All posts by Sami Naik

10 Things To Improve In Pepsi Battle Of The Bands

Pakistani music happened to me back in 1989 when I was hardly 5 years old and living with my mother in Karachi because my father was and still working in Jeddah. My broken memories of watching PTV in 1989 are a Puppet Show featuring Uncle Sargam, TV drama Jangloos, and songs of Allan Fakir and Mohammed Ali Shehki.

Pakistani pop music culture has always been rich. Many notable music bands became globally known among the South Asian communities like Junoon and Vital Signs. My last fondness towards Pakistani music was in the first decade of this century when many new musical bands emerged like Aaroh, Entity Paradigm, Fuzon, Noori, Mekaal Hasan Band, and Call.

In the recent times, Coke Studio and Nescafé Basement aided and gave favor to the global listeners to observe the quality, richness, and creativity in Pakistani music culture. A further addition to scrutinizing more upcoming talents, Battle Of The Bands has given the nation another musical platform to take the center stage and sought the attention.

Battle of the Bands, sponsored by Pepsi began back in 2002 in one of the local channels. It took 15 years to repackage the whole new competition under the same name and sponsor. Why season two came that late? I really don’t know but I will say it was a musical tragedy given the fact that the toppers from the inaugural season were Aaroh, Entity Paradigm and Mekaal Hasan Band and such competition didn’t return in the times when Pakistani music was beginning to decline. Imagine if PBOTB was happening every year, how many brilliant bands had emerged.

With two fresh seasons in two years, the audience has realized that Pakistani music is knocking the global doors and they have talent enough to mesmerize the listeners. Kashmir and Bayaan have deservingly won their respective seasons and hearts. And with such a magnitude of success, PBOTB has a lot of promises to attract the viewers.

But the producers/show-runners of PBOTB need to focus on this whole arrangement of the show. There are a few issues which they need to work on if they have to grab and attract more viewers and collect more critical appreciation.

This blog is about the factors which can make this show more impressive and raise its rank. I am forwarding 10 important points PBOTB needs to focus on when they begin working on the fourth season.

10. NO BIZARRE AUDITIONS

This point is not meant to fume insult nor I am encouraging to mock the participants. But this is everywhere. Some performances really come up contrary to our expectations. The performance could have been better but sometimes turn out to be actually funny or weird.

We like to see the reactions of the judges and how they respond to the artistic disaster. From the marketing point of view, such auditions can be covered in the episode to make the viewers observe how the platform didn’t enjoy the justice and the band miserably failed to perform. Millions of viewers love to watch funny auditions or funny moments in a musical show on the social media no matter how old those videos are.

09. CHANGE THE HOST AND THE DIALOGUES

I may be taken rudely by the readers to reflect this point. Ayesha Omer is a very popular name in Pakistan showbiz but I strictly believe that she hasn’t done justice with the hosting role in both the seasons. The problem is not if she lacks glamour as she is a very charming personality. The problem is that she looks very under qualified or unfit for hosting a musical series focusing on the bands. This is not her cup of tea.

Plus the dialogues written for Ayesha Omer are very flat, old and monotonous. She states the obvious. Some buddy please change this phrase, “Don’t Go Anywhere, We Will Return After A Short Break”. How is this tiresome line still acceptable in 2018?

If the show presenter fails to serve the viewers and get their attention, it will be boring to listen to her and wait for her departure to enjoy the show. In my opinion, Anoushey Ashraf or Mathira will do more justice hosting a musical show.

08. RESTRICTED MUSICAL VARIETIES

Alright, this is the battle between the bands. And we have discovered numerous promising bands on this platform who will give their fans pleasure on their beats. But I have observed that every band who is showing up is restricted to the understanding of the musical band. Under the inception of bands, no one is trying to do something different.

The bands either turned Western, performed rock and tried to be loud or went completely opposite i.e., either went Eastern Classic or focused on Sufi. How many musical instruments have been tried by all the bands in these two seasons? Almost every musical band have their members on the set of different guitars, keyboards, and drums. Fine! I am not complaining. These are the basic instruments for helping in composing any track. But why most of the bands do not think out of a parameter. How many bands came up with the idea of playing the flute, violin, mouth organ, trumpet, bongo, or harmonica?

I am not asking to bring a grand piano to the stage and play. But what my ears want is to be seduced by a composition which gives freshness, a new feeling. They are selling the same product in different ways.

The upcoming bands must learn from Meesha Shafi! Unorthodox and giving music a new space, a new dimension. In the finale of season 2, she performed with a speaker and had a guy on the saxophone. In the finale of season 3, Meesha Shafi, in one of the darkest and the deepest tracks ever composed, introduced Tibetan bowls in Pakistani music.

Then there is a performance factor. Most of the performances by the bands on the stage were dull. The craziness and excitement were generally low. Tamasha band in the season 3 was the rare case who performed with the needed passion.

07. REDUCE THE EPISODE MINUTES

Why the episode has to be of at least 80 minutes? Why not reduce to 40 minutes? Do the bands need to perform a full song? Let’s assume if every band comes to the stage to perform for 5 minutes that means approximately 13 or 14 performances are covered each episode which is quite less. And this is what I am talking about an 80-minute episode.

The format and the continuity needs a helping hand, an idea or an approach to construct an episode with more ingenuity. In your limited presentation, you sometimes lose the purpose. I would rather agree on 16 episodes of 40 minutes instead of 8 episodes of 80 minutes. The other reason for keeping the episode that long is because the participants are less. But why less?

06. LIMITED CONTENTS

The hype you build among the viewers, the sources applied to the show are very limited. Only 8 episodes in almost 45 days! Each episode of at least 80 minutes! There were a host and a quartet of judges. The bands came and gave a full performance. The judges judged, off the bands went, “meet you in the next episode”, and curtains. That’s it?

The creative team should work and bring more ideas in the programming to add more content in such a lengthy episode. Not saying to make the show fake and dramatic as it happens in many musical shows. But the audience today need add-ins. Show the audience behind the scenes, reactions, their stories, from where they came from? How difficult has been this journey? What were they before they stepped to this platform? Show the discussions between the judges on and off. Between the screen time, share some past memories and achievements in Pakistan music culture. Give some interesting facts about the show and the judges with time.

Why did we only meet the families of the toppers in the grand finale? Why not give a couple of minutes of personal segments from some of the bands? Some musical stories are painful, some band members have a few lines to say. They can be covered, why not? Give some feeling, put some money on the contents to make the episode more exciting.

05. ADD MORE LOCATIONS

Apologies if my knowledge is incorrect but I think most of the participants from the different cities have traveled to Karachi to perform in the auditions. I think it is better if the panel of jury tour themselves to 3-5 most important cities. Not all the musical bands are financially stable enough to travel the city for the auditions. But Pepsi can afford expenses, right? The concern should be that Team PBOTB cover most of the bands in their cities. There is every chance that those bands who are financially poor are more talented than the toppers.

If Team PBOTB tour to the cities, there is a chance that those bands who had excuses to travel can save the expenses and participate straight to their city and try their luck. With more opportunities open, the judges will get to catch more attention and make their selections more easily.

In my opinion, the five most important touring cities should be Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Quetta, and Peshawar. Bring three of the best bands from each center. Then do your general proceedings with 15 best talents in your show.

04. RIDICULOUS FINALE WIND-UPS

I am sure many of the readers will agree here with me that the ending of the finale episodes of both season 2 and 3 was pretty ordinary. With such a tremendous hype built in the show and on the social media, millions of viewers watched the grand finale of the seasons and impatiently spent their 80 minutes and waited for the grand announcement. When the winner was announced; multi-colored paper confetti were released, the prize cheques to the toppers were handed and the trophy was lifted by the winner, and then the hosts concludes the show. This all happened in two minutes.

We noticed even the families of the toppers stepped to the stage after the announcement to meet their loved ones. The hosts could have bothered asking hardly a couple of questions on the stage to them but didn’t.

What the show-runners should do is give some respect to the toppers and let them speak some lines about these moments. Show their celebrations behind the scene after the conclusion of the show. Allow or request the toppers to send a motivational message to the coming bands and future participants.

03. RAISE THE PRIZE MONEY, FFS!

To be perfectly honest with you, any figure in the prize money less than a Crore rupees is awful, contemptible and revolting, keeping in mind that this musical series is produced by none other than *drum rolls* PEPSI!

The runner-up gets 25 Lac (0.25 Crore) rupees and the winner gets 50 Lac (0.50 Crore) rupees with an album deal, concerts across Pakistan and lifetime royalties. 50 Lac? What is 50 Lac in 2018? And remember, this 50 Lac is not for an individual but for the band. No matter how many members exist in the band, this amount will definitely be divided.

The producers should consider this matter and improve the figures. Because when the viewers across the world notice and realize how much amount the toppers are winning in their currency, their jaws will drop.

02. LACKS FEMINISM

It is a sorry state that despite 71 years have crossed to the country’s inception, most of the women still do not have the freedom to make their own decisions, choose their careers and ambitions, befriend a man, go in a relationship, choose or wish someone her husband. And when it comes to the art, more objections are compelled and the doors are closed by their own families. Singing, dancing, and modeling for a woman in many houses become a family issue with the hashtag #LogKiyaKahenge (what will people say).

And this is the very critical reason, that only 4 women have participated in a total of 2 seasons; Mehek from Naksh Band and one from Roots in season 2, and Ifra from I.F.R.A and one from Kaghaz. Only 4 women!

If mixing with men into a band is making them insecure or putting their families in an uncomfortable position, or raising eyebrows in their concerned mohalla, then why a group of women is still not coming up with the idea of forming their own band? Just like the All Girl Band or The Cheapmunks in Pakistan. Sometimes I wonder how Benjamin Sisters marked their presence on the national television to the viewers in the late 70s and early 80s.

The show producers cannot do anything about this matter. Women in Pakistan are equally capable like men in arts and need no references from me as there is an open treasure of vast talents. If the education can really change the way of thinking, if the thinking among the people can change with time, then time will tell how many women will be stepping ahead to the platform and how many families will be in an agreeable position to support their women.

01. WHERE IS THE AUDIENCE?

My number 1 issue with the show is that despite being a musical competition between the bands, it is terribly silent. Whenever the bands finished performing, it was awkward to listen only 5 pairs of hands clapping in the studio like the raindrops knocking your window. It was a musical tragedy for not adding the audience when it needed the most.

Season 2 HAD audience straight from the 3rd episode once the judges were done with the auditions in the first two episodes. But the whole season 3 gave you the theatre rehearsal feeling. It is always exciting to listen to the boos and hoots and roars in a musical show. Audience repeatedly shouting and chanting the names of their favorite bands or their favorite lead vocalist.

