Aiyyaa, 2012

This has got to be one of the most clever movies of the year. For one thing, I didn’t know Rani Mukerji was so talented!  I mean, of course, we know she can sing and dance and do everything Bollywood, but who knew she could do comedy so well?  Well, no question about it–  not only can she do it well, she is positively bursting with energy and versatility throughout.

It helps, of course, to be part of film that has a funny script, but funny is putting it only mildly.  Because what we have here is outright wild and wacky.  What this is, is a carefully crafted mix of Bollywood kitsch and absurd, over-the-top storytelling.  Say goodbye to the demure heroine who pines for her beloved silently.  Say hello to the girl-next-door who chases, nay, stalks the object of her affections during the day, and fantasizes about him at night!  Ms. Mukerji is superlative in the role of her character Meenakshi in every sense of the word. A little giddy, a little sensible, a little fantastical, she is the epitome of every ordinary Indian girl who dreams about an alternate universe, only Meenakshi goes a big step further to pursue her crazy dreams.

A delectable satire on Indian society, this is a story with the wackiest of characters telling an ordinary story of trying to get along in a large joint-family setup even while each has a quirkiness to them that makes them anything but ordinary.

Aiyya is yet another example of Indian cinema taking great leaps and bounds in coming up with offerings that break the Bollywood mold even as they conform to the classic Bollywood boilerplate of song-dance routines.

Big kudos to Ms. Mukerji for giving an uninhibited performance throughout, including her fantastic dancing.  The hero, I am told, is an established actor in the South, and is certainly great eye-candy, no doubt, but it is really Rani Mukerji who is the real hero of the movie.  The other character called Mynaa played by Anita Date– with her unique prosthetic teeth– has got to be the breakout character of the film; she’s as wild and wacky as the film itself.


On This Day: October 30

Updated October 29, 2012, 2:29 pm

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On Oct. 30, 1974, Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman in the eighth round of a 15-round bout in Kinshasa, Zaire, to regain his world heavyweight title.

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On Oct. 30, 1915, Fred Friendly, the pioneering American broadcast journalist , was born. Following his death on March 3, 1998, his obituary appeared in The Times.

Go to obituary » | Other birthdays »

On This Date

By The Associated Press

1735 John Adams, the second president of the United States, was born in Braintree, Mass.
1885 Poet Ezra Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho.
1953 George C. Marshall, who, as secretary of state following World War II, engineered a massive economic aid program for Europe, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
1961 The Soviet Union tested a hydrogen bomb.
1974 Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman in the eighth round of a 15-round bout in Kinshasa, Zaire, to regain his world heavyweight title.
1975 The New York Daily News ran the headline “Ford to City: Drop Dead” a day after President Gerald R. Ford said he would veto any proposed federal bailout of New York City.
1997 A jury in Cambridge, Mass., convicted British au pair Louise Woodward of second-degree murder in the death of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen. The judge later reduced the verdict to manslaughter and set Woodward free.
2003 Lebron James made his NBA debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
2005 Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks became the first woman to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

Current Birthdays

By The Associated Press

Matthew Morrison, Actor (“Glee”)

Actor Matthew Morrison (“Glee”) turns 34 years old today.

AP Photo/Peter Kramer

Diego Maradona, Soccer player, coach

Soccer player and coach Diego Maradona turns 52 years old today.

AP Photo/Eduardo Di Baia

1936 Dick Vermeil, Football coach, turns 76
1939 Eddie Holland, Songwriter, turns 73
1939 Grace Slick, Rock singer (Jefferson Airplane/Starship), turns 73
1945 Henry Winkler, Actor (“Happy Days”), turns 67
1947 Timothy B. Schmit, Rock musician (The Eagles), turns 65
1951 Harry Hamlin, Actor (“L.A. Law”), turns 61
1953 Pete Hoekstra, U.S. congressman, R-Mich., turns 59
1957 Kevin Pollak, Actor, turns 55
1967 Gavin Rossdale, Rock musician (Bush), turns 45
1970 Nia Long, Actress, turns 42
1978 Gael Garcia Bernal, Actor (“The Motorcycle Diaries”), turns 34
1989 Nastia Liukin, Olympic gold-medal gymnast, turns 23

