Saturday, 21 February 2015

10 Things I’ve Overheard at Hauz Khas Village

Tea Stuff I want to be snide about, but actually quite like.
 Since the NY Fashion Week's overheards became this huge thing, I figured I’d focus on a location that’s provided me merriment and glee over several years at the unintentionally funny quips that often sail through the discount-perfume soaked air of The Village (yes, I feel addressing it as ‘The Village’ makes it sound cooler, and that HKV is a very low-rung way of saying it).
I had plans to go for a typical ladies night with the GalPal set—bouncing about in the incestuous cluster of places that is The Village to whomever offered us the most free drinks that tasted the least like cough medicine. That very afternoon, my editor (a classy dame) remarked that a group of girls who were the quintessential behenjis ‘you know, those Hauz Khas types’ were at some do she was at. I was aghast! ‘I used to live there!’ I said, joking on the surface but dying several hundred deaths inside. She tried a quick recovery with words that in simplespeak were essentially ‘Um…not you….?”
But the damage is done. I am now significantly aware that I am one of innumerable ‘cheapie-types’ that frequent the pretentious little lanes of this debauch Delhi hole. I am of that imposter elite, that which the authentic elite furrow their designer brows at while they sit at some obscure winery, sipping a 1859 Bordeaux (these are just some words. I’m a wine philistine. I prefer a good 2015 Tropicana Grape). 
So, while Shahpur Jat is probably the new Village (and naturally, that makes MeherChand the new Shahpur Jat), I still stay a staunch Villager (just ask my team about my work get-up; they’ll confirm) and payed homage to the fact by hitting it up with my fellow Village people last night. I saw, in fact, several of the exact stereotype my boss had offhandedly mentioned; pearls, too-high heels, Rajouri Garden accent (By the by, good folk of Rajouri Garden, I’m just playing along with cool Delhi clique-ism. I have no grouse with you. I haven’t even been to Rajouri Garden. I mean, Uck, why would I?) 
The Least Trashy Village Picture of Self that I could find.
 So, down to business, I shifted my attention from the way people looked to what they were saying. And the results were the rhinestone-studded leopard-print of the conversation world—truly awful, but fascinating nonetheless.
1)    “She thinks she’s a singer now because she stole the mike from some bitch at Raasta. ‘OMG I have a gig, you guys!’ Please.”
2)   “You shouldn’t have worn a dress if you were going to eat, na?”
3)   “Wow! I love your…um…shoes…I think. I forgot.”
4)   “This scene is toh poora dead, boss.”
5)   “Will you give me a free drink? I’m an intern from Bareili.” (This was me. And it worked.)
6)   Sirf do hazaar laya? Kya pani piyega aaj? (You only brought 2,000? Are you only going to drink water tonight?)
7)   “No, ya. I hate this place. I’m only here because Mummy Daddy said no more parties this month.”
8)   “You’re, like, SO sober right now.”
9)   “She’s from Bombay na? They don’t understand winter.”
10) “I think she heard Koovs was cool, so now you ask her ‘Where’d you get this?’ and she’s always like ‘Koovs,’ but its Carol Bagh most def.”
Shallow as all hell, but I love this little cesspool of superficiality nonetheless. Thinking of myself as an ironic observer helps keep enough distance to continue the façade of being above it. That, and as long as I wear pants on eating days.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Fashion Martian at Fashion Week

Very High Fashion Image.

