Saturday, May 30, 2015

Long time no see!! Sorry!!!!

Just back from the splendidly conducted 'Words on Water' Festival in Thailand. This a  is an image featuring the man who has put India's Jaipur Lit Fest on the literary map of the world - Sanjoy Roy. He was 'In Conversation' with me, in the presence of the beloved Princess of Thailand, and several invitees, who had come to listen to four writers from India talk about their work.
Sorry about the extended absence from this space. I was experiencing serious technical problems - snce resolved, I hope! Here are a few columns you might enjoy.

Hamarey Pyarrey Pradhan Mantri...

Dear Modiji,

The sizzling summer heat in India must be getting to you, now that you are back in the country for a brief visit after several foreign jaunts ( 18 in 12 months) to cooler climes. Unfortunately, the welcome home hasn’t been terribly enthusiastic.... even though it is Janamdin Mubarak time for your party. Look at what have you come back to : Criticism and taunts. Brickbats and accusations . Your report card is being written by hundreds of experts, who believe they know much more about fixing India’s myriad problems than you do. Policy analysts, economists, television anchors, defence experts, educationists, lawyers, religious heads, professors, scientists, bankers, businesspersons, tycoons, management gurus – even Bollywood actors. Phew ! Your 365 days in office have been deconstructed bit by bit, studied closely, and pass/fail marks given. Poor you! Or... poor us!

Frankly, this annoying ‘report card’ exercise has become a bloody bore – don’t you agree? You are definitely not getting the ‘Student of the Year’ award – but, so what? Your fans (ummm - rapidly dwindling and disillusioned) are still supporting you as the Head Boy of India. But even the most dynamic head boy in a patshala, needs a supportive team to win inter-school and international events. You are Head Boy, Class Monitor, Games Captain, House Captain, Prefect and Librarian...everything rolled into one. Great! But your strict Principal , is just one entity – the citizen of India. And at the moment, the Indian citizen is disgruntled. And naraz. Very naraz.

Citizens can be annoyingly impatient, unreasonable and demanding. The thing is, when you promised ‘Achche Din’, people believed you! They waited for an entire year to see a faint glimmer of some of those early promises. Radical plans were announced to get India get back on its feet, after decades of apathy. Your way with words charmed everybody – we fell for the slogans and wah-wahed. ‘Make in India’ was catchy and inspiring. World leaders started to acknowledge us... that felt fantastic! You went racing to visit our neighbours – that was a good move. You invited khaas mehmaan to India – starting with Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif. And then came the biggie – Barack Obama.President Obama rejigged his insane schedule and singled you out – not once, not twice, but thrice! This was a gigantic international signal Everyone was maha impressed. While these heady shows of diplomacy were in full flow, it appears you forgot all about India! There you were rushing from one foreign Capital to the next , walking the red carpet like Aishwarya Rai at Cannes – and changing as many outfits, too! Your vanity crossed all limits with that tasteless monogrammed suit, which some say was turned out to be far more expensive than its reported 10 lakhs tab - it cost your party the Delhi election!

Uske baad, it has been downhill all the way...

Image and perception make or break leaders. The early expectations have been replaced by dejection and disappointment. No matter how efficiently you responded during the Nepal crisis, no matter how aggressively you set the agenda for India’s foreign policy, the home truths have been different. People need jobs. Period. And they had hoped your economic policies would create them. People want spiralling prices to be checked. That hasn’t happened either. If anything, collective morale has been sliding rapidly – the cost of living has never been higher. Taking advantage of the disenchantment, Rahul Gandhi has suddenly woken up from deep slumber and gone ballistic with the same old ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ , pseudo-socialist rubbish that had fooled citizens during his grand- mother’s reign. You had claimed you wanted to take India forward – that too, hasn’t happened. Rahul Gandhi wants to drag it backwards – that is more likely to happen.

