I am off to Pune for the weekend. Since Mumbai's elusive 'winter'( ha!) has done the disappearing act so far, I'm hoping for at least a respectable nip in the air during my short stay at one of my all-time favourite cities.More on my return...
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When all else fails, try sequels!
Had Manmohan Desai been alive today, I would have requested him to make a sequel to his superhit movie, ‘Amar,Akbar,Anthony’. Sequels are the flavour of the season.Everone is making one! When all other ideas dry up, announce a sequel. But the case of ‘AAA’ is significantly different. It is an iconic movie, like ‘Sholay’. A re-make with a twist would be so apt… and so much fun! My suggestion is slightly hat ke. I would love to see a female version with three top heroines playing those madcap roles – Kareena Kapoor,Katrina Kaif and Priyanka Chopra . The film could be titled, ‘‘ Aru,Asmi,Amanda,” and their romantic partners could be unknown hunks looking for a break ( since no self- respecting actor takes on sidey roles). Unfortunately, such a project will never get off the ground, since desi producers are of the firm belief there is no audience for full on,female-centric films.Bollywood is mard-driven. It’s one of those quirky beliefs. Television soaps thrive on women.Bollywood movies, on testosterone. Heroes call the shots in tinseltown, always have, always will. And there it remains. Actresses earn a fraction of the fees made by their co-stars. Even those fees hinge on which hero agrees to work with them. Weird but true. Weirder, but equally true, is the fate of top female politicians. The three women chief ministers India is currently dealing with - Mamata Banerjee (‘Didi’), Jayalalitha (‘Amma’) and Mayawati (‘ Behenji’), could also feature in ‘Amar,Akbar,Anthony’. They have star value and all three are single ( an enormous advantage, even a prerequisite for heroines). But as in Bollywood, so also in politics, these power ladies cannot pull it off on their own. What is interesting is the way we have converted the three of them into our ‘relatives’ – two ‘sisters’ and a ‘mother’. By co-opting them as family members, we have placed them in elevated positions that come with a great deal of emotional and moral responsibility. How can older sisters and a mother let us down? Conversely, how can we show disrespect to women from our own family - even if the same women behave in a despotic, high- handed way? Didi was recently dubbed a ‘fascist’ by the legendary writer, Mahashweta Devi. Enough is known about Behenji’s tyrannical ways ( she thinks nothing of slapping senior male bureaucrats in public). As for Amma – God help you if you annoy this autocrat ( Kani realized this a bit late in the day). But we say nothing. They are family!
Strange, in a country where we have very visible, very in your face women leaders in positions of enormous authority ( Meira Kumar, Pratibha Patil, Sonia Gandhi ), when it comes to the real thing, we still fall back on our patriarchal roots. Foreigners are frequently perplexed by these obvious contradictions. The only way to make some sense out of such mixed signals is to confuse foreigners still further by bringing mythology into it and discussing the Goddess Cult. Ditto for Bollywood. Today, the parallels between Bollywood and Politics are something else, particularly with so many women dominating both fields. One just has to look beyond India, to realize what an achievement this is, even if, at present, the numbers have more cosmetic value and less clout than one would expect. In terms of hysterics and histrionics, it’s hard to beat Mamata. She writes her own dialogues and delivers her lines without any retakes. Mayawati is like Gabbar Singh – people from her State, invoke her name to scare children and get them to sleep on time. Amma can take on Mogambo. The day she says (in Tamil, of course) , “Amma Kush hui,” ) , fawning courtiers will let out a collective breath and attack their curd- rice with gusto. With her Mollywood background, Amma understands one basic thing : the medium is the message. She also understands “Lights. Camera. Action.’’ Playing to the galleries comes naturally to her. Voice modulation is her forte. Mamata is out of control, screeching like a banshee – but that too is a carefully thought through performance that wows her jatra-loving constituency. Behenji just has to lift her index finger and point. Khallas. That person is dead meat. She can also swing her handbag ( stuffed with notes) and use it as a ready weapon . Compared to these three ‘Negative Role’ women, our Bollywood girls are pussycats . Bipasha’s biceps threaten no one – not even John. Kangana’s pout ( plump and pumped up) is about as lethal as a blow with a bag of popcorn. Kareena’s eyes can kill with one look, but come on, for all her ‘Chhamak Chhalo-ing’, she is not in the running, having been claimed by Saif years ago. And Katrina is sweeter than a cupcake or a La Duree macaroon… the only thing she can give someone is diabetes. So…how about it, Ketan Desai? ‘Amar,Akbar,Anthony’ ka female sequel ho jaye??