The thrill of watching a mythological movie in cinema hall

Before the arrival of mythological T.V shows like Ramayana and Mahabharata on Doordarshan channel, movie audiences were eager to watch Hindi mythological movies like Jay Bajrangbali, Jai Santoshi Maa, Nala Damayanti, Har Har Mahadev etc. Mythology was a successful genre in 60’s, 70’s and 80’s era. The mythological movie on Goddess Santoshi Mata was so phenomenally successful in 70’s era that the cinema halls were no less than temples for devotees catching glimpse of Gods and goddesses. Even biopic on Shirdi Ke Sai Baba was a blockbuster in mythological genre. 60’s and 70’s was the time when mythology genre was a successful formula for movie producers.

It was in this era when wrestler Dara Singh had made his cinematic debut in Hindi movies and was an icon in his own times. He was more popular than the WWF wrestlers like Dwayne Johnson and John Cena. He became popular for portraying mythological figures like Lord Hanuman, Bheem, Balram and Shiva on screen. Bajrangbali was one of the successful mythological movies of 70’s featuring Dara Singh as Lord Hanuman. Dara Singh’s personality was synonymous to courage, strength, masculinity and bravado. He was an idol for youngsters in wresting grounds. After playing role of Lord Hanuman in movies, Dara Singh once again portrayed the role of God Hanuman in Ramanand Sagar’s TV serial – Ramayan.

During my childhood times, there was a single screen cinema called ‘Jawahar’ near my residence. My grandfather and maternal uncle were serious movie lovers. Be it a historic, romantic or a typical Bollywood masala movie, they were a sucker for it. Nowadays apps like Bookmyshow, PVR Cinemas make it easy to book movie tickets from the comforts of home. Earlier newspapers had a separate page for the details of newly released movies in city. The black and white movie posters in newspapers had their own charm. My grandfather and uncle planned an afternoon show on Sunday. Even I and my younger brother couldn’t resist the thrill of watching a movie in theatres. It was the mid 80’s era when Ramanand Sagar’s TV show – Ramayana had just started on Doordarshan Channel. The Sunday’s morning time was scheduled only for Ramayana serial. It was a thrill for me to watch the story of Lord Hanuman on 70 mm silver screen. Since it was Sunday, the queue was obviously long for afternoon slots. Unlike today’s multiplexes, it was a cinema hall minus the air condition. The old shabby seats, bugs and tiresome ceiling fans were all the single screen cinema hall could afford. The cheap pop corns and stale hot Samosas were relished by audience during intervals. The Samosas of cinema halls have their unique taste.

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Bajrangbali’ with the audience and clapped at every action sequence, special effects in the movie. Watching God Hanuman on silver screen gave me the feel of praying before God in a temple. As the end credits began, I was too emotional to leave the cinema hall. I cherished that moment of watching an interesting movie in cinema halls. Today’s kids are crazy for stuffs like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Avengers, Superman, Batman etc but lord Hanuman is father of all super heroes. Sadly, the old cinema hall couldn’t continue screening movies due to lack of maintenance and arrival of posh multiplex movies. It got closed down in late 90’s. Wish I could bring back the joyful moments of my childhood times!! I just have to close my eyes and rewind to that golden age of childhood innocence.


The Dirty Dozen: A glimpse at the thrilling lives of notorious hitmen

Book : The Dirty Dozen: Hitmen of the Mumbai Underworld
Author – Gabriel Khan
Genre – Non-Fiction/Crime
Publishers – Westland Publications Ltd

‘Jiski Nazar Game Se Hati, Samjho Woh Game Se Hata’ – lines from movie ‘Company’

Crime novels are toast of town. Out of 100% readers, seventy percent opt for meaty, racy and action-packed non-fiction crime thrillers based on real events. Author S.Hussain Zaidi is the most loved author of every reader who craves for crime genre.

After ‘Black Friday’, his books on crime world – Dongri to Dubai, Byculla to Bangkok, Mafia Queens of Mumbai and My Name is Abu Salem were instant best-sellers. Now Zaidi is proud to present his co-writer and senior colleague’s book – The Dirty Dozen: Hitmen of the Mumbai Underworld to readers of crime genre. Zaidi has backed this book by taking the responsibility of editing this non-fiction crime thriller.

