Friday, July 23, 2010

A ‘Don’ by any other name…(By Shobha De)

Let’s face it, Shakespeare can never be wrong. When he poetically stated, ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…’ he couldn’t possibly have imagined the impact of those few words on the world. Today, we happily misquote and misrepresent the Bard as and when it suits us. Like I am about to do right now! What is all the current fuss being made over the word ‘Don’? Call the man by any other name — social worker, do gooder, Robinhood, businessman,politician. It doesn’t change a thing. In today’s times, the word ‘Don’ has gone glam — and I shudder to say this — become almost respectable. I read a recent press report, which said that newly formed gangs from Govandi were terrorising residents by imitating their favourite filmi dons, down to the stylised costumes and tapori dialogues. A case of life imitating art! Not that the elderly in Govandi are amused. Cases have been filed against four of these goons under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. Perhaps their families don’t think of their boys as badmaashes. Maybe they prefer to think of them as Boy Scouts on an adventure.

It is true that Bollywood has always had a strange fascination for members of the underworld. It is a love-hate relationship going back to the bad old days when the most important mehmaan at a mahurat was often a notorious gangster with a big stake in the movie. It was only after things soured and the love affair between the two ended abruptly, that the death threats and blackmail began in earnest. Audacious attacks on prominent Bollywood personalities, eventually led to the insane wall of tight security that protects present day megastars. But back then, it was a bloody free for all. One midnight call was all it took for Bollywood to pay up. Or else — goli maro bhejey mein.

Recreating the mesmerising magic of that era is a huge thrill for any filmmaker. Who can resist picturising dramatic scenes between a sultry temptress in fishnet stockings and her tormentor in a gaudy shirt ? Or cinematically unraveling dirty deals between ruthless land sharks and venal politicos as they battle over India’s prime real estate — Mumbai? It was happening then. It is happening now. So what has really changed? I can understand Ekta Kapoor’s fascination for the ‘70s perfectly. After all, her father Jumping Jack Jeetendra (guess who coined that name?) was a big star at the time. And the ‘70s were a deliriously dangerous decade. Did she see something… hear something… that aroused her creative curiosity as a child? And continues to haunt her till today? Now that’s a story!! Must ask Ekta when I meet her next...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ajay Devgn and Emraan Hashmi at a promotional event for Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai

Emraan Hashmi finally finds a car!

To find a lavish car for Emraan Hashmi in Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai was not an easy job for director Milan Luthria. It took him good five months to ink upon a Classic 1971 Ford LTD.

According to sources, Emraan was just a car away to get into the skin of Dawood Ibrahim’s character. No sooner did Milan’s search for car end that Emraan was a happy man with vintage whine. Interestingly, Emraan’s 1971 Ford has been used previously in Terminator and The French Connection.

Well, it isn’t just Emraan for whom Milan went out his way but Ajay Devgn too who plays the role of Haji Mastan has been lucky enough to drive 1967 Mercedes for which Milan was struggling for three months.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Free style wrestling with Haji and Rukhsana…

If the setting was surrealistic, even bizarre (a lavish suite in the old wing of the Taj Mahal Hotel), the people present at the ‘business meeting’ were even more so. Apart from Rukhsana, Haji Mastan and yours truly (I pretended to be Rukhsana’s secretary), there were five or six Bhais there.

It was a chiffon and pearls meet polyester and rexine moment. Rukhsana conducted the proceedings with all the hauteur of an empress dealing with serfs. She swished her French chiffon saree pallav around her broad shoulders, played with the Basra pearls around her thick neck, constantly adjusted the gigantic shades she wore indoors\outdoors, and talked down to Haji in a posh accent. Everybody studiously ignored me (appropriately dressed for my p.a.’s part in a downmarket khadi kurta).

Haji paced the room restlessly, his white rexine chappals making a soft squishy sound on the deep pile carpet. The other goons glowered and kept staring at the door as if expecting a police party. The agenda for the meeting was simple — Rukhsana and Haji were haggling over gate money. Most people outside the professional wrestling circuit did not know that Rukhsana controlled all the kusti fixtures that took place in and around Delhi. She wanted to negotiate better terms for the Bombay bouts (his territory), and Haji wasn’t playing footsie. They were haggling over Pakistani wrestlers and their fees. More importantly, they couldn’t agree on their respective cuts. She refused to budge… and so did he.

At this critical point of the negotiation, there was a knock on the door, followed by the buzzer ringing. Everybody froze! Haji’s goon squad sprang up and took strategic positions…. even Rukhsana momentarily forgot her haughty act and looked startled. Oh oh… something was clearly not going as per the schedule. Who was at the door? Cops? Rivals? Hotel security? Enraged wrestlers? Would guns be pulled out? Knives flashed? Would I be killed in a cross fire between hostile underworld gangs?

Rukhsana reached for the phone on the elegant, marble topped table next to her chair (those were pre-mobile phone days, remember?). There was pin drop silence in the suite as she hit the button with a swift, smooth move of her perfectly manicured index finger. A gigantic solitaire on her ring finger, caught the light from the chandelier and flashed evilly. “Hello…” growled Rukhsana… as I held my breath. This was turning out to be a chilling evening. I said a short prayer… would it be answered? More next week!

- Shobhaa De