How exhilarating and sensational was listening and watching Asrar perform Lajpaal Ali or Call perform Jilawatan on TV in season 2. Imagine the environment installed during these numbers in the studio last year. The attendees with uncontrollable adrenaline in a captivating ambiance.

Imagine if the audience was allowed this year and were to be blessed with the performances by Tamasha. The show-runners should not attempt this gaffe when the show returns for season 4 next year.


Through this blog, I would like to congratulate both the toppers of this season, Xarb and Bayaan, and wish them all the best in the commencement of their promising careers. Also, the bands who lost in the knockout phases, this is an experience to take with you for a lifetime memory. And is also not the end of your musical expedition. You are blessed with a platform which millions have watched and observed you. Continue doing wonders, some wise financiers will surely ring you in the near future. Those who left in the auditions, never mind and return next year strong with more improvement. The other musical doors and platforms are also opened to try their luck.

If any of the 10 points are taken seriously and are considered to work on, I hope the show will improve more and acceptable with further positive critical reception.

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THE RISING OF A FAILED STATE (LAST PART)

This blog is in the continuity from my previous blog. Before you begin reading further, kindly read the first part HERE.

In the previous blog, I discussed the issues Pakistan is facing in the recent years and what points the observers have to consider in scrutinizing the government. Now I will surface the expectations on the revival of survival.

INVOKING A TABDEELI

The result of the recently concluded general elections comes to a massive surprise with a voice of change drumming almost everywhere. Being hopeless to observe the cipher-bound nation to vote the same parties repeating the same destruction and failing the country, I was believing that the same Pakistan Muslim League – N (PMLN) running the government will win the election after collecting the sympathetic votes for imprisoning their favorite leaders or perhaps Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) will take the turn.

Moreover, Imran Khan‘s former wife Reham Khan sparked nationwide controversy by making blatant allegations in her recently released book. I am not aware of how accurate the allegations are. My brain doesn’t accept the kind of allegations she made on her former husband because those claims make Khan look pure evil but then, Khan had a Sita White case in the past with whom he has an illegitimate daughter. Fingers crossed or in the other words, God knows the best.

But Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) are victorious with 116 seats for the National Assembly. The 22-year wait to win the general election is over. Khan’s declaration of change in the form of a tsunami which he coined in a political jalsa a few years ago all becomes true. Back in 2002, when Pakistan Muslim League – Q (PML-Q) won the general election, PTI won only one seat and that too by Khan. This election, Khan win 5 seats alone wherever he contested becoming the first Pakistani politician to record victory at 5 different polling stations. Back in 1970, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto contested elections from 4 constituencies and managed to win 3.

Numerous wonders occurred at this event. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto lost a seat from Lyari district where his party had political dominance for decades. Muttahida Qaumi Movement‘s 30-year rule over Karachi ended when PTI won 15 of the 21 seats in Karachi for the National Assembly. The province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) had a tendency towards changing the ruling party in the general elections every time in the past 25 years. PTI became the first party to win KPK assembly in consecutive terms which prove that their contribution for the KPK people was recognized and trusted.

Voice of change and change of voice coincides across the nation. A politician like Maulana Fazlur Rehman who in almost every general election ended winning the seat in the National Assembly couldn’t win this time. Amir Liaqat joining PTI five months ago raised the eyebrows to the standards the party had raised or lowered to the voice the change for the better cause. But how crucial was this decision? People in Karachi, who were fed up of MQM’s rule especially Farooq Sattar, decided to vote and prefer Amir Liaqat over him for the sake of changing hands and looking a better future of Karachi under PTI after listening to Khan addressing tons of promises in the last few years. It indeed is a change when so many calamities over PMLN, PPP, and MQM occur.

KHAN’S ADDRESSES – A VOICE OF HOPE

The political dynamics are changing, so are the global voices. After a few channels from the Indian media displayed hatred towards Khan, many people in India including famous names in sports and film industry are praising his success and struggle, and hoping to see a new wave in Indo-Pak diplomatic ties. Navjot Sidhu accepted Khan’s invitation to participate in the oath ceremony. With Sidhu’s arrival, I hope a dove raises the bar of peace between the two countries.

Imran Khan with scores of addresses and promises in his jalsas forwarded highly impressive addresses after the election results before and after becoming the 22nd prime minister of the country. A lot of topics came to the attention but with a powerful stature and a command in speaking with the required determination that he always possessed, what made his listeners feel good and hopeful was the freshness of words. He spoke some lines which no biggest authority in Pakistan ever did. There is a reason why most of the viewers and listeners trust him.

What I will try to do is bring a few bullet points in attention to the readers from both the addresses to understand what we are to expect and hope in the next five very important and crucial years.

01. Khan idealized that the state under him will be like Medina under the times of Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alaehe Wasallam (SAW). Now, to be honest, this religious circle of vision may take the nation into daydreaming and completely avoiding the ground reality of the offense the country has suffered under the name of Islam. With people belonging to many different Islamic ideologies under the same geographical roof, it is almost impossible to convince all at a point or put them in any religious agreement.

There is every chance that his every move or decision is put to an argument if the decision is according to Sharia law or if Prophet Mohammad S.A.W. allowed. Most of the people in the country have taken the religious matter to different dimensions, they understand less, gets sentimental more. Many times, the probability of doubt towards understanding a scholar or an orator about Islam or any aspect adds more rage, fury, and risk. In such a situation, my opinion is that Khan should have avoided such an extremely bold statement because when the lumberjack chops the trunk, the whole tree collapses. 

So the nation should observe that Khan spoke about the principles of the ideal state to establish so they should not fall delusional of thinking a whole newly constructed Islamic state and begin comparing his every move for the state with the state Prophet Mohammad S.A.W. established. He, in short, has set Medina state as a prime example.

02. Khan spoke highly of human development and recognition of the poor to be fed and paid what they deserve. He was so highly concerned of child growth that he, live on the state channel, showed two diagrams of children only differing due to consumption of nourishing food required for a two-year-old child.

03. Khan confirmed that political rivalries are the past for the sake of bringing solidarity in the country. I do not expect the rivalry to end. When he is running the government, there is every possibility in the coming years that his rivals ridicule the country’s political and socioeconomic situation in the coming years.

04. Khan clearly stated that the accountability will start with him and his ministers, followed by the others. One of the most impressive lines in his address.

05. Khan encouraged the overseas Pakistanis to invest the money in the country under the new leadership and promised the nation to protect the tax money and better the tax culture.

06. Khan innovated shaping the PM house into an educational institution and to bring in public use of all the governor houses. Because he admits humiliation for living in a palace of a country where more than half of the population are poor.

With that, he submitted his assurance that he, his governors and ministers will reduce their expenditures and adopt simplicity. The expensive vehicles which were used by the previous governments will be sold in the auction to the businessmen and put the received hefty money in the national treasury. The security will be reduced.

07. Khan talked about sending a team to China, make a report and learn the progress of the efforts the Chinese government made to overcome poverty at such a high rate.

08. Khan gave equal importance to both Saudi Arabia and Iran and voiced for immense efforts to ease the Middle East crisis. I have discussed Pakistan’s role in the Middle East crisis in the previous part.

09. Khan expressed disappointment to the Indian media for spreading negative portrayal but urged for dialogues and stepping ahead for better ties and open on trade relations and transactions.

10. Khan spoke of law amendments to ensure speedy disposal of civil cases within a year. We know that thousands of cases are shelved unfought for years and the poor is the one who suffered the most. If this happens, justice may be believed to earn its lost repute.

11. Khan stressed on the improvement in the education and the government hospitals.

12. Khan raised the issue of global warming and emphasized on a nationwide tree plantation campaign. Khan on the 3rd of September has launched a mega Tree Tsunami project in which 10-billion trees will be planted in the next 5 years against the climatic and environmental challenges. If this plan succeeds, Pakistan may be counted among the countries who raise their voice and contribute against the challenges. It may prove to be a significant turning point.

13. Khan challenged and offered cooperation to his rivals by investigating on any requested stations where the losing parties believed that the elections were rigged. This act of daring is something which the previous ruling party didn’t commit or offer.

14. Khan, in his final lines, envisioned that the country will financially prosper to the extent that there would be no tax receiver and he doubted if he may be alive to see that happen. This statement will be remembered for a long time even after his soul departs because the quality of the great people is that they, in their lifetime, utter some quotes which become the observational phenomena.

WERE THE ELECTIONS RIGGED?

Many observers have depicted their satisfaction. I am not an observer of this scenario. Rigging has always been in our blood, this will never stop. As far as politics is concerned, after every 5-year period, the victorious party claims the general election to be the purest while the rest whine. The same method was applied this time when all the losing parties assembled for the conference and decided whether to sit in the national assembly or not. It indeed is traditionally hilarious that after losing the election, the party claims rigging and later on decides to sit in the assembly indirectly and technically accepting the results, and become the opposition. Because seriously, who refuses the power of seat in the national assembly? Better to sit in the opposition and play chess.

They say that the Election Commission of Pakistan was responsible for the election. But let us agree on the open secret that there is something fishy about the happenings in Pakistan’s political affairs in the recent months. The judicial and military accountability over the-then existing political scenario troubled them, the biggest names went to prison or were declared impotent to contest any seat for the general elections. Yes, nature had its say too when the heavy rains in Lahore exposed the lies of the provincial government and the professed Paris in Lahore turned in to Venice. The army security had much of the control on the polling stations I agree. I asked a few of my friends about the situation there. But why the cameras weren’t allowed inside the stations? Only God knows what exactly happened but, to be honest, if the elections still were rigged, I am certainly okay with it.

Why so? Because the previous rigging established no hopes but sorrows. Voters voted the same parties and whined all the years. You have tried and trusted them for decades twice and thrice. You have lived in fear at certain places. This time, the rigging that brings the new faces and new hopes are acceptable, the majority of the nation is convinced that they can certainly expect better from the new ruling party. Perhaps, this was the fairest ‘rigged’ elections ever. And there is nothing wrong in hoping that the country’s broken spine and damaged reputation can be tried to fix and improve.

REALISTIC PATRIOTISM

Pakistanis are the most patriotic nation in the world because there is no country whose nation celebrates its independence like her, but unfortunately, their sincerity and passion are over-dramatic and unrealistic. I call it chauvinism with the all-is-well approach because their contribution is less to what words of their utmost love for the country they utter from their mouths.

