My childhood tryst with Nasbandi & a counterfeit Amitabh Bachchan

Education, Humour, Media & Entertainment

Of the many ‘firsts’ that leave an imprint on our lives, the ‘First movie viewed in a theatre’ may not make it to most people’s lists; which would include other honorable firsts, say for example, the first love, first car, first job and a host of other firsts.

But for me it was very different.

The first movie I viewed in theatre was a film called Nasbandi.

I was 6-years old.

This is my story.

THE SETTING: SIKKIM 

The year was 1978 and we were spending our summer break in Sikkim, visiting my uncle (now Late) working with the Border Roads Organization (BRO). For those who care to know, BRO is a quasi military service that, in difficult terrains, could hold more clout than, say, the Head Office (HO). So yeah, in the frontier areas too it’s possibly BROs before HOs!

Sikkim was fresh off the oven, having become a part of the Indian Union only a few years back. It had an ethnic mix of Nepalese, Sikkimese, Biharis, Marwaris etc. One would hear that till a few years back, people in Sikkim did not know about the existence of locks, as they didn’t have any need for them. Concepts of pelf and theft were alien to them. (Incidentally, all this is immaterial to the rest of the story.)

The people of the state were in thrall of a most majestic natural icon looming over the horizon, but visible only when the clouds or fog would clear up — the Kanchenjunga.

One of the daily morning activities that we kids gave ourselves was checking if Kanchenjunga was visible that day. Like little teachers we would seek to take attendance, and the indulgent peak would play hide ‘n seek to mark its presence. (Still immaterial to the story, but sounded cute, no?)

In pre-TV days, this was one way we made up our entertainment mix. Another part of the mix would come from a familiar source — cinema.

THE FIRST MOVIE IN A THEATRE

Over the years, whenever a discussion with friends veered towards ‘your first movie’, the answers would range from the iconic to the inspiring.

My wife, for example, watched Jai Santoshi Ma along with her family*, as her first movie. Now, this is how sanskari kids are brought up.

Some friends had started their cinematic tryst with Sholay. Some started off with Ben Hur or Star Wars. Some younger friends cite Hum Aapke Hain Koun or Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. Even younger ones say Lagaan.

You get the point, right?

On the other hand, there’s something fundamentally awkward about Nasbandi being your first movie.

It’s like a permanent tattoo that still hurts. An invisible yet glaring tattoo in block letters, that says: ‘Meri pehli film Nasbandi thhi’ (My first film was Nasbandi)! And its impact — in the same league as that of Vijay’s tattoo in Deewar.

*Glad that my father-in-law asked me an easy set of questions from theology, human psychology, anthropology and mythology, before he agreed to let his daughter marry me! 

tumblr_mo28cnCzpB1rd8p0ro1_1280

Image: http://bombayfilm.blogspot.in/

THE MID-1970s & I.S. JOHAR 

Many of you would be aware of the socio-political environment in India in the mid-1970s. Emergency had been declared. The government of the day and it’s agencies went about enforcing their version of what  makes for good governance with unrestrained fervour.

Population control was one such mission that the government launched with the harmless sounding family planning (parivar niyojan) programme. Except that, the onus of planning wasn’t left to the family, but enforced by the strong arms of the government and the deft fingers of it’s healthcare workers!

Forced sterilization is said to have been the demonitization equivalent of the day, and therefore the resonance of nasbandi in note-bandi for some critics.

The 70s were also the time for humourist and film-maker I.S. Johar to carve a niche for himself in satire, and Nasbandi was his tongue-in-cheek satirical counterattack** to the forced sterilization programme.

**(Note: Today, I see a parallel of that in the way a section of the contemporary crop of stand-up comedians responded to demonetization.) 

Much before Mithun Chakraborty and TLV Prasad institutionalized the Ooty-mein-shooty business template of churning out low-cost films shot in a single schedule in Mithun’s resorts in Ooty — I.S. Johar too had worked out his own cost-effective business model for making films.

He would hire ‘duplicates’ of top stars, give them names which sounded similar to the A-listers and make full length feature films with them. What the global millennials today call doppelgangers; is the cadre of professionals customarily called ‘duplicates’ in Indian cinema.

THE MOVIE

So, Nasbandi had Amitabh Bachchan’s duplicate — Anitabh Bachchan!

Pause.

Close your eyes.

Time to unpeel another layer from the onion bulb of my childhood psyche.

As if Nasbandi itself wasn’t bad enough, my first film also starred a counterfeit Amitabh Bachchan!

And a counterfeit Shashi Kapoor, and a counterfeit Shatrughan Sinha…

It was like, my cinema baptism was being done with gol gappe ka paani made with spurious ingredients from dubious sources.

[Digression: Okay, so my parents did make up for the spurious Amitabh experience with a follow up film a few weeks later with the real Amitabh Bachchan. However, that too was a film that I trust many die-hard Amitabh fans might not have seen — a film called Aalaap.]

