July 30, 2014

The Dummy's Guide to Being Punjabi (according to Bollywood)

Have you always wanted to be Punjabi? Were you born into one of those communities that frowns upon alcohol, dancing and being an idiot? There's no need to worry. Bollywood has been taking it upon itself to show you -one movie at a time- how to be Punjabi. Because if there's one thing we can rely on, it's Bollywood's penchant for accurate depictions of communities.

Baby I was born to run... Through sarson ke khet.

To be a Punjabi...

You must have one of each of the following:
1. Bebe (n., bay-bay): A grandmother, white haired and frail, but energetic and happy. White attire (on account of widowhood) is optional but preferred. In recent times, bonus points if she makes sly jokes with double entendres. Her role in your life is to tell you, "Sab theek hi hona hai" and "Kinna kamzor ho gaya hai"... and to state the obvious (e.g. "Beta, main vi teri bebe hoon.")

2. Veerji (n., veer-jee): An elder brother, but only if you're female. (If you're a guy, you need a sister who ties her hair in a braid and wears a salwar-kurta.) Your veerji exists to protect you no matter what (never mind if you don't need protecting), to be the first guy to lose his temper at any occasion and to finally somehow help your boyfriend in becoming your husband.

3. Bauji (n., bow-jee): Your father, who wears a turban and looks formidable, until one day he loses it and starts dancing in a song (usually when we're 80% through the movie).

4. A home in/around Patiala / Ludhiana / Jalandhar / other such town: Always, always, always with a farm of your own, which is attached to it (farm ideally grows sarson or wheat). Which brings us to...

5. A tractor: Preferably red in color, seats 2 or 4, can be driven by anyone, even if they've never seen a tractor, and useful for driving through the farms.

6. If you don't have 4. or 5. above, a palatial house in London or New York and also a terrible aching for the motherland: Because otherwise how will your kids (who are usually the leads) have a crisis in the plot line?

You must know all of the below:
1. Bhangra (n., bhung-daa): A folk dance where you put both arms up in the air, then down, then up, then down... And do the same motion every now and then with alternate legs. To be done whenever anything good happens. Sister gets engaged? Bhangra! Jaswinder visiting from London? Bhangra! Mummyji ne kheer banayi? Bhangra!

2. How to use a hand pump: If you're a woman, you wear a salwar kurta and put a steel bucket under it in the morning. If you're a sexy woman, you wear a salwar kurta and your dupatta slides while you put a steel bucket under it in the morning. If you're a man, you want to rip it out of the ground.

3. Singing in Punjabi (even if you grew up in the US of A): Because we all know that the true hallmark of Punjabiness is being able to sing a song which is at least half Punjabi, no matter if you've sported a thick accent until then.

You must possess all the following qualities:
1. Never being able to control your emotions: Let the joy, anger, tears, jealousy, revenge, just flow. In real life that shit can get you into deep trouble. In reel life, it makes for the best masala.

2. Forgiving at the drop of a hat: Blanket forgiveness, along with kindly smile. Practise your *complete bliss* face and be prepared to do it immediately after the bhangra.

3. Falling in love at first sight, often in a rather creepy manner: As in, "Tujh mein rab dikhta hai". This is the Indian version of Call Me Maybe, and it basically goes,
Hey I just met you
And this is crazy
But here's a ring,
Put it on baby.
It's hard to look past
Your superficial beauty,
So here's a mangalsutra,
And call me your pati. 
4. Being very rich (if you're from a city) or very poor (if you're from a village): Your family's ethics are inversely proportional to their money, but yours are always spot on (commendable when a really twisted family produces an offspring that burps rainbows).

5. Mentioning you're Punjabi: This is critical. If you cannot wear a turban, you must sport an accent or just say it out loud in the first few minutes of meeting anyone, "Ludhiane se." (Note: Saying Ludhiane, and not Ludhiana, is what makes you bona fide Punjabi). If all else fails, next time you're singing a song, make sure it has the words "Balle balle" or "Shava shava" thrown in so people know.