‘What is a fashion Martian?’, you will ask, and to that I will respond with ‘a phrase I thought was SPLENDID to describe my state of affairs as the only alien life form at the magazine I work for who can’t tell culottes from coat-tails (okay, I can, but I like alliterations) but is yet to be approved by my editor. So now its on the only thing that doesn’t require anyone’s approval to publish—a blog noone reads’
When I first joined this magazine, my situation was compared routinely to The Devil Wears Prada plot diagram. Aspiring writer joins large-scale fashion conglomerate despite knowing close-to-nothing about the fashion world (I say ‘close’ because, for all my feminist nonchalance, even I wouldn’t wear that ‘lumpy blue sweater’.
So, for me, it was an easy experience when I needed to fill an audience seat on Rajdeep Sardesia’s Special Feature Show (‘Has Delhi become safer for women since Nirbhaya?’ Nope.) happening on a lower floor of the selfsame office. But going for my first Fashion Week (not this one, I should clear up. Wills Lifestyle Fashion Week in October) was an experience because, truly, I was as out of place as Lady Gaga at a t-shirt store.
For instance, a famous designer whose table I was at, for reasons beyond my recollection, smirked politely as I struggled to pronounce a fashion designer’s name with more than the appropriate amount of ‘Vs’ and ‘Ws’ in it. I have since learnt how to pronounce it from kind friends, and am now ready to bring it up nonchalantly in conversation, should we ever chance upon each other again—just so I can floor him with my fluency.
The second time around, however, I decided that I had been around five months—ergo, my behaviour needed to be more fashion-week savvy. I borrowed a dress from the fashion closet (I don’t think ‘This Dress is by Rediwala, Sarojini”, would fly even if I put on my best snooty voice) and put on a lipstick lent to me by the resident beautyperson (Chops to you, my friend. You’re one of the rare people who can vaguely fix my hideous face in 5-7 minutes.) and feigned some degree of self-confidence as I walked in… to face a large woman in fishnets and a skirt that was almost afraid of leaving the area around her ample bottom.
This is fun, I decided, looking at a number of people swanning about, decked to the brimful in everything from hooker-length boots (disclaimer: this isn’t a fashion term, for those as uneducated as myself. This is just prejudice run amok) to anarkalis to sunglasses indoors (only in Delhi, brah). I felt at ease in my simple, striped dress and plain black coat, and for the first time like I wasn’t out of my depth. I was doing it! I was being sophisticated! I was handling my fifth drink like a pro!
Turns out if you think you’re doing fantastically, the whiskey sour in your hand is encouraging you to think it. Evil whiskey sour. Like a Disney villain, whispering comforting crap in my ear as I;
1)   Skin my knee, because I trip right next to the runway in full view of numerous fashion whose-its.
2)   Have an odd, amorous moment with a girl whose face is now a mix of Kalki and the Pillsbury doughboy in my memory.
This treacherous friend of mine met her though :(
3)   Pass by two ex-colleagues with a borderline-creepy smile to show friendship and then go ‘HAHA BITCH!’ with friendly colleague in full earshot of them, whilst believing I am quite stealth about the matter.
4)   Rob an abandoned candy store, first casually and then in a manner apropos criminal, asking the reception for a bag and filling it with my weight in gummy bears and silly strawberries.
5)   Dance at my reflection in the mirror because why not, right? Noone is here except me and a CCTV camera.
6) Was so out of it that I MISSED KALKI! The main reason I was even there. Whole plan to give her the fangirl heebiejeebies FAILED!
What lesson have I learn about fashion and work etiquette? That, evidently, I have neither. The dress has gone back, but the shame remains. Luckily, I can bury that shame (and myself) in purloined candy.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Sex And The City Flashback (And Why I Was Never Enamoured By Carrie Bradshaw)