After co-authoring ‘Mumbai Avengers’, writer Gabriel Khan gives you an inner glimpse at the racy stories of infamous hitmen of Mumbai Mafia who terrorized the city with their guns and ruthlessness. The money, fame behind the underworld has always captivated the petty youngsters. They would kill for living and live for killing on the orders of their boss. Compared to today’s times, there were less job prospects for youngsters except working in Mill companies. The shutting down of mill companies in 80’s reduced the mill workers to poverty and hunger. The flaming hunger in jobless youngsters’ stomach provoked them to enter crime world as henchmen or sharp shooters. Local gangsters and top notch mafias took advantage of these youngsters’ conditions and utilized them as per their benefit. It was no wonder that the Mumbai’s crime lords were more lethal than the Sicilian Mafias.

Read any chapter about these local hitmen in this book and it will remind you of several Bollywood crime movies like Satya, Company, Vaastav, Hathyar, Daddy and Once upon a time in Mumbai. This book is result of rigorous research gone behind penning the infamous stories of trigger-happy hitmen. These hitmen were public enemies of city. I like to salute the Mumbai Cops for eliminating the terror of these ruthless henchmen. The first official shootout took place in Wadala when the braveheart Mumbai cops gunned down the dreaded gangster Manya Surve in 80’s. The encounter of Manya Surve was a game changer in history of Mumbai Police.

In one of the chapters in this book you will read how encounter specialists – Daya Nayak and Pradeep Sharma along with an elite police team hunted down the infamous gangster Saadiq Kalia and ended his terror by shooting him down at Dadar’s flower market. Saadiq was so dangerous that he killed his own brother-in-law to enlist himself in a gang. Maya Dolas was one gangster whose encounter made headlines in all news channels in 90’s. The shootout at Swati building in Lokhandwala area became a battle ground between cops and the gangsters. The dreaded gangster Maya was killed in this encounter along with his team. This famous shootout became a subject for Bollywood in 2007’s movie – Shoot out at Lokhandwala starring Sanjay Dutt, Sunil Shetty and Vivek Oberoi as the gangster Maya.

What fascinated me most in this book was the story of Hussain Ustara. He was a local, petty don who ran his small gang. Ustara’s character was featured in Zaidi’s book – The Mafia Queens of Mumbai. Ustara was killed by his rivals. To know more about Ustara, you have to read ‘The Dirty Dozen’.

Several dreaded henchmen from crime archives walk the pages in this non-fiction crime saga penned by Gabriel Khan. Some hitmen were killed in police encounter while were some targets of gang rivalry. These hitmen were not bravado, but cowards obsessed by their weapons.

Fast paced action, intense drama, intriguing subplots and interesting trivia on Mumbai’s crime stories makes ‘The Dirty Dozen’ a racy read. All the stories in this non-fiction will remind you of numerous Bollywood gangster flicks. Overall it is an engrossing book to keep you hooked right from the prologue to the gripping epilogue. The Dirty Dozen by Gabriel Khan is one of the best books I thoroughly enjoyed after Mario Puzo’s The God father and Zaidi’s Byculla to Bangkok.

If you loved reading ‘The dirty Dozen’, do read ‘Bhais of Bengaluru, a new non-fiction crime novel by debutante author Jyoti Shelar.

Sanju – One man, many lives (Movie Preview)

A large crowd swarmed at the premiere of Sunil Dutt’s directorial venture – Rocky. A nervous debutante, soaked in tears at the recent demise of his mother was making his entry in Hindi cinema. He was the newbie ‘Sanjay Dutt’ but his mother, the late legendary actress Nargisji fondly called him ‘Sanju’. Call it a tragic blow of irony or misfortune, Nargisji passed away due to pancreatic cancer on 3rd May 1981. She couldn’t survive to see the debut of her pampered lad Sanju. A seat was kept vacant at the premiere theatre in memory of Nargisji. At the time of his mother’s deteriorating condition, Sanjay was severely under the influence of drugs.

