Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Amit, Amitji aur Supremo

(Guest piece by Amit, le thinner half!)

People in the West use the term ‘fixer’ to describe what we call film / tv production here. ‘Fixing’ for international crews has taken me to some strange and wondrous places. Starting with Dharavi, to a mass wedding for  famillies of cotton farmers in Vidarbha, all the way to the sets of Ram Gopal Verma’s Sholay (or Aag or Matchstick or whatever it is called now). Some time back, I worked with a BBC crew for a programme called Imagine, where Alan Yentob interviewed Amitabh Bachchan over a period of a year.

I was thrilled to be meeting the great man, and we were introduced briefly, just before he got busy grooving to a butchered version of ‘Mehbooba’. I stood back and watched the 65-year-old Jai - Gabbar shoot for the song.

Months later, this Saturday, the same crew was back for a long interview scheduled with him. I had carried our copy of the Supremo comic with me. After three-and-a-half hours of a great interview (and some fantastic snacks from the chef at AB’s office), I snuck up to Mr. B and gingerly took out the comic from behind me. He held it close to his eyes, peered, and exclaimed, “Ah, Supremo!”

Then he excitedly flipped through the pages and saw the letter written by him to his fans after his critical illness. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Bhai you have to give me this!”
Being a fanatic book collector is not an easy job. You have to say NO! to people who fall in love with a book you have ever so often - and in this case, it was harder still, because like most subcontinental men of a certain age, Mr B was my childhood idol! So I politely refused to part with the comic, and Mr. B very sportingly autographed it. I promised to give him a photocopy instead.
Our valuable comic has just turned priceless – bids are hereby closed!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Mouse, My Uncle!

See when you need to think up a new lullaby every 30 days, you sometimes hit a dry patch. Which is when I remembered Munna bada pyaara / Ammi ka dulaara / Koi kahe chaand, koi aankh ka tara. N loved it, especially the part about her being my star. But then Amit said, you know this is a Goan song na? And I was like, no, no way! I'd always imagined (is this a real memory, I don't know?) a Lukhnawi setting for this song, with a sweet mom and a Daisy-Irani type tyke. To think that it came from Goa was most baffling. So we called John, Amit's pal, and once he sang the whole song it sounded unmistakably Goan! The words, combined with the lovely, nasal sounds of Konkani, were soooooooo sweet! The original song goes like this:

Undra mojea mama,
aik aum sangtam tuka
mazorichea pillea laguim khell manddi naka.

Undir mama ailo,
ani pette kuxik liplo
mazorichea pillean taka eka ghansan khailo!

Which is:
Mouse, my Uncle,
Listen, I’m telling you:
Don’t try playing with the cat’s little kittens!
Mouse Uncle came
And hid under the trunk
And the cat's kittens ate him up in one mouthful!

John summed it all up for me by saying, "Bohot kadva philosophy hai!" True, of course, especially when it's said in John's cool, Cheera Bazar style. I think that's true of most kiddie songs in Indian languages – punches are rarely pulled. Like this Gujju song Amit sings for n:

Ek bilaadi jaadi
Eine peri saadi
Saadi peri pharva gayi
Talav maa to tarva gayi
Talav ma hata magar
Billi ne aavya chakkar
Saadi chhedo chhuti gayo
Magar na mooh maa aayi gayo
Magar billi ne khaee gayo!

Which is:
There was once a fat kitty
Who wore a pretty sari
Wearing the sari she set off for a swim,
Seeing a pond, she jumped right in!
In the pond was a crocodile
Kitty felt faint seeing his smile!
The sari came off in a pile
It was snapped up by the crocodile,
Who quickly gobbled up poor kitty!

(The translation has been beefed up a bit to make it rhyme – and because I know Gujju more than I know Konkani!)

I think it’s so refreshingly different from the whole Anglo/mainstream Hindi film tradition which tends to OD on the sweet.