Narendrabhai, it’s time to wake up and smell the masala chai. Your one year in office is over. So is our patience. There is just so much irate citizens can take. The trait you most need to check is your conceit. Enough already! Foreign trips are not a fancy dress parade. And there are umpteen jokes about you acquiring a second selfie stick to click yourself taking those silly selfies with world leaders. We understand all this sho-sha is very new for you. It’s cute to see your child like excitement when you are being mobbed by desi fans in South Korea. You have mastered the royal wave from the doors of your Air India aircraft. But India needs more than self-indulgent photo-ops of their Prime Minister jetting around the globe in sorbet coloured designer gear.

It’s time you got down to business. Real business. And real politics. There’s Arvind Kejriwal running around in your backyard playing kindergarten games. This is but one tamasha happening under your nose. Everything else is where it was – Bharat is as un-Swachch as it has always been. Crimes against women have not been curbed. Foul mouthed Sadhvis and Maharajs continue to spout hatred. Our Armed Forces are waiting for sensible budget allotments to provide modern day basics to their men and women in uniform. Defence deals still attract suspicion. And the Kashmir issue is where it has always been – stuck in a rut.

Despite these overwhelming odds, Indians are a buoyant and optimistic lot. We don’t give up easily. In fact, we are pretty damn amazing when it comes to survival. Which is why we were deeply and hurt and appalled by your insensitive comment about us, during your recent trip to Shanghai and Seoul.

Sorry to say, Modiji, but you should never have made that remark about people feeling ashamed to be born in India.

No Sir, despite what you imagine, we are very proud to be born Indian. But the one thing we definitely need to be ‘ashamed’ of is the fact that we keep voting for people who let us down.

Bring on the ‘achche din’ Narendrabhai...and all will be forgiven. Kasam se!

                                                                      ************* Attn: Meenal,Sudipta,Jaideep Mumbai Mirror 22nd May 2015

Shikha Joshi suicide: No way to treat a friend!

I am still baffled by Shikha Joshi’s ‘suicide’. That she was a woman on the edge, is obvious enough. There are hundreds of Shikhas in showbiz, desperately hanging in there, trying hard to survive in a city that generously celebrates success and cruelly damns failure . The worst epithet to throw at anyone in Mumbai is ‘loser’. People can call you any and every name...abuse generations of your family... that’s ‘normal’. But if someone describes you as a loser – that’s it! Very young school kids are suffering because their classmates jeer ‘ loser’ whenever they are around. Mumbai is as ruthless as it is giving. Which is why it is important to understand the many dynamics of 42- year-old Shikha Joshi’s troubled life – the awful truths that finally pushed her off that cliff.

I have known women like Shikha , who come to Mumbai hoping for instant success. They project a jaunty confidence they don’t really possess. They meet people – some good eggs, but mostly, bad. If they are lucky, they get early breaks that pay the bills and keep their hopes up. If not, they start getting desperate... compromise kicks in. They lower fees, promise higher cuts to touts who bring them chhota-mota assignments, attend ‘parties’ of strangers who offer free alcohol , an expensive bed, and the chance to network with ‘big’ names. Soon, even these invitations dry up. But the bills still have to be paid – rent, food, laundry. The biggest expense rarely gets factored in – the nebulous ‘lifestyle’ tab. By this point, the newbies have tasted life in the fast track in Mumbai. It’s a pretty lethal cocktail that extracts its own price. And that’s when trouble kicks in. As it did for Shikha. She was probably told there is a market demand for bigger breasts, flashier clothes, ceramic smiles, coloured eyes, coloured hair, designer handbags, the latest car. .. the list must have grown and grown. But her income didn’t. And depression became her best friend.

In such a brutal scenario, many young people crack. Their vulnerability is instantly pounced on. Dalals appear out of nowhere, and offer hope – ‘I will make you the next big thing... but first, you will have to please that big shot.” God knows how many ‘big shots’ Shikha had pleased. Were they the married men she referred to before she gasped her last breath?