Patriotism is a form of emotional madness towards liking and loving a particular geographic piece of land with the addition of developing aerial theories which most of the time doesn’t make logical or lacks common sense. People with such mentality loses conscience and begins to believe that they are superior to the others.

Failed governments have destroyed the societies for decades and as compared to the golden period of their cultural integrity, we have observed more moral calamity, rage, hatred, delusion, frustration, madness, negativity, lie, manipulation, backbiting, brainwashing, abuse, killing, and firing.

Further destruction came in the education when so many lies while teaching the country’s history wrecked and manipulated the generations and developed disturbance and confusion towards the reality which they declared frailty. After all of this, if the nation thinks that they really are patriotic, then it is a lost case and doesn’t make sense.

Thinking and understanding towards the religion and tolerance have dropped a severe low, also in decades, when religion was used as a political tool and many many many so-called religious organizations came to existence to fool the illiterate and ignorant people. Many flags under the motive of spreading the message of Islam clashed the brains of common and aided with false and wrong beliefs. The wrongs and fongs became traditions and rituals. Some of those organizations became political parties and some campaigns for spreading terrorism.

The passion of the-then nationalism and patriotism which was highly delusional on paper with zero motive now have a new voice and new hope. Under a new leadership, this jazba can flourish and help to contribute an honest cause and build them a new mason.


I am not a nationalist or a patriotic individual but I feel disappointed to observe a country in such a miserable condition and totally lost on the purpose of its existence. I admire Mr. Jinnah’s charismatic personality but do not believe in the vision of Mr. Jinnah and strictly disagree with the partition of a land into two on the bases of a two-nation theory which is built on strict racism and hatred. Both Hindus and Muslims have lived together for centuries. The existence of both the countries became a possibility thanks to the conclusion of World War II which pushed the British Empire to release the countries from the colonization. God knows how long we all would be colonized if this war would have never happened or never ended.

I am not a rebel nor a time traveler to rectify the blunder of the country’s founder but with the passing of time, I have to compromise and recognize the existence of this country and I, like other people, build HOPE to see a better future of this country with the new masons enrolled.

People should not jump waiting for the results from the day after taking the oath. People must realize that much a loss in shape of money has been suffered. The act of begging by the previous governments towards the institutions and supreme authorities has led the country in bad repute.

After some years, we will look back and observe how the revelation of the Panama Papers and Microsoft’s Calibri font ate PMLN. It looks no less than a wonderful script of a political drama.

What is Naya Pakistan? It is a substantial imagination of building a utopian state which failed to create in 71 years. It is a renovation of the destroyed building. This is not coming to reality soon. I have observed the craziness on the social media about people asking and questioning the possibility of observing Naya Pakistan in a few days and weeks. This is sheer nonsense. Even the final results of your board exams do not show up that quick as the people are demanding.

Tremendous patience is required. It is about rebuilding a country, not a school or shopping mall. It will take years to produce the genuinely positive results. Enough addresses from Khan, action has to be implemented. The government should be judged after at least six months and should be highly discussed when the first federal budget under this government is announced. But people must realize that Khan cannot do this alone, the nation has to cooperate and contribute. The nation has to do the favor to aid Khan to produce the expected results. If the level of trust has raised a few percentages under him, there is a possibility to believe because hoping is believing.

No government in the political history of Pakistan has ever completed its 5-year tenure. Will Khan be able to complete? Will Khan fulfill the promises? Will the ruling party surpass the expectations of the nation? Will there be a booming economy? Will the poverty decrease and the workers earn the deserving? Will the justice serve the right and prevail?

Time will tell…

Rise…

The Rising Of A Failed State (First Part)

Just an opinion as a prelude, when states fail their people, people then fail their states.

The victorious political party has a fixed period of time to win their people’s trust and act on the promises they spoke in their speeches. When the government fails, the nation looks after the other party who can do their work better than the current one. Time passes by, decades crosses, economy goes down and corrupts, the environment pollutes, societies lose morality, rich people invest money on survival, middle and lower classes frustrates and blames, and refuses and abuses, and fights and ignites, and doubts and shouts, and daydreams and screams, and cries and dies.

On the earth, the national deludes but in the grave, the national complains. We are not sophisticated people, we are colonized people. We do not rule, we are ruled. We are a nation who follows and revolves around ‘Cipher’. We are a puppet who is functioned by the other pair of hands. We have been played by the people in the supreme power for more than a century. The power is a supreme authority which can manipulate great minds. So when the extreme power strikes its spell like the beauty attracts to a man, the greatness turns in to greediness. The acts hold wrongdoings clean and cleam. The nation is further deceived and colonized.

A group of people with the right set of mind with an ideal vision in favor of the nation especially the poor are robust against disgust. They struggle without snuggle, raise their voice for change and whisper the hopeless ears that ‘we are the avengers to bring bad people in power to the highest court of justice and punish them, we are the masons to build and hold the broken wall, we are the defenders of solidarity and contributors to prosperity, we are the rescuers of the rights and advocates of the political revolution, and with the nation lost and frost we want to be the reason for the change in nation’s fate and fortune’. It is extremely painful to survive after being repeatedly deceived, the existence with such suffering only waits for the call of Azrael. It is highly likely to build a belief that there is still a helper offering a helping hand to change his/her fate and fortune. With new people in power on the same chairs, there is nothing but hope. And hoping is believing.

POLITICAL TURMOIL

(INTERNATIONAL)

After George W. Bush‘s declaration of War on Terror, things have gone further wrong in Pakistan’s way. With former General Parvez Musharraf joining hands with Bush on War On Terror and making the biggest blunder in Pakistan’s political history in the 21st century, Pakistan achieved nothing but suffered heavy losses physically and economically. The casualties are counted to at least 60,000 people and financial loss of more than a $100 billion in supporting what Bush began. But here is to admit the ugly truth that many of Al-Qaeda biggies were caught from Pakistan including the big bad news, Osama Bin Laden. After all these years of hiding, where was he finally found? In Abbottabad! In a compound which was located less than a mile from the Pakistan Military Academy. And Abbottabad is hardly one hundred kilometers away from the capital. More to the embarrassing mess, according to Bin Laden’s wife, he was living or hiding in that compound for five years! Oh boy oh boy oh boy!

(I will additionally recommend the readers to read a very interesting article from the mid-2007 issue of Foreign Affairs, A False Choice In Pakistan by Daniel Markey focusing on post 9/11, War on Terror and policy/relation with Pakistan and Pakistan’s internal issues and conflicts, even dangerously doubting on them if they are the trusted allies of the US.

Also, check another detailed report from the directory of the Federation of American Scientists about the political instability of Pakistan by Alan Kronstadt. This research was published in 2014.)

Pakistan’s further stress towards the motion of building or shaping a political harmony is their relationship with Saudi Arabia and Iran. After decades of the brotherhood with Saudia, Pakistan is observed to be inclined more towards Iran in the recent times. Back in 2015, when the Kingdom called for the military support in the Yemen fight against the Houthis, Pakistan declined to support giving the impression that Iran was backing Pakistan for this. The Houthi rebels are the movement of conflict with the Zaidi ideology of the Shia sect heavily backed financially and militarily by the Iranian government. As per the 2012 report from the US official site, most of Yemen’s 35% Shia population is of Zaidi sect.

Pakistan under the new leadership also has to make an impression with the other Muslim countries that they are not dealing with the devils especially after signing billion dollars energy deals with Qatar and Russia. 5 Arab countries broke the ties with Qatar last year but Pakistan made an agreement with them before in late 2015 worth $16b to provide Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) for the next 15 years. With Russia, Pakistan made an agreement of constructing Karachi-Lahore pipeline for the LNG transportation worth $2b also in 2015 and before this agreement, both Pakistan and Russia had signed a defense cooperation deal in late 2014 with Sergey Shoygu becoming the first Russian defense minister to visit Pakistan since 1969. This energy deal was also the countries’ first in 30 years. Knowing the fact that Iran and Russia both were backing Bashar al-Assad in the war crimes against his own people, Pakistan still went for it. From September 2015 onwards, Russia began heavily bombing in Syria.

Pakistan being a Sunni-dominated country has a 20% Shia population which disembarks them from the ground neutralities. The country would have to be someone’s proxy in the unwanted war. When Saudi Arabia launched Islamic Military Alliance (IMA) in December that year, 34 countries were involved which stretched to 41 later. All the participating countries were Sunni-dominated countries including Pakistan. With that understanding, all the Shia-dominating countries including Iran were not the part of it. To avoid the situation get worse, Pakistan hosted Iranian president Hassan Rouhani after a few months to reassure that Tehran is not an anti-Shia body. Saudia later on appointed the-then retiring Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Raheel Sharif as the commander of the IMA.

(NATIONAL)

With Pakistan already suffering from the international politics, the country lost its accountability in the province of Balochistan. The insurgency by the Baloch Nationalists against the government is decades old but the recent phase of the growing tensions began from 2005 when Shazia Khalid was raped at the Sui Gas facility. It is widely believed that she was raped by an army officer but when Parvez Musharraf declared on the state channel that the culprit in the army uniform is not guilty, Nawab Bugti led the violent uprising. Years passed but the fight didn’t stop.

Besides, a ruinous political unrest was witnessed in past few years. The Model Town Tragedy of 2014 badly affected the reputation of the governing body with the police killing several Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) protestors. Media broadcasters aired the shocking footages of a vandal, Gullu Butt, smashing windscreens of many parked vehicles by using a club and strangely leading the police squad attack the protestors. Furthermore, he was seen hugged by Tariq Aziz, SP of the same area. Butt was later arrested and then bailed out prompting heavy condemnation of both PAT and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Tariq Aziz was later promoted as SSP Discipline and Inquiry in Lahore police HQ after Butt was bailed out. The-then Law Minister of Punjab, Rana Sanaullah, defended the police operation.

On the other hand, after no response from the government on the demand of probe of election fraud in four constituencies for 14 months and no response from the supreme court despite fraud allegation from the additional secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan Afzal Khan, Imran Khan accused Nawaz Sharif of rigged elections and led a massive anti-government protest called Azadi March beginning from 14th Aug to the next 126 days. The slogan ‘Go Nawaz Go‘ went popular nationwide and among the Pakistani communities living across the globe from this event. But the use of this slogan dropped many cents of morality among the few anti-government lobbies that some of the pilgrims from Pakistan chanted the slogan during the pilgrimage and in the two holy cities.

