Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Manohar Parsad Yadav...

(Khau Gali is lit during Ramzaan only)
I went to eat an Indian restaurant after a long time and found Manohar Parsaad Yadav in the kitchen, wearing Moti Chaap Lungi and Baniyan. When I saw him the last time two years ago he was wearing the same Moti chaap lungti and Baniyan cooking chicken biryani. Rewinding back to Bombay, when I saw him for the first time he was working for Babu Labacha ( Prononced La-Baa-Chaa meaning Lafda) at his “Baara Handi Food stall in Kahu Gali, Minara Masjid, Bombay amd he was wearing …..(I think you are smart!). My friend Dr. Naiyayr Siddiki, Phd ( Shahid-yaat) introduced me to him.

Naiyyar Siddiki, Phd.(Shahid-Yaat) claims that he knows me in and out. He created a job for himself calling it “ My Crisis Manager”. I think I used to have crisis back then , not anymore.

Anyways coming back to our topic, Baara Handi is a trip, which “late nighters” rich kids know very well. After the last club is closed at 3:00 in the morning these kids look for a place to eat, so they come here. You will be amazed to see the kind of cars in that dingy looking lane. The food is awful, but miraclelously it tastes good after a few bottles of whisky. These kids need some energy for heavy lifting later on that night, and bara handi provides it.

They cook “God knows what” in baara ( 12) haandi with some serious oil and fat. It always dark there, that you cannot see much except a foot of black fat flowing on top of every haandi. They do not have tarns fat, cholesterol and calorie problem there, as the “cooking and the cooked” do not know what it is. They in fact say “ Tarka mar ke 2 chicken maaar saab ko, ya phir 2 naaan extra maskaa maar ke bade bhai ko…. Rumor has it that the baara handi lowers the national life expectancy of India by 25 years.

“ Sahid bhai aap ?’ ( he never calls me Shahid bhai ---shakr ka problem hai!)
“Manohar, bhaiyya tum abhi tak yahan kasie – Tum to India chale gaye the?”

Gaye rahe bahiyya – Pita ji ne wapas bhaga diya.
”Kehte hian tum American ho gaye ho – ab tum wahin raho”

I saw his lungi and baniyan with all the food stains, smelling like chicken biryani and said

“Tum kahan se Amrican hue?”
“Hum bhi wohi kehte hain Sahid bhai , magar mante hi nahi”

“Aur who tumhari item ka kiya hua?”
“Kaun dulari?”

“Haan dulaari?”
“Dulari kisi aur ki ho gayee”

“Arre who to bahut tumhari chahat ka dam maarti thi …bharti thi?
“Haan magar aurat thi na…..baat baat main badal jane ka certificate tha us ke paas”


Abhi kiya sahid bhai – subah 11 baje se raat 11 tak kaam karte hain. Zindagi guzaar rahe hain.

I bet when Manohar first thought of coming to America, he must not have imagined where this journey would end up, and that this would cost him a relationship.

Father – Son relation is a strange one. Strange because our fathers are the only people who can understand what we are going thru at every stage of life. They can detect our insecurities and worries like an X-ray machine, yet they keep quite. They know what is going to happen next, and how you will fall and fall again, yet they let you do whatever you want to do, as they want you to be a man on your own. I think they do pray inside that you do not fall real bad, or hurt bad, and that you get up after each mistake, each tragedy.

There are many Manohars in America. They dress well, drive expensive cars and live in big houses but they are Manohars when they are alone.

This is how it is, in the fast lane…

Monday, February 26, 2007

Ever Wondered...

What you will find in the freezer of a filmmaker?
Film off course!
(It is Jeff's films, freezer and phone camera too)

ps: Main tun party wala nahi hoon - My eyes are sore coz of 8 hour of "passing out" infront of work PC and then 6 hours of grilling edit with Jeff Shipman. Even though he edits it, he still wants me to look at how things are developing on screen.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Doosra Kinara - Photography

Gandharv Bhagat was our Director of Photography. As you can see from his self-portrait here, he is immensely talented in that art. I like him because he is those rare people who keep thier ideologies intact no matter what country, city, and time zone they are in.

