Friday, December 11, 2009

Sangeetha Theatre

It was drizzling when we hurriedly entered the premises of Manoranjan Theatre. A moment ago, we were racing the maddening traffic. Inside, the atmosphere was totally different from any Bangalore theatre, but very familiar.

It was not like any of the single-screens in Bangalore. The big compound, stone-tiled walls, the silence, the long range of hard chairs inside the small hall and the glass slides projecting local advertisements were vastly different, but strikingly familiar. I felt I was inside Sangeetha Theatre.

There were three movie theatres in our village. Sangeetha was the closest to my home; hardly ten-minutes by foot. My early movie memories are bonded with Sangeetha; a perfect specimen of old-world talkies. Tatched roof, bamboo walls and a large white cloth tied up in the end of the hall.

The earliest movies I can recall is Balachandra Menon’s Njangalude Kochu Doctor and Adoor’s renowned film Mathilukal. A screeching table bell announced the start of the show. Screenings usually started with ad slides and then a Film’s Division documentary.

Going to films then was a family outing. The entire assembly would definitely count more than ten. Even as a child, I never slept during the second shows. The faint smell of cigarette smoke and peanuts was the trademark. I liked it more than the AC perfume of Capithan’s, Sangeetha’s biggest competition in the locality.

Going to the town for a movie was more of an annual privilege, which came mostly during the summer vacations. It would be either my father, who came once in two years, or one of my uncles who took us to the movies.

Folks back home cleverly waited for a superhit movie to come in either of the local theatres, so that they can avoid the pain of taking the platoon all the way up to the town. Going to the movie hall with friends was strictly forbidden. (I had to wait till my plus-two classes to get a sanction.)

College was anarchy. Frequent strikes, frequent flow of money and all the time in the world left me a regular theatre guy. Even then, I had to be careful, because I always had a chance of bumping into an acquaintance. News would reach home in no time, as the town was very small, my family was big, and all the elders maintained their contacts well.

But that didn’t deter me from enjoying my new-found freedom. Theatres in the town -- Grand, Prince, Pranavam, Archana, Aradhana, Dhanya -- all became my current Sangeethas.

On such a day in 2002, blessed with college strike, I went to Kumar, the oldest A-class theatre in the town. The owners had painstakingly maintained the old appearance of the theatre. I suddenly remembered that the last time I stepped in was during the summer vacation of 1996, with my parents.

The next year, I attended first film festival for the first time -- in Thiruvananthapuram.

By then, Sangeetha was shut down due to losses. Cable TV and video piracy had made the run-down theatre an unattractive option for the families nearby. The commemoration shields of hit films in the 80’s, which decorated its office, were sold off as scrap. The theatre was pulled down. By then, my graduation classes were also over and I moved out of Kollam in 2005.

The very first day of our journalism classes in Kottayam, we made a plan to go for a second show. New Sangeethas were waiting for me in the town. But the strict schedule had forced us to be choosy on films. And the town had film festivals hosted by various colleges, giving us frequent glimpses of World Cinema. My Chennaiwala classmate, an ardent movie buff, never missed any of the Tamil films, even flops, that came to town. I used to tease him, but ended up in the same situation within a few months.

June 2006, Chennai. First job. First attempt to live outside Kerala. Terribly homesick, I used to look out for Malayalam releases. Sangam Cinemas was my Sangeetha there. They used to screen Malayalam movies regularly. I was alone most of the time, as my roomie-cum-colleague had stopped going to theatres long back. Even then, I used to locate company whenever possible.

Blessing came in the form of my roommate and colleague, with his laptop and two suitcases full of DVDs of Indian and foreign films. Needless to say, my day time was spent well!

Next June, I moved to Bangalore. Here, I found Sangeeth, which regularly screened Malayalam movies. But it was like any other city theatre — bang in the middle of the crowd. And, by chance, we found ourselves in Manoranjan.

The big compound, stone-tiled walls, the silence, the long range of hard chairs inside the small hall and the glass slides projecting local advertisements were vastly different from the regular screens, but strikingly familiar. After long, I was reliving the old days. I was inside Sangeetha Theatre.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Remember, remember, 26th of November

It’s been a year, and I still remember every single detail as if it was yesterday. November 26, 2008, was the day I realised the thrill of being in a newsroom.

My journalism teacher once said: "Bad news is good news for us." Inhuman, you would say. But that is a fact. The otherwise sloppy office of the business paper for which I work turned literally abuzz with real updates of copies during the evening of that fateful Wednesday, and the three days that followed. All spoke of only the death toll of soldiers, terrorists and civilians.