Sanjay Dutt was paired opposite Tina Munim in his debut movie. Along with Sanjay Dutt, there was another fresh debutante who made his entry in Rocky. The other debutante actor was Gulshan Grover. Sanjay Dutt and Gulshan Grover not only shined as successful actors but also became close buddies. Rocky was a smash hit at box-office and Sanjay Dutt made his presence felt with his debut action movie. Though Sanjay Dutt’s dream of becoming Bollywood star was fulfilled, he was too unfortunate that his mother was not there to applause at his debut performance. He underwent rehabilitation to overcome drugs and focus his mind and heart towards his Bollywood career which would later be marked with success, dejecting failures gossips and controversies in coming years.

Several decades later now his journey of stardom is ready as biopic titled ‘Sanju’ starring Ranbir Kapoor in the titular role as the bad boy of Bollywood.

I was a movie buff right from my childhood. I took fancy gazing at the giant sized posters of movies at cinema halls. At one instance, I glimpsed around a large poster of movie – Kabzaa at a suburban single screen. It was a Mahesh Bhatt movie. I was amazed at the persona of the rebel star. Years later I was to become one of his fans after watching the 90’s gangster flick – Kroadh. His hair style, action-image and grey-shaded persona made him an icon in the league of Arnold, Sylvester and Bruce Willis. He was nicknamed ‘Baba’ by his fans.

Among all the movies, the late 80’s movie Hathyar captured my attention. It was a J.P. Dutta movie. Dutt played role of henchmen who is hired by a gangster played by Dharmendra. In the climax, Sanju is gunned down by the police. ‘Hathyar’ movie was my foray in watching gangster flicks. The influence of his movies was so strong on me that I used to pick up fights and thrash down my classmates. I wanted to show that I was no less than a rebel like my role models – Sanju Baba and Sunny Deol. Real life is harsher than the movie life. I later realized that world is a lot crueler than I had imagined. Words are sharper than swords. I switched my loyalties to new stars – Shahrukh Khan’s DDL image. A heartthrob of millions. Now I was Raj for my sweet hearts. Sanju Baba’s persona and fascination was left behind.

80’s was the changing era for Bollywood movies. Fresh talents like Anil Kapoor, Sunny Deol and Jackie Shroff were making their entry in movie world. The era of yesteryear actors like Rajendra Kumar, Manoj Kumar and Rajesh Khanna was passé. The movie audience wanted to see angry young men rebelling against system. Movies like Arjun, Meri Jung, and Hero were attracting crowd at the box-office. In this period Sanjay Dutt was passing through a weak phase. A series of flops had weakened his determination. It was Mahesh Bhatt’s movie ‘Naam’ which resurrected the career of Sanjay. ‘Naam’ was produced by Rajendra Kumar to boost the fading career of Kumar Gaurav. Ironically the lady luck worked for Dutt. After Naam, there was no looking back. His movies – Saajan, Sadak and Thanedaar were hits back to back. Sanju Baba was in spotlight again.

A rare pic of Sanjay Dutt during his younger days

The road of stardom was not smooth for Jr.Dutt. During his journey to stardom, he lost his loved ones on personal front. His wife Richa Sharma died due to Cancer leaving behind their small child Trishala. After his mother’s death due to cancer, this personal loss was too depressing for Sanjay Dutt. Juggling between his unstable personal life and a busy stardom, Sanjay’s popularity came to a halt. His infamous involvement with weapons splashed all across news media. He was labeled as ‘Villain’ in real life. His arrest brought him in limelight. At this same time, his movie ‘Khalnayak’ was ready for release. Due to infamous spotlight, Khalnayak movie’s release was getting difficult. On the contrary, the movie not only got released, but was declared a hit. He went under a rigorous period during this time. Getting bail for such offence was near to impossible. Sanjay’s career was almost over. Critics wrote him off. No filmmaker was ready to sign him. At this phase, his daddy Sunil Dutt stood like a pillar of strength, doing the rounds to get his son released. It was the same disciplined father with whom once Sanjay was upset and had taken refuge in drugs. At this phase, his close friend actor Kumar Gaurav was also morally supporting him. After securing temporary bail, he completed all the pending movies that were left incomplete. His second inning started with ‘Vaastav’, a gangster flick directed by Mahesh Manjrekar. Vaastav was not only successful, but it also fetched him a filmfare award for best actor. Many movie lovers copied his style of wearing white kurta and long gold chain from movie ‘Vaastav’. Sanjay Dutt’s attire became a style statement for his fans.