First film is always a challenge in ALL the departments, especially if you are an indie film producer. Gandharv did a good job and never said "not possible" to anything irrespective of the difficulty.

When we were shooting for the beginning sequence in which Kristi and Vikas are driving home on Atlanta freeways. The BMW we had was stick shift and Vikas never drove a stick shift. I had no option but to shoot that night. Driving on Atlanta highway is no fun, and anyone who drove on it can tell you. It is like a mad max all over. Even if you drive slowly meaning 70 MPH (110 KMPH) other drivers will put pressure on you to go fast. I was so scared inside, visualizing what if scenarios, especially knowing I had no shooting insurance. Everything went well, in fact we came back with some cool footage that night.

Creating India in the US was another challenge. We did our best to hide anything that we do not usually see in India. You will see a few weired angled shots and that is because we had no choice, and I wanted to avoid distractions in each frames.

Gandharv can found at:
- At an apple store near you
- Hockey Field at Georgia Tech
- In front of his " apple". He "converted” me from a Window user to a die-hard Mac fan and a user. I too bite my apple when I am home.

Ps: As far as my knowledge of photography is concerned, I know how to hold the camera - that’s all!

Koi Saat Samundar Paar se...

Koi Saat Samundar Paar se Yun Kare Beypaar
Pehle bheje Sarhaden, phir bheje Hathiyaar !
Nida Fazli
Beypaar - Business
Sarhaden - Borders

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Abeer - Fragnance of Flowers

( This is her only pictue available, from her ID when she was 2 years old)

Abeer was her name, which means "fragnance of flowers". She was born August 19, 1991. I know exactly where I was when she came to this world. I dunno what to write. I do not know what to write. Sometime I think this world is fucking too civilized to deliever justice, and this is one of those moments.

How the hell these sick minds made it o the US army I wonder.

BBC World
Feb 21, 2007
US soldier admits murdering girl
Room where rape and killing took place
The house in Mahmudiya where the rape and killings took place

A second US soldier's plea of guilty to the gang rape of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the killing of her and her family has been accepted by a judge.

Sgt Paul Cortez admitted four murders, rape and conspiracy to rape. His plea means he will avoid the death penalty.

In November, Spc James Barker, 24, admitted rape and murder over the same killings and was jailed for 90 years.

Cortez broke down as he confessed to raping the girl as her parents and sister were shot dead in another room.

The case is one of several in which US troops are accused of killing Iraqis.

According to the plea agreement, Cortez admitted conspiring with three other soldiers, Pfc Jesse Spielman, Spc Barker and Steven Green, a now discharged soldier, to rape Abeer Qassim al-Janabi.

Card game

Pfc Spielman and another man, Bryan Howard, are awaiting court martial on charges related to the attack.

Mr Green is being tried as a civilian because he was discharged from the Army before his superiors knew of his suspected involvement. He denies the charges against him.

All five belonged to the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, which is also where the hearing took place.

In court, Cortez admitted the plan was hatched as they played cards and that the girl had been targeted because there was only one male in her house, making it an easy target.

Family murdered

He said: "During the time me and Barker were raping Abeer, I heard five or six gunshots that came from the bedroom.

"After Barker was done, Green came out of the bedroom and said that he had killed them all, that all of them were dead."

Cortez added: "Green then placed himself between Abeer's legs to rape her. When Green was finished, he stood up and shot Abeer in the head two or three times."

The entire crime took about five minutes and the girl knew her parents and sister had been shot while she was being raped, the hearing heard.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Monday Morning Quarterback...

Mulalh speaking to someone on the phone first thing this Monday morning: “Look here man; do not marry a girl who knows how to play Chess. She will treat you like a kiddo, and will always be ahead in the game.”

60 seconds later:
“Yeah – that’s so true – OK then, do not marry someone who does NOT know how to play chess. She would still treat you like a kiddo and would still be ahead in the game!!”

This is going to be some entertaining day…

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Doosra Kinara - Singer

I missed the most important day of my "filmy" life when I could not make myself available at the song recording. I was out of town on a business trip. I called Bhupinder ji from there and apologized. He did not mind and made me comfortable with my absentia.

