The legend of Jhalkari Bai, the look alike of Rani Laxmibai (22 November 1830- 1858)

‘Khoob ladi Mardaani woh toh Jhansi wali rani thi’

These lines uttered in praise of Rani Laxmibai still send courageous goosebumps among masses even today. Rani Laxmibai’s firm stand against British in 1857 war of independence not only awakened the masses from slumber, but also changed the course of history. Though Rani Laxmibai breathed her last while fighting with British, the 1857 war of independence was continued by Tatya Tope.

There are some speculations by historians who claim that it was not the real Laxmibai who fought with British. It was her doppelganger, a body double or a look alike. No one knows how much truth is in the statements made by the historians. According to historical sources, there was a female Indian soldier ‘Jhalkari Bai’ recruited in Rani Laxmibai’s army. It is been said that Jhalkari Bai was quite similar to Rani Laxmibai in terms of appearance. In simple words, Jhalkari Bai was the mirror image of Rani Laxmibai. Equally courageous as the queen, Jhalkari was born on 22nd November 1830 in Bhojla village near Jhansi. Jhalkari Bai was deprived of motherly affection in childhood due to the untimely death of her mother. It was her father Sadoba Singh who brought her up with love and care, encouraging her to train in horse riding and sword fights. Legends say that Jhalkari had killed a leopard with just a stick.

As she grew young, she got married to Puran Singh, a soldier from Rani Laxmibai’s army. This gave an opportunity to Jhalkari to enroll in Rani Laxmibai’s army. It was Puran Singh who formally introduced Rani to Jhalkari. Both were quite similar in terms of appearance. Her resemblance to Rani Laxmibai gave her an advantage to get recruited in women’s wing of army. At several instances, Jhalkari disguised herself as Rani Laxmibai and confused the British army. It was hard for British army to identify whether it was the real Rani Laxmibai or it was her body double. It was Jhalkari who helped Queen Laxmibai to escape from fort safely.

During the 1857 rebellion, Jhansi was attacked by large army of British under the command of General Hugh Rose. Despite giving a tough resistance to the large British army, Rani Laxmibai didn’t receive any military support from Peshwa Nana Sahib. The capture of Tatya Tope was another setback for Rani Laxmibai. In midst of this tense situation, Jhalkari Bai and the women army helped Rani Laxmibai escape through Bhanderi gate. To trick the enemy’s army, Jhalkari Bai disguised herself as Queen Rani Laxmibai and arrived in British camp. This action not only helped the real Rani Laxmibai escape safely but also left the British army puzzled till they finally realized it was Jhalkari Bai, the female soldier in Laxmibai’s army.

It is been said that Jhalkari Bai was hanged to death by British in 1858. Though the 1857 war of independence was a discouraging defeat for Indians, but Rani Laxmibai’s courage had given a tough fight to the alien rule. Rani Laxmibai died fighting with the British army on the battlefield while her comrade Jhalkari Bai was brutally given the death sentence. Sadly, Jhalkari Bai’s legend is unaware to the young masses. Her story is yet to find the light of the day. For historians, Jhalkari Bai was just a soldier in Rani Laxmibai’s army. The history may be label her as a body double or a look alike of Rani Laxmibai, but Jhalkari Bai has made her presence felt with her courageous feat. She was no less than Joan of Arc.

The story of Jhalkari Bai was narrated to me by my friend during a discussion on historical events. It was this story of Jhalkari Bai that triggered an interest to research on the unsung warrior of 1857. I hope that this article will be a justifying tribute to Jhalkari Bai the unsung hero of 1857.

The rise of feminine power in movies

Neerja Bhanot’s biopic in 2016 showcased the underestimated feminine power of an ordinary flight attendant who not only saved the lives of passengers on board, but also sacrificed her life defending the terrorists. Not only the audience loved the movie, but also applauded the story and the performance. The recent movies like ‘Pink’, ‘Naam Shabana’ , ‘Phillauri’ were all about the various shades of feminine spirit. Some were courageous, lovable, unsung and some even waiting for love after life. Bollywood has definitely started recognizing the role of feminine power in movies.

Priyanka Chopra as Mary Kom in the sports biopic

An actress is no longer an oppressed victim or an eye candy. She is a fearless hero in herself who can overshadow even a celebrated star. It is not that Bollywood hasn’t made women-centric movies. There are countless movies dedicated to feminine spirit. Classic movies like ‘Pakeezah’, Sujata’, ‘Mera Saaya’, ‘Sharmilee’, ‘Seeta aur Geeta’ were testimony to the several faces of womanhood. The 90’s movie – Damini directed by Rajkumar Santoshi was a cult movie which highlighted the struggle of a woman to seek justice for her maid who was brutally raped. Since 90’s movies were all stuffed with item songs, action and comedy, there was no place for woman oriented cinema.

Neerja showcased the extraordinary courage of an ordinary girl

Yashraj Films gave a new lease of life to feminine power with the sports movie – Chak de featuring Shahrukh Khan as coach for women hockey team. Inspired by a true story, Chak de India recognized the unsung power of femininity. Not just movies, but even television has shown some of the inspiring serials. In late 80’s, actress Kavita Chaudhary came up with an inspiring TV show – Udaan which was based on life of Kiran Bedi, the courageous female cop. Even Rajni, a popular TV show on Doordarshan was based on an ordinary house wife who solves the issues happening in society. The 2011 movie – Dirty Picture exposed the dirty side of cinema and the story of an actress who will go to any lengths to find her mark in the movie world. This movie was based on Silk, a forgotten actress of South movies. Though Dirty Picture was a successful at box-office, the bold theme was not meant for family audience.

