Saturday, 18 July 2015

episode 1 the long take



 
this is the episode i did all i could to miss when the promos started airing back in early 2011. i could not believe that any hindi serial... any... could actually come up with a story of a handsome suave sexy rich young man and not fall flat on its face.

where were such men on our television?

in fact, anywhere in reality?


they only lived in romantic novels, classic and not so classic... usually they resided in the west and went to hollywood; oh please don't tell me that guy who is trying to look cool swinging a golf club in that promo is actually someone who can do that brash good looker tycoon thing. i mean really... i have seen him in a couple of places... yeah something about him, but that sort of role? he will surely be embarrassing.

who's that girl on a scooter? so this is the "new" heroine, comfortingly middle class, very indian and traditional but ha, gotcha, she is on a two wheeler, she be modern. i was not too convinced, nor too sad i wasn't.

after all who watches a hindi serial with any seriousness... or in fact, at all.

sometimes i wondered about the tagline... nafrat paas aaney na de, mohabbat door jaane na de. sounded nice. but no, i would not be there 6 june to catch the first episode.

all was going well, i may never have reached this page, had one fine evening i hadn't looked at the television and caught sight of a young man walking toward a woman in red by a poolside. yes, it was the same girl with crazy plait i had seen in a casually perused episode earlier... but the man? yeah, he was okay, but surely his chin was too pointed, he really couldn't be that smart... let me see, yeah... oh he is going closer...

i had not realised of course, but i had almost stopped breathing by then, and once the diwali episode was done, i had to stay up till 3.45 am watching it repeatedly on youtube, on my handphone as i lay awake and startled out of my complacence.

soon i had seen all diwali episodes and some of what came before. then one day i thought, must go back to the beginning... and finally saw episode 1.

i found out how completely wrong i was about many things. about serials and what they can offer a jaded middle aged stubborn condescending woman. about girls on scooters. about rich handsome smooth and sexy hindi serial heroes.



hai re nand kissore.

almost in classical vein, iss pyaar ko kya naam doon? seemed to begin with an invocation to the almighty. the large woman bustling about who turned out to be the not to be ignored and rather lovable bua ji, said not only krishna's name... but her first tartly flung word to a wedding guest, "arri o rameswar ki dulhain..." brought ram into the little call to the powers that be.

but even before that, two words had caught my attention. the episode opened on scenes of an old city as we went down its roads, to music with the clip clop beat of tanga, a horse drawn carriage, in it. lucknow, said the super, then camera moved over the gateway of a compound that had an array of homes, where clearly the not so wealthy lived... and at this moment, a wedding was on, all the guests sat in the large courtyard, while bua ji rushed about supervising boisterously the daytime ceremonies.

the words on top of the gate... gomti sadan.

to me, lucknow, a city i have alas never been to, says, nawab, wajid ali, kabab, pehle aap pehle aap, but most of all... bhoolbhulaiya, the fascinating maze. once you get lost in it, will you find the way out?

was this an invitation to enter a maze? that would take us via its many twists and turns and confounding puzzles to the ultimate destination... and if so, what was its destination? surely not that pyaar that is so difficult to name?

and gomti... why, it is the river of course. a flow, a pulse, a course in it. and if i see the movement depicted in the episode, there were two people moving from two different points to the same place, it did seem to reflect a river rushing down its course, in anticipation, of what even the river has no idea... usually rivers flow toward the ocean... was it just chance that the protagonist's name meant... the ocean?

would the river meet the ocean here, an ocean that came surging from the skies and caught and held it in its arms and gazed longingly into its heart?

am i being fanciful? perhaps. but that is what the 28.56 minutes of episode always ends up doing. in it i find a fabulously well laid out structure... an opening where almost every element of story and what's important to ipk is introduced, all major characters except one. the backstory is hinted at poignantly. the issues of galat, sahi, right or wrong come in. as does zameer or conscience. and rajkumar, rajkumari. the contrast between the protagonists' different worlds is clearly established. the characters' essential traits are drawn and they are at counterpoint.

there is even jalebi and of course, the first meeting.