I have no memories of the actual film Nasbandi. The only scene I remember well had the genius of the late Rajendranath, and it went something like this…

Rajendranath had been cornered by some policemen and taken to a ‘nasbandi kendra‘ (sterlization center). There he was required to drop his pants. And then his underpants.

In a madcap scene, (which in distant hindsight, combined Chaplin and cheer-haran) every time Rajendranath would drop his underpants, there was another layer of underpants beneath it. In a fast-forward sequence the above steps were repeated on loop, till the hospital staff finally gave up in the face of a mountain of underpants!

For a 5-6 year old THIS WAS IT! I’d been voluntarily enrolled to the Rajendranath Fan Club as a life-member on the spot.

Of course, when we went to watch the movie, I had NO IDEA, what nasbandi meant or the socio-political trends of the day, or the concept of satire.

It was Rajendranath’s underpants epic scene that made for some happy childhood memories!

Nasbandi

Image from: https://www.oldindianphotos.in/2013/11/bollywood-hindi-movie-record-covers.html

THE IMPACT

People say that Freud said that the roots of an adult person’s psychological issues can directly be traced back to childhood events.

Maybe that’s why, when I was coming of age, and went to a see a movie independently for the first time with friends (and not with family) I went for Dada Kondke’s ‘Andheri Raat Mein Diya Tere Haath Mein‘.

And till today, I can reel off Dada Kondke’s dialogues from the film, even though with the passing of years, the cringe-meter started registering higher & higher readings.

My love for cinema has acquired many hues over the years, but remained forever singed by the pre-Instagram filter: The 1978 Summer in Sikkim.

[Cover image: https://www.cinestaan.com/articles/2018/jan/22/10578/40-years-of-nasbandi-film-that-marked-a-high-point-of-is-johar-s-directorial-career]
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IIM Indore :: Alumni-Freshers Meet 2008

Education, IIM

Recently, I attended the Delhi chapter of  IIM Indore Alumni & Freshers meet. The last such meet I attended was in Chennai, 2005.

With each passing year, it’s a delight to see batches of enthusiastic youngsters push you further and further up in the echelons of seniority. Fortuitously, for my batch (1998-2000)  the tag ‘senior-most’ or ‘first batch’ came as the fringe benefit of being the first batch of IIM Indore! No matter how many batches get added, we will always remain — the ‘batch of origin’.

A few observations:

  • The recent batches are the strongest in terms of numbers, most visible, and not surprisingly, most vocal too :-)
  • The fresh batch of people joining the institute are invariably a mix of predictable profiles (Engineering and economics graduates) and some interesting ones too (MBBS doctors & people with etymology as a hobby!). Maybe it’s a figment of my imagination, but these youngsters, on the threshold of a career defining move, have a dreamy halo around them!
  • It’s good to see the presence of girls at such a gathering; and if they are smartly attired, even better! Why do I even need to make such a statement that has shades of sexist overtones? For the simple but stark reason that girls continue to remain a lop-sided minority in institutes of higher education in India. I don’t have the numbers, but the number of girls students would be less than 10% at IITs and less than 20% at IIMs. In our batch it would have been around 15%, but in the batch after us — it was 0% . Yes, no girls at all!
  • One of the easiest ice-breakers between various batches is a discussion on the faculty. “So, who taught Operations to you guys?” “Prof. Agarwal? Oh! He taught us too. Great guy!” “So, is he still around?”

The ‘batch of origin’ privilege ensured that I was asked to cut the cake and deliver a speech too ;-)

And since 1998 itself I was ready for such an occasion, and had this one speech drafted in my mind! :-p Borrowing extensively from Prof. Asopa’s (the then Director of IIM Indore) talk to us when we complained to him about sundry facilities not working. He had mentioned that building an institute is like building a big boat, that sails on high seas and charts new courses and discovers new horizons. We the first batch, were the bottom of the boat — the most critical part of the boat. That bears the brunt of choppy waters on behalf of the whole boat.

I used to wonder then (1998) why did he not use ‘foundation of a building’ as the cliched  metaphor to define the first batch. Today, I can see why. The bottom of the boat moves along with the boat to where ever the boat is headed. On the other hand, the foundation of a building lies buried underground and forgotten, once the edifice takes shape.

It’s been a decade. Time flies. IIM Indore soars.

Teach an old CAT new tricks: CAT 2006

Education, IIM

If you have come here searching for ways to enhance your performance in the forthcoming CAT 2006 exam — the post ends for you right here! It’s time to get back to more and more practice/mock tests. There’s no better preparation than match-practice!

There are some experiences from CAT 1996 and CAT 1997 that I remember.

CAT 1996:

I prepared from an IMS package for about three months, including two months of intensive efforts. Saw a clear pattern in my performance picking up as I went along, and then the d-day came. The examination centre, mercifully, was a school close by. All aspirants were seated in classrooms based on their serial/admission numbers. There are a few absentees. The OMR answer sheets are distributed first; and then the question papers — which are in 4 sets labelled A, B, C and D. These are supposed to be distributed in a pre-designated manner, with different people getting different sets. If there is any absentee, the invigilator is supposed to leave his/her designated question papers on his/her empty desk and distribute the remaining papers sequentially. However, our invigilator passed on this question paper to the person seated next and broke the sequence. Ouch!