Later that night, by the time I got to the Studio they had already recorded the ghazal. Even this grammatically wrong English fails me in describing how I felt when I heard the first sher in his voice. Each stanza has so many images attached to it, and even today when I play it, all those images come dancing in front my eyes. I reckon they will forever. No one knows what those images are. No one ever will, and may be no one is missing much.

Hum hi us ke ishq ke kaabil na the !
Kiyoon kisi Zalim ka shikwa kijieye?

Woh kahin mil jayen to kiya kijieye?

Apurva ji is in love with music and words. He grew up watching his father Pt. Raghunath Sheth compose music for so many Hindi films including Ek baar phir, Ek Pal and many more. He knows Urdu well including the fine nuainces of each word. Sanhdya ji told me that during the rehearsal, Bhupinder ji was not happy with a couple of words. Apurva ji requested him to change however he wanted it. He refused saying " Nahi, Shahid yahan nahi hai - Writer ki marzi ke bagair main kuch change karna nahi chaoongaa"

That touched me deeply. Here is a man who worked with legends like S.D. / R.D. Burman, Khaiyyam, Kaifi Azmi, Sahir, Chetan Anand, Gulzaar and M.S.Sathyou – who the hell I was? I can not even write for Ghalib’s sake. Writing a few “aadi tircheen lakeeren" is no Shairi Saab!

Now I know what stuff legends are made up of, besides having a great voice!

PS: When Mulalh Luis heard this story he said “man, didn’t he know that you are just a regular jebroni, and one can do whatever one wants to you – anytime, all the time?”

(In pics: Bhupinder Ji, Apurva Shrivastava, Sandeep Savla, Sandhya Bhagat and Nita)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Doosra Kinara - Poster

I have received some responses justifying which poster should be used. What I found interesting is how gender is affecting the choice here. Guys wanted the third photo with Kristi alone, where as girls preferred the picture with Kristi and Vikas both. Mullah too prefers Kristi alone with a single tone and gave me a very convincing reason.

Some one wanted more details on the last option i.e. taking Director for Breakfast and Lunch etc. Well, we do not have a big budget for this activity, so Mullah suggested that we ask folks to bring their own food and we supply the Director for FREE!

BTW Thanks for your responses!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Doosra Kinara - Poster

Well, the D-day is approaching and I am trying to come up with a poster for my film. There is a graphic designer on the job but I can't resist taking a shot at it.

Folks, I am going to put up some possible posters here, and would request you all to vote on it. The poster with most votes will be the official poster, and the bhai / behan log that voted for it will be invited for a lunch with Kristi Hutchinson.

PS: For the winning individual, there can be a possibility of a breakfast, lunch and dinner with the Director of the film (in case some one is really, really desperate!)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Doosra Kinara - Song Composition

We started looking for a good voice to record the song. We advertised, called friends and acquaintances, to inform them that we are looking for a male singer. Soon, we were having our own version of Atlanta Desi Idol every weekend. But it was all in vein as no one came close to what we were looking for.

Apurva ji is a stickler for perfection and that made it wrost. Folks who could sing had no sense of Urdu diction. I remember showing up for the auditions with lots of expectations of finding the guy who would sing the very first song of my career, but every weekend brought more frustrations.

In desperation we started auditioning our friends. I too auditioned and was rejected in about 60 seconds (actually he rejected me in 9 seconds but gave me 51 seconds more to get it right, which I never did!).

In the meantime he continued to work on the Ghazal. Sandhya ji, Sandeep Savla and I used to be with him at the studio. Man, that was an experience. I have never seen a person with so much energy. He is amazing and can function with less sleep. He can compose music till 3 am and show up for the board of directors meeting at 8 am. Apun ko jis din 8 ghante neend na mile us din us din ye malum nahi padta kea a raha hoon ke jaa raha hoon!!

Sandeep Savla, the sound engineer is another night bird. Both of them enjoy working at night. I was exposed to raagas and thumris first time in my life and it was so overwhelming.

