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Woman at Work

 I wrote this for an event called “Women at Work” organised by Senior Editor of Firstpost.com, Deepanjana Pal. It is a description of my experiences as a woman working in the English stand-up comedy market in India. It was probably the most warm, lovely environment to speak in and for someone who is supposed to talk to people for a living,  I was terrified of saying a lot of things I said below. (This is an edited version)

This is a mike, to indicate that this post is about stand-up comedy. Some deep symbolic imagery and stuff here.

This is a mike, to indicate that this post is about stand-up comedy. This is some deep, symbolic imagery and stuff here.

I am a woman. I am also a stand-up comedian. I go on stage, I tell what I think are jokes. On a good day people laugh, on a bad one they leave tut-tutting about the “gandi ladki who was saying all those dirty dirty things.” I was asked to choose if I identified with more, being a woman, or being a stand-up comedian. Being asked to choose implies that if I am one I cannot be the other. I’d like to borrow a quote from a report released by the detachable-genital dept of John Hopkin University, when I say “You can’t.” I end up carrying my womanliness when I am on stage every single time. Also, I’d love to hear the answer when a man is asked if he identifies more with being a MAN than whatever profession he’s in.

To me, comedy is truth. It’s terrifying to be all alone on stage with just a mic, no background dancers, no music, no flashy lights. It’s a vulnerable place to be in. And when vulnerable, just like always, honesty is the best policy. Being fake results in contrived jokes about Punjabis being loud, Gujratis being cheap and Parsi’s being…few. They’re hilarious sure, but they’re not very hard to come up with. When people ask me if I write my stand-up comedy from a female perspective I feel confounded. Who else’s perspective am I going to write from? My truth is that I am a woman, and my truth is comedy. I cannot deny one for the other. To be honest, when I started out, I did not know it was a big deal for a woman to do comedy. I just went along doing shows like any of the boys would. It was only when a journalist earnestly asked me after a show, “Women are not funny. Why?” did it hit home. I was being asked to justify what I was doing, WHILE I was doing it. It is after that, that I suddenly felt the need to justify my jokes on stage. I’d start my jokes on Vaginal tightening cream by saying “I’m not a pervert or anything,” when in reality I am a huge pervert. Today, I am done justifying myself. Now when I am asked why women are not funny, my answer is “Next question please.” Incidentally, the same journalist also posed the question “so you’re a funny woman, they’re either considered crazy or sluts. Which one are you?” I said “Both.” For some reason that question never made it to print.

I remember listening to an ad for a show I did in Delhi. In it, they described me as a fiery feminist. Coz apparently feminists who keep their cool don’t exist. But I remember wondering why. The men had their humor described as “political” “observational” “satirical” while everything that came out of my mouth was lumped into my gender. When a fellow comic announced me on stage as “India’s #1 female comedian” I had to gently remind him that I did not have an entire genre of comedy in my pants. And to clarify, in no way, am I ashamed of being called a feminist. In fact it breaks my heart when I hear well educated women go “Oh God ya, all this nari Shakti and all please I don’t do.”

Is stand-up comedy a boys club? Numerically, yes. It is. It’s easier to make people cry then make them laugh– comedy can be pretty daunting and risky. Personally, when I started doing stand-up comedy, I had nothing to lose. I had just been laid off from a job in New York and returned to Mumbai, the prodigal black sheep of the family was back to bleating on familiar pastures. If I didn’t spend my evenings at open mics (where comics try out new material and jokes), I would have spent them drinking massive glasses of Horlicks and crying myself to sleep. The nature of laughter is such, you can never 100% of the time tell when people are laughing with you or at you. That can be discomforting. As a woman, we are taught to take ourselves 100% seriously. A well meaning gentleman came up to me after a show once and said “Beta lovely comedy, but….do you parents know that you are saying all these things on stage? Accha ladka kaise milega?” His concern for my love life was heart -warming. As to why there are few women in stand-up comedy today, I say, give it time. Even nurses and secretaries and teachers were “boys clubs” at one time. We are on our way there.

I am lucky that my ultimate boss is the audience. If they like you, you will get work. But getting booked for gigs can be tricky. I have been included in stand-up comedy shows because sometimes, they just need a woman to “sexy up” things a bit. And then I have had shows denied to me because “yaar tum ladies ho, ye boys college hai, tujhe maar dalenge.” Often it’s not economically viable to book me for travelling gigs in groups because I cannot share a room with the guys, and so one room has to be specifically reserved for me which raises costs.