Soon someone realizes that he/she has been handed over a question paper set other than that meant for him/her. The invigilator panics. All of us panic. And then begins a frantic exercise of passing around the question papers till everyone gets the question papers meant for them! By then 15 minutes are over.

In the remaining time, we vacillate between trying to answer as many of the 150 odd questions as possible and asking the invigilator to compensate us for the lost time. Considering that it was her gaffe, she agrees. However…

…as soon as the 120 minutes are over — the IIM representatives at the venue walk-in and we are refused any extra time. We plead, we sulk, we petition (impromptu, hand-written), and then we leave — resigned to our respective fates. Ruing the 15 minutes lost — which equals 20+ questions. This in one of the most competitive of exams in India!

Predictably, no call from any of the IIMs.

CAT 1997:

Prepared for only two weeks, from my previous year’s IMS package. The preparation consisted of getting into the mock-test routine at the earliest. Having been through the rigmarole a year earlier, certainly made it a little easier while preparing. The actual exam though, is a blur in my memory!

Unpredictably, got a call from IIM Indore!

Morals of the story:

1. IMS package is a good help
2. There is no better practice than match-practice
3. CAT is just a freakin’ two-hour performance, you need to peak for it
4.
The best-laid plans of mice and men
Gang aft agley (=often go wrong).
And leave us naught but grief and pain
For promised joy
— Robert Burns

Lalu sets up railway chair @ IIM Ahmedabad

Education, Humour, IIM, Politics

Continuing with the newly-fangled romance between Lalu Yadav and IIM Ahmedabad, the Railway Minister announced the setting up of a ‘railways chair’ at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad for studying the “infrastructure of the Indian Railways” and its economy. (read press report)

Swadeshe Joke:
After the IIM Ahmedabad Director, Bakul Dholakia gets Lalu Yadav to set up a ‘railway chair’ at IIM-A, the Director of IIM Lucknow, Devi Singh feels the way to go one up would be to get Lalu to set up a railway sleeper at IIM-L and that too air conditioned! But being the media & entertainment loving Institute that IIM Indore is, the IIM-I Director, SP Parashar feels the best would be to get a complete railway bogie and make a case-study out of Mani Ratnam shooting ‘Chhaiyya chhaiyya…’ on the rooftop of a railway bogie!

:-D

The hottest case-study topic

Education, IIM, Media & Entertainment, Politics

Clay figure of Laloo - by yours truly

On February 24, 2006, he said:

Mere zunu ka natija zaroor niklega,
isee siaah samandar se noor niklega.

Hum bhi dariya hai, apnaa hunar hame maloom hai,
jis taraph bhi chal padenge, rastaa ban jayega.

Ek kadam hum badhe, ek kadam tum,
aao milkar naap de, phasle chand tak.

Hum na haare par wo jeete, aisa hai prayas,
musafir ho rail ka raja, hum sabki ye aas.

Mun me bhav seva ka, hotho par muskan,
Behtar seva wazib daam, rail ki hogi yeh pehchan.

Kaamgaaro ki lagan se, hai tarakki sabki,
hausla inka badhao, ki yeh kuchh aur baddhe.

Aam admi hee hamara devta hai,
vah jeetega toh hum bhi jeet payenge,
tabhi toh yeh tay karke baithey hain,
faisle ab usi ke hak mein jaayenge.

Maine dekhe hain saare khwab naye,
likh raha hoon main inqilab naye.

Yeh inaayat nahin, mera vishwas hai,
daurey mehengai mein rail sasti rahe,
apnaa inaam humko to mill jayega,
rail par aapki sarparasti rahe.

And last month, students at one of the most hallowed institutes of management education in the world, Harvard, were introduced to the working of the newly annointed miracle man of India Inc. — Union Minister for Railways, Lalu Prasad Yadav (who in 2002 mysteriously changed the spelling of his name from Laloo)!

The verses above were from his Railway Budget speech in Parliament.

Last week, Professor G Raghuraman of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, was delighting the media all over, with the disclosure of his management-academician’s equivalent of a muse. That’s all you would need to make a wonderfully punchy (but surprisingly short-lived) story — Lalu Prasad Yadav, media’s favourite politician-entertainer, being endorsed by arguably the best management institute in India.

The flavour of the month is IIMs making case-studies on objects of popular interest. If it was Krrish @ IIM Indore then, it is Lalu @ IIM Ahmedabad now. The pace and direction seem to suggest that Sachin Tendulkar, Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh bachchan are just waiting to be studied. And why not! Between them, they account for a few hundred crores of business.

On Lalu, the turn around in perception has been remarkable. For someone long identified with nepotism, corruption and mismanagement in his home state, Bihar — being seen as the messiah for one of the largest public sector organizations is nothing short of a miracle.

“I think he must have taken the present task as an opportunity to prove his abilities and improve his image,” mused the professor.

Either I have become too cynical, or this is the height of naivete…