to do so much in so little time and so smoothly is not easy, that too while you are making sure you have a grand first episode with a wedding and a fashion show and a deadly deal and a flashback giving enough opportunity to jazz up action and drama. the creatives really worked on this one and someone got the essence of it perfectly. like hot knife through butter goes the episode, unerringly and gleefully moving from scene to scene, taking us to the utterly delicious scoop at the end. oh, somewhere around 10:50, it also manages to take the viewer to outer space and heart attack.

there was a lightness and expert touch to the whole thing. none of the usual "serialness" here. even the very desi middle class milieu and people being portrayed was done with understanding and yes, that thing so missed in our soaps, understatement.

the wardrobe, the sets, the look, the feel, the acting, a certain style to it all, realistic even. and a note of that other thing often absent from this type of entertainment... intelligence.

i noticed our lucknowi receptionist at sheesh mahal properly on later viewings, he was such a perfect caricature, spoke of a wacky fun sense in someone in the team. yeah, the man was a cliche but pitched so right. that lost look on his face, he so genuinely a poet, reminded me that in l.a. almost every waiter at the hotel was an actor in waiting.



at gomti sadan, while the merriment and the aunt's loud urgings to dance and show joy got going outside, a lovely young woman at the window of a room looked out, a worried air about her. in  the background, a figure in silhouette moved and a voice said, "jiji, jija ji phone nahin utha rahe..." brother in law is not picking up the phone. your ears picked the soft "ph" sound. and now that i think of it, the villain of the piece was also a jija ji, wasn't it?

the girl in a mustard veil said she was scared, were they doing the right thing, and yet... to ask for such a large amount on the day of the wedding.

in seconds we knew what the problem was... no need for fussy long winded dialogues.

camera turned to look at the girl who said "phone" with a soft "ph". first we saw her eyes, then her lips, her hands holding her sister's... and we heard her gentle, light, childlike voice.

it was clear, she loved her sister a lot and her father... she would not let his shop be mortgaged for the dowry demanded that morning, she would go and speak to her brother in law to be and settle the issue. a voice full of hope and innocence... yes she was scared, but she would go see to the matter, jiji, tum mat ro... you don't cry.

next thing we know, this girl dressed in lehenga choli with lots of shiny gota, all decked up for a wedding day function, is wearing sneakers and running out as her father joins the revelers; after spending a couple of tender moments with his daughter, the bride to be, he lets his martinet sister push him into some dancing.

from his very first shot, shashi gupta looked like an unusual man, a not too predictable father for this sort of family and background. he actually wonders if giving his daughter in marriage to a boy from a family that badgers for more money on the day of the wedding is a good thing or not. his wife, garima, more entrenched in the thinking of her set up, is aghast. they are ladkiwale, girl's family... they must accept everything.

clearly, her husband is not too convinced. looking at this calm, poised man, who has the bearing of a wise and knowledgeable person, you begin to understand why he has a daughter who can hare off to confront a brother in law to be on the the issue of dowry. girls from gomti sadan don't do such things, this would be considered too daring and even foolhardy by most. on your sister's wedding day you do things expected of a girl... you dress up, you put mehendi, you giggle, laugh, dance, act a little coy and wonder about when your rajkumar will come, you don't steal your dad's shop's deeds and go off to some faraway hotel to make sure your family is not put through any hell.

maybe he has taught his girls to be not the usual gomti sadan girl.

and as you watch the measured shots and the scene is coming alive with song and revelry, you start noticing the sound, the music. not loud and unnecessarily dramatic as you would expect from a serial... instead, timely, catching the mood and always apt. 

for instance, as shashi pauses by the pillars of the verandah and looks at his daughter sitting outside, a soulful strain is heard for he possibly knows this means she is going away, an exchange of smiles, and a beautiful pause in sound as sadness comes, then the bride looks up and the song comes in... sinuous, earthy, demanding that you enjoy the moment. lovely interplay and understanding of conflicting wedding time feelings. plenty attention to detail, thoughtful and sensitive direction, smart editing.

in the meantime, the girl who is scared but will go, has gone, we don't know her name, nor what she looks like.