Phillauri was an entertaining movie focused around a ghost bride

In today’s society, a stud is admired for his flamboyant skills, but the same admiration doesn’t apply for a tomboy natured girl who has too many male colleagues in her social circle. She is labeled as a slut. What a low-leveled mindset of today’s society !! The movie Pink highlighted the dark truth of today’s 21st century women and how they are subjected to molestation, verbal harassment if they don’t agree to the lusty demands of spoilt aristocratic boys. Pink was a hard hitting movie highlighting the plight of girls staying in Delhi. The upcoming movie – Maatr will see actress Raveena Tandon as an avenger seeking vengeance on the people responsible for raping and killing her daughter. The 1998 movie – Dushman starring Kajol was based on Hollywood movie – Eye for an Eye. A brilliant projection of feminine spirit, it showed Kajol avenging the death of her twin sister who is killed by a psychopath. Other woman oriented movies like Chandni Bar, Astitva, Satta were topical and highlighted the struggle of woman for her identity. It is not that woman oriented movies have to be just serious. It can be a rom-com too. Movies like Aisha, Jab we Met, Hasee toh Phasee showed the jovial side of femininity. The Sonam Kapoor starrer – Aisha was based on Jane Austen’s best-selling novel – Emma, a match maker who ends up messing the lives of her friends by choosing a wrong partner for them and confusion erupts.

Naam Shabana is story of a undercover field agent

Now the dynamics of movie making has changed recently. Movies like ‘No one killed Jessica’, ‘Piku’, ‘Jab We Met’, ‘Highway’, ‘Neerja’, ‘Fashion’, ‘Mary Kom’ , ‘Mardaani’, ‘Akira’, ‘NH10’ have strong content focusing on female power. The recently released movie – Naam Shabana is loosely inspired on life of a real field agent. Even the romantic comedy ‘Phillauri’ featuring Anushka Sharma as the ghost bride is winning the hearts of audiences’ worldwide. The upcoming movies – Maatr, Noor, Mom, Begum Jaan are all topical showcasing the different strength of women coming from various walks of life.

Sonakshi Sinha will be portraying role of an aspiring journalist in upcoming movie – Noor

Bollywood is all geared to come up with more topical movies which will not only be entertaining, but also focus on the feminine power that was trampled by egoistic masculine star power. There will be a time when audience won’t need any Dabanng hero anymore. A powerful story will be enough to attract the audience to theatres.

Scary movies!! Not scary anymore

Fear is not what scary we see; fear is what we can’t see. It’s all in the mind.

Scary movie is a spoof on all the horror movies in a hilarious way

Gone are the days when horror movies scared the hell out of us. Haunted Havelis, Old temples, ruined post offices and forts were the residences of ghosts – Especially white gown was the favorite outfit of female ghosts  May be even ghosts wanted to stay in trend. Were these white gowns designed by Manish Malhotra? The ghosts were categorized in various forms – the cursed ghost, the avenger ghost and the waiting ghost. The waiting ghosts are mostly romantic, waiting impatiently for their soul mate who has taken birth somewhere in rich mansions. The most popular of this category of movies was ‘Bees saal baad.’ It featured the gorgeous Dimple Kapadia as ghost waiting for her lover Mithun Chakraborty. She looked more as a model, less as a ghost. The scariest of them all was ‘Woh kaun thi’. Though it was a suspense movie, the settings and storyline looked spookier. Nowadays, even such female ghosts will be noticed, our young kids will ask for Wi-Fi password from her. According to the current trends, even ghosts have to stay net-savvy. May be, they too click selfies with their ghost friends in haunted bungalows and share it on FB. Earlier, the hairy ghosts in movies like ‘Jaani Dushman’ looked more like beasts. Maybe the appearance of these hairy beasts evolved into a mutant named ‘Wolverine’.

The arrival of new horror genre with Ramsay Brothers changed the face of scary movies. It had sensuality, steamy songs, haunted bungalows, spooky faced servant named ‘Ramu Kaka’ and comedy scenes to add more entertainment value. Most importantly, the ghost had to be disfigured, grotesque and fearsome. The ghost preys on his victim mostly at nights. The night has to be ‘Amavasya’. Rest of the nights, the ghosts are working in haunted call centers  Ramsay Brothers gave several hit movies like ‘Darwaza’, ‘Purana Mandir’, ‘Saamri’, ‘Veerana’, ‘Tehkhana’ etc. These movies ran to packed houses in 80’s and 90’s. With the passing times, people got fed up of seeing the same disfigured ghosts in Ramsay Movies. More the ghosts tried to scare audience, more it started getting hilarious. Sad part is that Ramsay Brothers didn’t change their movie making according to current trends. Their movies looked more humorous. The most tragic part is that even kids are not scared of watching their movies.

Directors like Ramgopal Verma and Vikram Bhatt created their own horror movie franchise with movies like Bhoot, Darna Mana Hai, Phoonk, Raaz series, 1920 etc etc. The ghosts in these movies were caricatures of ‘Exorcist’, ‘Unborn’, ‘Conjuring’ and ‘Insidious’. The movie ‘Raaz’ was based on Hollywood movie- ‘What lies beneath’.

Majority of the Indian horror movies are copy of Korean horror movies. The heroines in Indian scary movies don’t do anything except screaming and running helter skelter. The funnier part is that the ghost can be killed only through some divine trishul, knife, or fire. To save his heroine from the spirit, our hero will go to any length to kill the ghost with the divine weapon.

Movies like ‘Conjuring’, ‘Insidious’ and ‘Ring’ have changed the concept of fear. May be there will be a time when these Hollywood movies will turn hilarious. No one will want to play the video cassette and wait for the wet ghost to arrive from TV. Our kids are brave enough to kick her back in TV. The recent movie that I watched was 1920: London. What a fun-filled spooky movie!! May be the makers will come up with more series like 1920 Bengal, 1920 Bihar, 1920 Africa etc. The recent movie to hit the theatres this month is ‘Raaz Reboot’. How funny!! Was the director running short of ideas for the movie title?

