Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thoughts of a Middle-Aged Romantic


“When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a Valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I'd been out 'till quarter to three, would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?”

Is there romance after 30?
You’re thinking - isn’t the answer obvious? I mean, there is a time and place for everything, isn’t there, and if you haven’t found love when both the waist and the age are still under 30, then when? All the same, the question still passes through the mind like a restless breeze through the trees. And it is one that has haunted mankind since the dawn of time. Ever since the Neanderthal man first felt his bald spot and watched his fat, frowsy wife grumpily slap the breakfast fried brontosaurus eggs in front of him. Ever since the Hindi phillums chocolate box heroes of our yesteryears were sucking their middle-aged bellies in to play college kids long after they had celebrated their 40th birthday for the 5th time. And it’s what all those who cross over into the twilight zone of After-30 – and alas, we all will - sadly shake their heads, bite into their soggy bread pakora, sip their tepid tea and mutter to themselves…. “Is there romance after 30?”

Because, the thing is that just because the middle starts spreading, just because the only time love now figures in the conversation is when they’re talking about your love handles doesn’t mean that Ye Ole Dil stops yearning for a spot of pyaar-mohabbat. Just because you’ve seen the wifey in cold wax and colder cream, just because you’ve watched the patidev pluck his nose hairs and belch beer-‘n-biryani just before kissing you, doesn’t mean that your heart doesn’t crave for a dollop of moonlight and roses.
Wot I mean ter say, me munchkins, is that as far as romance goes, the dil never stops saying, “More!”
And if you don’t believe me, ask the Internet. Dunno about all you slaving away at those blogs and dunno about all you hunting the virtual waves for the mating habits of the  Northern hairy-nosed wombat but if there’s a place where you go if you want to poke and prod at the underbelly of our innermost desires, it’s the Internet. So, perhaps you’ve noticed no self-respecting will be seen in public without a dating-mating section. That there are entire websites devoted to promising you that you’ll find true love – or at least your dream sado-masochist orgy mate – in just 5 quick clicks of your mouse. Yeah, yeah but that’s for the millions of garma-garam blooded, romance-crazed Under 30’s. Maybe but as we watch all the Hum Tums and Main Hoon Na’s and Dhoom’s and all those music videos stuffed to the gills with disgustingly luscious, barely clad NYT’s (Nubile Young Things) – I mean, even a 38- year old Shahrukh Khan is forced to play an army major who can pass off as a college brat - look a little closer at these websites. Which is what I did.
And found that the world is crawling with grizzled After-30’s geezers looking for….er, what are they looking for? Romance? Well, in a manner of speaking – going by some of the e-mail ids. For example what would you say a gent who calls himself boobsmaniac (aged 50 and in case you didn’t get it, his brief but searing bio-data is titled “big boobs lover”) is looking for? Then there was willmakeu2wet (aged 30), wet69 (aged 35), a hotparag and the gent to whom my heart went out to with the wistfully yearning sobriquet of whenwilligetmyhoney (aged 38).
So what, you scoff. One website doesn’t make a whole nation of Over-the-hill-30’s craving for romance. I mean, let’s face facts. The average marriageable age in India for a woman still hovers around 21, over 95 % of women are married by the time they’re 35 and divorce, though rising steadily like the nation’s blood pressure, is still down at healthy single digits. So by thirty – okay we’ll push that to 35 – you’re done with romance, found your soul mate, kindred spirit, for-better-or-for-worse half and have now moved on to other things. Bacchey-kacchey, Saturday night housie at the club, agonizing about hair tints, your cholesterol and what to do with those Wipro shares.
And romance? Ah, it’s there somewhere, fading like the upholstery on the drawing room sofa, often forgotten like that vegetable chopper that promised to mince anything from the onions for your do-pyaaza to your ma-in-law’s pinkie, a trifle moth eaten like your college year book and not even a very good a fit like your shaadi-ka-sherwani. But it’s there and we aren’t looking to redecorate, thank you.
I kinda guessed you’d say that. So I went to a few more “legit” websites, the kind boobsmaniac would shun, where intentions seemed more honourable and the handles a tad more respectable if a little less honest.
And the first indications were encouraging. The search thingie accommodated anyone from ages18 to 99 to search for anyone (man, or woman or both) from age 18-99. One website generously extended that to age 119 to cover all possibilities. So I searched for a man between 30 and 50. (As you can see, I’m not too picky but that’s one of the things that happens to you After 30. Pickiness plummets in direct proportion to the rate at which your craving for romance soars. By 50, you’ll settle for a 4-legged Martian with green skin and one eye, as long as he’s clean and can read the label on your bottle of medication for hot flushes.)  I got 80 web pages of possibilities – er I mean men; most of them married and all with pics. So I narrowed it down to a man between 40 and 55…and still got 37 pages of men. Most of them married and all with pics.

