as one of the great movies in Bollywood history.

Music is one of the great unifiers – and dividers. It appeals to something so deep within us that it is difficult to rationalize and understand the why of a choice. It is as personal a choice that people make as any.

For as long as I can recollect, I have been an avid fan of the late great Geeta Dutt. Don’t get me wrong, I love listening to Lata (esp to the music of Madan Mohan or RDB), there are Asha Bhosle songs I can hear again and again, a few memorable songs from the likes of Aarti Mukherjee, Noor Jehan, Mubarak Begum, Shreya Ghoshal and even Alka Yagnik. But with the possible honorable exception of Kishore Kumar, there is no other singer in any language or style I would rather listen to than the former Miss Geeta Roy.

Whether it be her solos or her duets, her great tragic songs and her scintillating ones in a lighter vein, whether she was singing for SD Burman, Madan Mohan, OP Nayyar or Kanu Roy, there is a magic and a pathos in her singing that is unmatched.

She had her first great hit at the tender age of 17 singing “Mera Sundar Sapna Beet Gaya” for SD Burman in “Do Bhai” (1947). It is a tribute to both the music director and the singer that nearly 60 years thereafter the song still stands out as one of the all-time great tragic songs of Indian cinema. In a sense Geeta Dutt got typecast as the singing version of Meena Kumari, as a tragedienne supreme, and why not – only one singer in the history of Hindi cinema could have done justice to songs like “Waqt Ne Kiya, Kya Haseen Sitam” or “Jaane Kya Tune Kahi” and SDB knew it all along!

Yet, it is her lighter vein tunes that are as memorable – and probably greater in number and diversity. The great duets with Mohd Rafi in particular – ranging from “Jaane Kahan Jigar Gaya Ji” to “Udhar Tum Haseen Hon, Idhar Dil Jawaan Hai” and the great pseudo-duet “Aankhon Hi Aankhon Mein Ishara Ho Gaya” (where Rafi sings only the initial two lines of the mukhda and the rest of the song is all Geeta – wonderful juxtaposition of two gifted voices by OP Nayyar!) stand out. And of course the song that is for me is perhaps the pre-eminent romantic song in Hindi cinema, the unmatched “Hum Aap Ki Aankhon Mein” from Pyaasa.

One can never forget the lilting Madan Mohan number, “Ae Dil Mujhe Bata De”, or that quintessential lullaby “…Nanhi Kali Sone Chali, Hawa Dheere Aana” which has probably been sung by more Hindi-film music loving Indian moms (and Dads!) than any other.

Geeta made the monsoons come alive with “Rim Jhim Ke Taraane”, cool summer nights with “Thandi Hawa Kali Ghata…”, sang one of THE original item numbers with “Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo”, the soothing “Chale Hum Kahan..” with Hemant Kumar, and that wonderful song from Detective “Do Chamakti Aankhon Mein”…

She died shockingly early in 1972. However, her swan song was one for the ages, matched only about 20+ years later by RD Burman’s exit with “1942 – A Love Story”. The songs for the Basu Bhattacharyya’s Sanjeev-Tanuja starrer “Anubhav” had been scored by the relatively unsung great Music Director Kanu Roy – and one cannot imagine any other singer even attempting to sing and do any justice to “Meri Jaan Mujhe Jaa Na Kaho…”, “Mera Dil Jo Mera Hota…” or “Koi Chupke Se Aake” from Anubhav.

My Top-10 Geeta Dutt songs are:

1. “Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam”
2. “Hum Aap Ki Aankhon Mein” with Rafi
3. “Meri Jaan Mujhe Jaa Na Kaho”
4. “Hawa Dheere Aana”
5. “Thandi Hawaaon Mein” with Talat
6. “Tum Jo Huey Mere Humsafar” with Rafi
7. “Mujhko Tum Jo Mile” with Hemant Kumar
8. “Koi Chupke Se Aake”
9. “Yeh Lo Main Haari Piya”
10. “Jaane Kya Tune Kahi”

Very very honorable mention – “Aankh Milane Ke Liye”!

Geeta Dutt came in with the advent of the golden age of Hindi film music – and with her passing away in 1972, the era came to an end. Her music lives on, a reminder of a bygone era and a troubled soul who still rose above her personal tragedy to regale and entertain generations to come.

….comments…

Anonymous said…
Geeta Dutt did some ad jingles too, do you’ve them or any knowledge about it?
I also want to know about her stage shows, which she did in her later years for survival!