The first visual I saw was the TV grab showing the shooting at Leopold Cafe. Then, news agency tickers began to stream in. 10 dead, VT station attacked; 20 dead, Oberoi under siege; 30 dead, attackers enter Taj... My paper, which always winds up before midnight, was active till 3 in the morning.

The report was re-written umpteen times before finalising the death toll at 70. Picture of the terrorist who was shooting at VT station was ditched because we had no confirmation about it. Next day, almost all newspapers had that face, which became later the face of terrorism: Kasab.

We went to sleep thinking that the operation would be over by next morning. It didn’t happen. India stood still for the next three days.

Fierce incidents have happened before in our country, but this was the biggest that had happened after visual media was infested by private players. Print and internet were far behind in competition. Journalists, including me, was literally celebrating the event, while general public, including my family, was mourning; praying.

Sad, but true. November 26, 2008, was the day I realised the thrill of being in a newsroom.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bloopers in print

Scene 1
Place: Room No. 42, Airlines Hotel, Bangalore
Characters: R, U, M, K and me
Time: 12.30 am
(three on the bed, M on a chair. U is leaning on the wall, R reclining, K and me sitting cross-legged. Scene opens in the discussion)

U: (lights a cigarette) Mistakes happen everywhere yaar. There are enough stuff to write a book on it. (leans on the wall)

R: (sits up on the bed, smiling) Listen, jab mein Express mein tha, tab I was put on sports pages once. Two days I did fine. On the third day, there was this shooting match in Hyderabad. There was this guy Rathore, there was Narang... and Narang scored a second. I made the page, and was stuck with the headline. I typed ‘Rathore roars, Narang loses.’ White space phir bhi baaki tha, so I typed ‘Narang disappoints.’ Even then there was white space, so I typed ‘Narang disappoints again’ and increased the font size. The next day, my news editor called up. (changes the tone, says animatedly)
"Ram, Narang had scored yesterday. And you say disappoints?"
"No sir!"
"He had won national and international tournaments before, and you say disappoints again?!!"
"No sir!!"
"Will you do this? Again?"
"No sir!!!"
(whole group laughs)

U: (smiling) Ek baar na maine ek photo pe gapla kiya tha. In DC. Ram Reddy had bought 5 two-seater jets. So we published this photo of a firang and Reddy standing in front of an aircraft. Maine page kiya, showed it to the seniors, and send it for printing. I was in an auto on my way back ke Olga ne phone kiya, "arre, you’ve put the caption wrong. Ram Reddy is the right wala guy, but you’ve put it left!" Man! I asked the autowala "turn kar turn kar" and rushed to the office.

R: Tu ne K ka Sania story sunaa hai? (turning to K, smiling) Bol na.

K: Bataa, tu bataa.

R: There was this one-day match in Hyderabad, theek hai? And our K went to cover it. Now, there were sports reporters to cover the match, toh he had to pick the side-stories. Toh he decided to go for the celebrities who came to the match. Nagarjuna tha, Venkatesh tha, yeh tha, woh tha.. (a small pause) Sania Mirza thi. Copy file kiya, print nikla. The very next day, there was another statement from Sania Mirza, from Delhi! She was playing a match there!

K: What happened is that I saw a spectacled girl in the VIP section, who looked like Sania. I checked with a Telugu newspaper guy and he confirmed it: "Ya, ya, Sania was there." Phir maine socha ki will check the photos in the office and confirm. I was back in the office and was busy with some another stuff."

U: (interfering )And it went unnoticed.

K: Nahi, everybody knew it. They knew it. But nobody made it an issue. They were short of staff, so they didn’t want me out. Koi aur hota toh he would’ve been screwed.

Me: Even I also had made such a thing. When I had joined DC as a trainee. What they made me to do was international pages. (looking at U) You know how that is, right? (U nodds). Delhi se aata hai, you just have to change the masthead from AA to DC and the placeline. The page came, I changed it, showed it to seniors and sent it to print. Next day was my off. I came the day after, they showed me the page. Top story, eight-column banner headline "Iraq prepares for attack." It was supposed to be Israel, not Iraq!

Me: And a week after, a new girl came for a test and interview. After the test, she came, sat near my desk and picked up the very same paper from the pile. "Iraq prepares for attack? Can’t be. This is a mistake," she told me. "Ya, there is a sub here. Stupid. It’s his handiwork."