and did the song just say, "lal pari ban, banno hamari...?" red fairy? really? i think if we look at this episode, we will find it is embedded with ipk things, some obvious, some not so. of course, the pigeons are here already too. there's something really thrilling about this game the creatives seemed to have played here... i wonder if they planned this or it just happened by chance. i wonder too if i am reading too much into things.

the song stopped when the sister of the bride had to come in... for she was not around. "ai payal, khussie kahan hai?" asked their mother.

hey, payal, where's khushi.



and at last we heard what she was called and also her pretty sister in mustard and earth shades. at the question, we cut to a girl hidden behind a scooter, bright blue, talking to herself... actually to devi maiyya.

 
and it was before the goddess, her true and deep friend companion and  confidant, that we finally saw khushi's face for the first time. starting with earrings... earrings were going to be important too. and payal...

when i looked at sanaya irani and later watched her on that mad ride through crowded bazaar streets with two milk cans on either side of her chariot, what struck me most were her flowing slim figure and that elegant look which was really not that easily associated with the quintessential north indian middle class.

she was too fair... too lissome... too sophisticated.

yet those who cast her knew she would be just right. in fact, no one could be a better khushi. in that contrast with the expected, that unpredictable element was khushi given her distinctiveness, her specific self.

whoever selected her did a marvelous piece of casting, and we have heard someone else was considered for the role... she was second choice.

but no one really could be more khushi.

light, frothy, fey, carrying off the entire khushi get up with style and grace and essential sanka, sanaya was really the character she had decided to portray.

after her quick confabulations with devi maiyya, wondering what to do about the sudden call to up the dowry to rs 20 lakh, khushi set off on her scooter for the hotel. a quest taking her to an unknown place where she believed a good man would be found who'd listen to her plea. well, she did meet a man...

i really enjoyed the shots of lucknow streets, its colour, chaos, people, feel. and sanaya was totally into the trip now, being the curious, full of life khushi.



raju singh's music for madcap sanka devi traipsed in... hoi hoi hoi hoi hoi. it was a musician's understanding of a girl called khushi. she was lively, spritely, noisy, fun, lilting, traipsing, unstoppable, unavoidable and really gurgling along... if you're near her, expect crazy stuff to happen hoi hoi hoihoi. her sound was unmistakably from the land, indian, folksy, happy, chirpy.

by now raju singh had already started establishing a sound scape that is different, distinct and very conversant with the subject at hand. soon he will blow me to another planet with a piece of music.

along the way khushi stopped at a traffic light and in a well directed scene we picked on both the creepiness and charm of indian roads if you happen to be a girl. especially a girl rather beautiful on her scooter.

on the one side were ugly lecherous men, being sleazy and derisive. makes my skin crawl, because i know that is exactly how things are.

on the other sat a corpulent clan on a burdened scooter, some five of them squashed up. reminded me of the bajaj scooter ads of the seventies and eighties. father and young son with large cheeks and boteroesque stance looked at the girl in lehenga quietly. but a question in their eyes. 

she warmed to this appraisal, possibly praying for something to take her mind off the other sick gaze.

she gathered what puzzled large family, and made up a little tale. khushi will remain prone to this trait. she said, she has a drama competition, pronounced "kumpetition" in school, so is going dressed as a princess, rajkumari, for that.

prompt came the question from the rather still boy, really? then where is your prince... your "rajkumar."

"phir aapke rajkumar kahan hai?"

and the sound of a chopper was heard at that very moment, around 10:50 or so... and she looked up.


 
a strong vibrant note entered and captured screen, she turned to look at the chopper. a story that touched both earth and sky, that had a flight in it, a reach for dimensions beyond... in that little turn of her head was there a hint of a different deeper sensing? a hint of telepathy of an inordinate and stated kind some day? at present, it is all unconscious...


and onto a famous landing.

a helicopter flew in gracefully and banked circling an old mansion, a classic haveli, with domes and minarets... the music picked up tempo even as the chopper landed. someone opened the door, a group was waiting impatiently on the grounds armed with mikes and questions... the media, someone held them back.

the propeller hummed and circled.

music scaled up... low angle shot of a lean man with long legs, coming out, he is in a jacket and white shirt, wearing shades.

