Monday, October 22, 2007


Amazing. Ballistic. Colossal. Dashing. Extraordinary. Fantastic. Gosh! Heavenly. Iconic. I can go on and on and on till I reach Z two times over, but Amitabh Bachchan will still have much more in his repertoire which will go unmentioned.

You might wonder why I am bursting with emotions like a teenager on seeing a rock star!! Well, ten hours after shaking hands with the Big B, I am still to shake the electric feeling off myself. Allow my restless feet to break into a jig once again, allow my fist to pump the air once again, it is but once in a lifetime that a commoner gets to see the Big B, let alone touch him.

YES! YES! YES! *leaping into the air*

Thanks to my friend P, who is a BFI member, (and keeps springing up treats like the Chak De India Premiere and the IIFA Award function in Yorkshire) I was at the Odeon West End, London, today to watch The Last Lear. Odeon West End is one of the venues of the ongoing London Film Festival (for which P has taken two weeks off work and is watching world cinema while volunteering as a BFI member) and The Last Lear and Darjeeling Limited are two of the Indian films being showcased in this extravaganza.

But, coming back to Bachchan again, Wow!! The man has an even more commanding persona in flesh and blood than on camera. I first saw him through the glass of the entrance, giving interviews to TV channels. Later as I settled in my "second-row from the screen" seat, a mike on the stage, right in front of me, gave me a subtle hint. I realised that if AB were to speak at the mike, boss, I would have the best seat in the whole auditorium. Lo and behold, AB appeared from behind and proceeded to walk on stage to the mike.

After the initial few photographs, I just held the digicam aside to record his video, while I just gaped open-mouthed at the legend - just looking at him, wondering if this was for real, if the baritone ringing through the speakers was THE real thing. At 64, AB carries himself quite remarkably. He does not droop from the weight of the films that ride on his shoulders, his voice does not falter for one moment, and his eyes, though dim in their shimmer, have not lost any of the intensity.

And as he wound up his opening speech, I shut my recording, and before he could leave the stage, leaned forward and asked to shake his hand. Call me crazy, or brand me a typical desi - all your suited-booted decorum can go take a walk. This was the closest I got to the man in all my four and score years, and NO WAY was I going to throw away a chance of getting my hands on him. AB was taken by surprise, I guess, but he did oblige me, and boy, does he have a firm grip!!!

I might have sat in the front row, but I watched the movie from Cloud Nine!!!

Update: I have uploaded AB's speech on Youtube, here, in five parts. Watch out for the third part of the video where I pan the camera around. Those who recognise me in my current avatar can attempt to find me in this IBN-Live video.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Being an also-ran

When I read about Mysore having its own half-marathon for Dasara, I gave myself a big high-five. About time, too, I thought. Having enjoyed running in the Hutch Pune Half Marathon, I proceeded to read about how the event was and the route covered. Sadly though, the event seemed to have fallen flat on its face.

The saddest thing is that there seems to have been no overseeing at all. Supervision seemed to have been removed from the agenda altogether. Take this - Mysore Marathan. First I thought some Maharashtrian runner must have given himself a name - "Mysore Maratha", but no, this really was the runner badge of the Mysore Marathon. And this in spite of sponsorship.

To top this, Star Of Mysore reports, "But unfortunately for the participants in this morning's half marathon such arrangements were not made, the traffic was not controlled in a proper manner and the marathon runners seemed disoriented. Some of the runners were almost knocked down by autos and cars that were overtaking from the wrong side. Some runners were confused as to which road they must take at certain junctions as the proper personnel
were not present to direct them."
(pic on left courtesy Star of Mysore)

I ask, what were the vehicles doing in the marathon lane :O Where was the police? You don't see the vehicles, say, when Devegowda passes through the city, do you?
While I agree it is very premature to compare it with the Pune International Marathon, the least the people-in-charge could have done is to get someone to go over the checklist. This is the time when the spotlight is on Mysore, when the world is looking at Mysore, when it is the cynosure of all eyes. When you organise events under a banner as grand as Mysooru Dasara, you just can't afford to go SO WRONG.