It is time for Indian makers to re-invent their style of horror movies and give some scope for our desi ghosts. Like the tigers, even our ghosts are getting extinct. Please save our Indian ghosts 

Phillauri – A ghost bride in waiting

‘I see dead people’ is one of the cheesiest lines written by Hollywood writers for M.Night.Shyamalan’s 1998 movie – The Sixth sense. Do ghosts really exist? I won’t go further deep in theory about supernatural elements. Here Shashi Phillauri has decided to become my ghostly muse to free me from my writer’s block. She wanted to see her story featured in my upcoming article. Here I am now writing my exclusive article on Phillauri. After all, I can’t mess with a ghost, especially when the ghost is a hardcore Punjabi Kudi. Here you go baby!!

Kanan, a Canada based Punjabi Munda (played by Suraj Sharma the boy from Life of Pi) returns to his hometown to get hitched to his longtime girlfriend Anu. It is a fairy tale wedding going to happen for the couple. But Kanan can’t marry his sweet heart as he is ‘Manglik’ (according to horoscope a Manglik’s marriage is never prosperous). The only remedy for this astrological hurdle is to get the groom married to a tree. After much insistence, Kanan performs the ritual of getting married to a tree. The real trouble begins for Kanan when he realizes that unknowingly he is married off to a ghost who had made the tree her abode. The ghostly encounter of Kanan with the apparition makes him go crazy.

According to rituals, the tree is chopped off once the Manglik’s marriage is done with the tree. Since the tree is chopped off, the ghost loses her abode and now chases Kanan. The bride ghost ‘Shashi’ starts narrating her story to Kanan and the story moves to pre-independent era in 1919. The movie swings between two timelines – 1919 and 2017. Shashi, a lovely poet from a village called ‘Phillaur’ in Punjab publishes her poem under a pen name which is famous among the readers. (Shashi is Jane Austen of Punjab in this movie) 

Coincidentally, Rooplal a street singer with a heart of Casanova sings the lyrics and poems penned by Shashi little realizing that she is the same girl he has fallen in love with. When he discovers her identity, he promises to return back on Baisakhi festival when he has enough money to get married to her. But destiny has different plans for Shashi. Rooplal never returns. In a fit of depression, Shashi commits suicide by hanging from a tree. Her untimely death turns her into a ghostly bride in waiting (This bride has nothing to do with Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride). Now Shashi can’t get freed from the mortal world. Her quest for long lost love is unfulfilled. Will Shashi find her long lost love? Will Kanan help Shashi to find her long lost love? All these queries will be answered in the 2017 movie – Phillauri. Shashi had strictly ordered me to not write any spoilers about her story.

What fascinated me to watch ‘Phillauri’ was Anushka Sharma. Secondly the premise of story is set in Punjab. My fondness for Punjabi culture, food and beautiful gals was second reason why I wanted to watch it. In terms of storytelling, ‘Phillauri’ is a refreshing change from stereotyped Bollywood rom-coms. The story takes time to grow. It is a novel plot brought on screen. For those who love masala rom-coms won’t sit through the movie. The movie has a poetic feel and is slow paced. The slow-paced narration is the beauty of this story and here the viewer bonds with the tender love story of Shashi and Rooplal.

The look and feel of this movie is timeless. The visual presentation of the 1919 Punjab is breath taking. If you love your roots, you will connect with the story line. The story of this movie is connected with an actual historical incident happened in 1919 on eve of Baisakhi. The infamous incident changes the lives of both Shashi and Rooplal. After so much warning given by my ghostly muse Shashi, I am giving spoilers for this story. (She will literally kill me after reading this review). ‘Phillauri’ has drawn inspirations from several movies (Lovely Bones, If I stay, Invisible, Corpse Bride etc and even a Ruskin Bond short story). Actress Anushka Sharma has donned the hat of producer for her second production venture and hasn’t left any stone unturned to make Phillauri a delightful watch. Apart from Anushka Sharma, Suraj Sharma and Diljit Singh Dosanjh make their presence felt in their sincere performances. After Udta Punjab, Diljit is the new emerging talent in Bollywood. What attracted me in this movie was Mehreen Pirzada, the new fresh talent who shines in her first movie. She plays Anu, the love interest of Suraj Sharma.

Phillauri is a delightful and visually appealing rom-com that is winning the hearts of audience worldwide. This movie is far more entertaining than Paheli and Bhootnath.

If you love watching entertaining ghost movies, then watch the 1992 movie – Chamatkar and 1995 Hollywood movie – Casper. Apart from this recommendations, do watch Demi Moore’s movie – The Ghost which was a cult movie in 90’s.

I want to sincerely thank my ghostly muse Shashi for becoming my inspiration and guide to pen down this story. Inspiration comes in all forms even if it is ghostly. For now, I am freed from my writer’s block. I guess it is time for Shashi to return back to heaven. Hope I have justified her story and I strongly request her to share this review among her ghostly circles. I guess Mark Zuckerberg must have developed a social networking site for ghosts. No wonder it may be called ‘GhostBook’.

Do watch ‘Phillauri’ at theatres near you. You will fall in love with Shashi, the lovely ghost.

Writer’s block – A mental block or a creative booster

After destruction, there is a new creation. After separation, there is bonding. After slavery, there is a new freedom. To attain happiness, peace and success, life has to go through bad patch. Same thing applies for writing process too. They say ‘Hard writing is easy reading’. How true!! A writer toils day and night to make his words meaningful, readable and easily understandable. The one thing that obstructs a writers’ writing process is his inability to put down his ideas on paper or word document. This inability is termed as writer’s block.