One day Apurva ji called me to ask if Bhupinder ji's voice would be ok. What, OK?

I could not hear any further than that as I went into a flashback. Those days in college, hanging with friends, listening to Bupinder Ji's songs, smoking ( not me! ) and talking was our favorite pass time. Those were the days when "Zindagi mere ghar aana" used to bring images of girls that we thought would soon be our wives and later girl friends - in that order. Our college had only one girl, and was already taken by a senior. So guys from our college used to hang around the bus stops of liberal arts colleges.

We were mostly from Urdu medium schools, so studying engineering in English was a challenge in itself. We did not have time for "fielding" as it used to be called in those days. My favorite line was ' jis ko chaiyye apna intezaar kare - apun ke paas time nahi hai". Now I look back and think those "fielders" were "gyani" and must have seen the "nature of things to come!"

I grew up listening to “Dil Dhundta hai” and “ Ek akela is shere main” and was excited at the possibility of having a legendary singer giving his voice to my emotions. He has sang words of my poetic idols like Gulzaar and Kaifi Azmi. It was too good to be true.

I saw things falling in place and could not believe it. Nita says when something has to happen the universe conspires to make sure it does. I sure was enjoying this conspiracy …

(Above in pics: Pt. Raghunath Sheth, Apurva Shrivastava, Sandeep Savla, Akanksha Joshi, Sanhdya Bhagat and Lauren Winterbottom playing Oboe)
(To be continued.)

Phir kuch is dil ko be-karari hai ...

Phir Usi Be-Wafa pe marte hain
Phir Wohi Zindagi hamaari hai !

Phir kuch is Dil ko be-karari hai... Ghalib

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Aye Awaaj ...awaaj...

This is how it used to be when a sound went out in the middle of a picture in some cheapy theatres in Mumbai. Our college "Mandli" use to visit these cinemas where a ticket would cost anywhere between Rs. 5 to Rs 10.00.

Those were the pre-multiplexes days and sound used to go out very often. We used to enjoy the commotion every time sound went out. Being in the college we had the license to go insane. We used to shout " Datta Samant - Zindabaad, Datta Samant Zindabaad!" in response to these situations. Folks in the cinema hall used to get confused about the whole scene, about our political affiliations and the connection between veteran trade union leader Datta Samant and the film sound.

Koi puchta “ kiya party ke karya karta ho ?” to koi kehtaa “ yaar ye naare baazi ki kiya zaroorat hai awaaz hi to gayee hai?” ….Kaun log hain? College ke ladke lagte hain….

This week Rafiqi emailed me and sounded very much like " aye awaaj ...awaaj". The only difference, he was not protesting sound but non-availability of my film. I promised him next week is the week.

Nita says that I use my film as a pick up line now. Kamal hai...Idea accha hia waise.Thanks.

Anyways - Next week is the week!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Ok, I am going to do it....

There were some " demands " on me to enable the comments section. Mullah said " Good idea man, that way atleast people to whom you owe money can catch up with ya!"

Some one wrote " you can not handle comments and that is why you have disabled it". Others were upset coz they were not getting a chance to take a "stab" at me. Mullah himself wanted an opportunity to blast me in public.....Good Luck.
Here we go...

PS: The image above has no hidden meaning nor any relevence to this post. Yellow is my favorite color - that's all. Ab har baar meaning kahan se laoon? Had hai saab !!
( Picture courtsey: N Y Times)

Fiddler on the roof...Superbowl 41 and a depressed Mullah

Went to see Fiddler on the roof, a musical written by Sholom Aleichem in 1894. Our desi drama group performed it Rafiq and Anuraag were part of it. Rafiq played Perchick the revolutionary student and did good job at it. I had invited Mullah Luis as well since he was feeling low this weekend.

When I saw him he was not the Mullah who makes un-usual observations and almost stupid comments, but a man deeply depressed.