Isn't She Wuvly?
 There are days I still miss this show, phantom limb style. I know, I know; it bowed out gracefully after six artfully witty, high-glam years (ruined a smidge by the overly sappy films that followed in its wake), but even though there’s a plethora of phenomenal shows out there, I feel like nothing will ever look at sexual dynamics quite as skilfully as this show did; through the lens of its four diverse characters—Miranda, Samantha, Charlotte and Carrie
Everybody has a favourite. God knows how many times someone has uttered the phrase ‘she’s such a Samantha’ loosely for a promiscuous friend (I like to believe I’m one of the rare few that understands the complexity of her character beyond ‘that big slut’). The World Wide Web is aflush with ‘Which Sex And The City Character Are You?’ quizzes because it created such strong, full characters with cardinal traits we all see in ourselves to some degree.
You have Miranda; with her staunch, independent take on all things New York—and life in general(with a slight tendency to emasculate; unintentional, of course), Charlotte with her unwavering faith in true love, and her neat little Prada pocketbook of judgements that often ‘come from a good place’, and Samantha, with a boldness and self-confidence to which we can only aspire,  and raw sexual magnetism that every dong in the city has had a chance to tap into. But at the centre of this group of power women is one Carrie Bradshaw, shoe-a-holic, sex columnist extraordinaire, and the undeserving protagonist.
Ooh, ouch, harsh, think the ardent followers, of which I am one, believe me. It rankles me deeply when the show is cast aside as being shallow and over-involved with the non-problems of the upper crust, white ‘ladies-who-lunch’ set. I love the show. I even think Carrie’s little quips on gender disparity and sexual politics are incredibly funny.
I just…you know…don’t like her.
I mean sure, she’s cute, like a small Muppet with big boobs and a penchant for crazy hats. But that’s the trouble. She’s cute in that specifically engineered way that men like. It’s all giggles, eyelashes aflutter, an over-dose of cotton candy pink and a femininity that sometimes borders on offensive because it’s ‘taken care of’ from the political correctness standpoint—you know, since it dons the garb of the self-made woman that runs on her own fuel in NYC. We can’t be upset when she’s all ‘rescue me’ because heck, she rescues herself…um…sometimes. 
 If you gave me an outlet (you know, like a blog) I could ramble on for years about the distaste I feel for this central character that courses through the veins of this otherwise brilliant show—but I feel like I’m more likely to get through to those in blatant disagreement (‘But she’s so fun! Men’s underwear! Smoking! Manolos!’) if I makes case more succinctly 
Carrie Bradshaw’s Character Crimes—A Short List
·      No, I don’t think it’s cute that a grown woman has spent over fifty thousand dollars on shoes, but has 34 dollars in savings when her rent agreement collapses.
·      Oh look, she broke HUNKYDARLING Aidan’s heart! Again! How complex and mysterious—and not at all unsympathetic and cruel. Because, you know, whimsy.
·      She’s gone back to Big for the 35th time running? Oh okay. No, it isn’t battered wife when Carrie does it, because hey, she can take a cab all by herself at 3 in the morning.
·      Nice Guy Proposes—Panic, adultery. Routine Asshole doesn’t propose—Sangria, Self-Loathing, Scathing series of columns.
·      Could you edit the coy from your conversing-with-men personality please? Or does everything from road crossing to curtain shopping need to be turned into foreplay?
·      Why is it that there’s no moral compass for this woman? How could her continued infidelity with Big while he was married and she was with Aidan be excused as misguided passion? Is it just me or does this droll little  wildflower character condone the idea that its okay to treat a good guy like the remnants of a coffee filter, while a real (Big) dickhead can be put on a pedestal on a fairly repeated basis—even if after 10 years of punches to the gut, he can stand you up at the altar in the film? Yeah, yeah, love makes us weak. But must it make us insensitive narcissists as well?
My Laundry list extends into next Tuesday, but I end here before this critique seeps into an assessment of my personality—I truly am quite nice, and not as cynical and misanthropic as I must come across this very minute. I’m otherwise very fond of lots of inner conflict, lots of damaged love stories, lots of weak-willed characters…
I just…you know… really don’t like her.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Birdman — A Review

Directed By:

It's somewhat daunting when a movie's been nominated for an Oscar. There's so much baggage—so much trepidation about whether you'll feel everything you'll have to feel, understand every subtle nuance the director tosses in (extra subtle is extra points in the critic's book), get every shard of subtext tucked into a smile, the frame of a door, a spike in the music…
Which is especially why I was excited about the film—until I stayed longer than I’d planned to at work, was dying of hunger at not having eating any semblance of a meal through the day, and then, the cherry on my Thursday, lost my debit card. I walked into the film craving a brains-in-the-toilet, American Pie-esque feature length, instead of the current wave-making work of art I was about to witness. Birdman seemed great in theory, too-tiring-to-cope-with-at-10:00-p.m.-on-a-weekday in practice.
I walked in, having missed the trailers—the ones I usually scramble to theatres early so I can watch—and the show had begun. Two hours later, as the credits rolled, I realised that for the first time in quite a while, I had completely lost track of time.
My barometer for a film being a good one can either be terribly complex...or equally simple. The complex formula involves—Great character construction + Splendid cinematography + Unclear plot motivation (i.e. anything but predictable) + Yada yada yada...
The simple one is this; I get annoyed at intermission. I have no desire for buttery popcorn or aerated orange sodas. I only want the film to come back on quickly, nervous without it like a shy child without mommy. Yesterday, the intermission was too long, too fraught, and not remotely mourned when it was through.