Is writer’s block really a barricade in writing process? Not really. Or is it? When we shift from our old city to a completely new city, it takes time for us to mentally adapt ourselves to the surroundings, people, weather and the facilities. Even in writing process, our mind needs time to adapt to new theories, ideas and techniques. When we absorb new ideas through reading or seeing in books or any electronic medium, our mind reboots like a computer to operate efficiently with new updates. In writing process, if your mind is getting stuck due to lack of ideas, it doesn’t mean that you are facing writer’s block. Actually, our mind needs time to accumulate the new ideas that we have collected in our thought process. It is same as a mobile app gets updated every week or month with new features and utilities. In my beginning days as an emerging writer, I too faced writer’s block. There was a time, when I couldn’t come up with a single article even for months. It was my misconception that I was facing writer’s block. After the phase of writer’s block, I came up with interesting write ups which were far better than my previous works. It was a Eureka moment for me. I realized that the writer’s block is nothing but a resting phase for our mind to come up with better ideas. This creative block applies for painter, visualizer as well as for a sculptor.

Usually when I face a mental blockage in my writing process, I stop my writing activity. I divert my mind towards music or books. It is seen that majority of creative people sip lots of coffee to boost their creative process. I don’t know how much effective is coffee in arousing our creativity. Actually coffee helps our mind to stay awake for a long phase. It has nothing to do with creativity. For writers, reading is really a must. Especially writers should read at least 100 books a year. The reading activity keeps our mind channelized to absorb new ideas on daily basis. It is like charging your mobile. Same applies for mind too. Occurrence of writer’s block is natural and harmless. There is nothing to panic. Just divert your mind towards other activities like planting, traveling, praying, meditation, exercising, shopping, hangouts with friends, cooking etc. There is lot to explore in your life. Typing words on computer is not writing. Even a data entry operator can do that. Your words differ from the data entry operator. Your words inspire, motivate, encourage and bring a positive change in someone’s life. That writing is actually my friend, your real forte.

Be proud to be a writer. Keep the world inspiring with your words.

Mafia Queens of Mumbai – A glimpse at the ferocious side of femininity

It is a misconception that women are inferior in terms of strength, courage and spirit. Dacoit Phoolan Devi broke that norms by rebelling against the tyrant and corrupt upper classes of rural India. Mata Hari became the first woman spy to dig out the undisclosed secrets until she was betrayed and ultimately shot to death. S.Hussain. Zaidi’s crime thriller – Mafia Queens of Mumbai is a fiery glimpse at the ferocious side of femininity. From dark lanes of Dongri to red light areas of Kamapathipura, the female protagonists of this crime thriller hail from various walks of life. Some enter the world of crime due to adverse circumstances while some rule the crime world to usurp the power and prove their clout among the masses.

These women from book – Mafia Queens of Mumbai are lethal, cunning, manipulative, seductive and sometimes murderess too. Bollywood has always taken inspiration from real life gangsters’ story to replicate them on silver screen. Movies like ‘Parinda’, ‘Satya’, ‘Company’, ‘Once upon a time in Mumbai’ and the recently released ‘Raees’ is a tribute to the yesteryear Godfathers. The female Godmothers are yet to appear on silver screen soon. Extensively researched by Author S.Hussain Zaidi and co-author Jane Borges, this book throws a light on lives of Jenabai, Gangubai, Mahalaxmi Papamani and Ashraf alias Sapna Didi.

What intrigued me to pick this book was the thrilling story of Jenabai Daruwali, a freedom fighter turned bootlegger. Her thrilling transformation to a bootlegger, police informer and a Godmother was really worth a game changer. After the partition, her husband abandoned not only her, but also left her homeless with a daughter and son to look after. Even in these adverse circumstances, Jenabai raised her kids on her own and became a bootlegger. Her bootlegging business gave her a new name – Jenabai Daruwali. She is known to have been mentor to some of the budding youngsters of Dongri who went on to create a new history in world of crime. She also acted as a mediator to bring peace between two warring gangs. Jenabai expired in late 90’s. In the world of crime, she was the first woman to become Godmother. Her life was a source of inspiration for a satellite channel to come up with a TV series named – Amma. The older part was played by veteran actress Shabana Azmi while the younger part was played by model-actress Urvashi Sharma.

The most thrilling story that stood out in this anthology of crime stories was an untold tragedy of an innocent woman named Ashraf who turned avenger to take a might on a powerful Mafia empire. A victim of conspiracies, her husband, a local gangster was shot down by Mumbai cops. It was later revealed that it was a big conspiracy hatched by big bosses in off shore countries. To avenge this personal tragedy, Ashraf sought the help of a local gangster named Ustara and became an avenging vigilante named ‘Sapna Didi’ against the Mafia. Though she succeeded to sabotage the Mafia to a smaller extent, she herself became a victim in the end. A betrayal by one of her men tipped off the bosses to kill her off. Ashraf was brutally stabbed to death by unknown hit-men. Her only fault was that she dared to take on a mighty mafia empire. This story of Ashraf alias Sapna deserves to be made into a crime biopic someday. Sadly Ashraf alias Sapna Didi’s vengeance story is lost somewhere in dusty pages of anonymity.

Even the story of Gangubai Kathiawad, the matriarch of brothel is worth reading. How the innocent girl was cheated by her husband and forced into prostitution is shocking. The innocent girl later became a Godmother to several girls in red light area and came to be known as ‘Gangubai Kathiawad’. The pages in this crime thriller also reveal the story of Mahalaxmi Papamani, Monica Bedi, Asha Gawli, Neeta Naik, Rubina Sayyed, Tarrannum and Archana Sharma.