12:47 AM

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Buck said…
I have always tried to block out the personal tragedy that Geeta Dutt lived through and focus on her music – but I guess it is difficult to separate the two!I have read that Geeta did some jingles for some soaps (Hamaam and Rexona, I believe) – with the music by Salil Chowdhury so they must have been pretty good. However, I have no personal recollection of those jingles.

Re stage shows, I have heard she used to perform at Durga Puja events and do other stage shows in the tail end of her short life…sometimes I wish Anubhav had been made about 5-6 years earlier and it might have given her the new lease on life post-Guru Dutt.

11:39 AM

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I think in the normal course, I would have faulted this flick mercilessly.

But as it emerged, as the first movie that my wife and I saw in a cinema hall in over 7 years without any little ones to care for, this one escapes.

Plus it is tough to totally pan a movie featuring a standout performance by Abhishek Bachchan, who is quickly emerging as the gold-standard for the post-Khans generation of Bollywood heart-throbs, a phenomenal cameo by Amitabh (difficult to believe he played this high energy role so soon after recovery from the latest ailments), Preity Zinta really living her role and to perfection, and music for the ages from Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy…

What detracts from the movie are slipshod editing, a weak story line that leaves too many characters inadequately etched, lazy direction from Karan Johar that results in needlessly abrupt dialogues and interventions, shockingly unconvincing performances by Rani Mukherjee who sleepwalks through her (admittedly poorly crafted) role and Shahrukh Khan, who comes through only in patches….

…if nothing else, this movie shall mark the formal passing of the baton from King Khan to the jr Bachchan, in the same way that exactly 30 years back, Sholay saw the baton of the numero uno star in Bollywood transition from the so-called hero of the movie, Dharmendra, to the one who stole the hearts…Bachchan Senior.

…there are enough arresting scenes and sequences in this 3-hours-plus opus to ensure that Karan Johar recovers his investment and more. It is also a much better movie than the disastrous Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam. Karan’s continuing love-affair with New York City comes through in his wonderful picture compositions across the East River – he captured all seasons and Fall in particular is spectacular. I had a tough time picking my favorite song – Mitva, the title number, and the two party songs featuring the Bachchans are all superb.

…it has been rumored that King Khan is not very happy with the attention that Karan Johar accorded Abhishek…hopefully Shahrukh realizes that he has had a worthy run as the second (and thankfully improved) coming of Dilip Kumar, and that all good things must end….

…and the comments when first published….

Jaunty Quicksand said…
I have not seen this movie and probably will not. I think KKKG did it for me as far as Karan Johan was concerned, with Kal Ho Na Ho striking the last nail in the coffin.Instead I would recommend – Samay – a Sushmita Sen movie which is surprisingly slick and engrossing. (The ending is “inspired” but there is more than enough meat in the story itself to forgive this fact).

10:03 AM

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Anonymous said…
Did you watch the same movie I did???? What *I* saw was a poorly crafted movie with a wafer thin plot, needless (and pointless) characters and eminently forgettable music (except for Mitwaa).I do agree with you, though, that Abhishek is shaping up to be a *really* good actor.

Rupa

1:45 AM

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Buck said…
RupaI think we saw the same movie – except for our diametrically opposite opinions on S-E-L’s music, we are on the same page!

I think the desire to be sensational got the better of Mr Johar and the end result reflects the lack of quality in the screenplay and direction.

4:25 AM

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…to open this discussion, a disclaimer.

This opinion is mine, formed through various conversations, reading and also first-person observations….the bulk of my first-person observation has been in Bangalore, though Hyderabad, Gurgaon/Delhi and Pune and Mumbai (to a lesser extent) also figure…

…the reason I have often heard being voiced for the sustainability of the Indian economic miracle (esp in contrast to the Chinese one) is the fact that India is finally a functioning democracy where the deprived ones have a legitimate non-violent means of effecting a regime change when desired. I have myself often cited the several changes in the ruling coterie in Delhi, all brought about by a supposedly uneducated and ill-informed population.

…12 months into a closer interaction with India, I am less convinced of this. The democracy seems to work in fits and starts. In most parts of the country, the rule of the mob prevails. Karnataka, supposedly the destination for most IT majors worldwide, rules the roost in terms of the pervasiveness of corruption. Gujarat, my favorite state and once the industrial hub of the nation, is riven by a communal divide that will take a lot of statesmanship to heal….

…even within the little conclaves that are being formed by the elite around the country, the operative term is their unsustainability. The mall-worker syndrome, as my friend Pallab most eloquently described it in a conversation, will catch up. As the humble mall-worker, often living miles away from the mall where he/she works at, usually unable to even dine at the same mall where he/she works, always unable to live the life of the nouveaux riche in their spaghetti straps and designer jeans, comes to terms with the hopelessness of his/her existence, I am dreading that he/she will snap one day….the outcome is terrifying….whether one thinks of Gurgaon or Koramangala or Phoenix Mills in Mumbai.