But stand-up comedy, as we know, is still a very nascent industry. With the English language barrier we only cater to the upper middle class, a market that has the disposable income to enjoy the indulgences of a comedy club. As mentioned, I was not aware, when I started out that a woman doing comedy was supposed to be as rare as a monkey being able to quote Shakespeare.

Except this guy. Or wait. It's quoting Romeo and Juliet, it's a girl monkey obviously.

Except this guy. Or wait. It’s quoting Romeo and Juliet, it’s a girl monkey obviously.

500 shows later, I can confidently say that to most audiences, if you’re funny, you’re funny. It barely matters what is in your pants. Even the few times that I am reminded of it by a heckler, I know the audience is on my side. At a New Year’s Eve Show of 2013, a drunk heckler kept yelling about the BIG BLACK MIKE in hand and how I should suck on it and lick the tip, the audience roared with approval when I said “Since you know such great penis sucking techniques, why don’t you do it yourself? My mouth is busy with telling jokes right now.” After all, the audience didn’t pay 500 bucks for a comedy show to watch the performer tank simply because she has a vagina. After shows, in the guise of taking photographs, many a penis has been rubbed against my groin and my boob has been grabbed so many times, I fear I’m losing sensation in the area.

I’ve answered questions about my relationship with event organizers who book me too often “You’re sleeping with him na? That’s why he keeps booking you,” someone postulates. It is unimaginable to some that I might be booking gigs because I am actually funny. “You’re only getting this much work because you’re a woman,” others have stated. Again, not because I’m funny, but because I am a woman. In the past I’ve spent so much time crying in the St. Andrews auditorium’s ladies bathroom, that now, even when I go there to pee, tears spring to my eyes.

What scares me right now, is the knee jerk feminism that our country has adopted in the past year and what it really says about our attitudes towards women. Everyone’s talking about it, panels are being organized and media outlets cannot wait to get their pixelated paws into the “WOMAN” market with non saas bahu programming. While on a panel with 4 other, feisty, intelligent women, where I was obviously tacked on as the “funny” element of the event, the subject of the Mallika Sherawat video from Vanity Fair came up. Where she said that India was regressive and hypocritical when it came to women. I was shocked to hear one of the panelists respond with “What a bitch, she can’t even talk properly because her lips are so fake and she’s talking nonsense about my country,” I jumped in to defend her. “Well, she didn’t lie. We have rapes, dowry deaths, female infanticide…” and before I could finish my sentence the producer jumped in. “Arre comedy-waali, why are you getting so serious? You can’t say “rape” and all on this platform.” Apparently the word bitch was ok, but rape—that’s a No No.

I’ve said no to several interviews when they begin their story with “Well, you know, with all the horrible stories about women coming out of India today, yours will be a positive one.” It horrifies me that the fact that I’ve not been left dead in a ditch with my head copped off in spite of speaking my mind, is a reason to celebrate.

In the last season of Kaun Banega Crorepati, Amitabh Bacchan waxed eloquent about EVERY woman that broke through the fastest finger first round. “Dekhiye” he declared, “Naari Shakti. Ek naari humare saath iss kursi par baithgi aur questions answer karegi.” We are being exulted for being alive. And that’s scary too. The higher the pedestal on which we place women, the more vehemently we will react when women divert from it. We don’t want to be your Madonna and we don’t want to be your whore, we don’t want to be your ghar ki izzat and we don’t want to be your office ki shaan. We want to be us.

12 Things I learned at 27

I’m officially 27 years old. Even though that’s still far away from my first pair of dentures, or urinating in a bed pan, I’ve learned a lot of stuff. And like every old person, I feel the need to share my wisdom. Here are 12 (coz I couldn’t think of a 13th one) things in no particular order, I’ve learned at 27. A lot of them are still in resolution stage (it’ll give me something to talk about next year na?) Some of it might be clichéd. Some of it might be too specific to me. Going to be senti either way.

Nothing could be more self reflective, than a selfie. It's science.

Nothing could be more self reflective, than a selfie. It’s science.

1. No one is my servant or lower than me. Even who one conventionally calls their ‘servant’ is not my servant. Behind the hand that serves me tea in the morning, the one that hands me a towel in the rest room of fancy restaurant, the hands that drive me to work/school, there is a person doing their job. I have been amazed at how my shitty day flips around to awesome when I ask someone “How are you?” out of the blue or ventured a stray smile at a person on the street. It makes me look weird I imagine. I’m OK with that.