M: There are bigger goof-ups in these stringer copies. Once, when I was in Kochi, I got this copy of an elephant creating ruckus. The story went like this "The elephant went into fields, did this.. that.." and last sentence was like this: "...and the elephant went back to sleep!"
(gathering is roaring with laughter)

Me: Two weeks ago even I edited something like this. It was about somebody committing suicide over the LTTE issue. The line was "the deceased person was arrested earlier for committing suicide on the same issue!"

R: (giggling): Really?

U: See (lights a cigarette) I told you na. There are enough stuff to write a book on it. (leans on the wall)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Back to inch 14

Finally, the last piece, the 29-inch TV, was packed this morning. We had an instant replacement: our 14-inch grainy, tiny Khind. But there was a huge gap in the TV cabinet. And after six-month-long big-screen TV watching, our tiny Khind seemed even tinier. Size does matter.

Interestingly, both the TVs were bought by Aby. Khind was our solitary source of entertainment when we moved into our present home. We were happy with the grainy pictures within the 14-inch frame. Then Aby and Mithun went for a mega electronics shopping. With marriage due, Aby chose a good offer of a TV-DVD player-home theatre system combo for 15K. And that changed everything.

The tiny Khind was dumped next to the newspaper stack, and we never bothered to dust it even once. Music, movies, even TV programmes were booming in good-quality sound. Then Aby’s marriage was confirmed. DVD player and home theatre system was packed on Tuesday. We saw programmes big-screen for one last time on Wednesday morning.

We always knew that the set would go to Aby’s new home, but actually seeing Khind taking over the TV cabinet was a little hard to digest. Looked like a squirrel in a bulldog’s kennel. Why do I feel like turning philosophical?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Empty rack

There are six racks in our TV-stand cabinet, three each on each side. The topmost one on the left was emptied the day before. Seeing it empty, I felt uneasy. It was Aby’s rack.

Departures from our original family is nothing new to us. Vinod, a.k.a Thomman, left first. After passing some months in a call centre, he got a job in Baroda, and was later transferred to Mumbai. Then Raku left for Doha, to be under the shelter of his family.

But then, we never felt the void. Lal and Jeeson replaced the first two vacancies. And there lies the problem. Replacement may come for Aby, but our home would never be the same. (And with him, leaves our big-screen TV-home theatre system-DVD player trio, our present source of entertainment!)

Me, Mithun and Aby met at MASCOM, when we had absolutely not idea of what’s waiting for us in the future. He moved to Madurai, Mithun to Kochi and me to Chennai. The only thing that he knew then was that his girlfriend would be his wife, come what may.

Then, by coincidence, our career lead us to the same organisation. Mithun landed in Bangalore first, he next, followed by me. And we moved to this house. What makes him different is his uncanny ability to irritate. No matter how calm and composed you are, you are sure to blow your fuse, once he starts enjoying irritating you. That had a major role in making our den ever-lively.

He’ll lose his 'bachelority' this weekend. Another phase in his life, we are part of his run to make that phase easy, or rather less tough. Seeing this, the only thing that comes to our mind is the unknown pack of cards waiting for us. And like photographer said once, the cards choose us.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Summer showers

Mid-summer showers...

Branches bowing with the weight of mangoes...

A hand playfully moving between the serial drops...

Droplets streaming down the eyebrows, cheeks...

All these are pulling my mind miles away...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Marriage: A reality check

What’s the first thing you should secure after your marriage is fixed? I’d say a ready source of fund above Rs 80,000. That’s the minimum amount you have to pay in advance for a rented house. This is not for the lucky few who’s well settled in their hometowns with a properly arranged marriage and attached ‘gifts’ from in-laws. This is for guys like us who make a living far away from their hometown. And if yours is a love marriage, the situation turns tougher.

We are facing such a situation. Aby’s getting married this May to his sweetheart for six years. She has secured a job as a teacher in Bangalore. For the last few days, the mission was to find a decent house that’s big enough and affordable.

Priorities were many. It has to be sufficiently close to the girl’s workplace, monthly rent has to be below Rs 7,000, it has to be big enough to accommodate the frequenting relatives and the area should be safe and decent.

It seemed houseowners in Bangalore still have no clue about how big the recession is. They were ready to give the usual concession for families, nothing more than that. A one bedroom-house-kitchen still commanded rates as high as Rs 15,000 even in the not-so-posh areas. And sub-5,000 places were shabby like hell.