legs unfold, man descends, a grim dissipated look on face, an aloof stance.

he walks up in slow mo... directors left nothing to chance as they created the perfect entry for the world's most flawed hero.

he came and stood on the green lawn, looking toward the looming building.. tan-tan-tan, the melody started to open up, he took off his shades. a roll of drums, tempo lifting. a western, sleek sound, moving with a power and grace, filling the entire frame and beyond, taking over... declaring a presence. you wouldn't have to hear this sound many times to know it or who it belonged to. one listen, and it will stay etched in the mind, conjuring an image of a man not easy to look away from.

a profile shot... i have no doubt it got embedded in many memories instantly. and something said, strangely enough, all is well.

as he stood, still, inert, like he was outside the pale of things... his eyes told a story of their own. dark, turned inward, concentrated, in their own realm.

 


legs slightly apart, body immobile, he stood looking at the mansion...
we were no longer at gomti sadan where bua ji bustled and shook a mean leg, shakin' the old kamariya too and where people worried about dowry and said "phone".

we were in the rich part of town where havelis had helipads and many other things, some not so apparent, but which a set of dark unmoving eyes could clearly see.

the stunning young man in cravat and jacket who was slim and not too tall had a fabulously commanding air, his face looked as if it were hewn from stone... and the eyes. have i ever seen eyes like that. so deep and still with something lurking right inside. an opaque shut down in them right now. yet you could feel their sear.

power seemed to cling to him, and the air around throbbed with it.

if anyone had told me that a 27 year old untrained actor from not the most posh neighbourhood of delhi could have done this, i'd have of course laughed on their face and said, pass me the whisky.

now i was hyperventilating and thinking what's going to happen now. yes, exactly like a kid. the story was in his slow walk, his complete cut off, inert presence, as if the hordes of people thronging him were not there, and in his orbs.

he stood and looked up at the imposing edifice, an almost sublime contemplation.

in the meantime the reporters shot questions, and we heard he is "arnav, sir", owner of raizada company, an international... multinational company, so why had the owner come here for such a small deal. was there a reason?

how succinctly, story is being told and taken forward, no need for long drawn out conversations and set ups...

the next question, the whole country wants to know when you'll marry. ah, so he is a bachelor.

then the third question hitting at the core of this visit and telling us this is key... "excuse me, sir, suna hai aapka iss shaher se bahut purana rishta hai."  sir, we've heard you have very old ties with the city.



and the drums pick up... asr music comes on, full throttle. he begins to take long loping steps forward. he has not even bothered to glance at the reporters once, obviously quite used to this mobbing and in no mood for it.

but then at one point, he stops, just when he sees a board with the words sheesh mahal on it...the only little detail in the episode i felt was wanting. looked fake.

as he watches, memories come.

again a wedding. but here the sound of shehnai, and a beautifully dressed bride. who was she? with her stands a young boy, enjoying the whole thing, suddenly the bride looks worried, troubled, the music changes, a lady runs down the corridor, past the shehnai players. a gunshot and a voice.

"maa!"

and we cut to pigeons flying out.

in less than four minutes, the makers seem to have created an entire character with history, innate nature, current scenario, everything in place. had i just seen that much of this man and gone away never to see ipk again, i'd still have known him in a funny kind of way. so strongly and deftly thought out this bit seemed to me. and he hadn't even spoken one word.

every time i see this landing, i wonder how barun sobti got it so right. this was at a time when he was not yet familiar or comfortable with asr, doing several takes for each shot. that day, they couldn't find a tie that would work, so he had on a cravat; shoot having been delayed and them having to stand outside in the heat for hours. he in a jacket, and if i am to believe the blog of the production house, he kept his cool despite all the swelterng heat and confusion.

he was looking very thin and young... yet the stature and power, the conflicted, volcanic inner core, the shrewdness of a successful entrepreneur and the arrogance, also a boundless youthful energy, he wrapped it all into himself and exuded it with a stunning economy of action and word.

 


as the pigeons flew out we found ourselves on a balcony, a patio like space, of the mansion. three men, two older, and arnav sir sat around a table. one of the older men was particularly ingratiating.