Author Zaidi and Jane Borges have taken pain staking effort to research the background of these notorious mafia queens. No one can ever imagine that even women can dare to rule a crime empire. The foreword by Director Vishal Bharadwaj on this book intensifies the interest to turn the pages. It is a highly recommended book for the readers who love crime genre. If Mumbai is a business hub for corporate honchos, it is also a dark lane where these unknown Mafia queens rule from their secret dens.

Are crime biopics overrated?

‘Baniye ka dimag aur miyan bhai ki daring’ – lines from movie Raees

The movie audiences were literally emotional when Shahrukh Khan is shot down in a police encounter in movie ‘Raees’. Raees was inspired by an infamous bootlegger in Gujarat who was shot down by cops in 90’s. For the poor, Raees is no less than Robinhood. Ironically in the police files, he is the most dreaded public enemy. Audience whistle, cheer and applaud on the dialogue delivery for the hero even though he is a law breaker.

raees22

What we see in the movies is different from grit reality. After seeing crime biopics, people are inspired in a wrong way. They think it is easy to break law and turn into an outlaw or a hero who lives life on his sleeve. The destiny of a criminal is either life imprisonment or death through encounter or gang rivalry. Mario Puzo’s novel – The Godfather was a sensation in both literature and movies. It took Al Pacino’s career to great heights. Al Pacino again reprised role of a crime lord in Brian de Palma’s movie – Scarface where he played the role of Tony Montana, a Cuban immigrant. Scarface is story of rise and fall of a gangster who ultimately seeks redemption by getting killed by rival gangsters. Movies like ‘Once upon a time in America’, ‘Goodfellas’ showed the dark side of crime and how the street kids rise on to become the happening gangsters of their time.

Brian De Palma's movie - Scarface was a critically acclaimed gangster flick

Brian De Palma’s movie – Scarface was a critically acclaimed gangster flick

Especially Bollywood glorified crime through masala flicks in 70’s which showed the lead heroes as pick pockets, kidnappers, thieves or dacoits. Doesn’t it make a bad influence on the young minds? Movies like ‘Deewar’, ‘Agneepath’ were based on life of real life criminals. There was a huge craze for Amitabh in 70’s and 80’s as he represented angry young man’s image. Actor Ajay Devgan reprised the role of a gangster from 70’s era whose empire comes crushing down when his protégé makes the business ugly with his reckless decisions. Here the ideals of a mentor and protégé clash. To rule Mumbai, either one of them must survive. The gripping climax changes the flow of story and the reckless protégé rises to top in world of crime. What fascinated me the most was the portrayal of Ajay Devgan as Sultan Mirza, the infamous don of 70’s Mumbai who struggle story as a helper in dockyards to becoming the kingpin of Mumbai is really intriguing. His fondness for a Bollywood actress highlighted the connections of movie world with crime. Crime biopics are reflection of grit truth happening in the crime world and the crime lords in the cinema are shown larger than life.

The 1987 movie - Naayakan was a cult classic showcasing Kamal Haasan as a rebel who rises to become a Godfather

The 1987 movie – Naayakan was a cult classic showcasing Kamal Haasan as a rebel who rises to become a Godfather

Director Mani Ratnam’s ambitious movie – Naayakan starring Kamal Haasan as Velu Naayakan was a cult classic in 80’s. Inspired by a true story of gangster in 70’s Mumbai, Naayakan is a heart breaking story of a kid whose father is murdered in broad day light by a corrupted cop. The little Velu kills the corrupt cop and flees to Mumbai and here begins the journey of Velu as the leader, benefactor for the poor but a dreaded gangster of his own league. But in this journey, Velu’s wife is brutally murdered by his rivals. Thus begins Velu’s vendetta against his rivals. The turning point in the movie is the court scene where Velu is shot down by his protégé whom he raised as his own son. The scene had shown the mass hysteria and the craze of public who hailed Velu as demi god.

Critics had compared this movie to Godfather. Though Godfather was a source of inspiration for several gangster flicks, it was a bit over rated. There are several other gangster flicks in Hollywood which were much better than Godfather in terms of storytelling.

Ram Gopal Verma’s Company was based on gang wars between two mafia bosses. Inspired by real life gang wars in Mumbai, Company is story of Chandu who joins Malik’s gang and they together come to make it big in world of crime. A bad stroke of destiny separates them and later begins the deadly gang war which claims the lives of several innocent people. This movie is one of the best movies directed by Ramu apart from Satya and Sarkar.

The 2010 Hollywood movie – Public Enemies was based on the infamous criminal John Dillinger. The titular role was played by the versatile Johnny Depp. The movie resembled closely to the 2013 crime thriller – Shootout at Wadala based on the first police encounter in 1980. In Public enemies the criminal ‘John Dillinger’ is shot down by one of his rivals while Manya Surve is shot down by Mumbai cops in broad daylight in 1982, marking the first recorded encounter of a dreaded criminal. The role of Manya Surve was played by John Abraham. No matter how glamorous, happening the life of a gangster may be, he has to die the death of a filthy dog either at the hands of law or rival gang.

Legend was based real life gangsters – Kray Brothers (twins) who created havoc through their violent actions. ‘Legend’ is based on their rise and fall. Even the 2013 movie – Shoot out at Wadala had a subplot similar to Legend where two brothers – Zubeir and Dilawar rise from the streets of Dongri to clash with Manya Surve, an emerging criminal. The characters – Zubeir and Dilawar were based on real life brothers who resided in Dongri.

