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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Yeh Mera India

Bollywood's answer to Friends makes Hollyoaks look like porn

That's the headline of the review of 'Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na' that appeared in The Guardian. I haven't even started on the review and I'm actually having issues with this article. I'll try not to go on for too long about it, but the basic premise itself is so wrong. What possible comparision can there between the American F.R.I.E.N.D.S and British show Hollyoaks? They're based in two utterly different cultures, involve people of different age groups and most basic of all, F.R.I.EN.D.S was a comedy whereas Hollyoaks (what little I watched of it) seemed more of a drama. So yes, this review starts out on the wrong foot. But hang around for the main course of foot-in-mouth.

For starters (of wait those were already served, sceond helpings of starters then) 'Jaane Tu...' was in no way India's answer to F.R.I.E.N.D.S. And not only because the movie doesn't involve any actual sex between any of the characters. Which seems to be the main bone of contention with the reviewer. Who thereby misses the point of the movie, in my very humble opinion.

'... I found it as painful and mind-numbing as someone drilling a hole in my head and filling it with cement. A mainstream movie that seeks to portray India's MTV generation's progress into adulthood, it tiptoes through the issues of sex and dating with a timidity makes Hollyoaks look like porn. But the theatre was packed with people of all ages, from babies through to grandparents, and many twenty-somethings – who loved every minute.'

Mmmm... painful... mind-numbing... head... cement... I watched the movie you know. It made me laugh. And while I'm unable to appreciate the whole best-friends-louve-each-other angle*, this is what the movie is. It definitely is the portrayal of India's MTV generation's rogress into adult-hood but essentially, it's a love-story. Like most Indian movies are. And the fact that the reviewer missed this is evident in his very first sentence (beyond the allusion to porn in the headline)

'I sometimes feel completely out of the loop of contemporary India.'

Yes, Mr Nirpal Dhaliwal. Indeed you do. With all due respect, I am guessing you're a second or third generation British-Indian, the kind whose only connection to anything Indian is the trace element of 'Indian culture' which you exhibit when it suits you, mostly when you eat Indian takeout on the days you're too bored with your usual fare. As do I guess that only your Indian roots begot you the chance to write this review in the first place. Excuse my vituperative tongue, but I am absolutely riled by the fact that someone who doesn't even begin to understand the things that constitute being 'Indian' is daring to diss a product of that very Indianness.

And so, you merrily write things such as

After a date with Meghna, Jai returns home and breathlessly tells his mum, "I have a girlfriend!" and the two stay up late chatting excitedly about her. He bases this assertion on the fact that he watched a Bond movie with a woman who kissed him goodnight on the forehead afterwards. God knows what he would have said had Meghna let him have a fumble.

There it is, again. Sex. And as if to further illustrate your point, you come up with this gem

The film then enters a strange period in which people who aren't having sex with each other steal glances at someone they're not having sex with, envying or despising them for being the person that the one they're not having sex longs to be not having sex with above all others.

I won't even pretend that I understood what you were trying to say. And this after trying several times to read through that sentence. First in a rush, hoping the meaning would hit me, much like a train hits you if you run at it full speed... when that didn't happen, then slowly, pausing so I understood the seprarate segments... but I'm afraid I had to give it up... it just doesn't make sense you see.

And then you wrap up your narration of the plot with

He and Aditi tumble into a sexless, no-kissing embrace and decide to go off to New York together and happily never have sex ever after.

Sex? Is that ALL you could think of through this movie?? Beg pardon, but there seem to be some unaddressed issues here with you.

The point being that, the no-sex was not because this was an Indian film (not entirely anyway... there's enough smut in our movies, thank you, just not your variety), but because this was not about sex at all. This was about relationships. And here's a revelation. Relationships can be interesting and riveting without having to have sex to show for it. This isn't some 'sex is against the Indian culture' attitude either. It's just that, relationships aren't given the casual status in India as they are in... the west. A boy and a girl dating isn't about the first time they play tonsil-hockey and who was better at it, or when they finally 'did it' and how good and passionate it was on a scale of one to ten... it's not about sex only. It's about the more delicate things.