THE DISTURBED GEOGRAPHY

Pakistan being one of the most insecure geographical places for the outsiders and one of the suffering regions by terrorism, met severe tragedies in the last few years indicating that the country has been under alarming target by the terrorist organizations. Among the few to mention and reflect the level of security crisis; Karachi airport was attacked by 10 militants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and 36 people were killed back in 2014. Imagine the security situation of Pakistan’s other domestic and international airports when the country’s largest and busiest airport met this unfortunate event!

Sectarian clashes in the country have met tremendous hatred and grown concerns despite reinstating brotherhood for umpteenth times. The Afghan gunmen from Jundallah killed at least 45 Ismaili Shia passengers during open firing inside the bus in Karachi in 2015.

The shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar has been one of the most significant historic sites where a million visitors show up every year. Last year, a suicide attack (believed to be orchestrated by ISIL) killed at least 90 people and injured 300 others during the Sufi ritual after the evening prayer.

Months later, a series of terror attacks by ISIL and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar resulted in 96 casualties collectively in three different cities on the same day. In 2016, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar were also responsible for killing at least 75 and injuring more than 300 people in Lahore’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park. The motive behind this terrorism was to kill the Christians who were celebrating Catholic Easter on that very day.

But the biggest tragedy amongst all the terror attacks was the Peshawar School Massacre when six gunmen affiliated with Tehrik-I-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attacked the Army Public School by open firing on the school staff and children between the age range of 8 and 18. 149 people including 132 school children were killed that day becoming the world’s fourth deadliest school massacre ever. This event ripped me because this fact just couldn’t accept digest me or accept my mind that a terrorist can open fire on children. I wish the murderers rot in hell, Amen.

DIGGING KUFR

Safeguarding the minority community has also been the talking point in Pakistan especially after the War on Terror. Also, the minorities have been socially ill-treated and there have been cases of church attacks, burning temples and killing them.

Minorities, who comprised 23% of Pakistan’s population back in 1947 which has now dropped to 4% in recent years, have been in remote position due to non-acceptance, unrecognition or intolerance by the Muslims in the surroundings everywhere. The case of the non-Muslim communities of both Hindu and Christian faith are highly sensitive. The Hindus in Pakistan in the early 90s had to suffer the wrath after the historic Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, India was demolished by a large group of Hindu Kar Sevaks in 1992. In retaliation, more than two dozen temples were destroyed in one single day in Pakistan. Hardly two dozen of the temples for the Hindus remain in the country.

The Christian community has also suffered a series of setbacks in recent years. Over 40 houses and a church were set ablaze by the mobs in Gojra back in 2009. But a few months before the 2013 general elections, a twin suicide-bomb blast killed over 100 people and almost 250 injured at All Saints Church in Peshawar. Two years later, Lahore witnessed a bombing each at two different churches on the same day killing at least 15 people.

The case of the Ahmadi community is also very sensitive and plasters a dark and controversial image in Pakistan. Unnecessary to detail them but the community who were the advocates of Pakistan Movement, who supported Jinnah’s Muslim League for the establishment of a new Islamic state, who were one of the most prosperous and educated people after the independence, were victimized and targeted of their beliefs and killed in heavy numbers in 1953 and 1974. 2013 onwards, numerous events have crossed of their deaths. If the transgender can get their rights, why not Ahmadis? Because of their belief? As Imran Khan has given his support to the blasphemy law but the treatment of Ahmadis in the new hands of changing politics will be a sensitive observation.

RAPES AND HONOR KILLINGS

No nation can progress whose government is not able to protect and safeguard the women and children. This decade has met unfortunate events of honor killings and rapes, most of these occurring in the Punjab province. More than 70% of violence against women in Pakistan in 2014 occurred in Punjab with almost 30% increase in the cases registered Punjab as compared to those registered in 2013. In 2015, 1100 women were murdered in the name of honor. The Human Right Commission of Pakistan has listed more than 450 cases in 2017.

Alas, honor killings, unfortunately, is a tradition in Pakistan running for centuries. Elders of the family actually kill their women if she doesn’t obey and accept the marriage proposals, or find her speaking to a man, or committed with someone. There have been so many cases. I was shell-shocked when, in 2008, the three teenagers were buried alive by their Umrani tribe for choosing their own husbands, the politician Israr Ullah Zehri defended the honor killings in an open national parliament and willed to continue.

Most of the rape cases came to the attention from the rural areas where the local village council itself ordered the women to be raped. Yes, you read it right, rape order direct from the council. What eats my brain is that why and how the village cases have not come under scrutiny, why the women in rural areas are still the targets of rapes and honor killings? Four years ago, one village council ordered the gang rape in Muzaffargarh district, that was the very district where Bibi Mukhtaran was gang-raped back in 2002. So what changed there? Nothing.

January of this year observed a few rape cases of under 18, the most infamous being Zainab Ansari’s rape and death who was only 6 or 7 years old. A 3-year-old girl, Asma, was raped and murdered in Mardan.

With the ruling parties changing in the National and Punjab Assembly, many human rights organizations will have a careful observation on the number of cases reported, registered and the treatment towards the women and children during this tenure.

(Sincerely thanks for reading. This blog will be continued in the next and final part publishing soon.)

MY BOLLYWOOD’S BEST OF 2017

Alright, the time has neatly arrived to speak about the Hindi films released in the year 2017. Starting from 2015, I am yearly publishing my report through my blog about the best things happened in the Hindi cinema. My yearly season of watching Hindi films arrives every last quarter of the year. I pick some films from the list of year wide releases in which I find potential, watch, write a review and place the films in different categories where I believe the project was good for certain aspects.

I am delighted to observe a slight change in waves at some parallel lines which were drawn to follow and focus on mainstream entertainment. There do are numerous films which offer its viewers to enjoy the rollercoaster. But in a few years, the content of creativity and understanding the characterization and principles of filmmaking and visual cinematic presentation has changed. Viewers show interest and are excited to accept change but that innovation is and will increase by a minor percentage. The quality of filmmaking has changed, not because of the cameras but due to the producers offering talented filmmakers and people from other cinematic professions a chance to show their creativity. Films are recognized abroad in the different film festivals. Actors like Manav Kaul, Pankaj Tripathi, Rajkummar Rao, Radhika Apte, Seema Pahwa, Swara Bhaskar, and Sanjay Mishra are achieving recognition from the majority of viewers. These names were hardly believed to be discussed or remembered a few years ago.

From scores of releases, I picked only 28 films for watching and some other films, in addition, to listen to some tracks which did justice to the musical department and to my ears. Millions of people have their opinions, I have mine strictly on the bases of my observation, judgment and understanding as a film critic. No, I do not write for magazines or newspapers as a critic or writer because when most of the companies pay you, you are expected to pass the review to keep everyone happy. Blogging is freedom and before I proceed, let me forward to you my same work on Bollywood’s best in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Like before, I will segregate the categories into three different sections i.e., musical (5), technical (10), and major section (6). In most of the categories, I will brief a small explanation where I find necessary. In most of the categories, I will also make some honorable mentions which are the individuals or the films deserve to be counted among the best.

This is to inform you that the list of 21 categories from the 3 sections is created and presented from my selection and observing the following films released in India in 2017:

Phillauri, Haraamkhor, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Hindi Medium, Anaarkali Of Aarah, Mantostaan, OK Jaanu, Lipstick Under My Burkha, Poorna, A Death In The Gunj, Indu Sarkar, Daddy, Simran, Mom, Mukti Bhawan, Sarkar 3, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, Trapped, Fukrey Returns, Newton, Jolly LLB 2, Tumhari Sulu, Chef, Ittefaq, Rukh, Ajji, Secret Superstar, and Gurgaon.

The above-mentioned films which miss all the recognitions below are to be believed that those films didn’t live up to my expectations. Also for your reading, let me clarify that the films are not ranked in ‘Other Notable Works’.

Besides the films I have picked above, I have a special regret of missing the following films which I was not able to watch due to lack of availability or availability in extremely low video/audio quality:

Kadvi Hawa, Dear Maya, Dobaara, G Kutta Se, Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, and Ribbon 


MUSICAL SECTION

BEST BACKGROUND SCORE

TAJDAR JUNAID (MUKTI BHAWAN)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Raghu Dixit(Chef)
  2. Hitesh Modak(Simran)
  3. SajidWajid(Daddy)
  4. Mangesh Dhakde(Lipstick Under My Burkha)
  5. Sameer Uddin(Phillauri)
  6. A.R.Rahman(OK Jaanu)

BEST FEMALE PLAYBACK SINGER

MEGHNA MISHRA (NACHDI PHIRA – SECRET SUPERSTAR)

There were not enough impressive singing to my ear to the tracks I listened to. But this Nachdi Phiraan came as a surprise. I first felt if Zaira Wasim was really singing in the studio but then I found out that she was another 17yo like Zaira whose voice perfectly fitted in her. What a phenomenal singing by this young girl. It is all magic when she raises her voice from Tere Ishq Da Chola Pehen Ke. Meghna Mishra is a new singing sensation with a lot of promises.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Rekha Bhardwaj (Saat Rangon Se – Dear Maya)
  2. Ronkini Gupta (Rafu – Tumhari Sulu)
  3. Jasleen Royal (Din Shagna Da – Phillauri)

BEST MALE PLAYBACK SINGER

ARKO (NAZM NAZM – BAREILLY KI BARFI)

This is the first time I have heard Arko’s voice. I was actually not aware of his past contribution. I am informed by my brother that he was behind the composition of most of Jism 2’s tracks. Coming back to Nazm Nazm, what impresses me is his distinctive voice sung on his own lyrics and composition which gives the listener a real feel. Also, this song reminds the 90sh typical fall-in-love tracks. 

Other Notable Works:

  1. Arijit Singh (Phir Bhi Tumko ChahungaHalf Girlfriend)
  2. Atif Aslam (Main AgarTubelight)
  3. Jubin Nautiyal (Bawara Mann – Jolly LLB 2)

BEST SONG & LYRICS

DIN SHAGNA DA (JASLEEN ROYAL/NEERAJ RAJAWAT – PHILLAURI)

There were dozens of impressive tracks and was pretty hard to decide my favourite from 2017.  Many tracks build different variations of moods. So why Din Shagna Da? Because of an extreme simplicity of its being a wedding ballad blended with Jasleen’s addition to grand piano and guitar in a typical Punjabi wedding score.

Lyrics are simple and so realistic. Makes you imagine a young bride singing for her soon-to-be husband before the wedlock. And then, Jasleen Royal’s voice does the perfection of bringing a beautiful and utopian imagery of your beloved in her bridal dress.