‘Once upon a time in America’ is a cult classic in crime genre. Directed by Sergio Leone, the movie featured Robert De Niro as an ageing Don who witnesses the changes in the city and the story moves in flashback where a group of four boys decide to make it big in world of crime. Born on the streets of New York, the young lads grow up to gain their glory as gangsters. This movie is one of my best pick in list of top 10 crime movies. Even Ridley Scott’s movie – American Gangster is a must watch movie.

‘Behind every great fortune, there is a crime’ – Quote

Dharmatma, Vaastav, Gangs of Wasseypur, Zulm ki Hukumat and Aatank Hi Aatank are some of the entertaining gangster movies worth watching. The most noteworthy movie in 90’s was ‘Shiva’ introducing South Star Nagarjun in Bollywood.

shivahindiaudio

Inspired by corruption in college and cruel ragging, Shiva is rise of a common man into an inspiring leader who dares to protest against the criminal activities happening in campus. The use of cycle chain and soda bottle in violent fights became a cult among the youngsters of 90’s.

Movies should be seen as source of entertainment, not as a means of learning. Unfortunately young minds get attracted to the bad things shown in the movies. Gangster biopics should be made, but not glorified. No wonder, there will be more gangster flicks made in future.

Far from the heartless city

‘Home is where the heart is’ – Quote

‘Koi lauta de mere beetey hue din’ is one of the most memorable songs sung by versatile singer Kishore Kumar. There is so much depth in the lyrics as well as pain in the song. A person yearns for his old happy days requesting someone to bring back his old times. Nowadays this is the plight of every person living in city including me. Be it New York, Sydney, Mumbai, Bangalore or any city in this world, the city is bustling with cynics. In my past 10 years in this corporate world, I have minutely faced the cynicism of the heartless city people. Is the city too fast forward or I am too slow to adapt to its swiftness? I will never know the answer. The dreams which I had aspired to make it big in the corporate world came tumbling down when I realized that world is not as I had thought for. We see the world according to our perceptions, emotions and feelings and expect the same response from others. This is where disappointment begins. The hands that extended towards me for friendship were most opportunists, manipulative and cunning. The wisdom dawned on my mind very late. I pity on those people who recharge their mobile with high talk time options. But do they have that intention and time enough for their friends? I too extended my friendly hand towards people only to realize that no one was ready to shake hands. The city has become very cynical to a great extent. Corporate firms boast of great job opportunities, lucrative perks and encouraging work environment.
What you see later is the opposite picture of what has been shown? Horrible bosses, nagging team leads, cold & insensitive colleagues and above all a negative work environment. There is no place for genuine feelings. Everything is calculative, mechanical and opportunistic. Is this what I had aspired for? Is this what I dreamt for? I am desperately missing the old days which I still cherish it in my heart – the old school friend, my loving relatives, a forgotten crush and the paper boat which has drown somewhere deep in abyss.

‘Udaas hai mohalle ka paani aaj kal. Lagta hai kaagaz ki naav bananey wale bachchey bade ho gaye’ – Hindi quote

There is lot of depth in this Hindi quote which implies that nowadays no one is interested in making paper boats. All kids are now grown up. Life has become robotic and people are behaving like machines. A simple heart has no place in this city. Today the strength of love is measured by lavish treats, luxurious shopping, heavy bank balance and an imported, posh car with air condition. This is what today’s 21st century girl aspires for. Isn’t she right? Nowadays girls choose a rich boy with a poor heart than choosing a poor boy with a rich heart. Even love has become calculative.

‘Seeney mein jalan, aankhon mein toofan sa kyon hai, iss sheher mein har shaks pareshaan sa kyon hai’ – lyrics from movie ‘Gaman’

Through his short stories and full length novels, Ruskin Bond has captured the happiness of small towns, hill stations and villages. Despite being such a celebrated author, Ruskin still lives in a small town of Mussoorie. He still prefers writing letters and posting it in postboxes. When I read ‘Night train at Deoli and other short stories’ penned by Ruskin, I too feel to leave this city and retire to a simple life in a small town which can give some place to me in its big heart. Ironically the city is big, but there is no place for emotions, truthfulness and kindness. I guess it is time for me to pack my bags and disappear somewhere in a small hill station or a town where I can live my life as per my comfort. It is time to say good bye to the heartless city. I conclude my feelings with this beautiful song sung by Kishore Kumar.

‘Gaadi bula rahi hai, seeti baja rahi hai, chalna hi Zindagi hai, chalti hi jaa rahi hai’

Lanka’s princess – A vengeful vamp or a misunderstood princess

Title of Book – Lanka’s Princess
Author – Kavita Kane
Publishers – Rupa Publication
Genre – Fiction/Mythology

‘The fault lies not in our stars, but in ours’ – Shakespeare

lankas-princess

On international woman’s day, we accolade, salute and admire the feminine spirit of woman race. For a girl, various mythological figures like Sita, Durga, Urmila, Sati, Anusuya and Savitri are role models. Would a girl consider Surphanka as her role model? No, never. She is the lesser known and most hated character from Ramayana. She was Ravana’s sister, the dreaded demon king of Lanka. For those who feel that Surphanka was really a hateful character should read the novel – Lanka’s princess to know the tragic story of Surphanka who was once known as Meenakshi, the dusky princess of Lanka. Born with long sharp nails, she was partly demon, party human. Her mother, Kaikesi was a demon while her father Vishrava was a rishi (sage).