In later years, he again completed the remaining jail sentence. The jail conditions were unfit for a human to survive. The unhygienic premises, dark cells were enough for a weak minded person to commit suicide. Only a strong willed man like Sanjay could endure these hard conditions. This phase was his redemption period. Simultaneously somewhere around the world even I came to senses that I was neither the bad boy Sanju nor the lover boy Raj from DDLJ. I realized that I was a common man and even stars are ordinary people with flaws if you remove the star tag from their personality.

After his release from jail on 25th Feb 2016, Sanju Baba made his strong comeback with movie ‘Bhoomi’ in 2017. Though this comeback movie wasn’t so powerful, Sanju Baba has lots of interesting movies lined up in 2018. The most interesting of all is his biopic – Sanju scheduled to release in June 2018. The role of Sanjay Dutt is played by current heartthrob, the multi-talented Ranbir Kapoor. The way Ranbir has prepped up for this biopic; he is sure to fetch awards for this role in 2019. Actor Paresh Rawal is portraying Sunil Dutt while Manisha Koirala is playing role of his mother Nargis Dutt. Sonam Kapoor is playing one of the girlfriends which closely resembles to Tina Munim. Vicky Kaushal is playing role as one of his close buddies. Anushka Sharma is making a special appearance as a biographer.

It is the powerful direction of director Rajkumar Hirani which has made ‘Sanju’ as the most anticipated biopic of 2018. His stardom journey that started with Rocky was rock solid with movies like Munnabhai MBBS, Mission Kashmir, Parineeta and Kaante. Despite the criticism, failure, personal losses and his flaws, Sanju Baba is stable and here to stay. I am now proud to mouth the lines from his movie Vaastav – ‘Pachaas Tola’!!

Tagore’s Chokher Bali (A grain of sand)

I was introduced to Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s literature through one of his short stories – Kabuliwala which was etched in my mind forever. Since I was more of a comic’s book reader in my school days, I was yet to connect with literature. It is only after reading books of Dickens, R.K.Narayan, Ruskin Bond and Mark Twain, my mind diverted towards matured reading. Except Kabuliwala I hadn’t read any of Tagore’s works. I came to know about Choker Bali only through Bengali director Rituparno Ghosh’s movie adaptation based on Tagore’s novel bearing the same title. The movie adaptation boasted of acclaimed actors like Prosenjit, Raima Sen and Aishwarya Rai as Binodini, the lead protagonist with grey shades. While browsing through books at an old book store, I stumbled upon Chokher Bali book. It was a translated version by writer Sukhendu Ray. As I started reading Chokher Bali, I discovered what a genius Gurudev was. He was way ahead of times. Today we read about extra-marital affairs, infidelity and adulterous relations in news, TV series and movies. Did such things exist even in 19th century? Chokher Bali is story of tangled relationships, deception, expectations and heartbreaks. The novel is centered on four characters – Mahendra, Ashalata, Bihari and the young widow Binodini.

The newly married life of Mahendra and Asha turns upside down when Mahindra’s mother brings a young widow Binodini in their house. It is the same Binodini whom Mahendra had previously rejected before getting married to Asha. The young widow’s sexual frustration inflames when she sees the happy marital life of Mahendra and Asha. Binodini not only befriends Asha but also attracts the attention of Mahendra through her intellectual skills and seductiveness. She captivates Mahendra to such an extent that Mahendra agrees to sacrifice his married life to settle with Binodini. On one front, Binodini not only breaks a marital life, but also creates a misunderstanding between Mahendra and his friend Bihari. Binodini is a vamp who not only alienates Mahendra from his family, but also tries to attract Bihari. In this turmoil, Asha is devastated. The events lead to confrontations, misunderstandings and an unexpected climax.