Far more disturbing than Shikha’s untimely death, is the video recording shot by her friend. When I read the account of how swiftly Madhu Bharti, the woman who Shikha was staying with, alerted Anu, another friend, and got to work – I was stupefied! Is that what people do these days when they discover a good friend, a house guest at that, lying in a pool of blood in the bathroom? It is such an appalling, revolting thought! Practical, yes! But inhuman in the extreme! Picture the scene : an emotionally broken friend, who allegedly smokes weed and enjoys rum, goes to the toilet and doesn’t emerge. You hear her mumbling from behind the closed door, ask her to open it and find her swimming in her own blood, a kitchen knife, next to her. And what is the first thing you do? Summon help? Call the police? Dial an ambulance to try and save your friend’s life? Nope! You grab a cell phone, and start recording the the woman’s dying declaration! How cold blooded is that! Demonic, is the word that comes to mind.

Reading the accounts, my own blood ran cold. God save me from such ‘friends’!

Not only was the dying statement duly recorded, the badly injured woman was instructed to stem the blood pouring out of her neck, by using her own dupatta. Leading questions were asked, even as life was slowly ebbing out of her. Questions like, ‘Who do you blame for this? Why have you taken this step?’ The police were fed the suicide story as soon as they arrived. Shikha was pronounced dead at the hospital. Dr.Vijay Sharma,the person named by Shikha , who had enhanced her breasts in 2005, and whose house Shikha had pelted with stones, initially went missing, but has resurfaced. In this sordid saga, one thing becomes abundantly clear : Shikha’s life had become entirely dispensable. The sad part is that Shikha leaves behind a 19 year-old daughter. What about her life?

The fatal attraction Mumbai has for glamour-struck out-of-towners, has claimed one more victim. One can understand Shikha’s tragedy. There were Jiah Khan and Viveka Babajee before her.... and Nafisa Joseph before them. There will be others who will also die in equally gory circumstances. But the unbelievable response of a Madhu Bharti and her friend Anu, will be far harder to accept. Is this what we have come to? A profusely bleeding ‘friend’ is not to be helped or rushed to hospital (her life could have been saved had Madhu done what normal, decent people do), but forced to speak into a recording device to get her loving friends off the hook! Oh yes - she is free to die after that!

This is by far the saddest statement about urban ‘friendship’ I have ever come across! Who needs enemies???

******************* Attn: Suparna, Jayanti, Olga Asian Age For 30th May 2015

Who is a “big shot’’ ?

The central thought behind ‘Bombay Velvet’ was powerful enough. Such a pity it was tossed aside to make an unappetising khichdi that has been declared the biggest turkey of 2015. It is a record that is likely to remain unchallenged for a while to come. Gangster Johnny Balram, morosely played by Ranbir Kapoor,has just one ambition in his troubled life – he wants to become a ‘big shot’. I smiled when I heard those two words – big shot. They reminded me of my father. He was definitely not a big shot. But he met several big shots, being a senior bureaucrat in the Government of India. Each time he came home and told us about some ‘big shot’ he had met, we would exchange knowing smiles. ‘Big shot’ did not have the best connotations in our home . Big shots were bullies. Big shots were people very aware of their power and position. Big shots were to be avoided. Big shots made their own rules. Big shots broke the law. Big shots got away with anything and everything – including murder. In other words – big shots were not nice people.

Today’s big shots are no different. The definition remains unchanged. India has many big shots. A lot of them live in Delhi and run our lives. The beacons on their cars have gone. The number of security guys surrounding them has been scaled down. But one can always tell a big shot from the way he strides into a space like he owns it. Female big shots adopt a slightly different body language. But there is no messing with these formidable ladies. Amma is the biggest shot of this tribe. She knows it. She wants the world to know it. Didi is also a big shot and don’t get fooled by her crumpled saree and uncombed hair ( that’s what makes her a big shot – the don’t-give-a damn attitude).Smriti Irani perhaps fancies herself as BJP’s biggest female big shot. But India sees her differently – as an ambitious, driven, intelligent person, who has been given the wrong job. Sushma Swaraj is the Behenji Big Shot. Her forceful way with words gives her a special position. We miss her on television, and during fiery parliamentary debates.