2. I have learned to fail. Over and over, in front of hundreds of people sometimes. But I am proud to say that I have tried my best to remain true to who I am. Not everyone is going to love what I do/say/write. Does not mean I won’t continue doing/saying/writing it. Conversely, I will not romanticize failure. I will not wear it like some badge of honor, I will learn from it and move on. Possibly to my next failure. . My vulnerabilities are not my weaknesses. I am not defined by my success and not defined by my failure.

3. The answer to “What CAN’T you do?” is always “Nothing.” Nothing. I will try everything once. Then apply point #2.

4. I will never ever buy a top that’s a bit tight and then promise myself that I’ll lose weight to get into it. No piece of clothing has ever been motivation enough for me to lose weight. Getting into a shirt is very low on my list of priorities when faced with a deliciously sweet cup of tea and chocolate biscuits. My body will never look the way I want it to look- my arms are too big , my skin still suffers from teenage acne sometimes, but I am alive and well and healthy. I have learned that it is OK to be happy with that. Also, I look nice when I wear a salwar kameez.

5. I will let people think and have whatever opinions they want of me, unless it hurts enough to ring true to me. Someone else calling me a bad person will not automatically make me a bad person unless I believe it. I would rather work to change my flaws for the 10 people that know and love me than 1000 people who don’t. Life’s too short to try to impress everyone beyond a point.

6. My true character is revealed in times of adversity (also when Sheila ki Jawani comes on at a party, WHATTA SONG!)

7. When my dad/mom call me 500 times a day to ask me what time I’m getting home, I will answer their calls and hold my irritation about answering the same question again and again. Sometimes they call because they are lonely, and because they love me. I will listen to them talk about their childhood and youth. I have learned that looking at old pictures with family members reveals a treasure trove of interesting stories.

8. I have learned the hard way that I cannot drive a car, can barely cook, that sometimes printers and hard drives crash around me. I panic less than I used to. Panic makes me even more muddle headed, and when things go wrong that’s the last thing I need to feel.

9. I have learned the value of waking up early. Nothing equals the smug satisfaction of having almost done all your days work, while people are still stumbling out of their bedrooms grumbling about being sleepy.

10. I will write more. Everyday. It will still never be enough, so I will write some more.

11. I have learned to clean up my language. Unless it’s absolutely imperative, I will try and speak without curse words. Because using curse words automatically diverts from what you are saying. I would rather not have that barrier in the message I am trying to get across. Also, I have realised that a carefully worded actual criticism can hurt much more than a “fuck you, you fucker.” (“Ass” is not a curse word btw. It means butt. There’s nothing wrong with butts.)

12. I will try my best to make people laugh. I have been so blessed to be in front of a room full of people while they laugh and enjoy themselves. It makes me feel like the luckiest person alive. I will never ever get complacent. It’s too damn precious to me.

The twerk heard around the world.

On Aug 25th, 2013, the world tuned into the MTV Video music awards and watched in horror as a song called “Best Song Ever” by One Direction won an award for being “The Best Song” setting up an inception like time-warp sparking the fear that One Direction will change it’s name to Best Band Ever and then win at every VMA long past their significance (which is entirely possible.)

Twerk it, Make it, Do it, Makes Us.

Twerk it, Make it, Do it, Makes Us.

There was also an incident where the star of Disney’s Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus, twerked all over the crotch of douche-dude-de-jour Robin Thicke to her latest single aptly labelled “We won’t stop” and stop she didn’t as she displayed the phenomenal length of her tongue arbidly and hilariously at regular intervals of the 12 minute performance.

As the internet is wont to, it exploded in anger over the performance. “It was like she was having a seizure on stage….” It offended people that in song where the lyrics are “This is our house, This is our rules, And we can’t stop, And we won’t stop” that was doing EXACTLY what she was singing.