And finally, a short dictionary of the critical words:
A is for aaho. This is how Punjabis say yes.
B is for bebe. This is the woman who makes lassi.
B is also for balle balle, which is what you say in songs and when you're happy and when you want people to know you're Punjabi.
C is for Canaydda, where you go before you establish yourself in the US of A.
D is for dhol, the instrument that makes you get your bhangra on.
E is for enu, eda, ede and other words that are basically variations of pronouns. Advanced level.
F is for fukrey, which is what all guys are before they find the love of their life.
G is for gaddi, the vehicle you drive and often coax a girl to get into (even when it's a tractor... especially when it's a tractor).
H is for hun, another word for now.
I is for inna, another way of saying itna.
J is for Jaspreet, Jaswinder, Jaspinder, Jaswant and various other names that may or may not be unisex.
K is for kudiye, which is what a Punjabi guy calls you if you're a girl. Only this and sohniye and acceptable forms of address.
K is also for khasma-nu-khaaye, roughly translated to eat-your-spouse, which constitutes generic mild cussing.
L is for lassi, a magic elixir served in foot-high glasses which makes you even more Punjabi than you are.
M is for mundeya, which is how you address all single men if you're an older person, or if you're his girlfriend singing to him.
N is for naal, as in, along with.
O is for oye! and oho! and o-teri!, generic exclamations which occur to you at least five times a day.
P is for pind, which is where you have your home and farm and tractor.
Q is for qaaynaat, the whole wide world. Not technically Punjabi but to be used whenever you're feeling poetic (i.e. everyday).
R is for rab, or God, whom you invoke regularly (rab de vaaste, rab di mehr, rab jaane and of course the most bizarre tujh mein rab dikhta hai)
S is for sarson, which covers 90% of the land mass in Punjab.
S is also for sohneya and sohniye, which is what you call a good-looking male / female of the species in Punjabi.
T is for twadda, which is not slang from the underground, but just means yours. Being Punjabi, you only use this is the context of my heart being twadda, my life being twadda, yada yada.
U is for utthe, as in 'right there'.
V is for vich, as in, within.
W is for whisky, which you love.
Y is for yaar, which is what everyone is after two drinks.
Z is for Zorawar, which is what your grandfather or the sarpanch of your pind is called.

May 29, 2014

Mad Men: Thoughts on the mid-season finale

A new post! I know the fans (both of you!) are crying out, "Tiger Shroff! Make fun of Tiger Shroff!", and to that I say... in a bit. 

Let's depart from usual programming today, to discuss Mad Men. Specifically, the mid-season finale of Mad Men that was so gobsmackingly good that I can't not write about it (and I also don't know anyone who wants to talk about it).

(This post is full of spoilers, so if you intend to watch it, quit reading.)

The series, set in a 1960s advertising agency, has always been about so much more than the advertising. Recurrent and tangential themes include self-awareness, feminism, race, depression, conformity, greed, marriage, change (and how it affects us), violence, homosexuality, changing perceptions, death, and completely random events (for want of a better expression).

The only pattern you can possibly see in each season is that there's usually a death, a gruesome accident (Ginsberg this year, dear God), an affair of some kind and the highlight of whichever year the season is based in (JFK's assassination, the counterculture movement, and most recently, the moon landing.)

Almost every season so far has ended on a somewhat cliffhanger note. But now that the makers have decided to split the last season into 2, one in 2014 and one in 2015 (I hope they rot in hell), it was almost surprising how the mid-season finale could even actually be... a finale. Things ended on a positive, almost unreal note on a show which is known for rather unsettling finales to each season.

And that's why, it's not so bad to wait another year. Next year is largely going to be about tying up loose ends. Maybe no one will even die next year. Actually, maybe Megan will die next year and the fans will finally get the long-awaited Charles Manson reference.

In the meanwhile, major props to:

Don Draper - Who managed to go a whole season (okay, half-season) without alcoholism or an affair. Must've been tough. Well, except for that hilarious moment where his secretary tried to put the moves on him when she thought he was "so vulnerable". But then, can anyone really blame her, given he looks like this:
Much handsome. Such smart. Many intense. Waow. 

Pete Campbell - With every passing season, he manages to look more and more like a schoolboy and a villain; but he did get some of the most memorable lines this season. Always fun to watch him spit out words in a rage ("Marriage is a racket!"), always fun to watch him go after women who tell him, soon enough, to GTFO.

Betty Draper - As she becomes more and more the frustrated housewife and fading beauty queen, you can't help but sympathize. Sure she's evil, but she's evil in a fun way. (Nothing beats the episode with the pigeons, though.)

Joan Holloway - Whose decision-making abilities are finally improving.

Bert Cooper - Who will be missed, but not for long I think. The character had run his course.

Bob Benson - How can someone simultaneously be so positive and so creepy?

Jim Cutler - Who is just getting everyone's flak, but really seems like a straight-talking mercenary (and there are worse things than that). His volte-face on the McCann deal is hilariously typical ("It's a lot of money.")