Right now, Delhi is still struggling with the Big Shot Vs. Big Shot issue... who’ll blink first? Arvind Kejriwal is a closet Big Shot. He only pretends not to be one. Heck, even he realises the irony of an Aam Aadmi behaving publicly like a Sultan – a lot like the very people he condemns. But wait... scratch the surface and the asli roop of Kejriwal emerges– tyrannical, dictatorial, intolerant, stubborn. These are the precise negative traits of rivals he says he is fighting. Yes, it is to tell them apart. The BJP of today is not all that different from the Congress of yesterday. It’s as top heavy and hierarchal as the Congress, with the old satrap system firmly in place.

There are no ‘maamuli log’ in status-obsessed India. If someone starts an Indian Premier League for Celebrities, it will be an absolute winner. Inflated egos abound – from over paid cricketers to over exposed movie stars. Airport pics of Big Shots arriving or departing, have become staples . Never mind that most images are scrupulously doled out by P.R. agencies employed by the celebs. Every possible photo-op has spawned a mini-industry – from catching big shots ‘off guard’ while leaving funerals, hospitals, restaurants, screenings, sporting events, shopping malls, to catching them waving to fans from their balconies like the Pope or British Royals . Since there is no Vatican equivalent here, we create our own version with orchestrated visits to pilgrimage sites. Ajmer is big with Bollywood. Badri-Kedarnath with politicians.

In Corporate India, every CEO/ CFO is a Big Shot. Till he/she gets fired. In earlier times, it was the ‘maalik’ who enjoyed this privilege. These were the new maharajahs, worshipped by employees, who hired caparisoned elephants to please their bosses on birthdays. Others travelled with their top dogs, whose job on international flights was to stand outside the airplane loo, holding the boss’ whiskey tumbler, while he relieved himself. You’d think such abject displays of servility have disappeared. No chance! On any given domestic flight, every seat in the business class section is taken by self styled Big Shots, with minions seated in the front row of cattle class, ready to leap in and assist the VIP.

Arnab Goswami’s frequent television exposes of this nauseating VVIP culture in India, has definitely generated greater awareness in the minds of the general public. But the ground reality remains the same – those who are caught and shamed, brazen it out by stating such a blatant misuse of privileges is a part of their hard won success! It is often the bratty children of such individuals who zoom off in daddy’s Ferrari and run over a pedestrian or two. No problem – it can be ‘managed’.

Yes, Big Shots can ‘manage’ virtually anything in India.

Which is why the Biggest Shots of all are our superstar lawyers. The best dowry gift these days is not kilos of gold, a penthouse, a sports car! Oh no! Nothing tops the gift of providing pricey the services of a brilliant lawyer to your beloved beti. That’s described as true class and clout, in an India where money is no longer sexy. The only game of oneupmanship worth playing, involves retaining the sharpest legal eagle around. If you don’t have a Big Shot Fixer at your beck and call – you’re nothing!

‘Dhadam Dhadam’ goes the song in ‘Bombay Velvet’. Who says Big Shots have it easy?

******************** Attn: Meenal, Jaideep, Sudipta Mumbai Mirror 15th May2015

Trial by fire...