"ussulon ke toh hum bahut pakke hain bhaiya," said this man, i am very firm of principle. a pigeon fluttered across, almost touching a still cold face, a pair of eyes, looked up. ice in their depth.


in a ruthless deal designed to stun the opponent, the young man bought over the mansion. his look as he sat quiet, eyes trained on the older man, not a muscle on his face moving, deal making, i did think of michael corleone. there definitely was a don air to the man. and how calibrated were his gazes, his turn of head, even the flicker of his lids. precise, clean movements, each conveying so much.

finally, he pushed an attache case full of money. and when the not too sharp older man said his aim wasn't quite right, he stood up deliberately and leaned toward the older man, towering over him... and opened his mouth for the first time. 



a soft husky lethally arrogant voice said, "arnav singh raizada ka nishana kabhi nahin chugta!"

his first words were his name. a thing most important to him. his identity.

arnav singh raizada's never misses his mark.

the older man quaked. the dealmaker went for the jugular.

"paisa mera shauk nahin, pesha hai."

money is not my hobby, it's my business.


 
then sure that he had done what he had come to, he straightened up with a satisfied air, wore his shades in one smooth movement and all set, he walked away, followed by his men, one of them had come along only to hand over the attache case with money in it, he walked away from the place.

the whole scene had a bated tense air, yet designed most stylishly, a mafia movie feel to it.



we cut to khushi on the road... her phone dies on her, but not before she has said that if a man has no zameer... conscience, no point in having a relationship with such a man, "usse apne dil mein bithane ka kya faida, jiji."

back at sheesh mahal the older man follows asr begging for understanding, speaking of principles and unfairness.

"asool sirf bewakoofon ke liye hotey hain," principles are meant for fools, says asr... why does it sound faintly exciting.

"karobar mein sirf ek cheez maine rakhti hai... paisa." in business only one thing has meaning... money.

"aur zindagi ne mujhe pahele sikha diya tha ki agar zameer ho bhi, toh usse maar dalo," a hollowing out of voice on the last few words... life had taught me way back if you have a conscience... kill it.

neatly have we been alerted to the fact that khushi and asr stand on two opposite ends of the spectrum. 

 


even as he strides out, uncaring, he stops suddenly. takes off his shades yet again... and says, "hai na?" then a slow smart swivel, a palat, his first... "chacha ji?"

isn't that right, uncle?

as the nonplussed older man looks on and then gets the point we learn of arnav malik who was thrown out of this very mansion along with his sister by this same man... when arnav was only 14/15 and he is now no longer malik. raizada, he is only that.

deal done, revenge taken... we move onto the evening.


 
arnav singh raizada in jet black sleek clothes, flanked by two girls in red, walks onto a ramp, lights glitter all around, people wait, it is the fashion show of ar, bulund. at sheesh mahal.


instantly, the media comes asking questions... as always crossing the line... soon we have the first of asr's english dialogues, a scathingly spat out through gritted teeth, "that's none of your business!"

he so looks the part. lithe, sexy, arrogant, the fashion magnate. then on the stage a strange situation, a bit of creative license.

"arnav?" says a pleasant female voice. asr's eyes go alert, then shift, a little question in them. he turns.

light falls across the new entrant, a beautiful woman dressed in fine saree and diamonds. it is his sister. his elder sibling... the girl who was a bride in his memory. the slightest hint of smile on his lips. then he steps forward. a world of information in that little lip movement. about an emotion. another main pillar of ipk, asr's love for this woman who surprises him.

and in a flash a whole new side of this character is expressed. a protective brother, vulnerable before that emotion he feels for his sister. she is handicapped and walks with a limp, he rushes to help her.



his sister looks at him with a warm bright smile, but she asks hard questions. arnav singh raizada has not been able to leave the past behind, his sister wants him to forget the past... why can't he let go... and how can he think of turning their old home into a factory... we hear he took complete responsibility at the age of 15, didn't let his sister feel any burden and made their life work.

he tries to say he has moved on, not stayed stuck in the past. she persists with her questions.

there's only one thing to do, swivel around deftly and say with that beautiful accent that says young, now, very westernized, "ladies and gentleman! put your hands together for my sister, anjali jha!"