Din Shagna Da has to be the best wedding track after Mehndi Hay Rachne Wali from Zubeidaa.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Bawara Mann (Jubin Nautiyal/Neeti Mohan/Junaid Wasi/Chirantan Bhatt – Jolly LLB 2)
  2. Main Agar (Atif Aslam/Amitabh Bhattacharya/Pritam – Tubelight)
  3. Nachdi Phira (Meghna Mishra/Kausar Munir/Amit Trivedi – Secret Superstar)
  4. Nazm Nazm (Arko – Bareilly Ki Barfi)
  5. Jee Lein (Arjun Chandy/Neeti Mohan/Savithri R Prithvi/Gulzar/A.R.Rahman – OK Jaanu)

BEST MUSIC

RAGHU DIXIT (CHEF)

What is counted in ‘Best Music’? For me, it is the quality of Music. Almost all the tracks are relaxing, smooth and tempo builder. Khoya Khoya and Tere Mere are the toppers amongst all the tracks. Raghu Dixit’s contribution moves you and the story together and I honestly believe he deserves the credit as his hard work went pretty unnoticed in the mainstream media. I am not doing any favour but as compared to the other films, I find his tracks for Chef far better than the other notable works which are:

  1. A.R.Rahman (OK Jaanu)
  2. Tanishk-Vayu (Shubh Mangal Saavdhan)
  3. Sashwat Sachdev & Jasleen Royal (Phillauri)
  4. Amit Trivedi (Secret Superstar)

TECHNICAL SECTION

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

RUPA CHOURASIA (ANAARKALI OF AARAH)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Veera Kapur (Phillauri)
  2. Rohit Chaturvedi (Lipstick Under My Burkha)
  3. Nidhi Gambhir & Divya Gambhir (Daddy)
  4. Shruti Wadetiwar (Mukti Bhawan)
  5. Sachin Lovalekar (Ajji)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

SHAMIM KHAN, SIKANDAR AHMAD & TIYA TEJPAL (AJJI)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Meenal Agarwal (Phillauri)
  2. Vikram Singh (Lipstick Under My Burkha)
  3. Parul Sondh (Daddy)
  4. Avyakta Kapur (Mukti Bhawan)

BEST SOUND DESIGN

UDIT DUSEJA (DADDY)

Other Notable Work: Anish John (Trapped)

BEST EDITING

A. SREEKAR PRASAD (HINDI MEDIUM)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Charu Shree Roy (Lipstick Under My Burkha)
  2. Manas Mittal (Mukti Bhawan)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

MICHAEL MCSWEENEY & DAVID HUWILER (MUKTI BHAWAN)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Jishnu Bhattacharjee (Ajji)
  2. Sirsha Ray (A Death In The Gunj)

BEST ACTION

SHAM KAUSHAL (DADDY)

BEST STORY

ALANKRITA SHRIVASTAVA (LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA)

To be honest, it was a tough call. I actually picked Anvita Dutt‘s Phillauri and wrote one paragraph in reasoning why the story of Phillauri was the best. But then I stopped myself and looked towards other potential stories I watched.

In my other picks, there is Saket Chaudhary‘s Hindi Medium which shows in a funny way how much effort do the parents make to send their children to a better educational institution. Then there is Atanu Mukherjee‘s Rukh which speaks about a teenager who lost his father in a road accident refusing to believe if that was an accident or a murder. Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, written by Garima-Siddharth, raised the issue of having no toilet and emphasized on the eradication of open defecation. Mukti Bhawan, penned by Shubhashish Buthiani, was about a son helping his father to live his last few days to the holy city of Varanasi.

Then I made up my mind that the story has to be bolder with a brave message. Lipstick Under My Burkha surpasses the definition of being the best story.  The film speaks about the compromised social lives of four women of different ages and statuses from the same society living in Bhopal. Being centered on feminism, the story splendidly executes and handles the issues of different women whether they are right or wrong. 

BEST SCREENPLAY

ZEENAT LAKHANI (HINDI MEDIUM)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Shlok Sharma (Haraamkhor)
  2. Alankrita Shrivastava (Lipstick Under My Burkha)
  3. Arjun Rampal & Ashim Ahluwalia (Daddy)
  4. Akash Mohimen & Atanu Mukherjee (Rukh)
  5. Mani Ratnam (OK Jaanu)

BEST DIALOGUES

GAZAL DHALIWAL (LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA)

Yes, that book in Buaji’s hand is one major reason but I am not aware if that fictional book is fictional to the plot. But the dialogues overall are lively and rich to reality. Gazal Dhaliwal had the audacity to speak out in different characters. All four leading ladies had their needs and lipstick was an important factor. Her dialogues give the space and importance to each of them. 

Other Notable Works:

  1. Shlok Sharma (Haraamkhor)
  2. Anvita Dutt (Phillauri)
  3. Asad Hussain (Mukti Bhawan)
  4. Gulzar (OK Jaanu)

BEST SCENE

BUAJI EXPOSED!! (LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA)

It is emotionally a disturbing and morally a humiliating scene to watch Ratna Pathak’s Buaji character exposing to the truth in front of the whole neighbourhood. It was like a human who has never revealed his/her entire arm is stripped naked. The scene’s excellence of emotional decline should be credited to Alankrita who does a fantastic job in bringing the four ladies and their stories together at a point where they need the support of each other. It was predictable that the truth about Buaji will come someday to everyone’s attention but it is the beauty of the direction how she breaks the spine of her utopian escapism. Only an artist like Ratna can superbly handle that scene.

Other Notable Scenes:

  1. Breaking Toilet on Pandit’s Command (Toilet: Ek Prem Katha)
  2. Sridevi’s Breakdown in Hospital (Mom)
  3. Spirits’ Reunion (Phillauri)
  4. Shutu’s Suicide (A Death In The Gunj)
  5. Father-Son Crying and Apologizing (Mukti Bhawan)
  6. Sulu’s Heated Argument with Entire Family (Tumhari Sulu)
  7. Police Interrogating Manda’s Family (Ajji)

MAJOR SECTION

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

PANKAJ TRIPATHI (NEWTON)

After so many impressive side roles in recent years, Pankaj has developed his acting finesse in 2017. This has been his most fruitful year with severe critical acclaim with the role in Newton the most to treasure.

Pankaj plays a cynical Assistant Commandant in a Naxal-controlled town. Newton is a Rajkummar-Pankaj show and Pankaj’s character weight is what Rajkummar’s keep on pulling all this time. They have assigned jobs but are completely opposite to commitments. In the whole film, it is hard to understand if Pankaj plays a helpful or a painful role to Rajkummar. 

Other Notable Works:

  1. Sudhir Pandey (Toilet: Ek Prem Katha)
  2. Mohd Samad (Haraamkhor)
  3. Deepak Dobriyal (Hindi Medium)
  4. Adil Hussain (Mukti Bhawan)
  5. Manav Kaul (Tumhari Sulu)
  6. Anu Kapoor (Jolly LLB 2)
  7. Raj Arjun (Secret Superstar)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

RATNA PATHAK (LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA)

Yes. LUMB again. Ratna again. Her acting in Buaji character compels me to ignore the other contenders from the list of top performers in this category. I recognized her performance last year in the same category for Kapoor & Sons.

An impressive part of LUMB is that there is no leading character. The plot is so thick that all leading characters support each other, exactly like Kapoor & Sons. What impresses me about Ratna is her adapting any role in a supreme harmony. It doesn’t matter what you are asked, you are a veteran and versatile artist to subdue the character weight. 

When she narrates the erotic novel, she makes me forget Rekha’s voice. Her Rosy avatar completely changes your perception about her being Buaji. It was a phenomenal performance.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Anushka Sharma (Phillauri)
  2. Sajal Ali (Mom)
  3. Neha Dhupia (Tumhari Sulu)
  4. Meher Vij (Secret Superstar)

BEST ACTOR

RAJKUMMAR RAO (TRAPPED)

Seriously, who else? Who else can be the best leading male performer than Rajkummar Rao?. And what else will it take to win the Best Actor award in a Filmfare function? For the fourth consecutive year, the best male leading performer of the year was not even nominated in the category of Best Actor! Sanjay Mishra for Ankhon Dekhi in 2014, Nawazuddin Siddiqui for Manjhi in 2015, Manoj Bajpayee for Aligarh in 2016, and now this. Absolutely shocking!

Coming back to Rajkummar, his efforts and commitments to the role are commendable. Bein a vegan, he actually eats meat in some of the scenes for the first time in his life. A big thumbs up! This guy goes to a strict carrot diet and drinks coffee for more than 16 days to show the emotional and physical decline of a healthy man. This effort helps Rajkummar to define urban loneliness in the character because he is new to Mumbai.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Irrfan Khan (Hindi Medium)
  2. Vikrant Massey (A Death In The Gunj)
  3. Lalit Behl (Mukti Bhawan)
  4. Adarsh Gourav (Rukh)
  5. Arjun Rampal (Daddy)

BEST ACTRESS

ZAIRA WASIM (SECRET SUPERSTAR)

In the Indian cinema, typically the most popular industry which is Hindi cinema, what do the viewers expect from a teenage newcomer in the line of professional acting? Yes, there may be promises but we will expect a young boy or a girl to struggle in front of the camera, try to balance the body language and dialogues together. Right? 

Zaira Wasim was 16 when worked in Dangal with Aamir Khan. Next year, he gave her another opportunity to exploit her acting talent. And this time she has astonished me in Secret Superstar. It is nearly impossible at 17 years of age to be so mature and well adhered to the character and its details. Yes, she is a teenager playing a teenager but acting that well in front of the camera is some achievement.

Zaira plays the title role who isn’t being the princess in the film but a dreamer who is surrendered with a very disturbing domestic life. Her facial performance and emotional fluctuation are marvellous. How real it looks when she acts in the song ‘Nachdi Phira’, that scene can make anyone admit if she really was singing. How tempestuous when she argues with father before he beats, or when she refuses to go abroad.

If this incredible newcomer continues to perform like this with consistency, then she is one massive name in the making. 

Other Notable Works:

  1. Shweta Tripathi (Haraamkhor)
  2. Swara Bhaskar (Anaarkali Of Aarah)
  3. Kirti Kulhari (Indu Sarkar)
  4. Saba Qamar (Hindi Medium)
  5. Kangana Ranaut (Simran)
  6. Sridevi (Mom)
  7. Vidya Balan (Tumhari Sulu)
  8. Sushama Deshpande (Ajji)

BEST DIRECTOR

DEVASHISH MAKHIJA (AJJI)

Aye. Brilliant mind on the director’s chair do his/her work different from others and that is how the filmmaking is exemplified. Ajji is about a ten-year-old girl Manda who is brutally raped before being found by her grandma, Ajji. When the culprit is found to be the son of a politician, everyone in the family goes silent but Ajji.