Mumbai lost three heroes last week in a devastating fire that destroyed Gokul Niwas, a 100 year old building in overcrowded Kalbadevi. The three firemen who bravely went into the heart of the inferno, will be remembered with deep gratitude by the city they faithfully served. The last one to die was the affable Deputy Chief Officer, Sudhir Amin, a man who had been awarded the President’s Gold Medal for bravery, right after the 26/11 attacks. The other two men, who lost the valiant battle they were appropriately honoured in death by their grief stricken colleagues and families. But what the hell – this terrible tragedy could have been avoided - easily avoided – had the authorities not been as callous, as indifferent, as cavalier. It is shocking that our firemen are not given the basic protective clothing they are entitled to. That these firemen are stuck with a manual from the British zamana, dating back to the 1940s. Even worse is the administration’s apathy to the abysmal conditions these extraordinary men work under. Nobody really gives a damn. And charges of corruption are rampant. Just like our soldiers and police officers who are deprived of basic equipment and provided sub-standard weapons to fight on our behalf. Clearly, somebody in the food chain is getting a big fat cut on contracts. Mumbai firemen are treated with scant respect and expected to perform miracles during emergencies. The city lacks the infrastructure to fight major blazes – especially those that engulf high rises. We don’t have the required water pressure. Nor do we have snorkels that can access top floors of skyscrapers. New residential /commercial complexes are given municipal clearances without adequate scrutiny. Nearly every building in Mumbai is a fire trap. The old ones made of timber ( like the gutted Kalbadevi building) are dangerous tinder boxes ... time bombs ticking away. But our authorities have other priorities. What’s a few lives lost here and there? Hota hai...they shrug, and wait for the next bribe.

In the midst of this tragedy, there are also inspiring stories of hope and good neighbourliness. One such involves a young couple , Priyanka Pol and Swapnil Surve. The wedding date was fixed for May 30th. As in most traditional families, the wedding trousseau, gifts, and jewellery collected over months, had been carefully stored at home, only to be devoured by the flames that reduced their precious possessions to a heap of smouldering ash. Moved by the plight of the 24 year-old bride-to-be, her thoughtful neighbours , led by Mahendra Pansare, a local merchant, decided to contribute money, kitchen utensils, household items, so that the young couple can start life afresh. What a heart warming story !

The same Kalbadevi merchants have also come together to help the families of the three firemen who lost their lives, and are hoping to collect sufficient funds to give 2.5 lakhs to each family. Once again, it is left to the people of this great city to rise up and confront a calamity. That Mumbaikars do it time and time again ( terror attacks, monsoon floods), says a lot about our citizenry. But what about the lack of response from the heartless administration that refuses to reach out to its own people – the very people who pay taxes and expect just basic services in return for their hard earned money ?.

Priyanka Pol and her fiancé will make it to the mandap on time, I’m sure. And their large hearted neighbours will, no doubt, be an important part of the celebration. Amidst the subdued revelry, there will be fears about the state of the other precarious buildings in the area. Will this terrifying blaze force the merchants to remove highly inflammable chemicals stored in gigantic cans, right next to gas cylinders and exposed electrical wiring? Will concerned citizens lead a morcha to Mantralaya and compel the government to address safety issues, not just in Kalbadevi, but across Mumbai? Will Kalbadevi corporators bother to conduct meetings with representatives of the area and push them to take quick, remedial action?

What about re-examining permissions given to all new towers across Mumbai? Does any officer have the guts to insist on it? The Builders’ lobby functions as a parallel government, answerable to nobody. It can afford to – given that it is run by politicians who are Mumbai’s biggest and blatantly land lords.

There are thousands of similar infernos waiting to happen. Why should brave firemen have to sacrifice their lives because building societies flout fire safety rules? Who will rewrite the 1940s manual and update antiquated laws? I guess we all have the answers to such questions. A few token transfers of negligent officers will not solve the problem. As citizens we have our rights, too. Most of us are not aware of them. Those who are, don’t want to fight for them. Which is why we are stuck with thugs who parade as our representatives. The power we give them over our lives, is the power we have meekly surrendered to them in the first place. Isn’t it time we displayed the much needed collective will to reclaim what is rightfully ours?

               88888888888888 Attn: Meenal,Sudipta,Jaideep Mumbai Mirror For May30th2015

Padma Iyer : Maa Ho Toh Aisi...

