Freelance Nomad

Monday, January 29, 2007

Election Time

The civic elections are taking place in Pune right now. It's a big deal. Political rallies are taking place all over the city and Tadiwala Road is no exception. You can't go two minutes without seeing (or hearing) an autorickshaw kitted out with loudspeakers, blaring out pre-recorded campaign slogans or giving a mobile platform for one party or other.

Shakuntala - one of the DISHA team - is standing as a candidate. I hope she wins. Her compaign HQ is set up just outside my building. Perhaps if she's successful we can arrange an Evita-style reception from my balcony...

Many of the rallies pass along the path outside my flat. Of course, as soon as they see Shaku's HQ they up the volume. This gets a little trying after a while.

All this excitement will continue until 1st February, when the voters go to the polls. Afterwards there'll be a few celebrations, and then perhaps things will get back to normal. And believe me, 'normal' is still pretty interesting around here.

I was in Mumbai over the weekend and they've taken the dramatic step of banning liquor sales during the election period to try and cut campaign-related trouble. A newspaper report I read on Saturday quoted an anonymous political leader saying they'd prepared for this by stocking up on booze in advance in order to keep party workers going during the gruelling campaign. I wonder if they'll win.


Here's a still from the Hindi blockbuster Sholay.

Originally released in 1975, the film beacame so popular that some cinemas ran it for years. It remains the most successful Hindi movie of all time. I've got the DVD - it's great.

The plot is relatively straightforward. Small-time criminals Veeru and Jai (played by Dharmendra and living legend Mr Amitabh Bachchan, respectively) are employed by ex-policeman Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kumar) to apprehend notorious bandit Gabbar Singh (the excellent Amjad Khan) whose gang has been terrorising the village of Ramgad. There are a couple of twists along the way to keep things lively, but essentially it's a struggle between good and evil.

The heroes really are heroic. The bad guy really is nasty - in one memorable scene, wiping out the Thakur's entire family as an act of revenge. In another, he forces Basanti (Hema Malini) to dance on broken glass to save Veeru's life.

And - importantly for a Bollywood film - the songs are great. Combine all this with action, humour, pathos and romance and you've got a winning formula. Certainly, if you spent your hard-earned rupees on seeing this at the cinema you'd definitely walk out having got your money's worth.

The film owes debt to Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns - leading to it being described as a 'curry western'. Very clever. The landscape (near Bangalore) even looks like the wild west. Of course, a remake is in the pipeline. Sounds like a shameless cash-in to me. But if I'm in the country at the time, I'll go see it all the same. Bah.