Smarter folks will postulate, that the giant sexy teddy bears (I never thought I would ever write a sentence that had those three words one after another in it) may have been a statement of Cyrus coming out “I’m all growed up party”. Then Robin Thicke emerged from the wings in an appropriately jail-uniform-y black and white striped suit while Miley, the Disney princess and twerked against him. (For the 2 people that don’t know what twerking, it’s ok. Welcome to the falling standards of the Oxford English dictionary that added it officially recently. We didn’t have a word for slapping your inner ass cheeks against someone’s groin in public before this. Ye Olde English language.) But Miley Cyrus did exactly what SHE wanted. We have given her this platform, the name, the fame, and today, she can do what she damn well what she pleases with it. We showed her the game and now she’s made a few of her own rules and it’s time to play ball. She summed it appropriately in her red carpet interview before the performance “I was born ready, if you’re waitin’ on me you’re backin’ up.”

The anger raged from people calling it offensive (to who? Teddy Bears, Tongues, asses, who?), to Robin Thicke’s mother commenting that she felt embarrassed for her son during the performance (“embarrassment” that was conspicuously absent during EVERY viewing of the “Blurred Lines” video for some reason?). A widely circulated comment on Facebook decided to offer advice to Billy Ray Cyrus “Dad to Dad.” Yes, coz all children are the same. Just like the wonderful unique flower child that you are bringing up. She’s 20. She’s doing on a MUCH larger scale, what your kid is ALREADY doing.

This photo of the Smith was widely circulated as a response to Miley’s performance. But this turned out to be a pose that the family had struck that pose when they saw Lady Gaga’s equally outrageous performance at the same event.

Apparently this is NOT the face they made when they saw the box office earnings of "After Earth"

Apparently this is NOT the face they made when they saw the box office earnings of “After Earth”

Already, Cyrus is laughing her way to the bank after what is now the most outrageous performance in the history of the MTV Video Music Awards. A skinny, white woman singing about partying non stop is something that has NEVER happened on the VMA stage apparently. It also hurts me to imagine that they would reduce the most iconic moment in pop music history (the Madonna-Britney fluid swap) to #2 on the list.

Watch Miley Cyrus at the 2013 MTV VMA’s here. It was out there, bizarre and slightly ridiculous. But it was nothing we haven’t seen before. You keep going Miley. No one is stopping you.


I met Naomi Dutta, when she was producing “Love 2 Hate U”, a show that aired on Star World. If there’s one thing I remember about her was that she was patient. She nodded attentively while I spoke, her eyes alert. She spoke with conviction about her vision for the show. In a consequent meeting for a project that I was working on- I got to know Naomi better. We spoke about her book that I had not read yet.

The 6 pm Slot by Naomi Dutta

Infact had stopped reading for a while. No book held my attention for more than 10 pages. Every Indian author I picked up was either writing about nostalgia or longing or nostalgic longing. Reading has always been my solace but recently every book I picked up made me want to slit my wrists and sob myself to sleep. (I’m talking about Anjali Joseph’s Saraswati Park. I swear. Nothing good was happening to anyone. I just could not handle it after a while.) The 6 PM Slot  finally broke that curse. It’s a light-hearted satire on the television industry- the story of a woman (who for all intents and purposes reminds me of Naomi Dutta who sat across the room from me on the day we first met) who produces a T.V show in the 6:00 p.m. slot, which the channel heads  want to turn into the new prime time slot. From the host of her show getting chicken pox, to the stingy production head, most of Dutta’s observations and portrayals seem bang on. As someone who works in the industry, I know all the people she’s talking about. She ties it in well with the story of a news channel and a news anchor that we all know so well. It could have definitely been shorter and the crux of the story could have been less fluffy and it might have qualified as a ‘serious satire’ (don’t ask me if that’s a legitimate expression). But Dutta has some funny turns of phrase that make up for it’s shortcomings. The 6PM Slot was a day long read that has revved my engines up to read some more. But I’m still going to keep the vein nice and light. Next Up- The Reluctant Detective by Kiran Manral

You don’t care about her.

The last few days have been emotionally overwhelming. With the passing of the 23 year old in Singapore, the country rose up in collective prayers. But when my eyes closed for that moment, I realized that she does not need our prayers. She is blessed. Let’s not shirk responsibility for her death by saying we are “praying” for her. It is ourselves we need to pray for.

I’m glad the government has not responded to the calls of “HANG THEM” yet. Won’t that be the ideal solution? Becoming Pontius Pilot, washing your hands off of them? Handing the culprits over to  Colors for a 1 season run of “Public ka Badla” where in the season finale  they are hanged, complete with posters of Zatak deodorant on the gallows (Just Zattack Her, yougaise) while Barkha Dutt spells out in clichés, the very thing that the camera is showing? (Also see, Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani).