Right from her birth, Meenakshi was always unwanted for her parents because her mother showered affections towards Ravan and Kumbhakaran while her father was more caring towards Vibhishan. Deprived of parental love, she found the affection in her grandmother Taaraka. Through this novel, author Kavita Kane has highlighted the mediocre mindset of parents to yearn for a male child. Even today, a girl child is considered inferior in rural areas and is sometimes often left abandoned or killed. Surphanka too goes through this same plight. She is considered evil, timid and ferocious by her mother. Meenakshi and Ravana can’t see eye to eye. It is Ravana who kills an innocent pet of Meenakshi. Meenakshi’s hatred for Ravana grows up with time and flares up when Ravana kills Meenakshi’s husband. Even Meenakshi’s son gets killed mysteriously. And thus begins the transformation of Meenakshi into villainous Surphanka. She turns into a ferocious vamp to see Ravana destroyed. She masterminds conspiracies to trigger a war between Ram and Ravana. But in the vengeful vendetta, she realizes that she hasn’t gain anything in this senseless bloodshed.

In Ramayana, there is very less mention about Surphanka. We only know that Surphanka made lecherous advances towards lord Ram and Lakshman. It was Lakshman who humiliated her by disfiguring her face. What happened before Ravan abducted Sita and what happened later after the death of Ravana is mentioned well to detail in Kavita Kane’s book – Lanka’s princess.

Be it Helen of Troy or Draupadi, women were indirectly the reason behind great wars. In Ramayana, it was Surphanka who triggered the war by manipulating events and provoking Ravana to kidnap Sita. The novel – Lanka’s princess is not just about Surphanka, it is also the story of the ambitious Ravana who becomes a pawn in hands of Surphanka. I really accolade author Kavita Kane for giving a voice to the character Surphanka through the book. In the first few pages the reader will feel sympathy for the poor Meenakshi. In the later pages, as Meenakshi’s happy family gets devastated, she takes no time to show her grey, vamp shades. I won’t divulge too much detail about this novel and let the reader discover the true nature of Surphanka.

The USP of this novel is the prologue where Lord Krishna meets an ugly, deformed hunchback woman named Kubja and tells her about previous birth when she was a demon princess and how her villainous deeds brought her destruction. The story moves to flashback and the story of Surphanka begins. According to my views, Surphanka was not a born evil vamp. It was the circumstance that shaped her destiny and transformed her into an ugly vamp. Had Surphanka’s parents brought her with same love and affection as they showered on Ravana, Surpankha wouldn’t have destroyed Ravana.

Since I have enjoyed this read, I am looking forward to read Anand Neelkantan’s book – Asura to know more about Ravana.

I rate Lanka’s princess – 10/10. After reading this novel, readers will definitely change their views about the demon princess Surphanka who was once a dusky, beautiful princess named Meenakshi.

Highly acclaimed gangster movies of Bollywood

In India, youngsters are crazy about three things – cricket, movies and crime. Though profession of movie and cricket is about luck, sportsmanship and glamour, crime is more than that. It takes brains, brawns, luck, money and guts to rule the world. Be it Hollywood or Bollywood, movie industry has glorified crime, gangsters, smugglers, bootleggers, bandits as robin hood, messiah and savior of the poor and a ruthless vendetta who sets his own rules. From Don Vito Corleone, Tony Montana to Manya Surve, Maya Dolas, Sultan Mirza and Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, audiences has seen various faces of crime lords. There is an old saying that ‘Behind every great fortune there is a crime’. Let’s catch a glimpse at the best gangster movies that were inspired by legends of real crime lords and mafias.

1] Once upon a time in Mumbai –

Once upon a time in Mumbai highlighted the 70's crime

Once upon a time in Mumbai highlighted the 70’s crime

This gangster movie is my favourite pick as the role of Sultan Mirza played by Ajay Devgan always sent goosebumps. Inspired by a yesteryears gangster who worked in docks to later emerge as the leading icon in crime world, this crime movie focuses on the rise and fall of Sultan Mirza. Labelled as criminal in the police records but hailed as Robinhood by the poor and needy, Sultan Mirza’s name is on the lips of every citizen. Sultan’s fall begins when he takes a protégé named ‘Shoaib’ under his wings and assigns him as the caretaker of his crime business. Here Sultan’s ideals clashes with Shoaib’s recklessness and what happens later is the fall of an aging don and rise of a reckless crime prince. Both the protagonists are inspired by real gangsters. Ajay Devgan scores high as the 70’s don who once the city feared. The climax of the movie is the turning point in the story where a single bullet brings end to the rule of Sultan who was once feared and loved by the masses.

2] Daagdi Chawl –

dagdi_chawl_poster

Those who live in Byculla, ‘Daagdi Chawl’ is not just a residential area, but a den of a most feared crime lord. The 2015 Marathi motion picture is about scuffle between an ordinary man and the crime lord of ‘Daagdi Chawl’. A small scuffle with local goons pulls an ordinary mechanic in world of crime and how he crosses path with the enigma called ‘Daddy’ is worth seeing. There is a new movie slated for release in 2017 which will trace the journey of the gangster right from his early days as a goon to his rise as a politician. The movie is titled as ‘Daddy’ and the titular role is played by actor Arjun Rampal who has worked on his physique, mannerisms to get into the skin of the role.

3) Raees –

Shahrukh stole the hearts of audience in the role of Raees Alam

Shahrukh stole the hearts of audience in the role of Raees Alam

Loosely inspired by a life of an infamous bootlegger in Gujarat, ‘Raees’ is a gangster movie which features actor Shahrukh Khan as the dreaded bootlegger who clashes with the law through his illegal liquor business. Shahrukh’s role in Raees was larger than life, similar in lines of Godfather played by Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. A thorn in the flesh of law, Raees Alam is locked in a deadly battle with manipulating politicians, rival gangsters and cops. By coincidence, the story of this movie was bit similar to Net Flix TV series – Narcos which was based on real narcotic mafia – Pablo Escobar who was shot down by Colombian Police in 1993.