Like the first time you realise you have feelings for someone. And how you grapple with those feelings, feeling shy, nervous, hopeful and terrified of confessing your love to the object of your affections. The way your heart bursts with happiness when your feelings are reciprocated and you are finally able to tell the world (if it cares in the first place, which in India it does btw) that you've found love and are celebrating. It's about excitedly telling your friends about this new development, hopefully sharing the joy with your family as well and then excitedly discussing it... It's about the time when you plan the perfect birthday for your love interest, scrimping and saving so that every little detail is perfect. It's about the plans you make for your first ever Valentine's Day together. Your first walk together in the rain. Your first bike-ride...

It's about the things that seem to be taken for granted over at yours and seem stale to an experienced dating society.

Sex figures in it all, but it's not the only thing. That is the crux, of this movie, of India's MTV generation and the crux that should have been of the review of this movie. I'm not saying this was the most brilliant film ever made about the Indian youth. But I am saying that it merited better treatment than it received at your hands.

Everyone talks about the 'Indian culture' without ever really being able to define it. I won't deny that there is much that is wrong with it and the mindsets of the Indian society regarding a few things. But we're still able to dream of delicate firsts and camaraderie with parents on issues that are central to us as the new youth... maybe on cellloid, but dream we still do. Which is more than can be said about other sex-obsessed societies which have long past lost any similar values or connections they had to those values.

A review is only good in as much as the reviewer is able to fully immerse himself in the subject and then find flaws with it. It isn't sunbathing sitting at the side of the pool, paddling with your legs in the water.

On an aside, I thought it was commendable that the very-adored character of Jai in the movie didn't have a cell-phone and refused to have one. It speaks to me of an inexplicably grounded, sensible, sensitive, comfortablein-his-middle-class-skin character. And I would any day go out with him, purely for the fact that he doesn't have a cell phone.

*mostly because right since I discovered boys, the idea of ever having to consider your male best friend as a sexual object put me off big time. Turning an asexual thing into potent sexuality is NOT a turn on.


  1. Okay. Firstly I didn't know India had an MTV generation. So that means I have finally jumped the shark. Sigh. Does that make me part of the "clueless" generation?

    Secondly, someone should tell Mr Dhaiwala and his ilk that the target audience for Janne Tu was not the hollyoaks demographic. It was for the (newly discovered) Indian MTV generation. Thirdly, FRIENDS? Don't even go there, Mr Dhaiwala. Someone who compares FRIENDS and H'oaks should really seek out Amy Wino's pharmacist.

    ddd, even I couldn't get the whole "sex & glances" monologue? Really, who died and made this guy a reviewer?

  2. this guy is so so out of tune with the work he is doing ! i wonder if The Guardian is hiring a 'authentic' Indian reviewer...I'll apply i think

  3. that's true looks like he is Comparing apples and oranges and grapes.

  4. Anonymous4:41 AM

    I havent watched this movie yet but I'm dead sure that it is NOTHING like what this useless guy has talked about!

  5. Mr Nirpal Dhaliwal's whole premise of having watched this movie seems based on his assuption that the hero would get into his girlfriends pants as soon as they stole something as simple as a kiss!
    Is that all Mr. Nirpal can think about a date...'sex'!

    Lot more things I'd love to write....but, my breaks over now and I'd probably make this a mini post if allowed!! lol


  6. playing tonsil-hockey....ROFL...!!! this was the bestest....!!! now i got a new word i can use..!!!!

  7. Umm... Mr. Nirpal would have had an intelligent point about smartly downplaying the sexual aspect of such. He WOULD have had!

    But what he really meant was that the movie was an absolute fake & this ‘MTV generation’ (Damn I hate this crappy tag) is only interested in bedding A.S.A.P!! Which is by the way an absolute narrow minded evaluation. Only if he could have come and take a walk with me to REALLY meet this generation, all his convictions would shatter!

    Although I myself don't find such movies appealing but he could have at least noticed good screenplay, great acting or the (even better) script! But we all know where his focus was, don’t we?!

  8. Ahh, yet another person pissed off with his style of writing. Haven't you read his columns in the Evening Standard before? He thrives on bringing about just this sort of reaction.

  9. Did they have a competition or something at Guardian about how many S words could be fit into an article? And in a sentence? Mr. Dhaiwala may just have won a weekend in Vegas or something.