Tagore’s character Binodini is a fusion of several literary characters like Madame Bovary, Lady Chatterley and Lolita. She is flawed, yet compassionate. She is misunderstood, but yet a sympathetic person. She is conscious of her guilty actions but finds devilish pleasures in shattering marital lives. Every character in this novel is somewhere flawed. Apart from Binodini, it is Mahendra who too has grey shades to his nature. An over pampered, egoistic and reckless natured is Mahendra who neglects his loving wife Asha for the vamp Binodini. He even accuses Bihari of having an affair with Asha. Earlier it was Bihari who was supposed to marry Asha but Mahendra craftily weds Asha. The tangled relationship gets more tangled with confusions and misunderstood deceptions. My heart reached out for the innocent Asha who becomes the victim of Binodini’s vengeance. Bihari is one more sympathetic character who is constantly ridiculed by Mahendra. The real meaning of word Chokher Bali is mote in the eye. ‘Chokher Bali’ is the title of friendship between Asha and Binodini.

Chokher Bali is one of the acclaimed works of Tagore and his first novella in world of literature. Apart from writing short stories, Tagore has written other novels like Nauka Dubi (Wrecked boat) and Home and the world. Chokher Bali is set in the times when widows weren’t allowed to remarry. Though new reforms took place in Bengal and widow remarriages got social acceptance, it was not fully implemented in society. Binodini, the protagonist of Chokher Bali is victim of this social injustice. Like every young woman, she also aspires for marital happiness.

Through Binodini, Tagore has sketched out the misery of young widows during 19th century. Binodini’s misery is similar to the literary character Lady Chatterley who is deprived of physical intimacy by her husband. Like Lady Chatterley, Binodini targets Mahendra to fulfill her erotic needs. Whether Binodini was a demoralized woman or a victim of her wretched destiny is left up to the readers to judge. Had Binodini been happily married, she wouldn’t have destroyed the happy marital life of Mahendra and Asha.

Translator Sukhendu Ray succeeds in capturing the poetic flair of Tagore in the English version of Chokher Bali. His translated version transports readers to the 19th century Bengal, its culture, tradition and mindset of the people living during that era. Tagore’s Chokher Bali (A grain of sand) is an acclaimed classic that cannot be missed by the reader who loves Bengali classics.

A Star is born (2018): A romantic musical by Bradley Cooper

Movie – A Star is born
Cast – Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga
Director – Bradley Cooper

Entertainment industry can change destiny of struggling talents overnight and the world later says “A star is born”. Be it Marilyn Monroe, Bruce Lee or Michael Jackson, these aspiring artists weren’t star overnight. There were years of struggle behind it. You can be star overnight if you have a mentor or Godfather to shape your talent. Based on the premises of entertainment industry, Hollywood actor Bradley Cooper is making his directorial debut with the remake of Hollywood classic – A star is born. Music artist Lady Gaga is paired opposite Cooper in this romantic musical as an aspiring singer. This motion picture will be the acting debut of Lady Gaga in Hollywood.

The new 2018 motion picture is the 3rd remake of 1937 movie featuring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. It was later remade in 1954 starring Judy Garland as the aspiring artist. After the success of 1954 remake, Hollywood returned with one more remake starring Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson in the musical romance. Even Bollywood had made an unofficial remake of this romantic musical as ‘Aashiqui 2’ starring Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor as the romantic pair. The movie was not only as musical hit but it also made singer Arjit Singh as singing sensation overnight.

Plot – A fading, alcoholic music artist Jackson Maine takes struggling club singer Ally under his wings and mentors her to become a successful singer. During this companionship, Jackson and Ally bond together in love. Though Jackson succeeds in making Ally an overnight star, his alcoholic habits starts taking a toll on his stardom and soon he starts moving on to path of self-destruction. Ally holds herself responsible for Jackson’s decline and decides to help Jackson get rid of his alcoholism and self-destructive behavior. As Jackson starts getting more violent due to his failure, it gets harder for Ally to sustain their relationship. Will the strength of love bring back Jackson and Ally together? What will be the outcome of this struggling relationship? The new motion picture – A Star is born is testament of true love and what struggle true lovers take to make their bonding stronger.

A star is born is scheduled to release on October 5th 2018 worldwide.