So what, you scoff again. We already knew that the world is full of Over-The-Hill-of-Thirty married men looking to scratch that seven-year itch (thus labeled because it happens after 7 years and stays on for 7 years) one last time before everything droops and sags. True. But my point is. Are there enough women to match that demand? To find out, I swiftly transformed into a man looking for my Over-40 hot leg of baa-lambkin, my warm slice of sweetie-pie. (On the Net you can become anything - Elizabeth Hurley on a bad Arun Nayar day, the cigar on a good Bill Clinton day – anything). Alas, only 5 measly pages and …. I don’t want to be rude but let me put it like this. If the 37 pages of men are looking for matching Over-40 romance partners, they ain’t gonna find it on these 5 pages. Besides, most of these ladies wanted marriage and love. I know – we women always bay for the moon and that’s when the garden manure hits the ceiling….
So are we saying that after 30, women are done with romance? I think maybe not. It’s just that we ain’t tom-toming it from the rooftops.  We may tightly scrape and pin our romantic yearnings into that super mum bun, we may smile brightly and stuff them firmly into the evening’s dum aloo, iron them away with the creases on hubby’s shirts but deep down inside somewhere, something still thrills at the thought of being tenderly treated like a rare hot house orchid. Look at the diamond ads, at the libraries still stuffed with Mills and Boon and you’ll know. Look at a film like Mr. and Mrs. Iyer and you’ll know that for us women, being “happily” married to a good, decent man isn’t inoculation against romance. Look at Leela and Dil Chahata Hai and Freaky Chakra and you’ll know that even at the doddering old age of 40, we aren’t ready yet to hang up our foolishly hopeful, hopelessly romantic little hearts.
So, is there romance after 30?
Well, I guess all that we can say is that the question is a bit like, “Is there life after death?” And the answer is – who knows, dearies, who knows?  But we’re hoping like hell there is….
“Aayega aane waala, aayega aayega aayega
Bhatki hui jawaani manzil ko dhoondti hai
Maajhi bagair nayya saahil ko dhoondti hai
Kya jaane dil ki kashti kab tak lage kinaare
Lekin yeh keh rahe hain dil ke mere ishaare
Aayega, aayeg, aayega…..”

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ten Best Alternatives to Suicide