    Reading this "review", I have suddenly found out that I didn't get the point of FRIENDS at all, even after repeated viewings. I didn't know it was all about what Phoebe onec called "a dirty math problem".

  10. ok... now, the movie didn't really work for me. call me old. but the reason was surely not sex-related!!

    as u said, u can't even compare friends with this movie OR with hollyoaks. completely different demographic we'd be looking at.
    i love friends. coz i love the humor. and at some point of time in life i cud relate to it. the other two... i don't care much. and really, it has nothing to do with sex. or the lack of it! :D

  11. There you go, DDD!! I tried to make the point once that being Indo-American or Brit-Asian is not the same as being Indian and got jumped all over by a bunch of people who ticked me off for my "19 century attitudes of nationality".

    But this review is exactly what I was talking about. Even if this guy had identified very strongly with Indian culture, he wouldn't be Indian in the same way as say someone like I would be. This is not to say something is wrong with him as a person or that I look down on him for being who he is - I just think he's British-Indian or whatever. I can't just ignore that hyphenate.

    And from the sounds of this review, even he doesn't understand that he is looking at one culture with eyes accustomed to another one. Either he was trying to be provocative or he was using his byline for therapy - whatever it was, it's rubbish.

    And I'm not saying this because I liked the movie (which I did) but because this was supposed to be a review.

    Totally agree with your post.

  12. Wow! I'm pleasantly surprised that everyone read through such a long post! Thanks!!

    Rambunctious Whippersnapper: You ARE the MTV generation, dahlink! And don't even get started on the guy's writing... I have no idea what made the Guardian put his piece up, perhaps they thought it goes with their 'be sarky about everything' policy... it's only short-coming is that it makes no sense. On the other hand, it was short... guess there's some good in it after all :P

    flygye12: Hello and welcome aboard! I believe the only criteria for working for the Guardian is being cynical and sarky, if you've got that, then you've got yourself a column!

    La vida loca: True... but mostly, he just seemed clueless about what he's addressing!

    snippetsnscribbles: Oh well, it's merely the way he chose to interpret the movie.

    Whencutdeep: Yeah! Isn't that weird??!! All he can focus on is 'when will anyone have sex in this movie?' sheesh!
    And hey, mini-blog-posts in comment space are most welcome... allows you to still blog innit? :D

    Silk smitha and disco shanthi: haha!!! Knock yourself out!

    Zephyr: he didn't downplay ti at all, if anything he overplayed it. And that's exactly what I said: He thinks this movie is fake and all anyone in this generaton thinks about is sex. To be fair though, he seems to be from a culture different to the quintessentially Indian, he's free to have whatever opinion he wants to have.

    ??!: Yet another? Kindly introduce me to the others. And I did look up some his other pieces... they weren't as bad as this one. They'd definitely been edited well, for one thing. No confusing 'sex, no sex' sentences there. I think on the whole, his pieces are short, which is perhaps a very comforting thing. He doesn't always seem to have any real issue to write about though.

    Amey: I'd like to know which advertiser sponsored that competition then. On an aside, Mr. Dhaliwal might turn out to be some long-lost relative of Freud... seeins as how both of them invariably link everything to sex.

    Rayshma: To each their own!! Well, the movie didn't work for me completely, it contained a few good laughs though. And really, since when has sex been the focus of tv shows and movies? I thought porn existed for that already!

    Amrita: Heyyy... good to have you here! And I agree with every word of your comment. Yes, it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with him or that we're exhibiting reverse snobbery, just that... the degree to which he was clueless is ridiculous!

    One commenter has already said there are others who get pretty annoyed by his writing too so perhaps it is the reaction he aims for... on the other hand, most of his pieces seemed to be stuff that was on his mind at the time, so you might be right about his column being a personal-therapy thing.

    And hey, you ought to be gloating... you're a celebrity woman! You've got international multi-ethnic readers who bother responding! So what if they disagree and create a racket? They're still there!

  13. The only explaination is Mr Dhaliwal (or was it Mr Yoghurtwal as RWS started?) has just reached puberty and is allowed on PG-13 movies. So he expects at least a bit of skin show in each one

  14. Wasn't it the Guardian who said that Ganesh Visarjan processions in Mumbai are G pride parades? I guess this might be their internal competition.