Historic Birthdays

Fred Friendly 10/30/1915 – 3/3/1998 American broadcast journalist.Go to obituary »
90 John Adams 10/30/1735 – 7/4/1826
Second president of the United States (1797-1801)
59 Alfred Sisley 10/30/1839 – 1/29/1899
French Impressionist painter
64 Louis Winslow Austin 10/30/1867 – 6/27/1932
American physicist
76 William F. Halsey Jr. 10/30/1882 – 8/16/1959
American naval commander; led World War II Pacific naval campaigns
87 Ezra Loomis Pound 10/30/1885 – 11/1/1972
American poet and literary critic
79 Charles Atlas 10/30/1892 – 12/24/1972
Italian-born American bodybuilder; co-created mail-order bodybuilding course
77 Dickinson Woodruff Richards 10/30/1895 – 2/23/1973
American Nobel Prize-winning physiologist (1956)
88 Ruth Gordon 10/30/1896 – 8/28/1985
American actress
71 Daniel Nathans 10/30/1928 – 11/16/1999
American Nobel Prize-winning microbiologist (1978)
63 Louis Malle 10/30/1932 – 11/23/1995
French film director

Bob Ross, a PBS Phenomenon, Gets His Google Due

Long before any of us had heard the words YouTube, there was Bob Ross, the soft-spoken, big-Afroed man who tried to teach a generation of Americans how to paint — or, as he might put it, “make love to the canvas.”

Ross didn’t exactly have a huge platform. He aired on local PBS affiliates for 11 years starting in 1983. But thanks to his unusual appearance, soothingly square manner and wet-on-wet technique of painting that turned a blank page into a landscape painting in less than 30 minutes, he was not only entrancing but something of a phenomenon.

You’d watch Ross quietly at home, half-admiringly and half-ironically, thinking you were one of the few. Meanwhile, millions of people around the country were doing the same. Long before there was viral video, Ross was going viral.

On Monday, Google decided to give the personality a fitting 21st century honor. On what would have been Ross’ 70th birthday (he died in 1996 at the age of 53), the company dedicated its so-called Google Doodle to Ross. The Google home page showed Ross in front of an easel in a painterly pose that he himself would have appreciated. The link went to an assortment of Ross-a-nalia.

It’s not the first time Ross has received a digital homage. PBS, which has been archiving Ross broadcasts on its digital channel Create, had given him a remix earlier this year. (You can watch it above.)

Turns out Ross has the power to go viral in this new age too: the video generated more than 3 million views, as many of us relished the chance to relive his talk of happy little trees and clouds.

We only wonder what he would have done with Hurricane Sandy.



Deewaar, 1975

With the recent hype over Mr. Amitabh Bachchan’s seventieth birthday and the passing of Mr. Yash Chopra, Bollywood’s beloved film director, my husband and I decided to take a trip down memory lane and pulled out the famed 1975 Deewaar– a film directed by Mr. Chopra that prominently features Mr. Bachchan.

Having only faint memories of having seen it many years ago, it was almost as if I were watching it for the very first time.  Notwithstanding the obsolete style of cinematography of the day– which is an interesting study in contrasts in and of itself– it was quite fascinating to take note of the overall style of the movie that undoubtedly has laid the foundations for many a Bollywood saga for generations to come!  Not only did it lay these foundations, but it firmly established certain stereotypes of Indian society that prevail to this day.

Themes such as devotion to one’s parents, a mother’s love to her children, a father’s sacrifice for his family, the upright career of the policeman, and the rebellious son whose redemption lies in realizing the worth of his love for his mother to be greater than that of the ill-gotten wealth at his feet.  But beyond stereotypes, the film was also groundbreaking on other fronts: it must have been quite the sensation in its time to see an independent woman of the likes of Parveen Babi, who is no different than her lover in reaching for the strong spirits and the cigarettes to get through each day, even while declaring her love for a man she doesn’t need one way or the other.