Birdman follows the life of washed-up Riggan Thomson (Micheal Keaton), who can’t fight past the barricade of the Birdman tag, a character he played eons ago and can’t live down. Encapsulating interestingly his struggle to prove wrong the widely held belief that he was ‘always a celebrity, never an actor', Riggan tries to show the world his acting chops by sinking his (rapidly depleting) funds into a Broadway show, based on a Raymond Carver play. 
Enter a host of interesting characters that contest his attempts at being a 'full and true actor' on a daily basis—Emma Stone as his tech-obsessed daughter, Sam; Zach Galflaglarhglarh playing Jake, Riggan’s publicist, best friend and lawyer all rolled into one hairy ball, and Naomi Watts as the talented, pushover actress Lesley. While the film is definitely in Keaton’s Magnum Opus collective, to me, the true star of every film he’s in is Edward Norton. The case in the film is similar—Norton plays Mike Shiner, the ‘serious’ actor of the play, whose presence (and jackass attitude) amplifies Riggan’s need for accolades as an actor—something Shiner gets in spades without asking for. 
Throw in the angle of Riggan’s ex-character, Birdman, speaking to him and directing him in a manner that reminded me quite vividly of the schizophrenia section of my old Psych textbook, and you have a film that’s exquisite in its palpable realness, as well as fleshed out in all the little add-ons that make a film work (in particular the jazzy, Broadway score that lines the film, and the uncomfortable but brilliant close-ups that capture every twitch of an actor’s mouth). 
The thing I would change (I’m incapable of not changing something) is the ending. You know an ending doesn’t work when you see the perfect end point, and the film moves past it. Sadly, Birdman did, but I don’t think it matters much. The film is a rare one-off—managing to be Oscar worthy instead of being Oscar-formulaic. It may not run long with the Indian cinema-goers though—so don’t let it fly away before you catch it.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

All Knocked Out (Reacting to the AIB Hullabaloo)

It seems only fair to react to a controversial subject that, according to, has ‘divided the country in half on Twitter’. And I think I might have a word (or hundred) on the subject. While, indeed, as crass and politically incorrect as the ‘haters’ make it out to be, AIB ought to be given their due—they prefaced their shenanigans by telling us they were working with a format, one that’s been making New Yorkers—and then, the rest of world—laugh since the 1940s.
There are people who like the Roast as a concept. And people who don’t. I’m of the latter variety. Taking digs at someone over and over about one painfully obvious trait seems to me terribly unimaginative. To see the crème de la crème of the comedy world accumulate in one place to do so seems even more futile.
The AIB Roast was the exception. Not because it was the best Roast I’ve ever seen (that would be the roast of one Donald Trump). But because it took the celebs—the very ones we’ve put on a pedestal in a glass castle—and it made them people. They were being made fun of for being too slutty (Ranveer), too talentless to function (Arjun), too stupid to know her ass from ISIS (Alia) and too scared to come out of his walk-in closet (Karan). Plus, it was actually was quite funny.
I’ve marvelled for years at this country’s inability to be truly funny on screen. I have tremendous respect for the Zoya and Farhan Akhtars of the world, who brought wit into the mix in a space where, in order to be funny, you had to be loud, overtly physical,—and incredibly careful.
If it wasn’t family humour, it wasn’t allowed. And if it was going to allude to anything mildly sexual, it needed to tread so delicately that it often didn’t even make a sound. I kept wondering how I could meet so many funny Indians on a daily basis, but have to scour the internet for the likes of a British sitcom (Try Coupling by Steven Moffat) or an Irish stand-up comedian (Dylan Moran’s Like Totally is a routine worth watching) for my comic amusement.
And the AIB Roast brought the problem into clear light. It’s too dangerous to be funny—fully, unabashedly, disgustingly funny—in this country because someone is always around the corner, waiting to be offended. Even in a situation where you have age and content warnings (like in this case) and have to 'click on link to view', people lie in wait, daggers drawn, needing to be upset about something.
AIB, as I gasp for a breath of comic relief in this world of Comedy Circus type entertainment shows, I reach out my hand (as far as it’ll go from my desk at work; it’s a lazy day) to you in solidarity. Sadly, it looks for a while that the only thing you can roast is a consolation chicken. Good luck and Godspeed.