…the gap between the haves and the have-nots has become untenable…even amongst the haves, the gap between those enriched by IT and related services and those unable to partake of the dollar-driven wages of the IT/ITES sector is growing…the country is still blissfully celebrating the 25th year of Infosys’ existence – and not dwelling enough on the disaster waiting to happen…

…it will take a lot of political fortitude and seasoned statesmanship to stem the rot. Someone needs to call Mulayam Singh Yadav’s bluff. Someone needs to contain Narendra Modi. Someone needs to tell Deve Gowda that enough is enough, and that the time has come for true champions of the farmers to emerge. Someone needs to tell Sonia-ji that backseat driving is ok if it is a Karl Rove doing it; if the Prime Minister of the country has to start his day by paying obeisance to her, it is not acceptable or appropriate….

…I doubt whether such persons exist…will the businessmen of today take on a different hue if they get into politics – or will they change politics for the better? Rajeev Chandrashekhar of BPL is an MP, Vijay Mallya is an MP, Anil Ambani of ReliAAnce is into active politics – and yet while leveraging power for their business interests, they have done little to leverage their business savvy to improve the body politic….

…this has been the story of my life…

I am not sure why, but especially on matters sporting, i have always been a die-hard fan of the second best (or second most visible…)

When the second-best one, through dint of hard work ends up becoming numero uno as well, as Rahul Dravid has done now and Stefan Edberg has done in the past, my cup runneth over…

Otherwise, even when I have been an aficionado of the undisputed numero uno (eg Michael Jordan) my loyalty has always been with the second gun (Scottie Pippen with the Bulls, VVS Laxman throughout his illustrious career that has delivered but only 10 splendid centuries, Leander Paes,…)

The sole exception I can think of is Steffi Graf…she came out of the gates strong, something about her hard-working no-nonsense clean and crew-cut style appealed to me and she remained a favorite till she called it a day several years later…for once, Gabriela Sabatini and Monica Seles never supplanted her in my eyes….

…perhaps this is the reason why I am rooting for the Portuguese soccer (or should we say real football?) team, Michael Schumacher, Vijay Singh and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (over his more heralded fellow-south-paw skipper)…

Comments

Jaunty Quicksand said…
Except for Laxman and Edberg, the common trait with all your favourites is that they lacked the talent the alpha-dogs of their sport did, but that did not deter them from carving a niche for themselves. If Laxman had been treated better by the selectors and management, he would have more than his 10 centuries. Though to be fair, many of his splendid innings have been 50’s, proving to be the difference between victory and defeat, like Dravid’s twins in the Kingston Test.

2:40 PM

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Kaiser said…
why was Schumacher pushed to an underdog Status ? He never was and will never be so

2:04 AM

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…I am totally anguished by the politicization of the entire reservations business. just because Senor Arjun Singh wishes to score political points off Dr Manmohan Singh is no reason to bastardize the entire education system in the country.

It is bad enough that nearly 60 years after Indian independence, the oppressed and deprived class continue to toil in misery and hopelessness. Worse is the insouciance of the ruling classes that tends to opine that reservations (in higher education and in jobs) is the only form of affirmative action that needs to be tried out.

Why dont these people ensure basic physical safety, sanitation, and primary education, for these poor-est of the poor? I have seen classmates at the IIT that came in through the SC/ST reservation system – 90% of them did not deserve to use it since their respective fathers had used the same system before them to rise to the top rungs of their own public sector jobs! Unless this creamy layer is contained, and the realization sets in that deprivation applies to so-called forward castes as well when they live in poverty, no affirmative action program will be effective.

Most wonderful is Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav’s munificent offer to reserve seats in colleges for the so-called forward classes based on percentage of the population…

Go ahead, dilute educational brands that have been developed over the past 40+ years in a single diabolic stroke of the political pen.

While travelling in the US, almost every Pakistani I met (and there are several of them, all very nice to know, etc) had come there for under-graduate studies (since the college education system in Pakistan has totally collapsed after Bhutto successfully politicized the campuses in the 1970s). Indians seemed to typically come there for post-graduate studies.

Give the devils here in India a chance and I am sure this ratio will change – and an increasing number of even middle-class parents whose children do not get through to a premier college will start sending their offspring, and a whole boatload of foreign exchange, abroad to educate them in the US and Australia and elsewhere, and fund US and Australian universities and the education systems there.