But he managed to find a decent den, big enough and affordable. And the landlady was ready to cut the advance amount also. He’s finally setting up his home this May.
After all the mad rush, he heaved and said: “Better go for a properly arranged set-up, and make sure that the girl gets good salary!”

Aby was always sure that she would be his life partner. Luckily, the risks associated with love marriage were mitigated in their case. With no plans like that, my cards look blank. Whatever the likes of Karan Johar and Yash Chopra say, ‘shaadi’ is still a matter of money as long as you care how you live.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

You must vote

To vote or not. My blogger friend was in a dilemma. I seriously don’t think that’s a dilemma at all. Even if you are totally in dark of the smallest political news in circulation, you should go and vote, unless all the candidates share an equally shady history.

I believe you are not eligible to crib about the state of the nation unless you exercise your franchise. Sadly, I missed my chance this time. With the weekend exams going on and the office running on skeletal staff, taking a two-day off to go and cast your vote was a strict no-no.

Elections had always fascinated me. In childhood, the colourful campaigns and posters generated interest. Later, it was the political equations and personal leanings. The old-fashioned bullock-cart-and-drums appeal were still there during my kindergarten days. I still remember S Krishnakumar waving from his car that went past our house after being elected as Kollam MP for the third time in 1991. He was in Congress then.

My first chance to vote came in the Lok Sabha elections of 2004. CPI(M)’s P Rajendran got my vote. I stood faithful to my family’s Left leaning. And PR was truly worthy for my vote.

Next chance came in the Assembly elections 2006. I cast my vote and came home, only to face my Chittappan and his wife disappointed. Staunch Left supporters, both were not in the voters’ list.

Had I been home now, this would have been my third vote. Hope I won’t miss it next time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Texting thoughts, taxing thoughts

Festivals and greetings. Inseparable. Every special occasion brings a bevy of e-greetings and SMSes. This Vishu, I was a bit worried. Every greeting message was testing the memory limits of my 1100. What’s the big deal, delete old stuff, you’d say. There lies the problem. I love treasuring messages.

I got my phone as my father’s gift, close to Vishu three years ago. I was packing to go Bangalore for my internship. As I was leaving home on my own for the first time, my concerned parents deemed mobilephone as an unavoidable accessory to keep in touch and to boost my job-hunting.

Greetings for that year’s Vishu flowed in as my number went around the circle of family and friends. Handling a cellphone for the first time, I never bothered to delete any message. By the time I finished my three-week internship, my inbox was full. Then I decided to retain only greetings.

Three years and innumerable messages later, my mobilephone has been flashing ‘No space for new messages’ text increasingly these days. For the past one year, I had retained enough capacity for just one more fairly large message. And when the inflow goes past the limit, I start editing.

Usual ‘hi-hello’ and ad messages were deleted on the spot. Then there were some messages with no names. The senders had changed their numbers and I had deleted the old contact details, making the messages unrecognisable and easy prey for my deleting exercise.

Now, that chance is also becoming slim, but incoming messages are not. This Vishu, I had no choice but to cut ‘repeat texts’ sent by more than one contacts. Time to change the phone? Nah! My model was the simplest and the most user-friendly model available. This model has the habit of making its owners fall in love with it. I remember a colleague grieving online about replacing her 1100. Other than the limited memory for contacts and SMSes, my phone was as good as new. Sturdy and simple, it has braved many big falls from my hand.

It currently has 72 SMSes in its inbox, an insignificantly small number when compared to the high-end phones available at cheaper rates. The oldest one came three years back from Mathew during my internship days, warning about the ruckus in Bangalore after the death of Rajkumar.

That was two days before Vishu. Will I be still treasuring my 1101 next Vishu? Let’s see.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I woke up, sprang up from my bed and stared at the phone. It was 4 am. Phew, I made it! I was not late. I had to prepare Vishukkani.

This is my fourth Vishu in a row when I miss home. Vishu was one of the many pleasures robbed by career from many youngsters of my generation. Though not as big as Onam, Vishu had the added attraction that it came during the summer vacation.

I used to voluntarily wake up early during the vacation days then. But on the Vishu day, ammoomma would beat us all, however hard you try. There was a good reason: she had to prepare the Vishukkani. The very first sight of the auspicious Vishukkani, the silver coins from elders, the early morning bath and the walk to temple and then to my ancestral house, and the fun we shared with our cousins...

By the time we are back, we would’ve collected a huge (by the standards of a school kid) amount. There would be enormous plans about how to use it, but all the collection would promptly end in amma’s purse. This routine went on for many years. The only break I had was in 1997, when I was in Gujarat, at my uncle’s place.