I guess it was the all the blah-blah-blah about OSO being a tribute to the 70’s era og Hindi films that put me in a nostalgic mood. So, I thought to meself – what better way to raise my own little sentimental toast than to dash off a list. For example10 films in which Dharam pra-ji said “Billi-Badmash!” instead of “Kuttey-Kameeney!” Or “10 films of Ingar Berman that were actually directed by Manmohan Desai“. (Or the other way around?) Except I’m terrible at doing these list things and am deeply, eternally envious of those who can effortlessly dash off  “10 Fastest Pelvic Thrusters in the World” without so much as a twinge in their oblongata. (Which isn’t what you’re thinking, but if you are, then apparently the Algerian jird - a variety of desert rat - tops the list at 120 thrusts a minute. Though we don‘t know what it will be while dancing to “Beedi Jalaile“….)
My problem is that invariably my lists have only 2 things. Or then 73.
But since I’m not one to give up easily, I hammered out a list. 10 Hindi Films That I have Watched 10 times and Plan To Watch Another10 Times. (At least).
Naturally you're thinking - is the woman nuts?
10 times? And then another 10? (At least)
Well, it's not only because they're some of the best work of people who are considered legends of Indian cinema. Or because they have between them 10 Filmfare awards, one National Award and Lord alone knows how many nominations. Or because they demonstrate that immortal cinema has got nothing at all to do with mega budgets, item numbers or swish locations in Baden-Baden. (The combined budget of half of them probably wouldn't buy one of Shahrukh Khan's “rajesh khanna” outfits in OSO.) Or because they remind us that there is no substitute for a great script.
It's also because they are the 10 best antidotes to depression.
Let me explain.
I’ve watched many of these films at least 10 times and will gladly watch them another 10 times. (At least.) And every single time, I’ve come away charmed, entranced and delighted. Even though I know the story, the scenes, even the dialogues by heart and that every road leads to only one destination. Happily Ever After. But they all go through this wonderful, enchanted forest where each time there is something that I never noticed before and what I have hasn’t dimmed even an nano-watt in its wondrous magic. It’s not only that they make me laugh, but also cry; happy-sad tears that gently slip down my cheeks and find their way into the dankest, most sub-Arctic cockle of my heart to fill it with something that’s kinda warm, kinda mushy, even a tad soppy. But that never fails to remind me that even when life, in collusion with your maid, job, boss, potbelly and hair, sucks and you’ve just caught your spouse doing that Algerian jird thing with your fat, creepy neighbour, there’s not much else that can measure up to it….
So here are my 10 best alternatives to suicide.
Anubhav (1971) and Aavishkaar (1973)
How to make rosogollas of a marriage gone sour. Or two of the most sensitive, insightful takes on the subject. Tanuja’s and Sanjeev Kumar’s superb performances in Anubhav are expected, but the rare sight of Rajesh Khanna, the actor, not the superstar in Aavishkaar is not and it won him his 4th and last Filmfare award.  Geeta Dutt’s brother, Kanu Roy scored some hauntingly beautiful music for both films, including Geeta’s last two and perhaps sweetest songs - Koi chupke se and Mujhe Jaan na kaho. (She died a year later)
Parichay (1972) and Khushboo (1975)
Who cares if Parichay was a "remake" of Sound of Music because it was the beginning of one of Hindi cinema's most brilliant partnerships - Gulzar and R.D Burman. Gulzar's genius is that he dared to put Jeetandra in the same film as Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bachchan and showed us that inside Jumpin' Jack Jeetu's shiny white shoes was a very fine actor. In Khushboo, he got Hema Malini to flaunt not just her unfashionably high forehead and frizzy hair, but also that she could act….as well as Jeetendra!
Bawarchi (1972), Golmaal (1979), Khubsoorat (1980)
At the dizziest height of his success, when girls were writing him letters in blood, Hrishikesh Mukherjee made Rajesh Khanna give one of his finest performances wearing a khaki "half-pant" throughout the film - as and in Bawarchi. The film also has Madan Mohan's exquisite music. According to me it was not Umrao Jaan but Khubsoorat that was Rekha's finest hour and in Golmaal, Amol Palekar's double role won him his only Best Actor award!
Padosan (1968)
This film is a celebration of so many things - love, laughter, music, but mainly that rare moment in cinema when everything comes together in perfect, flawless synch to make a classic. Obviously, Kishore Kumar and Mehmood and Pancham’s music are the stars of this show but who can forget Sunil Dutt as the bumbling, utterly adorable “Bhola”?
Masoom (1983) - Filmfare should've started a Best Child Actor award in its honour because the kids stole this magical show. And if Jugal Hansraj's baby-blues and little "Minnie" don't make you feel all achey-breaky, the song "Tujhe Naraaz Nahin Zindagi" will.
Katha (1983) - Naseer as the earnest, industrious tortosie, Farooque Shaikh as the slick, irresistibly cad hare, Deepti Naval as the dewy-eyed “prize” are only three of the superb Mumbai chawl-ful of performances in this delightful version of the Aesop‘s Fable…