Unwittingly Damini/Nirbhaya/Patient X has become the symbol of what sexual assault has done to the county then shouldn’t the perpetrators become symbols of what its consequences can be? She did not ask for martyrdom, you made her one. Now—your turn. You violated another person in their most personal space. Be prepared to have the same done to you. And let’s just say things would have been much messier if one of them was politically connected.

I think, let the bastards have a fair trial. Let them see the rage they are inducing. Let them cower in a jail cell imaging their own death by the bare hands of thousands of angry people. Let future rapists know that they wont go down into a blaze of glory, in front of T.V cameras. They will be scorned, hated and rot in a jail cell till no one gives a shit about them including their own family members. Let them die alone and be buried in unmarked graves. Even that kind of a death will be more dignified than the miserable lives they led. But we will not be the animals they are.

Bollywood of course, as usual refuses to take responsibility for anything. But from my common knowledge, what is the best way to take revenge from the hero cop for raiding your drugs ka godown? Why you rape his sister! Sarre aam, pure gaaon ke saamne jo chup chaap tamasha dekhenge,  who after the act, much to the Delhi police’s chagrin—disperse quietly. Ho gaya tamasha. Please leave your names and contact information at the door. We will call you in case we schedule any sexual assaults in the near future.

Mithun didn’t have an unviolated sister through most of the 1980’s.  It was shown to be a horrific crime, yes, but there were NEVER any consequences. There was some general yelling, if Sunny Deol was involved a shirt or two came off. But that was the extent of it. Today, Salman Khan, our bhai, who makes 100 crore rupee fart jokes called Dabaang is deified in spite of physically abusing Aishwarya Rai. As it turns out, she’s not really worth it.

I went to the Azad Maidan protest. A 100 pissed off looking people–demanding everything from, hanging of the perpetrators, safety for women, legal changes in sexual assault convictions and prayers for the 23 year old. But what were we protesting? Sexual assault? Who declares Dec 29th Anti-Rape day? Is there a pro-rape day that we need it to counteract the efforts of? The thought makes the hair on the back of my neck prickle.

The messages have been there subliminally, pro-rape in blaming the victim. From our politicians to our very own parents. Tehelka’s expose in the past year has blown the top off the mentality we harbour towards sexual assault as a nation. Someone on national television will say women are “painted and dented” while our mothers will advise on how to keep our eyes lowered and our school bag slung in front of our chest while we traverse local trains. Because a kurta and a dupatta is not enough. You need to have a bagful of your 9th Std text books on top of your breasts so that you don’t incite the lust of these cherubic, innocent men.

We all have some version of “Arre and then he just pulled it out of his pants and started masturbating.” Or the crowded bus symptomatic-“when I stepped out, I realized that he had left a wet patch on my back.”

When my mother did not allow a 13-year-old me to take a bus to see my friends for a movie, I asked her why my brother could do it when he was 13 and I could not.

She sighed, and said-“Because you are a girl Aditi.”

“So?” I asked.

“Go play with Rashi on the 1st floor.”

And one cannot blame our parents for this. Our parents cannot help it. They want you to be safe. Every day at 6 o’clock they call to ask what time you are getting home. And as you grow older, they forget to call, but you remember to go home by 7 anyway because you don’t want them to worry about you. There it is. So deeply embedded in us that it has become a basic truth.

I don’t want to look in the eyes of my daughter with that same resigned expression and tell them they are NOT allowed to do things because they are a girl. I will not.

Not enough can be said about how bizzare the government’s reaction to this incident has been.  I might be naive but I don’t know ANY government in the world that WANTS its people to feel unsafe. There is no larger imagined corporate agenda when it comes to citizen’s safety. The association of Soup lobby isn’t saying, “Hey keep the eve teasing up—it’ll sell us more soup.” Then WHY is it being handled so badly? From the misreported death of Constable Subhash Tomar to lobbing tear gas grenades at protesters.  Tear Gas? May I point out the irony of beating crowds of your own people who are there asking you for safety? For that brief period the media worked hand in glove with the government. First Sachin retired (Well, only from One Day Internationals. I didn’t know it was possible to retire in instalments), more misreporting on the death of Constable Subhash Tomar, and of course, —everything was flying off of our teleprompters and into our homes before anyone had any time to verify facts.