Then came the Vishu of 2002. Awaiting the plus-two results, I spent the Vishu eve at my ancestral home. My aunt, who was taking care of my grandmother, was out of station. I was put in charge of the house, her son and that year’s Vishukkani. I was turning 18 that June, I was experiencing the transition from a teenager to an adult.
Then the three years in college, and by the Vishu of 2005, I had decided to take up journalism.

I was out of home on my own during my internship in 2006. My first Vishu without a Vishukkani. By the next Vishu, I was a sub-editor in a Chennai daily. I never thought twice before catching the bus to Vellore on that Vishu eve. My aunt had moved to Vellore. They were in their new home. I reached there around 5 in the morning, and the very first sight I saw inside the house was a beautifully arranged Vishukkani.

I moved to Bangalore after two months. Then came last year’s Vishu. That time, I was hell-bent on setting up a Vishukkani. I managed it somehow, with Raku’s (remember?) chain in place of gold and a candle substituting the mandatory lamp. But I missed the most important component: the bunch of kanikkonna flower.

I played the granny, waking up each one, leading them with their eyes covered, and making sure that what they saw first that day was the Vishukkani. It wasn’t a total surprise; Raku knew it. Guys were very happy, and I was happy seeing them happy.

This year, I decided to keep every hint of Vishukkani under wraps. Mithun and Aby were out, with me left alone for precious three hours before lunch. As soon as they were out, I tiptoed to our regular vegetable stall, and there awaited my bonus of the year: A bunch of kanikkonna flowers.

I was planning to set up everything after everyone was asleep, and I dozed off. But I managed to set it up well before the first one was awake. Lal was about to spring up from the bed; it was time for him to reach the call centre. I covered his eyes just in time, and he became the first one to see the Vishukkani.

I was happy that our gang was feeling at home, but the phone calls from Kerala and the TV shows were more than enough to make me feel homesick. I know it’s pointless being nostalgic. But I still wonder where will my next Vishu be.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


I was shaken awake by Mithun.
Da, get up. We are past Bellary.”

I got down from the berth. Tony and Aby was awake, sitting at the lower birth.
“Want tea?” Aby asked.
Just then the boy walked in with the flask. Four steaming plastic cups were handed over.
“This tea tastes special,” commented Tony.
Kaafee,” bleated the teenager as he took up the flask to move.
We stared for a split-second, and began laughing.

We were on our trip to Hampi, the ancient city, capital of the Vijayanagara empire. It’s been almost two years since the six of us landed in Bangalore. We planned for an outing many times. Something or the other came up to spoil the plan each time. But this time, we were hell-bent. And we had a very good reason: Aby was getting married. The quorum won’t be complete after that. And we boarded the Hampi Express from Bangalore on Ugadi eve.

The place was noting short of a ghost city. Ransacked temples, empty streets of ancient times, broken sculptures scattered all the way, monuments on both sides of the road, minutes after Hospet town till Hampi bus stop.

The huge empty sanctum sanctorum of the Vishnu temple on the way, the huge platform called ‘Mahanavami Dibba,’ the mosque and the octagonal tower in between the ruins, boating down the Tungabhadra river to reach the rocks across, and the majestic Vittala temple... It was like taking a walk through history.

Hampi: One unforgettable journey after a long time...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I was on phone when Mithun called me. “Work calls,” said my mind. I walked in, saw the colour-splattered faces of my colleagues and realised that I was the next target! Bang, came Mr A and Ms S with a load of ‘gulaal,’ and I was left like a technicolour hoarding, like an aghori saadhu. The only difference was that aghoris smear vermilion, and I was all in colours.

Holi for me was a totally alien festival. Back in Kerala, you never see anybody celebrating Holi other than the small community of north-Indian families. For 22 years, Holi was what we saw in Hindi films and news snippets.

Last year, my first in Bangalore, I was on my way to meet a friend on the Holi day. I managed to reach the place without getting drenched. We were meeting for the first time, though acquainted through long online chats and many phone calls. That was the first time I saw public celebrating Holi. That was very small in scale when compared with the heavy-dose celebration up North.

This morning also, I was a little scared of the colours down the street. The day passed without any surprise. Maybe that was kept for the evening. I was surprised, irritated and finally, very happy.I would’ve been angry had it been the water-splashing vandalism that I feared. But this was me, my friends in office, and colours just enough to make us happy, not dirty. Another day to cherish, and such days come rarely these days... Happy Holi.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Latest letter

It was a pleasant surprise. During my five-day trip to home, I had least expected to find out that notepad, lost years ago, and it surfaced from nowhere. Inside it was some small scribbling and, surprisingly, his address. A long-lost friend, I had recently wished if I could trace out his address.