4) Agneepath –

agneepath

Rumoured to be based on life of a dreaded gangster – Manya Surve, Agneepath is regarded as a cult movie in history of Indian cinema. The role of Vijay Dinanath Chauhan not only fetched Amitabh Bachchan a national award, but also took his career to great heights. Though it regarded as an underrated crime movie, nevertheless it is a thrilling story about a village boy who rises to become a gangster to avenge the death of his father. Some of the scenes from the movie are inspired by Brian De Palma’s movie – Scarface. How Vijay settles score with his arch rival Kaancha Cheena (played superbly by Danny Dengzopa) is best to be seen on the silver screen.

Vijay Chauhan became an iconic character in Indian cinema and the role was again played by Hrithik Roshan in the 2012 remake. The role of Mithun as the south Indian coconut seller added a comic touch to the otherwise intense movie.

5) Satya –

satyaa

The 1998 motion picture based on clash between mafia and Mumbai police changed the definition of crime thrillers in Indian cinema. Wrongly accused in prostitution case, an innocent young man ‘Satya’ befriends a local gangster ‘Bhiku Mhatre’ (played to perfection by Manoj Vajpayee) and soon they become a crime team against the law and rival gangsters. Calm minded Satya engineers plans to take down on all the rivals and law and becomes the most wanted public enemy of Mumbai. Among all the characters, Bhiku Mhatre steals the show with his one liners and the sweet presence of Urmila Matondkar gives an emotional touch to this dark crime drama. This is one of the best directorial works of Ramu. Ramu came up with new crime movie – Company featuring Ajay Devgan and Vivek Oberoi. Though Company was a brilliant gangster flick, it was nowhere closer to Satya.

6) Shootout at Wadala –

Shootout at Wadala was based on the first police encounter in 80's

Shootout at Wadala was based on the first police encounter in 80’s

Based on the first encounter registered in the file of Mumbai Police, Shootout at Wadala is story of 1980’s feared criminal – Manya Surve who became the first local goon to be shot down by Mumbai Cops in 1982. Wrongly framed guilty in a murder case, the honest Manohar Surve turns into a brutal gangster ‘Manya’ who dares to shake the empire of most dreaded kingpin of Mumbai. Similar to the plot of Hollywood movie – Public Enemies, Shootout at Wadala sees the rise and fall of Manya Surve. The 1990 movie ‘Agneepath’ is rumoured to be based on Manya Surve. Shootout at Lokhandwala was the first movie in ‘Shoot out series’ which was based on the dreaded gangster ‘Maya’ who was shot down by Mumbai Police in Swati building at Lokhandwala.

6) Parinda – Earlier titled as ‘Kabootarkhana’ Parinda changed the definition of movie making in history of Indian cinema with its gripping story line and changed the conventions of Bollywood drama with the disturbing climax where the lead protagonist is gunned down miserably by the antagonist. The 70’s and 80’s movie used to be formulaic based on pick pockets, robbery, love triangle and all the masala entertaining stuff the audiences loved to watch. Sadly, the directors of that era were never innovative in their approach.
The dynamics of storytelling changed with Parinda. After witnessing the gruesome murder of his friend, an honest man decides to take down on a crime empire to such an extent that he himself gets sucked in the world of crime. Parinda is said to be based on life of a real life gangster who was unknowingly dragged in world of crime. Parinda is counted as a milestone in history of Indian cinema and took director Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s career to great heights.

7) Rakhtcharitra – Based on life of Andhra’s famous personality – Paritala Ravi, Rakhtcharitra is a vengeance drama full of gruesome violent scenes. A dangerous game of politics and crime happens in this vengeance saga where the family of an ordinary man is wiped down by his enemies. How the ordinary man starts a vendetta of hatred against his enemies and rises as a politician is best to be seen in the movie – Rakhtcharitra directed by Ram Gopal Verma. The story is split in two parts. The sequel is continuation of the vengeance drama where Pratap Ravi the lead protagonist comes face to face with his most sworn enemy.

8) Dharmatma – Actor Feroz Khan’s ambitious directorial venture – Dharmatma was a rip off of Hollywood’s magnum opus gangster flick – The Godfather. Loosely inspired by life of a ‘Matka King’, Dharmatma is saga of an ageing gangster and his refusal to alliance with narcotic dealers costs his life. Feroz Khan stepped in the shoes of Al Pacino while Hema Malini played role of Afghan girl who gets accidentally killed in a bomb blast. All the sequences in this movie were heavily inspired by Godfather. This movie was a huge hit and later several filmmakers made unofficial remakes of Godfather which included Aatank hi aatank, Zulm ki Hukumat and Sarkar.

9) Sarkar – Rumoured to be based on life of a great political supremo, Sarkar is a dark, menacing movie which focuses on ups and downs in life of an ageing patriarch Subhash Nagre and his son Shankar Nagre. Shankar Nagre takes the reins of family business in his hand when Subhash Nagre is falsely accused in a political conspiracy and is mortally wounded by a hitman of one of his enemies. What follows is Shankar’s pursuit for vengeance against the enemies of Nagre family. Similar in lines of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Sarkar is one of the best works of Ram Gopal Verma. He later made the sequel ‘Sarkar Raj’ in 2008 where Shankar Nagre becomes a pawn in hands of cunning politicians. Sarkar 3 will be the continuation in the trilogy and is set for a 2017 release.

Apart from Dharmatma, Sarkar, Shootout movie Series, there are countless gangster movies based on life of real kingpins and smugglers. In 2017, Arjun Rampal will be seen as a local gangster in movie ‘Daddy’ while Shraddha Kapoor will portray the role of a mafia queen in new crime biopic – Haseena. No wonder, movies have always glorified crime and gangsters and continue to entertain viewers who have affinity for such crime stories.