We want to talk. Please. Even though you have turned on your water cannons we still don’t want to fight—we want to talk. Come out. Talk to us in anything other than clichés. “I have three daughters..” really? Then since you’re doing nothing about their safety either, their voice is with us today. “Maintain calm.” As mentioned, you’ve been the one to bring violence to the table. We are scared and angry. Help us.

The Justice Verma Committee is inviting “recommendations on amending laws to provide speedier justice and enhanced punishment in sexual assault cases. The comments can be sent at justice.verma@nic.in or through FAX at 011-23092675.”

This is a chance to get out of the quagmire of politics and be a part of the solution instead of exacerbating the problem with empty debate.  Kickass litigation veteran @MumbaiCentral will be writing an e-mail along with her sister. Please do follow her for updates.

As I write this the Delhi Police, RAF, CRPF and the CISF are on high alert against people that want nothing but their own safety. You don’t trust us and we don’t trust you. The best line of defense for the 9th Std girl being molested on a crowded railway platform will continue to be the fat Civics text book in her school bag slung on top of her chest.

And to you–I am so sorry. I am so, so fucking sorry. And I promise from now on, that I will do EVERYTHING in my power to make sure that it does not happen to anyone around me. I’m sorry it had to come to this. I promise to be more mindful when speaking and in my attitudes to be the change I want to see. I promise to see beyond the inherent female misogyny of our own women politicians. I am your sister. I am your brother. I will be responsible for you when we are together, not because I’m worried, but because we’re both human beings and we have this ability to be empathetic for a reason. I will help you when I find you injured on the road, I will take you to the hospital. I will make sure that NO ONE ever makes you feel unaccepted if you have suffered. I never got a chance to exchange a fleeting smile with you on the road or be your friend, or to meet you. But I am here for you and I’m so sorry.

STUDENT OF THE YEAR: Pass aur fail, lekin class jaana zaroor.

I’m not even going to justify my reasons to want to see the film. Hell, we had the lead actors constantly seducing the crap out of us with their smoldering stares from every hoarding and television set for the3 months.

I came.

I don’t know how to feel about the film. Those are three sensational looking human beings as leads by the way.  AaliaBhat looks like she’s made out of porcelain and her wardrobe loves her. Karan Johar knows how to place a camera in front of a woman to make her look her best. Several people compared AaliaBhat’s Shanaya to Kareena Kapoor’s Poo in Kabhi Khushi kabhi Gham. This comparison might work out to be detrimental to her in the long run. By the time that Kareena Kapoor did Poo, she had already displayed her acting prowess in varied roles in Ajnabee, Asoka and Refugee.

Siddharth Malhotra’s close ups had me reaching for my smelling salts.  With those warm, brown eyes he emotes his way into the hearts and pants of women everywhere.

Varun Dhawan’s Rohan grows on you. And it does not hurt that he dances like a dream.

On the flipside, everything about Student of the Year was as subtle as a heart attack. The purported REAL star of the film—director Karan Johar is in fact the weakest performer of the lot. He’s managed to pull a Rajkumar Hirani with a superb ensemble cast, but breaking the fourth wall with them narrating the story to audience was just LAZY. One of the basic tenets of story telling is “Show, don’t tell” and yet Johar has the entire first half TOLD to the audience. Only the dialogues saved the film.

And Johar has often claimed that only he can make the kind of movies he does. He uses the bricks baked in the kilns of female sighs to build factories where boobs don’t acknowledge the existence of gravity, and putting more than 3 Punjabis in a room ends with either a marriage or a MASSIVE round of Antakshari and where Farida Jalal can do no wrong.  True enough. But stringing a montage of rich, good looking kids being kinda douchey does not exactly qualify as story telling.

The music of the film is dismal, apart from Radha and Vele (which is stuck in my head right now. Goddamit), everything seemed to be some dhinchak-ed version of an old song. And of course, IshqWala Love had a better parody than the actual song.

Here’s the video for those of you living under a rock.

But where SOTY fails is in giving the audience something to hold onto. There are characters, but no moments in the film. Within 15 minutes of walking out of the film, I had forgotten 90% of it already. And because there were so many protagonists one didn’t know who to side with. First half, you love the “Bata kabaccha”—Abhimanyu (Malhotra) for the sincerity of his intentions, but the second half belongs to the poor Rohan (Dhawan) who gets fucked over by his best friend, girl friend and family in a span of minutes. Also, there was no antagonist. Everyone was flawed, and aggressively so. There’s nothing wrong with flawed characters, but when you place them in a 1 dimensional world where everything is black or white, then it takes very little for the viewer to switch off.