 
khushi finally reaches sheesh mahal, it is dark already. she rushes in and comes upon the dreamy, rose carrying, receptionist in galaband. is it a poem she seeks? is she a poetess herself? khushi rushes away realising, no point really. in the meantime, the red rose, another ipk symbol is introduced with that quirky lucknowi twist.

khushi spins around asking for a way out of the bhoolbhulaiya with a ditty and lands herself in trouble.

the fashion show is on. in a well put together sequence, which is glamorous in its own way and even if the clothes don't feel high couture, the legs are long enough to create the illusion, we see models sashay on and off the ramp.

asr sits watching. then as if the day has finally caught up with him, he puts his head back and closes his eyes.




 in that one gesture, everything he doesn't show but you know he feels. the boy who was thrown out of his home, who lost possibly his "maa" when he was but a kid, who has planned this minutely for years maybe, today at last, he has succeeded to an extent. but the cost of this entire thing. the churning of his emotions... as the show gathers momentum, maybe he can just take a break for a while.

but a girl in a green lehenga has landed on the stage. who is she? the whispers start.

 


khushi is horrified to find herself pushed onto a stage.  again a bit of creative license, but done well... she looks around terrified. her lips move, hey devi maiyya she says under her breath.

she closes her eyes.

he opens his.

again that element of sixth sense.

his eyes turn unerringly in her direction. and stay there.


   
she opens her eyes and would possibly have tried to run, but two girls in red hold her as they walk past and take her with them down the ramp.

some inexorable force seems to have conspired to make sure the girl in green and the man in black meet today.

she almost falls as people watch, the show is obviously getting ruined. he stands up watching her as she stands transfixed on the ramp. their eyes clash, his glowing and gathering fire, hers scared, embarrassed, confused.

she turns to go and trips on  a dupatta. the dupatta from this moment on will come fluttering and finding ways for them to meet again and again.

she falls.

without even looking like he is surprised or bothered, he coolly holds out his arms and she lands in them.

 


she holds onto him, staring, shaking.

he looks at her,  for a second there seems to be a lick of a flame in his dark eyes. his gaze is fixed on her eyes, and then slowly it travels over her face in a slow almost insulting appraisal, coming to rest on her lips. the pale pink lips tremble, she heaves and holds on, totally thrown by everything. he grips her firmly as he looks at her eyes again.



 
 




barry dhillon, who wrote for geet earlier, wrote the dialogues. looks like he gave us those unforgettable opening lines of asr. but really what made it work was the cool, finely sussed out delivery by barun sobti... might have become too rambo otherwise.

raju singh's music was smooth, different, urbane, and for that asr music, he deserves some award or something. music was one of ipk's major strengths right through.

hrishikesh gandhi's camera and creative work by all in the team was wonderful, especially the art directors'.

nissar parvez directed this episode with man singh, i will always be grateful to the two directors for crafting this episode with so much care and detail... there was a lady sewing in the background while shashi gupta and garima spoke, so very real in that setting, another lady pounded spices in a huge spice grinder, people rushed around doing things one does in that situation, little things had been thought through, and the whole piece sparkled... it had the lightness and joy of khushi, below it lay a layer of intrigue, a darker thing, surely that reflected asr.



i am still reeling from the effects of long legs languidly unfolding and stepping on the ground. of eyes that are shut but their secrets call. of a voice low and husky and menacing yet oh they caress. a slow turn of head. aviators being taken off... put on. the bad boy has arrived arrogance intact.





















2 comments:

  1. Lovely to have landed here Indi di., pretty sure you will not remember me...I was mashira then...When the fever was raging. Now it is a warm glow inside...My own jugnu. Thank you for writing so beautiful. Always forever. Much love

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  2. and wonderful to see you here. of course, i remember you, mashira... how are you? glad to hear jugnu still glows :). hope all good with you and thanks so much. yeah, i wrote and wrote and then had to find a place for all those words. delighted you're browsing. you might find pictures missing from places... blogger is as capricious as mami ji hahhah, i'm fixing things slowly. enjoy and stay in touch.

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