Eventually the best faculty will be disheartened about teaching at the so-called temples of learning in India and avoid taking up employment there, in the same way that abysmal salaries and work conditions are keeping the best and brightest away from becoming school teachers.

This will be the death-knell of our much-vaunted education system. Talk of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

…and a solitary vocal voice in support…

Kaiser said…
There is no use in reserving seats in educational institutions .It would lead to dilution of standards set by these institutes. Rather the government could start strengthening the primary education system for these less privileged classes. Reserving those jobs and seats is like putting cart before the horse

…For a movie to put a critically acclaimed one like Parineeta in the shade, the bar has to be set pretty high.

In fact, but for the obsession award-givers have with melodrama and seriousness, this “great” movie from 2005 should have given quite a run at the awards as well to the supposedly more appreciated “Parineeta” and “Black”.

“Bunty Aur Babli” is one of those once-in-a-lifetime perfect movies that does not stop to meander at all, that does not give into the temptation to pull in the maudlin though it has no (or minimal) relevance to the core theme.

An amazingly well-made crime caper, with nary a false-step (unless one wants to dwell on the unimportant fact that the action almost never reaches Mumbai though it professes to do so), Shaad Ali Saigal has authored a brilliant offering on the heels of his earlier highly appreciated “Saathiya”.

Bunty Aur Babli is thoroughly irreverential, features two of the most versatile stars in contemporary Indian cinema – Abhishek and Rani – who have acquired an almost chameleoning ability to inhabit the characters they play, wonderful music that blends in so wonderfully into the whole (another outstanding score from Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and totally apt lyrics from the RD Burman of lyricists – the one and only Gulzar!), great cameos by stars of yesteryear and in particular, superb use of Aishwarya and Amitabh, and borrows liberally from great ideas from impostors and con-men the world over and weaves them into the Indian context.

More on the music. “Kajra Re” has been written about extensively (and deservedly so – Alisha Chinai did full justice to the song) but I like so many of the rest too (Sonu Nigam and Mahalaxmi Iyer’s “Chup Chup Ke” is delightful, so is “Dhadak Dhadak” sung by one of my perennial favorites Udit Narayan in consort with the uniquely gifted Sunidhi Chauhan, and Sukhwinder Singh and Jaspinder Narula showcase their talent yet again in the title number co-sung by Shankar Mahadevan) that this has quickly risen into my must-own-CD collection (along with Dhoom, Hum Tum, Dil Chahta Hai, Parineeta, Taal, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam,…)

(BTW, have not the last 5 years been one of the most productive ever for fans of Hindi film music in terms of range of selections, quality of songs – lyrics and music, new voices coming up, et al; but this is subject for another post!)

The wondrous part of Bunty Aur Babli is that even the negatives seem to become a positive. For example, after a long time, Rani Mukherjee seems chubby (to put it kindly, especially when she dances around in black hotpants). Yet my wife and I could not agree on whether it was a case of her letting her fitness get away from her, or it was a case of a dedicated actress putting on flab to live the role as a small-town Babli making it good!!! BTW, Abhishek Bachchan is perfect – he lives the role, I could NOT find a flaw in his performance, he lives every disguise and act he puts on, and his body of work (Yuva, Dhoom, Bunty Aur Babli, the cameo in Hum Tum, the supposedly outstanding performance in Sarkar, and more) already puts him on track to match his fathers opus.

Superb movie – this “Bunty Aur Babli”, I will see it again and again; it merits dissection and analysis like a “Sholay” or a “Mr & Mrs 55”

So much so that Bunty and Babli have made it into the common folklore as symbols of the ambitious small town Indian youth…see it to experience it!

and the helpful commentary…

Jaunty Quicksand said…
In the movie, the goal of making enough money to go to Bombay is nothing but a MacGuffin. Simply put, it is an element in the plot that provides an impetus/rationale for the characters to behave the way they do. (For instance, the Ring is the Macguffin in the Tolkein series. It just drives the plot, while itself does not “participate” in the story).I got to see B&B and enjoyed it a lot. Also check out “Sarkar”. If you think you are going to watch a retread of “Godfather” you are in for a surprise. Yes, many elements are similar (and “inspired by the original”), but RGV has his own spin on it and populates his ovies with a good cast of actors. And his habit of using as few words as possible to get a point across is such a contrast to the bombastic scenes of most other movies that it in itself is enough motivation to raise the viewers impression of the movie. I saw it again on Friday and enjoyed it. I also saw “Zanjeer” on Saturday and the similarities between Amitabh’s acting in that and Abhishek’s in “Sarkar” are so uncanny you’d think the two guys were related or something!!