One of the simplest stories is stretched to a lengthy 103 minutes. But why too lengthy? The answer lies in a terrific direction by Devashish Makhija. In 103 minutes, the director settles the minds of the viewers by taking the parallels of the slums from different angles. He shows the lowest standard of the rapist and tortures your observation for almost 15 minutes to make you believe how far can they go from being sober.

The director never discards in presenting a slum life as the deepest detail is very decorated on the camera, take a keen observation of childish drawings on the wall, dust fixed on the mirror, blinking tube lights, or holes in the shirt of the butcher.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Konkona Sen Sharma (A Death In The Gunj)
  2. Ashim Ahluwalia (Daddy)
  3. Shubhashish Bhutiani (Mukti Bhawan)
  4. Alankrita Shrivastava (Lipstick Under My Burkha)

BEST FILM

MUKTI BHAWAN

 

Daya (Lalit Behl) in his late 70s is believing that he is about to die soon and wishes to go to the holy city of Varanasi to attain salvation. His son, Rajiv (Adil Hussain), accompanies him and leaves his family behind to travel and stay with his stubborn father at the desired place.

Mukti Bhawan is that one film which happens once in several years. Technically, this is one of the most gifted films to the Hindi cinema with every department giving you the highest quality job. A fascinating cinematography capturing the heart of Varanasi, the city of Lord Shiva.

Tajdar-Junaid’s soothing background score helps to build the tempo. Production and costume designs give severe originality to the screenplay. The rest lies in a spectacular direction which subjects on one of the best father-son onscreen chemistry ever picturized. Dialogues are very lively and the whole filmmaking is so charismatic.

So many scenes buy your attention like Daya-Rajiv crying, family posing a joyous funeral as wished, Rajiv’s internet chat with family on a weak signal, Rajiv observing final rites of cremation, etc.

Mukti Bhawan’s richest essence is the translation of human emotions and complexities, fluctuation of rage and inability of understanding the generation gaps and its harsh realities. Hard to believe that this gem is directed by a debutant (Shubhashish Bhutiani) who is only 26 years old. Surely a filmmaking prodigy in the development.

Overall, Mukti Bhawan is indisputably the best Hindi film of 2017.

Other Best Films:

  1. Hindi Medium
  2. Daddy
  3. Rukh
  4. Ajji
  5. Phillauri
  6. Lipstick Under My Burkha

Please share your views about my selections. Write your opinions in the comments below. Let me know if you don’t agree and explain your reasons.

Here, I conclude my special report about the best of Bollywood in 2017. I will be back next year with the same reporting for the year 2018. Thank you for reading. 

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SRIDEVI – THE ART, THE CHARISMA (LAST PART)

(This blog is the second and last part of my eulogy on Sridevi who died in February. Before beginning to read the sequel, I suggest reading the first part here.)

In the previous blog, I gave tribute to Sridevi by highlighting some of her memorable roles/films. In this part, I am writing some segments about her prominence and recognition towards a successful career. I am focusing on some of the factors which made Sridevi one of the greatest stars ever produced in India. What makes us remember her for ages? I will do my best to give my observation a fair justice to her name and legacy.

ACTRESS ACCEPTED WITH HUMOUR

Generally, when it comes to comedy, you do not expect from women to take that stand as comedy has been widely a man’s profession from the black and white era till now. Notably, in the Indian cinema whose history now stretches to over a century, the comedian remains the comedian all his/her life and doesn’t take the centre stage to lead the film. The concept of hero/heroine in Indian cinema among the leading actors has been running for decades where the man is the lover, the fighter, and may add humour in some portion of his role but the Indian cinematic culture is so that it will be very odd to see the leading lady with the comic recipe.

Some actresses did pull a comic show in their careers but that was to a limit. The leading actresses would prefer to stay as the heroine of her hero in the entire film, dance with him, sing and romanticize the script. The humour part was for the supporting actors both male and female who may play a role in bringing the lovebirds closer. Anyhow, most of the scripts didn’t encourage the leading actress to be funny.

Sridevi is someone whose slapsticks went recognized and acceptable to the audience. The best examples are Chaalbaaz and Mr India. In the latter, Sridevi pulled a famous Charlie Chaplin sequence of almost eight minutes. I am mentally not going to accept if any leading actress could perform comedy that long in those times. She did set the standards among the leading actresses to perform comedy as the lead heroine of the film. The trend continued and was successfully followed by Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla and Karishma Kapoor.

NAGIN DANCE

This is one for the ages. Because there are a very few moments in the Indian cinema when the film topped the box office majorly because of one particular dance number.

Two years before Madhuri’s Ek Do Teen in Tezaab, Sridevi’s Main Teri Dushman in Nagina happened. Both were choreographed by Saroj Khan. Easily one of the most scintillating performances by the leading actress in any video song in any Indian film. Sridevi’s incredible and unparallel performance is the biggest reason why the main cobra theme of the song Main Teri Dushman became a blockbuster hit and is still remembered due to an obvious reason. From comedy to seriousness, Sridevi was a blessed talent. Forget what I wrote above about her comedic timing and performances because this number was completely opposite to the above mentioned.

Sridevi’s facial expressions and the rage on her round face with a display of large scary eyes graced the song. The striking of evil in her behind the closed doors seeks the attention. Her body language in the song cannot be explained, in simple words, there can be no challenge to the other leading actresses to do what she did. Her dancing confidence in the songs was always unmatched but here, she was sensational. Note the moment when she is called. She fixes her eyes on Amrish Puri and looks nowhere. She runs down the stairs in her dance without looking down. This is not so easy. Obviously, a plenty of rehearsals were done before the final shot but then I question to myself, how many takes did she perfect running down the stairs without looking down while dancing. 

FILM ICON IN AN UNFAMILIAR LANGUAGE

This point will recognize Sridevi’s legacy that it was constructed on her verbal intuition. This is an undeniable fact that Sridevi was from Tami Nadu and became the icon of the Indian film industry by working in Hindi-language films with a domination which is not the case with many of the leading actors in the Hindi cinema. And Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth cannot be included in this kind of achievement. They did enter Hindi cinema and worked in dozens of films but their legacy is limited to working in the films of non-Hindi language.

Her direct rival was Madhuri Dixit and she was a Maharashtrian. The only leading actress who shared the domination with her in the 80s was Jaya Prada. Sridevi maintained her remarkable stardom in Tamil and Telugu film industries for at least two decades during the period of entering in the Hindi language film industry.

Sridevi’s massive verbal acting struggle was so exhausting that she didn’t dub her voice in the early phase of her Hindi-films career. Yesteryear actress, Kumari Naaz, used to dub in many of her films for a decade. It is cruel that the Hindi voice used on Sridevi in her early career went so badly unrecognized. Rekha famously dubbed Sridevi’s voice in Akhree Raasta. Sridevi dubbed her own voice for the first time in Chandni. Imagine, many many Hindi hit films happened before Chandni. 

ACCEPTING CHALLENGING ROLES AT A YOUNG AGE

And when I say young age, I mean it. She was a child artist who began her career at the age of 4. But it was the Malayalam film, Poompatta, where she gave a promising display at the age of 8. That remarkable crying scene stretched to almost a couple of minutes was a proof that she was born to do wonders.

The same year, she gave another top performance in Tamil film, Babu, as the adopted daughter of Shivaji Ganesan. The scene where Shivaji recognizes the untidy girl, that facial and physical performance is almost impossible to expect from an 8-year-old artist.

At 13, Sridevi did the unthinkable. She played the role of the-then 25 yo Rajinikanth’s stepmother.

Sridevi in her early teen was accepting adult roles and sensitive scenes like a molesting sequence in Priya at 15. I really am not aware of how, for an extremely young girl, were such scenes allowed to be performed. In 16 Vayathinile, Sridevi played the central role of a 16-year-old schoolgirl who wishes to become a teacher but her life is stuck between the two lovers. Sridevi was 14 when she played this leading role between Kamal Hassan and Rajinikanth. At 18, Sridevi starred in Moondram Pirai and played the role of a girl who suffered retrograde amnesia after a car accident. Convincing to say that Sridevi had built a potential experience to enter the Hindi cinema.

A DEDICATED ACTRESS

Three of her career trivia confirms that she was an example of pure dedication and professional commitment.

Gumrah is the only collaboration of Mahesh Bhatt and Sridevi. And there is no surprise that Mahesh Bhatt did some work on her acting because Sridevi’s mental language and timing were spectacular in the film. But last month, Star Plus released Mahesh Bhatt’s emotional tribute to Sridevi when he was speaking to the contestants of the program, “India’s Next Superstars Ki Paathshaala“.

Mahesh Bhatt explained to the contestants how dedicated Sridevi was. Bhatt informed them that the shooting of Gumrah was in its final phase when they had to shoot a scene in the water which involved Sridevi. Producer Yash Johar confirmed to him that she had a 102 something fever. Bhatt suggested to cancel the shooting that day but Sridevi didn’t accept the suggestion and gave her confirmation that she will give the shot. After sharing this experience, Bhatt broke the news of her death to the contestants.

Lamhe was the second and last collaboration between Yash Chopra and Sridevi. But a tragedy occurred in Sridevi’s life when during the shooting of the film in London, she lost her father. She could have requested a deserving short break from the producer but she displayed nobility of her profession. She flew back to India to pay her final respects to her father and returned to work after only 16 days to shoot a comedy sequence. This was revealed in an interview with Yash Chopra.

Chaalbaaz is a very popular film of the 80s and the biggest reason for the popularity of this film is that one song which became a sensational hit, “Na Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hay“. The song was shot in a studio with artificial rain heavily pouring down. The video of this song itself is 7 minutes of the screen time which is pretty insane by coming to our knowledge that while shooting this song, Sridevi had a fever of 103 degrees. Now I am not aware if Sridevi still had a fever in the released video song but her dedication to the work is admirable that with that fever, she performed and danced in so many takes. It was the magic of ill Sridevi which helped the song gets its share of being an unforgettable track and awarded choreographer Saroj Khan a Filmfare for Best Choreography for this song.


Sridevi was one of the few actresses who collaborated and shared the screen with many notable leading male actors like Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Ashok Kumar, Rajinikanth, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Kamal Haasan, Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan, and a few more.

Famous Indian film director, Shekhar Kapur, confirmed that the sequel of Mr India was on the cards in his emotional tribute on his Instagram account.