Watch Student of the Year, coz it’s what the cool kids are doing these days.


The world from (approx.) 3 feet off the ground- The Wildings and Moonrise Kingdom

The Wildings.


At the airport, I picked up a copy of The Wildings, because it was shiny (and also coz I read a couple of tweets from @dpanjana mentioning it), but mostly coz it was shiny. The Marwari in me was thrilled.

The Wildings is about a band of cats that lives in the Nizamuddin neighborhood of Old Delhi.  The themes are familiar, good vs. evil, nature vs. nurture but the narrative is completely unique. Human beings are relegated to side characters in their own ecosystem, called “Bigfoot” by the cats.  Roy has done the research, as far as animal behavior is concerned and laid out an intimate, playful, and empathetic story about a world that exists three feet off the ground. From the Mongoose named Kirri, to the mynahs named Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni- the extent of Roy’s knowledge is evident. My favorite lines from the book demonstrate this amply.

Sitting on top of the book case, Mara (the kitten) surveyed her kingdom with a strong sense of triumph. It had taken her three attempts to scale the book shelves…On her third try the kitten considered the books on the shelves carefully before charting a path over paperbacks and leather bound volumes of Tagore, giving the loose-leaf manuscripts a wide berth. She made it to the top and stared at the room, enchanted by the way it all looked so different from her new perch.

Apart from the aforementioned shiny cover, this book also has illustrations by Prabha Mallya, pictures made in ink that seem alive on a page. To me, it almost broke the fourth wall, I felt like I was being made privy to a secret world of these animals, as a vine curled out of the edge of a page or a Tooth, the dangerous yet brave cheel flew out at me from the center of the page in a particularly dramatic scene.

But as we seem to be hearing so much these days, (Star World’s programming head, Rasika Tyagi also mentioned in a recent interview with Mumbai Boss), it’s all about finding a connect with the characters. (Apparently that’s why Meredith and what would Meredith do? and what would Meredith wear? and who would Meredith do? is coming out of our ears.) Roy, manages to nail the connect between character and reader. She fires sure shot after sure shot, with her gun firmly on the shoulders of her furry protagonists. They are compelling and as real as a character that’s not human can be.

The Wildings also reminds us that we at the end of the day are animals. Are we the animals that follow the ethics of mother nature, (when to kill a prey, when to let it go, and how to defend yourself). Or are we creatures drunk on our own evolutionary advantages that want to annihilate everything in our paths just because we can? That is the question.

My only problem with it might have been that there were too many characters to keep track of, but seeing as how the book ended like there was a sequel in the making and writer Nilanjana Roy promised that she would make it more streamlined, giving us more in depth knowledge of her characters, I cannot wait for the second book of The Wildings.




I watched Moonrise Kingdom on recommendation from Anupama Chopra on Front Row with Anupama Chopra on Star World.  I like her, she’s very pretty and smart, only the monotone delivery and her somewhat blank smile, I find unnerving sometimes.

Having walked in a bit late into the theater, I missed the set up, but the film left me spell bound.

Moonrise Kingdom is set in a fictional island, in a fictional time, and is the story of two children who fall in love and decide to run away. The film follows their journey through the island. I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but this is the first Wes Anderson film I’ve watched. I’ve followed all his commercials well enough, but for some reason never got around to watching a whole film, so I cannot comment on the Wes-Anderson-ny-ness of the film. Rest assured, I will be watching all his remaining films when the opportunity presents itself.

Again, in terms of characters, Jared Gilbert as Sam and Kara Hayward as Suzy are spectacular. In spite of the oddly fairy-tale-ish and disjointed nature of the reality in the film, the characters are breathtakingly real. Gilbert and Haward deliver performances that are nuanced and adult.  The adults in Moonrise Kingdom on the other hand, are  one-dimensional, almost caricatures of themselves, but that also serves to elevate the love story of Sam and Suzy (two children) to poetic levels in a world of adults. Much like The Wildings,  in Moonrise Kingdom, reality is a quirky element of the story.

Also, the soundtrack of Moonrise Kingdom is superlative. Tying neat little knots at the end of every single thread at the end of the story. My personal favorite has GOT to be Francoise Hardy’s Le Temps De L’amour.

Moonrise Kingdom and The Wildings serve to remind us that some times the most interesting stories come from the every where but in our own real world.




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