Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bush says Indians are overeating at the buffet...

As regular readers of this blog know, I really don't do political posts and hardly consider myself an expert in that field. I do my little filmi song thing and let the talking heads of the blogosphere write about Obama/Hillary/McCain. But the other day in Missouri, our soon to be ex-President mentioned India's growing middle class and said "when you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food, and so demand is high, and that causes the price to go up." Kya? Americans consume ~3770 calories a day which is roughly twice of what an average Indian does. They are also the largest per capita consumers in any major economy of beef, the most energy-intensive common food source, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And finally the United States and Canada top the world in oil consumption per person, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. I am a proud citizen of these United States but my heart belongs here as well as the land of my birth, India. To see the people there enjoying the fruits of a booming economy is a cause of great pride for me. But it seems to others a fearsome thing that threatens their 'all you can eat' mentality...

Contrast the above opinion with the brilliant musings of Shashi Tharoor - former UN Undersecretary General, author, journalist and fellow of the USC center on Public Diplomacy (something our Commander-In-Chief is sorely lacking in). He made some comments recently regarding Indians & food as well while delivering a speech at Emory University. He said that the Indian ideals of pluralism, ethnic, cultural and religious identities could all exist under the umbrella of the new India. "India can be thought of as a thali. A large stainless steel plate with a number of distinctive dishes served in different bowls. It won't spill over to the next. Each is distinct from the next but ultimately it's part of the same thing. They combine on your palate to make a satisfying meal". Bravo and Vaah Vaah to you sir!

And to wrap up these varied musings on Indians & food I leave you with some inspiring words from the first Indian-American governor of my home state of Louisiana, the honorable Bobby Jindal (nee Piyush but he claims to have picked the name Bobby after watching 'The Brady Bunch' as a child). Our local paper, The New Orleans Times-Picayune, did a write up of the dearth of Indian restaurants in a city that many tourists and locals consider one of the finest restaurant cities in the world. I was hoping that Jindal would show at least some of the Indian side of him that he has pretty much shunned since his college days (he has not visited India in years and supposedly asked Indians who came to a fund-raiser for him NOT to wear saris or kurtas). The good governor's answer when asked what his favorite Indian restaurant was in New Orleans? McDonald's. Really.

To me there is nothing better than a good Indian meal although I am probably a bit biased (above is a picture from Chokhi Dhani in Jaipur). So to that end the song for today is a request for anyone of Indian descent or even just Indian at heart to return to India for the first or hundreth time - because weary traveler, India misses you and you know you miss her as well. From Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Ghar Aaja Pardesi...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Chori Chori (1956)

It's springtime here in New Orleans with the perfect combination of perfect weather, scent of fragrant flowers in the air and a plethora of outdoor music festivals. Indeed, if you are ever going to make a visit to this battered but still beautiful city, the months of March & April are your best choice to do so. So what does all this have to do with 'Chori Chori'? Only that this gem of a movie (the final swan song of the legendary Raj Kapoor/Nargis pairing) contains a song that I have always considered to be the penultimate ode to spring, Panchhi Banoon. Just the idea of being as free (azad) as a bird (panchhi) while flying around the fields of rural India conjures up an image that one feels in the song even without seeing the video (below). Nargis, displaying both a rare comedic touch as well as her usual impeccable dramatic flair, does not disappoint in her interpretation of it.

Nargis arguably saves her best for last in her final film as Kapoor's love interest as the dizzy heiress on the lam from her father who has refused to allow her marriage to a dashing pilot. On her bus ride to reunite with her lover in Bangalore she runs into a struggling journalist (Raj Kapoor) and in return for assistance on her journey she promises him exclusive rights to her story. In this retelling of the classic Hollywood movie 'It Happened One Night' what happens next is fairly obvious. But the true joy lies in watching Raj & Nargis, who had already made several hit movies and whose off-screen relationship seemed to only add to their on-screen chemistry. Nargis did make one more appearance in an RK Film (at the end of 'Jagte Raho') but 'Chori Chori' sadly marked the end of a truly glorious era in Bollywood.

Shankar-Jaikashen were responsible for the majority of RK Films' unforgettable soundtracks. 'Chori Chori' represented the first time they were awarded the Filmfare Award for their efforts. This soundtrack also had the rare distinction of having Manna Dey provide background vocals for Raj Kapoor. Mukesh was responsible for the majority of Raj Kapoor's hit songs but had decided to try his hand at acting at the time 'Chori Chori' was being produced. The two selections for today are the aforementioned Panchhi Banoon and one of the most originally crafted duets ever filmed in Bollywood, Jahan Main Jaati Hoon (video below). The original LP photographs as well as downloadable songs can be found on the blog Parties, Sarees & Melodies.