Kamal Hassan confirmed in his tribute that he and Sridevi collaborated in a film 27 times together. Kamal-Sridevi pair was the centre of attraction in the Tamil cinema of the 70s.

Ram Gopal Verma, in his extensive tribute on his Facebook notes, made shocking revelations about her disturbed life. He detailed broadly about her sufferings including a tragic death of her father and how her husband helped her in her worst crises.

Sridevi broke in tears while sending a video message to her Pakistani co-stars Adnan Siddiqui and Sajal Ali while the film was premiered in India without them.

Annu Kapoor, in his tribute, spoke the incident in the making of Mr India that when Sridevi’s mother demanded 9 lac rupees for the film, Boney Kapoor responded with the offer of 11 lac rupees.

The latest Academy Award ceremony included Sridevi and Shashi Kapoor in the memorium montage. Sridevi won a posthumous National Award for the Best Actress for Mom.

Sridevi is an art, Sridevi is a charisma. Hindi cinema is incomplete without Sridevi. A leading actress in India will never get that recognition and acceptation like her. Nowadays, a leading actress on her domination in the industry cannot be expected to attempt slapsticks. The culture has changed, the dressing sense in Indian film industry has changed and today’s actress will not wear a saree for a shot. Sadma cannot be repeated, Mr India cannot be repeated. ‘Na Jane Kahan Se Ayi Hai’ cannot bring that magic and if anyone dared to, then the leading actress won’t dance with the fever of 103.

Sridevi is the name of devotion. She is the example of the coming generations of this line of the profession should learn from. Leaving her legacy behind and making millions of her fans miss forever, Sridevi will remain one of the most important wax sculpture of the cinematic museum of India. Thank you, Mr Boney Kapoor, for assisting and supporting her when she needed the most. Thank you, K. Raghavendra Rao, for believing in Sridevi and making her superstar. Your dream of collaborating with her for the 25th time couldn’t meet the destiny but Sridevi accepted the offer in advance by considering it as an honour during Mom’s press meeting in Hyderabad. Thank you late Yash Chopra for gifting us Bollywood’s Chandni.

My words won’t meet a perfect tribute no matter how much I try because your beauty, your essence, your panache, your phenomenon is indescribable.

 

#MeToo And Meesha-Ali Scandal

I don’t follow what is happening in the world. Why? Because the happening is depressing and same old story repeats again and again. So why should I take the interest? Why should I bring enthusiasm when it is going to do nothing but deteriorate your health.

In 2018, an individual cannot have a positive mindset because of this reason, because of the existence of the system which doesn’t help you to live your own life at all and if he/she compromises and tries to bring a positive outcome or inspire others with a better suggestion, or present a better theory and opinion, then there is a ranting and hooting race of fellow humans who will behave as betrayed and offended and curse you without understanding your point.

Forget the value of the humans who dropped words of wisdom from their mouth to their disgust by mistake, I have seen commentators mocking and insulting your country, your religion, your prophets, your entire family and ancestors (to whom you may have never met), just because he/she didn’t agree with you. Aye, that is how indisposed the world has become.

So I am not a newspaper geezer but that source of alarming the happening is faster on the social media. Neither can I avoid social media nor can I keep my eyes away from the news. So how things are rolled up nowadays? Forget about the world authorities and supreme powers playing a Game of Thrones every day, we normal earthlings are also getting emotionally corrupted.

For some decades, sincerity and morality from the emotional aspects of human relations were diminishing at a vast speed thanks to the scientific advancements and inventions which were supposed to help the human race at all, but now we are the criminals of our own body. No not masturbation, readers! This is about a lot of things. For example, developing a sexual interest in the children or taking the matters of human sexes in the debate.

Man versus Woman, why? Blaming and criticizing their sexes, why? Both were supposed to cooperate each other. Both were supposed to enjoy each other’s company. Why the hatred? Are we in position to speak on the blame games? If we are, then will we humans justify the case?

A wave of feminism globally rose with a ‘Me Too‘ slogan and suddenly the MAN became a disease, a plague. And thanks to Harvey Weinstein, who helped this wave become a tsunami. But, with time, has feminism conveyed the message and shaped into their own betterment within the same society where this cruel MAN is existing? What is the science or theory of feminism on which a girl or a woman constructs her ideology or life?

Recently, a topic in Pakistan rose in the name of sexual harassment among the celebrities. On the 19th of April, Meesha Shafi announced on the social media that she has been sexually harassed by her colleague, Ali Zafar. With the announcement, Meesha hash-tagged Me Too, confirming that a woman has been abused by a man. Fair enough, that is one side of the story.

A few hours later, Ali Zafar responded on the social media by denying all the claims lodged against him. As expected, man and woman from all over the world responded with many different opinions. Some favoured Meesha, some Ali. Some blamed to both or any of the two while some criticized the urban life and liberty, and advised to follow Islamic teachings.

What ridiculed the issue lies in the state of the event occurred between the two. Many of us passed their opinions. Through this blog, let me try to speak/write some points related to this event because I am also free to pass my opinion.

A) The first thing we should understand in such a sensitive case is to recognize the fact that you and I know nothing at all what exactly happened between the two. So before any of us begin writing our opinion, we should not be judgmental on any of the two’s case. People tell their side of the story and we are nothing to them. So we don’t know if what they say on the social MEDIA is even half lie or true. Meesha says Ali harassed her but he denies. So between these statements, especially in the case of sexual harassments, we have to be careful because we are absolutely not aware. We have to be choosy in our literature while passing our opinion. Unless one in a thousand is the witness of such incident or a close friend or associate in a circle has more capacity to fill the accurate words or use authentic explanation about the issue.

B) I am not a woman but I realize the sensitivity of the subject she faced if it is true. Now, as a viewer, when I read Meesha’s message on the social media, the first thing I hope is that may Lord be with her IF she has been harassed but but but and another but, if she is harassed then why is she announcing to the world? If she has become a victim of sexual harassment, then knock the doors of the court of justice and file a case against the culprit. (I was writing soon after the posting of both the tweets). When you need justice, you do not announce to the world unless you really are stuck in some remote or highly restricted area that the authority doesn’t want to move you or raise your voice. But Meesha is a very famous celebrity and she is free to take action on a man in the court. Reaching to the social media will not help to solve the case but will boil the topic with no deserving conclusions. Sexes will part and take sides. Both men and women would either become joke taking on each other or will involve themselves in a meaningless argument wasting each other’s time. Most of the women will listen to Meesha’s message and shoulder her while men will deny like Ali as if the claims were lodged against him, not Ali. Both will pass jokes on each other, mock their existence, insult them of their being man or woman.

C) Now here is a turbulence of the situation where the denial of an assumed theory falters with the change of mind. The classes of urban life and the liberty of an individual’s mind and body are all fluctuating due to a dramatic turn. Sometimes it is the man whose strength and desire melts a woman, and sometimes it is the woman who diverges the world for a delusion or a false hope making her merry for a moment she spends with a man. Through the sensitive portions of the emotional bridges and ridges, both the sexes collapse and in confusion, the connection between the two damages in contusion. Either the man is no more willing to take a step ahead and accept the consequences or the woman is backing out and not letting herself sink into the ocean. And in both cases, the feeling of betrayal awakes.

The life of a celebrity around the world is pretty rich and broad in few cases. People freely accept each other’s company and there are different levels of acceptance towards your limits in such class. Some classes are so open, free and careless that man and woman here may sleep together and indulge in intercourse. And I am not talking the possibility of this occurrence between Meesha and Ali. I am just speaking generally that in a kind of global village or a social community you recognize your existence, you should also recognize and know your limits.

If any of the two were advancing their next move through their looks or giving a couple of secs focusing your retina on his/her lips, it is pretty obvious then. And if in the eleventh hour, any of the two decides to walk out then that is too embarrassing. Again, this is not about Meesha and Ali because I am not aware what happened between the two. This is just a general perception about a free society where men and women accept things.

D) What if and what if not? In both the cases, one of the names will fade, one of the careers will destroy, and one of the reputations will damage. Both have worked on international platforms and they are well-known figures. In personal life, both are married with two children.

The leaked video of the jamming session between Meesha and Ali shows nothing as both were at some distance. Not only this, Ali’s two ladies in his troupe, Aqsa Ali and Kanza Munir have expressed their support to him. Despite the fact that both are women, Aqsa and Kanza chose to defend Ali instead of Meesha which is pretty critical in a sexual harassment case.

If Ali is proven guilty of harassing her, Pakistan has their own version of Harvey Weinstein for a moment then. All male artists are on red alert. Many stories and claims will be leaking in near future. A very aggressive nation like Pakistan have already lost tolerance after the Zainab case and a high-profile name like Ali Zafar will become an ideal prisoner one would really like to hang.

But what if Ali is clean? What if what Meesha announced to the world was all lie? The consequences of the false case are very ravaging. If the court concludes the case in favour of Ali, then the biggest damage of the case will be the use of #MeToo, disrespecting a movement which globally helped the woman to make her voice recognize and significant. The global voice raised by the women to unite against the inequality and abuse of a man over a woman will lose the strength of delivering a powerful message. The slogan will be then corrupted. This will prove that the woman is intentionally using the power for a wrong reason and bringing bad to the objective because she knows that such statement (false or true) will lit a hellfire in the society, and due to misleading, most of the women in anger will beat him on the street.

If Meesha is wrong, then she will be brainwashing and manipulating millions of women globally. If Meesha is wrong, then the men in power will take the advantage of the lie and deceit. He will believe that the women who were globally raising their voice may also be lying about harassment in the past. Most of the men will think that speaking false about the man or making him culprit was and is in their nature.

Because this is what happens. When you have the power, there is a tremendous responsibility not to betray the power and the people. Because once the trust and reliability are damaged, they cannot be fixed. You can break someone’s heart in seconds but it will take years to fix, and some cases are infinite in time. The leader will be trusted by his/her followers but if the leader is found corrupted, those will curse him/her and face the consequences.    

And this is what the problem is. Look at Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. She won two Academy Awards for her documentaries based on honour killings and acid attacks on women but she thinks sending friendship request on the social media is a harassment. How on earth is this a harassment?

I am fully aware of this power called Feminism. But before playing this card, people should know the primary objective of Feminism? Feminism, in my opinion, is advocating woman’s basic rights when it comes to justice and equality. Correct me if I am wrong. By this definition, feminism applies in all the cases where the rights of woman are not implemented or if the woman has been physically abused in form of rape, sexual harassment, body-shaming, etc. Feminism also applies to woman’s rights over employment and electoral voting. If your agenda or objective is accurate and precise, everyone will be in favour of your movement. I support the word feminism and the slogan of hashtagged Me Too by the authentic definition and objective of feminism. But in the name of this movement, if the women are intentionally damaging the name and its objective, we will see a tremendous collapse of the society.