Ted Chaough - Another character who has now been rendered obsolete by where the story is going.

Peggy Olson - Who's finally beginning to get her own. But not without a "having-it-all" crisis.

Megan - The moment had passed with Zou Bisou Bisou and is not coming back. The breakdown of their marriage lasted 7 episodes, and I'm just glad it didn't take longer.

Sally Draper - From a fairly peripheral character, she's now one of the highlights, simply because she has begun to embody the best and the worst of each of her parents.

And finally, Roger Sterling - Easily the most likeable character on the show, because he's basically a hippie in a suit. From finding out that his daughter has defected to a commune, to dealing with his oldest friend's death, to bribing Harry in this hilarious scene just to change his office, to strange orgies in his apartment, to trying LSD with his wife, to... "And he'd just gotten it in the door". Eternal slacker-off who has a way of coming through when (and only when) he is really needed to.
Roger: I'm about to do some awesome shit.
Don: Sure. It'll save my ass but I will not thank you.

March 09, 2014

What would you do if there was no social media?

Would you go skydiving if you couldn't put up the pictures? Heck, would you go if there were no pictures?

Would you read as many articles online as you do, if you couldn't link to them and spread the word?

How about the clothes you buy, haircuts you get, makeup you wear, places you go to? Still as many, if there were no profile pictures to be gotten out of them?

Do statistics (in everything from Ruzzle to running) matter as much if you can't tell the world?

Would you get married if there could be no pre-wedding photo shoot, no live Instagrammed pictures from besties wishing you happiness, no professionally shot video with a slow background track and lots of DSLR-type focusing and unfocusing on colors and fabrics and lights? Sure maybe you would, but on a smaller scale?

Where does it begin? Where does it end? 

On Comedy

I've recently been informed that a show named Comedy Nights with Kapil is the highest rated television show on Indian television right now. I'm also assured by various people that he is hilarious. Now I haven't seen much of the show (maybe 4-5 episodes) but I hope for the sake of our country that he was having a rough day on those, because as far as I can tell, all the show consists of is:
 - Men wearing women's clothes (and since that is funny by default, not bothering to do any standup whatsoever)
 - People hitting each other and magically falling to the ground 
 - A really confusing Delhi accent
 - Something called 'babaji ka thullu' which could be anything from the finger to something even more obscene, no one knows. 
 - Getting celebrities to participate in this (and man, they do love it)

Which gets you thinking about the state of Indian comedy. I mean, look at it. It has provided a secure retirement to Navjot Singh Siddhu and Shekhar Suman, replaced all the weekend prime time slots for movies and provided consistent employment to the same actors competing every year (or six months) in the Comedy Challenge (Laughter Challenge? The one where Archana Puran Singh laughs.) Most of it relies on repetitive cross-dressing and slapstick, and the rest on innuendo that just about makes it past the censor board - though given how the I&B ministry seems to be on the verge of beeping out "damn" and "girl", it wouldn't hurt if they focused on Hindi television a bit more and left the English alone for some time. 

We're of course far from a day when there can be a Seinfeld for Indian viewers. But would it be so difficult to have a Modern Family Hindi equivalent? Think about it. 3 families, several kids, lots of drama - that's the template for most Hindi shows right now anyway. The issue really isn't even that the audience is stupid - the issue is that the writers seem to be unable to envisage a world wherein audiences could laugh at something other than a man dressed as Kapil's grandmother hitting on male actors. Or not having a laugh track / studio audience that's high on something.

Remember Mahi Way? No you don't, because it was discontinued. Remember Star One? Sure, because at some point they just started airing all the programming that Star Plus wouldn't. Remember, for God's sake, even Shrimaan Shrimati? It really wasn't so bad. 

And honestly, now there are wedding videos on my Facebook timeline (all the frikkin' time) with better production values than Hindi television shows (but with the small issue that they take songs I like and make them the background of a couple I barely know, getting really handsy, and that's just disturbing). What went wrong? 

So, dear reader, if you feel compelled to watch it, here's a list of other things you could consider watching:
1. Any David Dhawan movie (I'm not even going to mention Our Beloved and Most Loved Govinda and Comedy Nights in the same breath, but all I'm going to say is that any David Dhawan movie is funnier. Even the ones with Salman Khan.)
2. Arnab Goswami on Times Now
3. Anyone on India TV
4. KRK's Youtube reviews
5. Bigg Boss, Indian Idol, Roadies! Any reality show that delicately balances that seriousness of random *tasks* with the utter hare-brained-ness of the participants.

Go now, run along and spread the word.