Me: " Kiyoon Guru Dutt ban raha hai baap?"
Mullah: What? Say that in English
Me: Daant main dard hai kiya? You are having toothache?
Mullah: I am ok.
Me: Come on man cheer up. It is natural to miss a few "alphabets" in life, when they are no longer yours. But remember thankfully we have 26 in english (and many more in Indian languages as well, from Bengali to Telgu to Rajasthani), so one of them will have mercy on you...Kitne logon ko to zindagi ek shabd bhi mahobbat ka nahi deti...
Mullah: I do not need some one's mercy...
Me: Look here man, women are good at having mercy on jebronis like you, so don’t' disregard your best shot.

Mullah was not amused. I shut up and tried to have a serious discussion.

Me: Missed her this weekend?
Mullah: Nope.
Me: Why don’t' you find some one and get married?
Mullah: Do you think I enjoy this f***g single life man?
Me: Ok ok. Tell me what can I do for you? Unfortunately I am still interested in opposite sex else we would have gone to Boston to get married...
Mullah: Girls are not a problem they are plenty. Problem is what I want - they do not have?
Me: Man - that is scary. I am not going to ask you what you want in a woman. Let us keep it confidential.
Mullah: You know what I want.
Me: Spell it out man. Come on...
Mullah: I want f***g honesty, love - the real one not the perception of it, and I want it as my right and not as a privilege. Is that too much to ask?
Me: Why you think you deserve all that on a menu? Are you some special man?
Mullah: Only special folks deserve it?
Me: Yapp. Are you a prince? An heir apparent or you have a film in Oscars.
Mullah: What I am asking is not new; men since Adam have wanted that.
Me: Yeah true, but times have changed. Be thankful of whatever you get. Women are going through a revolution and they are in a state of transition. They have been mistreated for centuries and now when they have freedom and power, they are still doing trial and error to see what works and what does not in a relationship...

Mullah: Where are we going with this? Let us go see the play....

He was right - I had no clue where the hell I was going with that. I was speaking like a stand up comedian in a local joint, trying to make as little sense as possible! After the play Mullah did not stay to watch Superbow 41 between Indianapolis Colts and Chicago bears. Tomorrow is going to be a depressing day in America as the football season ended tonight.

BTW Colts won it by 29-17 and I am happy as I was rooting for them.

Friday, February 02, 2007

This can happen only in America!

I was listening to NPR this evening and heard this fascinating story about folks wanting to have their mail stamped with the word Fidelity. To do that, they have been mailing their letters to the Post Master of a really small town in Illinois called Fidelity (,_Illinois) asking her to stamp their letters and send them to whatever address they wanted them to go.

Valentine Day is coming up people in love have been pulling this trick for the amusement of those lucky ones that these letters were meant for.

Terry Gross interviewed the Post Master who read out a few messages that she had received. One of them touched me. It was from a widow whose husband passed away after 64 years of marriage last year. She wanted to commemorate his death anniversary by putting this letter with a post office stamped “Fidelity” on his grave. When asked if she does not get tired of doing this, as this is not part of her job, the lady postmaster remarked, “ are you getting bored listening to this? When it is so easy to make some one’s day so why not?”

She said she even puts stamp from her own pocket if someone forgot to mail her the stamp. This is from a woman who lives in a small town in the middle of nowhere with a population of 104, 30 families and which has a poverty rate of 29%.

I had a somewhat interesting experience with the US Postal service 6 years back. I was going for my evening classes at Kennesaw State University. I ran to the parking lot of Gwinnett Place Mall, kept the packet that I had on the roof of my car so that I could open the door. Got in and drove off without realizing that the packet was left sitting on the roof.

I got home late after school and realized my packet was missing and went looking for it at the parking lot. My roommate called me to let me know that some one delivered a packet with my name on it. He said he was a postman at a local Post Office and saw me lose this packet at the mall and came running after me but I sped away. He found my address on the top of the envelope and decided to deliver it.

He left no name or which post office he worked for, so I wrote a thank you note to the “ guy who delivered my packet from the Gwinnet Place Mall” and sent it to not one but two post offices. I do not know if that gentleman received the expression of my gratitude but I still enjoy talking about it.

Hats off to these guys who strengthen our hope in humanity, in universal brotherhood and in our future!

...and then I think to myself, what a wonderful World!