I lost no time in getting an envelope out of my collection and sitting, but took some time and corrections to actually complete a letter – written to a friend after four long years.

I still remember the very first line I wrote in a letter. It was ‘enikku oru football vedichu tharanam’ (buy me a football), written as the last line in an envelope. My maaman (maternal uncle) was writing his monthly letter for my kochachan (paternal uncle). Close friends, they used to write letters to each other regularly. And in one of them, went my first line. I was hardly seven then.

Then it became the last page of the airmail my mother bought. Achan was very particular that his son should write to him, at least twice a month. He never broke the chain, but I did, often. At that time, telephone wasn’t commonplace in our area. We used to wait for the once-in-a-month ISD call made by my dad, at our neighbour’s place.

We got our phone in 1996. The flow of letters continued for three-four years more, and then it dwindled to scribbling in the greeting cards. Picking up the phone and dialing was far more convenient than buying, writing and posting and envelope. Telegraph suddenly turned an ancient method to convey emergency messages.
Writing to friends continued till I took up the job in 2006.

Then, a few weeks ago, I felt like writing a letter to my dad. Envelope was ready inside my folders, so writing was no problem at all. After four days, he called up, asking “What’s this man? Where’s your phone?”

I have completed yet another letter, and I’ve asked him to reply. I plan to give my cell phone number only in my reply to his letter. He’ll be surprised, that’s for sure. It’s been eight years since we had our written correspondence. Life, after so many twists, has made me a journalist.

How will he be? Will he be still there at the old address? No clue. Anyway, I am posting it. Hope the letter reaches him. Hope he writes back.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Recession is in the paper!

Firing, lay-off, termination... For us, journalists, all these were terms related to the IT sector. Slowdown was directly hitting them. We, at the most, had expected a reduction in the number of pages and full-page advertisements. Pages were cut, advertisements continued. And we had a party.

Our veteran boss was retiring after his decades-long stint with our company. The top-brass of the company descended from Mumbai and Delhi to our office. Speeches, drinks and food... and the very next day, news of sacking.

Marketing, which they call ‘response,’ team was reduced by 10, advertisements by 8... rumours, unconfirmed numbers flew like hell. And finally, a casualty from the editorial: Our friend, a capable, talented young man. And performance was clearly not the yardstick, for there were underperformers who were favoured by their immediate bosses.

This is what happens when a media organisation has other interests. When a unit is hit, you compensate it by trimming the ‘lesser important’ ones. Recession is really turning big, at least that’s what my bosses say.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

'Slumdog Millionaire' hurts

I am desperately searching for a person who can point out one single positive character in the hyped-in-unheard-degree movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’

I just loved the way the story is executed, effectively portraying the struggle of an underdog to claim his love though a TV show, fame being the bonus point. The basic thread of the story is really unique. A boy, in search of his lady love, ends up in a live quiz show. And he knew all the answers because of many disturbing events he had to go through. But somehow I felt that in the process of turning Vikas Swarup’s ‘Q&A’ into ‘Slumdog..,’ the scriptwriters have just painted an entire nation bad.

Children are either small-time crooks or made to beg. Growing up, the boys end up becoming bigger crooks or call-centre workers and the girls turn either prostitutes or concubines.

India is portrayed as a nation were a child would jump into a pool of excreta to escape a closed lavatory, just to see his matinee idol in close range. Well-dressed elders are either crooks or are heavily selfish upper-middle-class snobs. Foreign tourists are tricked to the maximum by cunning teenagers.

Finally, the quiz master, an underdog-turned-topdog himself, so vile that he can’t stand a kid winning the money and the laurels. He tries to deceive him. And when that doesn’t work out, he hands the teenager to police. About the characterisation of Mumbai police, the lesser said the better.

Agreed that there are heavy shades of grey everywhere, and that stares at your face in a huge city like Mumbai. But that doesn’t mean that you can portray an entire nation bad.

And finally, the Rahman score. It’s fate that ‘Roja’ or ‘Dil Se’ wasn’t born in Hollywood. The 'Slumdog..' music in the media because SOME ‘gora saahibs’ found the tunes hummable. For us, it’s not even the shadow of the genius.

I admired the way the storyline went, but what was shown as the entire country was really just a part of it’s dark alleys. What a pity!