It took one incredibly gutsy desi maa, to break through the final homophobic barrier. When Padma Iyer (58) decided to place a matrimonial ad seeking a groom for her 36 year old son, perhaps unknowingly, she had begun an important social revolution. Within 24 hours, Harish Iyer, Padma’s son, had received 73 proposals over email! The number has gone up considerably since then. Padma, on the other hand, had received over 300 hate mails. The response to the unusual ad, is in itself an indication of how polarised people are about accepting gay marriages – not just in India, but across the world. Harish Iyer, a jaunty, cheerful gay activist, has been featured in the 100 most influential LGBT people in the world by The Guardian, in 2013. Harish and I have been virtual friends for a long time. Today, Harish’s life is exceedingly busy, and the work he has undertaken, is earning him international recognition.

Harish would not be the Harish of today, had it not been for the support he has received and continues to receive from his extraordinary mother (and grand mother). Yes, Padma has attracted her share of flak for mentioning ‘Iyer preferred’ in the ad. But like she explained, that was included half in jest, and in any case, she insists, like any other mother, she also wants her child to marry into a family with a similar cultural background and shared values. Why not? We don’t make the same value judgements when we read other matrimonial ads that specify not just a particular caste, but also a sub-caste! Is there another set of social rules for straight people ? Since Padma is looking at an arranged marriage for her son, she, like any other protective, conservative mother, also wants a compatible lifestyle for the couple. Which is why her ad also mentioned a preference for vegetarians. Harish laughs and shares that some of the proposals he has received from international grooms are from meat eaters! Yup. That is a major issue, whether or not it’s a same sex marriage.

If Harish Iyer does meet his life partner , thanks to his mother’s valiant efforts, and he decides to go ahead with a public ceremony ( sadly, not legally recognised in India so far), this will be one wedding I definitely won’t skip ( invite me, Harish!). But before that, I’d like to meet Padma and congratulate her.

How many mothers in our hypocritical society are willing to stand by their gay children? Not too many. Laws are quoted and other excuses trotted out for the lack of acceptance. Yes, families are afraid their child could be black mailed, prosecuted, even jailed. Yes, there have been several attempts to push for the law to be amended. Till that happens – if it happens – thousands of families live in fear and shame of exposure. Several families are in permanent denial about a child’s sexual preference. Recently, I watched a bold and disturbing film titled ‘Unfreedom’. The film maker ( Raj Amit Kumar ) had arranged a special screening soon after the movie was banned by the Censor Board. He was acutely disturbed by the rigid attitude of the members of the revising committee ,who refused to certify this film which deals with terrorism at several levels – emotional, religious and sexual. One of the stories features a lesbian love affair and marriage. It has already won 19 international awards and has been screened in America.

Watching the movie, I thought of several parents of my generation, who refuse to come to terms with the sex lives of their children – straight or gay. I know young men and women who have been forced into marriages, after being threatened, beaten, and sent for ‘treatment’. I have seen the emotional turmoil the entire family has subjected itself to, in a wasted effort to make the gay child ‘see sense’. Well, the only ‘sense’ involves unconditional love. That’s it. What Padma Iyer has demonstrated so courageously is her devotion to her son. She says she doesn’t want to see him lonely in later life. And considers it her duty to find him a husband to share his life with. This is how it should be. Perhaps others will learn from Padma’s example and follow suit. Every human being deserves a shot at happiness and love. Who is anybody to decide what that should be?

Good luck Padma and Harish. I can hear wedding bells chiming soon. Whoever marries Harish will be a really lucky man. Together they will be creating history. And in the process, they will also be helping countless other same sex couples to live happily ever after.

*************** Attn: Stan, Lukose, Mathew The Week 11th May 2015

“Paa” – rebooted!