I hope this Meesha-Ali chapter ends soon. May the case rest with Meesha and Ali meeting their deserving fate and justice.

SRIDEVI – The Art, The Charisma (First Part)

The clock struck 12 and it was the 25th of February when I was driving the street and returning back to home after a dinner with my friend when my 19yo brother on Facebook questioned who Sridevi is. I obviously got the clue but for a couple of minutes, I just couldn’t believe that Sridevi, the queen of hearts, is no more.

Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit were the top-billed heroines of the Hindi cinema of the 80s and 90s. Both dominated the film industry, achieved marvellous success and numerous awards, and occupied the hearts of millions of fans around the world. Both were fabulous dancers and both had the quality and ability to compete with the leading male actors on box office by running the film on their own. The reason for stating this is because of the cinematic culture of India where the business of the film heavily depends on the leading male actor. These two unchallenged queens of divas never starred in a film together which speaks of an obvious professional rivalry.

My earliest memory of Sridevi is watching her in ChaalBaaz which I happened to watch on VHS. ChaalBaaz was the remake of Ramesh Sippy‘s Seeta Aur Geeta and Sridevi played a spectacular double-role. Later on, I watched dozens of films in which Sridevi starred like Mr. India, Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja, Janbaaz, Aakhree Raasta, Himmatwala, Joshilaay, Khuda Gawah, Laadlaa and many more.

It is hard for today’s generation to understand the hype of Sridevi’s demise and what she meant to the Indian cinema. Her contribution is stupendous. In honour of her memory and dedication to the Indian cinema, I began writing this eulogy for Sridevi, to whose beauty I am deeply gratified, after knowing about her demise. Let me try to highlight a few segments of her career.

16 VAYATHINILE

It has been forty years to P.Bharathiraja‘s classic 16 Vayathinile which starred Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, and 13-year-old Sridevi. The film was about a 16-year-old village girl who wishes to become a teacher but her life is stuck between the two lovers.

The emotional performance in 16 Vayanthinile was incredible. The scenes when her character Mayil is spotted by the rich doctor, or when the doctor takes his chance on her, and a few more scenes. It is very tough at 13 to play such emotional roles. Such a sensitive scene like Rajini’s rape attempt on her showed that the actress was daring and courageous enough to grab any given role.

MOONDRAM PIRAI/SADMA

It is surprisingly strange that in the Indian cinema, we hardly see the leading ladies taking a challenge of playing the character of a mentally or physically challenged woman. Tell at least three such roles in the next 10 seconds! Tough isn’t it? The best to our memory is Rani Mukerji/Ayesha Kapur in Black, Priyanka Chopra in Barfi, or Jaya Bachchan in Koshish.

Sridevi is among the very few leading actresses to have played such a tougher role and the obvious evidence is Balu Mahendra‘s Tamil film, Moondram Pirai and its Hindi version, Sadma (released a year later). Sridevi took months in the preparation for the role of a young girl who suffered retrograde amnesia after a car accident. It was her versatility at such a young age that she displayed a stunning performance straight from the scene when she opens her eyes and widens her big eyes to see two strange people standing in front of them who are actually her parents. While the parents try to comfort her, she is unable to recognize them.

From that scene until she recovers, her mental performance and body language were unbelievable. The way she observes the puppy dog and plays with it, the funny fight scene and saree scene with Somu (Kamal Haasan). Sadma was only her 2nd Hindi film but at 20, she already had established her name in Indian film industries of other languages.

Here, I must mention the name of Kamal Haasan, and praise and thank him for his contribution to the film. Because the characters of Kamal and Sridevi in the films were one of the most unusual pairings and their extraordinary performances helped the films to be remembered for decades. Balu’s direction and their onscreen presence aided the film to conclude at one of the most dramatic and emotional ends. I recommend the readers to read Subhash K. Jha’s excellent film review for the Indian Express. In my opinion, Moondram Pirai/Sadma were Sridevi’s best performances of her prestigious career.

MR. INDIA

Shekhar Kapur‘s Mr India was memorable for not one but many reasons. Count Amrish Puri‘s unforgettable villainous role of Mogambo, and Anil Kapoor‘s title role, but Sridevi was also a major factor in the film’s outstanding success for not one but at least three reasons.

One was her comic performance in the film at numerous occasion most memorably in that Charlie Chaplin sequence.

Then her performance in the song Hawa Hawaii, her slapsticks and moves. The song made singer Kavita Krishnamurthy a stellar.

Then another song, “I Love You“. Sridevi in a blue saree for me is still more sensual than nowadays skin shows. Although both Hawa Hawaii and I Love You were one of Sridevi’s biggest hit numbers of her career but the significance of the latter is the solo show in the entire six and a half minutes of the song. Sridevi here proved that the choreography of the song can run solely on a woman with the masculine voice in the background. Sridevi’s sex appeal in the song is still considered one of the hottest choreographies in the Hindi cinema. She was just out of the world.

CHANDNI/LAMHE

There had to be something in Yash Chopra‘s mind that after a series of back to back failures and below average performances of his films starting from Kaala Patthar to Vijay that he chose to cast Sridevi for the first time as the leading cast to play the title role of Chandni. Yash Chopra wanted to change the action era of the 80s by making a romantic film and announced Chandni.

Being a female-centric film, Sridevi proved to be the perfect girl to play Chandni one can imagine. If the blue saree in Mr India wasn’t enough to melt our hearts, comes white churidar and kurta with a leheriya dupatta which looked incredibly simple and beautiful on Sridevi.

Sridevi made Chandni a cult classic. The legacy is that the film inspired the women to buy the Chandni white dress in Chandni Chowk. Two famous numbers from Chandni graced Sridevi’s career.

One was ‘Mere Haathon Mein’ which became India’s most famous chooriyan (bangles) song.

And then the classical tandav dance number where she turned into some mythical Goddess again in the white dress. Sridevi looked some Venus in that dance sequence but then, when did she never looked Venus?

The moment in the song Mitwa when the flute begins to play Tere Mere Honton Pe and Sridevi releases herself from Rishi Kapoor‘s arms and begins stepping to dance slowly, it is so mesmerizing! It is like an angel of love has descended down to comfort our souls.

Two years later, when the action era in Bollywood continued to race furthermore years, Lamhe happened. Yash Chopra again cast Sridevi and this time for a double role. In my opinion, Lamhe wasn’t Sridevi’s finest works. Coming from a journey where she did Nagina, Mr.India, ChaalBaaz, and Chandni, Lamhe wasn’t that wow. Considering that she had done double roles before and if double-role has to be the criteria, then the forthcoming film Khuda Gawah was a way better double performance. Sridevi did win the Filmfare award for the Best Actress but she may have won that for many films she was nominated before and later. 

Versatile actress Manisha Koirala once stated in the interview that both Lamhe and Chandni were her dream roles.

GUMRAH

In the 90s, if there was any director who really worked and improvised on Sridevi’s acting, it was Mahesh Bhatt. Gumrah‘s Sridevi was pretty different from her previous works like her reaction to her ailing mother’s death. And when she is wrongly caught for cocaine in the airport, she has a powerful facial performance of dropping into a sudden ill fate. The way she loses herself in shock after the drugs are produced from the handbag and begin screaming her boyfriend’s name in confusion is a remarkable shot. Her prison fight scene for a key with a female prison ward shows how the innocent character can bring rage and go violent. Her emotional personification, complexity to the character, her timing were top notch. Gumrah was indeed one of Sridevi’s finest works.

ENGLISH VINGLISH

Gauri Shinde‘s debut film, English Vinglish, marked Sridevi’s first grand comeback in the Indian film cinema after 15 years. And the role she played was her testimonial to her dedication towards constructing her phenomena. Just like she entered the Hindi cinema with no fluency in the language, she played the character of a small entrepreneur who learns to speak English to gain self-respect among her family.

This film set a base for Sridevi as an introduction of yesteryear’s heroin in the second innings of her age. Playing a real character role in her late 40s and giving competition to the new faces. Sridevi became an institution to the new generation and taught the fluctuation of confidence. That test of her spiral benevolence was her attribute.

How dynamic is that restaurant scene when she levels up her confidence and courage to place her order in English resulting in the cashier losing her patience in unsuccessfully cooperating with her. Dropping of coins from shaking hands in tension, and accidentally hitting the other customer were very rich scenes. It was a flawless timing where Sridevi displayed some embarrassing moments of millions around the globe.

But Sridevi summarized her entire brilliance and translated her legacy in the final speech making the viewers think if Sridevi really had English issues in real life. The way she began the speech, tried to set the tone with some words, pushed herself to built confidence and gave tips to the bride in the most simplest English was so human and natural.

MOM

Her final leading performance and confirmed to be her 300th film by many sources. Mom is one of the most vibrant and unforgettable performances by Sridevi. She plays a stepmother who wants to win her stepdaughter, Arya. Arya is gang-raped, the family is broken and loses the case in the court against the culprits. So she musters her courage and wills to get her daughter justice.

The film will annoy the viewers with the fact that if the angel of death had not followed her for a while, Sridevi in her 50s would have done wonders and gracefully stretched her already 50-year acting career. Because many leading actresses, who earned their name and reputation in the cinema, either get married and retires or sparingly shows up in their 40s and 50s.

Besides the above picks, I imagine Sridevi’s domination would have been unmatchable if she would have worked in Beta, Darr, Baazigar, Mohabbatein, Baghban, and Baahubali when/if offered. Beta was a huge miss and her rival Madhuri took the centre stage with that Dhak Dhak number. Yash’s original choice for Darr was Sridevi but she refused. Abbas-Mastan planned to have Sridevi in a double role of twin sisters in Baazigar but then opted for Kajol/Shilpa to play those roles.

Sridevi’s lack of interest scrapped her character in Mohabbatein who was supposed to be Amitabh‘s love interest. Baahubali’s character of Sivagami played by Ramya Krishnan was first offered to Sridevi which she declined due to her commitment to the other project. But the mother of all misses is declining Steven Spielberg‘s offer to play a character in Jurassic Park. And her reason was that the role was small and unworthy of her star stature. Oh, my.

Thank you for reading. This is the conclusion of the first part of the tribute to Sridevi. Please wait for the second and final part. Will be posted soon.