Tuesday, December 21, 2004

the state of cable [Pune, December 22, 2004]

Just when I thought I could sample something on the cable channels in Pune. I have already given up on TV and cable in the US and restrict myself to planned uninterrupted movie sessions (no ads, no pan-and-scan). The state of the cable channels in Pune (point of reference: the cable channels my cablewaalaa offers) didn't fill me with any desire to kill the habit. The only things that I have managed to catch consistently are glimpses of B-movies (seen and unseen) and feeds from the different news channels (a good way to pass time is to catch errors in grammar and stylish gaffes in enunciation on the Hindi and English news channels). And I propose the addition of the phrase "Amitabh Bachchan" as a synonym for "commercial break". Every second commercial has him popping up spouting some catch phrases or breaking out into one of his classic poses. And all the "exclusive premieres" feature movies that have already received their share of viewing in the comfort of the living room abroad (Main Hoon Na, Kal Ho Naa Ho, Ab Tak Chhappan). Despite all the disappointment, there were a few silver streaks:

* Sajan starring Manoj Kumar and the irritating Asha Parekh with a slim-and-trim Shatrughan Sinha and a host of terrible familiars and unfamiliars. The plot is a classic Bollywood variant on the theme of Rashomon seasoned with the elements of a murder mystery. There's Om Prakash using shudh Hindi years before Chupke Chupke and a priceless couplet that goes: tum ho ##Queen##-a, mai.n huu.N ##King##-a, kyaa banogii ##Darling##.

* Mehndi, the other not-so-famous early Rani Mukherjee starrer, which features a host of loud screamers like Himani Shivpuri, a river of nameless zombie faces, and Joginder playing an inspector called Bheeshma, who seems destined to die at the hands of a hija.Daa. There are lots of ROTFL-friendly dialogue bits to brighten up the darkest hour.

* Anil Sharma's classic loud-fest Tehelka featuring a ton of famous actors indulging in unmentionable hamming excursions and greetings like "bom chik bom bom/long live Dong". Anu Malik deserves a pat on the back for creating the psychedelically hideous mess that is shom shom.

* Khalifa: The first RDB-scored forgotten flick in this list. All the pre- and post-commercial break slides on Star Gold insisted on calling the film kaafilaa (instead of Kalifaa). The premise and execution of this tale is sufficiently twisted to get it a few notches above the average dance/drama/action thriller involving separated twins. Randhir Kapoor plays the twins, one good, the other bad, and there's even a subtle counterpoint of upbringing and nature that presages the premise of Dharam Karam. The songs are fun, but (always IMHO) better heard than seen (except for the chuckles that Randhir's wild dancing[sic] can provide).

* Caught a shard of Basu Chatterjee's Dillagi starring Dharmendra and Hema Malini (hmm: Son Sunny was also involved in a film with the same name years later. Wonder how many other examples exist like this?)

* Kroadh: Early 90s angry-young-men-against-injustice flick most famous for the Amitabh Bachchan cameo singing na fanakaar tujh saa tere baad aayaa at ek shaam rafii ke naam. There are the usual low-on-accuracy-and-detail moments: Sanjay Dutt has a nightmare involving Sunny Deol's execution. Deol is dressed in prison garb (#145). Dutt wakes, screams in complaint, and then sets out running to the prison cell(note that there is no sign of any security anywhere) where Deol is taking a siesta dressed in the same outfit.

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