Here’s the big consolation regarding this column : It’s not about Salman Khan! But it is Bollywood related. And here’s why. After a really long time I watched a mainstream movie featuring three accomplished actors – Amitabh Bachchan, Irfan Khan and Deepika Padukone, enacting roles that appeared alarmingly true to life. So damn real, in fact, they were almost embarrassing! “Piku’’ made several people uncomfortable. Two of my children hated the film. One, even walked out mid-way. My husband and I are planning to watch it for the second time to catch some of the finer nuances. But that has to do with my husband being Bengali. And as we know, according to the Bengalis, the world is divided into two kinds of human beings – Bengali and non-Bengali. ‘Piku’ highlights and even celebrates this idiosyncrasy in an affectionate if occasionally annoying way. Fortunately, nobody keeps saying “ Eeeeesh!” a la Aishwarya Rai in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Devdas’.

Why is ‘Piku’ worth watching? Well, for one, it is an original. In Bollywood, that’s pretty rare. Viewers expect nothing less from the talented combo of Juhi Chaturvedi and Shoojit Sircar who’d earlier collaborated on the brilliant ‘Vicky Donor’. This time they tackle an equally quirky subject – a modern day father-daughter relationship. That’s unusual to begin with, given our movie obsession for the other tear jerker combo – the mother-son bond, which is generally glorified to the most ludicrous extent. The father-son angle has also been done to death, with tired scenes of filial duty/sacrifice. But the more complex equation between a crotchety, selfish and demanding dad of today, behaving like an absolute jerk ( read: tyrant) towards his single, attractive architect daughter, is fresh territory. It has been tackled with supreme confidence and finesse by the director, with hardly a single misstep. An intelligent script with dialogues to match can sometimes salvage a flimsy story – like ‘Piku’. But that’s a small quibble when balanced against the subtext of how difficult it is to negotiate the delicate dynamics that govern such a relationship in our society, to begin with.

Several social issues get thrown up in this charming narrative. But the one that interested me the most was the sharing of power between the father and daughter. It is rare to come across a 70- year- old widower flatly warning potential suitors of his lovely but uptight daughter that she is independent on all levels – financially and sexually. He spells it out in public that Piku is not a virgin. That he does so with a devilish, scheming , selfish heart, is obvious . But that he can shamelessly go public about such an intimate aspect of his daughter’s life , is the real shocker. In a society like ours – exaggeratedly patriarchal for all the wrong reasons – any father giving away his daughter’s sexual status so casually to strangers, is just terrible! This is what it is. Take it or leave it. Preferably – leave it. That’s the manipulative dad’s nasty message.

The daughter’s mixed up feelings about her bully of a father, are also depicted truthfully. She loves him. She hates him. He bugs her. She resents his control freak behaviour. But she is one hundred percent committed to looking after him.... even tolerating his anal fixation at the expense of her own personal happiness. Yes, the relentless toilet humour gets on your nerves after a point and becomes most revolting. But that again maybe by design. How many movie makers have the guts to create a story around the hero’s erratic bowel movements? Not only are Bhashkor’s daily motions discussed in vivid detail ( amount, consistency and colour ), but in this quirky movie, the many shades of defecation share equal space with the many shades of the star cast’s characters! If this sounds yucky, believe me, it is vomit -inducing in parts. Perhaps that is the whole point – how far can you push the audience into dealing with as indelicate a subject? Why are we so turned off by an act that is completely ‘natural’ ? We all have to “go’’. And yet, it’s considered a big no-no in polite society to make any reference to our daily ablutions. Like virginity, shitting is also a taboo topic. Shoojit breaks both taboos with unconcealed glee!

Surprisingly, this modest movie has been declared the biggest hit of 2015 so far. It has made audiences examine their own feelings about two key subjects –children’s attitudes towards aging parents in a society where young, urban professionals simply do not possess the time or patience to look after the old. And the squeamishness which makes us recoil from addressing a dirty four letter word – SHIT. Shoojit tables both messy issues with the same level of assurance. Amitabh’s unpredictable gut plays as big a role as his guts in taking up such an unusual role. Irfan Khan and Deepika Padukone are an unusual romantic couple in an unusual film. It’s time we looked at both – the baap-beti equation and our revulsion to errrr... crap, using an entirely different filter.