10:47 AM

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Aruna said…
i would recommend ‘Iqbal’ as well from the 2005 releases. A poignant movie about dreams and fantasies of the lesser privileged.

11:46 PM

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Buck said…
Thanks for the suggestion – “Iqbal” it is for the next one we shall watch – though “No Entry” is also in contention as the biggest box office success last year.

2:33 PM

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Over the past month or so, we have seen more movies than we saw in the year before that.

We saw “Rang De Basanti” in a theatre and liked it a lot.

Then we decided to get caught up on the 2005 Hindi movies that we had not seen. We have seen two thus far, were delighted with one while the other was a slight let-down.

Let me start with the “let-down” first. Perhaps if we had seen this first, we might have enjoyed it. But we did not and the other one so enthralled us that “Parineeta” was perhaps doomed from the very beginning.

Having a wondrous and simple beauty as the heroine, one of the most improved dramatic actors as the hero, and a wonderful sound-track from Shantanu Moitra that has dominated the airwaves for over 10 months now (at least), it was but obvious that our expectations were sky high.

I have not read Sarat Chandra’s story so am not sure if the problem is with the original or with the way in which Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Pradeep Sarkar have interpreted it in the screenplay. But the movie begins well and has several lulls that are frustrating.

The worst sequence is the one where a (hopelessly mis-cast and ugly) Sunjay Dutt is bragging about how he became a steel magnate. It really challenges one’s intelligence to think that his sister, who has been gushing over his desire to eat her “hand-made” cake has not told the rest about his life story. It was set in the 1960s so it is possible (though improbable) that this beloved and wildly successful brothers pictures were not available to share with his doting sisters and their “like-family” neighbours. But by making him narrate his own life’s story, it makes the Sunjay Dutt character singularly self-obsessed and arrogant, and contrasts dramatically with what emerges later.

Equally bad is the inadequate direction given to the beautiful Vidya Balan on how to balance laughter with tears. The best example of this is of course Kamalahaasan in Ramesh Sippy’s “Saagar”. But otherwise, it is best to avoid such sequences entirely – the inexperience of Pradeep Sarkar as a movie director shows through here.

And the end was so melodramatic, with the scrawny Shekhar (Saif Ali Khan) suddenly seeming strong and breaking open the wall between his house and Lolita (Vidya Balan) – even though it was plausible that she would have left for the airport before he got through with his efforts.

Great music, a haunting performance from Saif Ali Khan, a beautiful new heroine, excellent supporting cast (other than the aforementioned and aging Mr Dutt), great sets and wonderful recreation of th 1960s era Calcutta, brilliant photography, a director with a brilliant feel for visuals, Rekha in one of the most dignified and stately “item numbers” since her own “Salaam-e-Ishq” way back when, a star turn by using Amitabh Bachchan as the sutradhar providing the voice-over, all of it has gone into making an above-average movie (and not the great one it could have been) because the debutante director did not know where to draw the line on the maudlin.

Thankfully, we still had memories of the great movie to fall back upon…will dwell upon that in a separate post.

Comments when first published included:

Aruna said…
hey! for starters nice to see a posting from you after a while….or i have not been peeping in that often :-((liked your review. yes i didnt like the movie that much as well but i thought the biggest pull for this movie was the music. i just loved it. Secondly, vidya balan is a beauty that comes once in zillion years! (yes! i am grinning from ear to ear – she is a TAMBRAM!!)

Pardeep Sarkar (must be over 50 now!) has spent all these making ad films and i guess Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s touch has not rubbed off on him that much!!

waiting to read ur review on RDB!

1:42 PM

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Jaunty Quicksand said…
I think “RDB” would count as a 2006 release, wouldn’t it?Haven’t seen it, but have been told by some very good friends that it is a must-watch (including a Chennai-born friend who does not know Hindi but he follows along enough to keep up and understand what is being said).

10:50 AM

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I have been to several weddings and similar large social events in India over the past 8 months. I typically prefer the wedding ceremony itself to the reception afterwards for closer friends and family as one gets to be a part of a smaller more intimate group.

But for the ubiquitous photographers, I really enjoy people-watching at these events. The photographers seem to have decided that since they will be recording the event for posterity, they are the most important persons in the hall. Hence regardless of the seating position, the most prominent sight for you is the posterior of one of these abominations.

And then they turn away from the event itself, only to show their backs to the dais and now click the audience trying to gawk around their girth at the goings-on that they came to see. I have seen the indulgent photographers miss entirely on clicking key events such as the tying of the mangalasutra no less, and then ask for an action replay so that they can provide it for future replays by the families…

I always thought we meet to create memories, and that we part to preserve them…and that photographs are only an aid to memory, not the memory itself!