And while the script has some holes here and there, in the grand scheme of things, I suppose one must simply overlook them all to focus instead on appreciating all the other nuances of memorable diaglogue and searing “angry young man” looks that were since almost patented by Mr. Bachchan.  Also, a big nod must be made to the story-line that was reflective of the tumultuous politics of the day– when labor union activism was at its height due to the growing sense of desperation for the paucity of the very basic needs of life:  roti, kapda, aur makaan– bread, clothes, and a roof over one’s head.


On This Day: October 29

Updated October 28, 2012, 2:28 pm

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On Oct. 29, 1929, stock prices collapsed on the New York Stock Exchange amid panic selling. Thousands of investors were wiped out.

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On Oct. 29, 1891, Fanny Brice, the American comic singer, was born. Following her death on May 29, 1951, her obituary appeared in The Times.

Go to obituary » | Other birthdays »

On This Date

By The Associated Press

1618 Sir Walter Raleigh, the English courtier, military adventurer and poet, was executed in London.
1682 The founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn, landed at what is now Chester, Pa.
1891 Broadway star Fanny Brice was born Fanny Borach in Newark, N.J.
1901 President William McKinley’s assassin, Leon Czolgosz, was electrocuted.
1923 The Republic of Turkey was proclaimed.
1929 Stock prices collapsed on the New York Stock Exchange amid panic selling. Thousands of investors were wiped out.
1940 The United States America began its first peacetime military draft.
1947 Frances Cleveland Preston, the widow of President Grover Cleveland, died at age 83.
1956 Israel invaded Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula during the Suez Canal crisis.
1956 “The Huntley-Brinkley Report” premiered as NBC’s nightly TV newscast.
1962 The Beach Boys’ debut album, “Surfin’ Safari,” was released.
1966 The National Organization for Women was founded.
1967 The musical “Hair” opened off-Broadway.
2004 Osama bin Laden, in a videotaped statement, directly admitted for the first time that he had ordered the Sept. 11 attacks.
2004 European Union leaders signed the EU’s first constitution.

Current Birthdays

By The Associated Press

Winona Ryder, Actress

Actress Winona Ryder turns 41 years old today.

AP Photo/Dan Steinberg

Gabrielle Union, Actress

Actress Gabrielle Union turns 39 years old today.

AP Photo/Peter Kramer

1940 Connie Mack III, Former U.S. senator, R-Fla., turns 72
1944 Denny Laine, Rock musician (Wings, Moody Blues), turns 68
1945 Melba Moore, Singer, turns 67
1946 Peter Green, Rock musician (Fleetwood Mac), turns 66
1947 Richard Dreyfuss, Actor, turns 65
1948 Kate Jackson, Actress (“Charlie’s Angels”), turns 64
1953 Denis Potvin, Hockey Hall of Famer, turns 59
1957 Dan Castellaneta, Actor (“The Simpsons”), turns 55
1961 Randy Jackson, Singer (The Jackson Five), turns 51
1967 Joely Fisher, Actress, turns 45
1977 Brendan Fehr, Actor (“CSI: MIami”), turns 35
1984 Chris Baio, Rock musician (Vampire Weekend), turns 28

Historic Birthdays

Fanny Brice 10/29/1891 – 5/29/1951 American singing comedian.Go to obituary »
75 William Hayley 10/29/1745 – 11/12/1820
English poet, biographer, patron of the arts
88 Daniel Decatur Emmett 10/29/1815 – 6/28/1904
American minstrel entertainer
69 Thomas Francis Bayard 10/29/1828 – 9/28/1898
American statesman, diplomat and lawyer
89 Franz Von Papen 10/29/1879 – 5/2/1969
German chancellor (1932)
88 Fred Lazarus Jr. 10/29/1884 – 5/27/1973
American merchandiser
47 Joseph Goebbels 10/29/1897 – 5/1/1945
Minister of propaganda for Nazi Germany