Events like this will not ensure Mysore the podium finish it deserves. It will at best, be an also-ran. I just hope visitors to Mysore don't base their opinion of the Dasara on this enormous faux pas.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

English Summer

I love summer, and since I am in England, the English Summer. Though it has been a limp summer this year, with the sun emerging out continuously only in August, the mood is fairly upbeat. The best things about an English summer as seen by us visitors are the number of outdoor activities and people buzzing about (And of course the lack of clothing ;P). No wonder they wait for summer like anything.

Come summer, and almost all cars roll their tops down. It is amazing how almost every car manufacturer has a convertible in the mid size segment. Those who have hard-tops make sure their sun roofs are open. Come summer, and the beer flows. Most restaurants and diners bring out the outdoor tables from their hold, and put them out with an umbrella. It is jolly here, almost festive. Malls and supermarkets come up with shopping deals, and a lot of outdoor activities are planned.

It is bright outside by 5 in the morning, and it is not uncommon to see people go to work as soon as seven. Light persists all through the morning and afternoon till about half eight, when twilight begins to set in. Imagine, almost 16 hours of daylight!!! It is sunny when you come from office (5 pm), it is sunny when you change and go to the nearby park to play cricket (6 pm), and when you start walking back home (9 pm), it is just getting darker, and you feel as though it has just struck seven. Mealtimes go for a toss as you don't feel hungry at all. The body, accustomed to having dinner in front of the 9 pm soap, a good two hours after play, just cannot come to terms with the fact that all the meals are taken while the sun is up. So, dinner is postponed to 10.30 or 11, and hence bedtime to 12. Barely five hours later, the sun begins to warm your feet through the skylight on the roof.

The shopping centre here in MK has a large vacant area, to be used for promotional activities all through the year – there are PoP statuettes depicting scenes of the Bible during Christmas, there are job fairs and product exhibitions. Now, they’ve put up some inflatable slides, small trampolines, artificial rock climbing etc for the kids. All of them are manned, so you can just let your kid in there and sit on the chairs around. Most prefer the cool mosaic floor though. On some days where there are no such things, the whole quadrangle is left open. With the children running amuck, and the parents sitting on the floor, you feel as though you are sitting in a large open marriage hall hours before some pot-bellied uncle comes with the utensils in a "goods auto".

One such event was the Summer Screening of the Chak De India Premiere at Somerset House, London. Very similar to the drive-in theatres where you can watch in the comfort of your vehicles, this had a giant screen propped up against one of the walls of the House . Sitting inside the courtyard of the majestic building, I was reminded of our own Mysore Palace, especially when the entire structure was lit up like this.

Held under the auspices of Film4, this drew a sizeable Indian population from in and around London. Even though it was summer, the winds here get a little chilly at night, so there was an option of buying blankets. Nobody needed to, though - they all came prepared.
But what was the NDTV reporter doing here - surely she would not have come all the way from bureau office just to cover a premiere? The real reason was that the King was here. YES - Shahrukh Khan was here, and I saw him in flesh and blood. Less than ten metres away from me stood the Badshah, and set the ball rolling.

Hmm, and there were more of people like me with better cameras and gadgetry, so obviously, if you surf through Youtube, you should be able to catch a better video of him speaking. My poor digicam, craning its lens out could only manage a pathetic effort which I will not reproduce here.

Summer also gave us the opportunity to explore the cycle routes in Milton Keynes. Cancer Research UK had organised a marathon cycle rally - the Get On Your Bike - 2007. A twelve mile track (of medium intensity to suit adults and kids alike) was marked out from Furzton Lake, around the city and back. The route was well marked in fluorescent stickers, and marshals wherever the cycle route intersected the main roads. Halfway through, there was a pit stop, with volunteers offering bottles of water, and bananas for instant energy.

A hugely popular event, it was widely publicised on the radio, and had fitness instructors coming in to administer stretches before the event started. Kids in particular were more enthusiastic - most had their own small cycles, but I could see a few toddlers sitting on tandem bicycles and kicking their limbs awry.

They tell me it was better last year when summer was so intense that they had to buy table fans in the office because the AC wouldn't suffice. Sadly, summer this year was neither that good, nor that long - it started late, and has already gone by in a flash, and autumn is knocking on the doors. Leaves, golden brown, are falling off the trees and making the town look like a Mohabbatein set. These two weeks are all they last, and then the trees will be bare, until Christmas and after.