    Sorry to bring it up in front of a lday, but let's see what Freud might say about a man who looks for S in everything he sees ;)

    I am not using those words because I don't want your page to feature in Google search for those terms, but I guess it is too little, too late by now ;)

  15. HUH ??!! What the F*&^!!

    This guy seems really sex starved and watched this one by mistake when he had the tickets for some porn movie.All that disappointment and frustration seems to be flowing out here.

    This review makes sense to me only if I think of it that way!

    Or, does he belong to that category of writers who thrive on sharp reactions to his overblown negative reviews.

  16. It drives me nuts when second or thrid generation indians living abroad try to write up their wisdom about indian MTV generation.

    I fail to understand why it is so important to show a couple being intimate to convey they have feelings for each other. Because in real life, you dont even want to imagine people you know being intimate.

    I have never watched Hollyoaks but I think Coupling was the sexified Brit version of FRIENDS.

  17. India's MTV generation is up to so much these days, they make our teenage years look like priesthood. And I'm talking about school kids here.

    Of course, this doesn't negate the fact that the reviewer is a dumbass.

    With movies like these, you know what's going to happen in the end. The guy *will* get the girl. And despite common sense and cynicism, if you're smiling when the two meet, the movie has worked. Which it did, in this case.

  18. Flygye12: That is the best explanation for this sodding review really!

    Amey: What? ReallY? ganesh Visarjan as Gay pride marches??!!!

    And very considerate of you to have wanted to save my page from random google searchea, but yeah... too late :D

    alwayshappykya: I think it's a bit of both!!

    Never mind!: It gets my goat too!! Since when did one have to start imagining or seeing people around us getting intimate to know they're into each other? Jesus H Christ! And you got that right, Coupling is indeed the britfied version of F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

    Ashish: Oi good to have you back! Agree to all your points... It just might have happened that ze reviewer is undergoing quarterlife crisis or some other crisis which has precipitated into him believing that he's a part of this 'MTV generation' whom you rightly point out, are not as innocent as we were. He is also a dumbass.

  19. Anonymous4:48 PM

    I watched this movie on Sat night and DINT FIND ANYTHING LIKE WHAT HE HAS DUMBLY WRITTEN!

  20. As far as his review and the movie are concerned, there is no connection. He is just taking a piss at the movie makers for selling it to the youth without having, what he thinks is the main part of a youth's life in India today, sex. And to be honest, he is not entirely wrong here. Its been ages since we passed out of the school and thats why we dont quite know the "progress" made on this sex front. Teenage is anyway the age to rebel and because our society makes sex a taboo, teenagers are bound to go looking for it. I read somewhere about a poll which showed that about 49% of Indians had a sexual encounter by the age of 18. Our culture never had anything against sex, heck! we gave the world kamasutra and khajuraho!! its the society (and for those of you who do not understand that culture and society are different, stop reading) thats banned pre-marital sex or public displays of affection. He's just mocking our society, not out culture! So your post is slightly off target this time around.. :) .. oh and i dont have a cell phone either? pick you up at 6?

  21. snippetsnscribbles: Glad we agree!!!

    Winger: He's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!!!! Okay to be sure, I don't think Mr.Dhaliwal himself knew what he was talking about. You made some very valid points there but on the whole he picked the wrong movie to go to if he wanted to see sex on the screen. Also, he doesn't come across as someone who is ... let's say... well-placed to comment on Indian society, being 'out of the loop' as he claims.

    And trust you to pick on that one line :) Liar! You do have a cellphone, but I'll still see you. 6!

  22. Oh yes, it was in their travel column, among the places to visit: Mumbai's Ganesh Chaturthi was compared to Mardi Gras and Pride Parades.

    And I am sure even for the so-called "MTv Generation" of India, a "date" comes pretty late in relationship, when things have gone pretty far down that road. Tell me I am not too old to get that right ;)

  23. Anonymous2:13 PM

    well the guardian needs somebody who has to stop reading crap and somebody who can start realizing that there is much more to a guy gal relationship than sex :P chhee.. pervertism to the core

  24. OMG!! That is quite an obnoxious review. Obviously, the writer does not understand the Indian culture. And how rational is it to compare the US with UK and then in turn with India?

    However the movie may was clean entertainment and quite refreshing.

  25. Amey: Wow that is weird!! Mardi Gras... perhaps... but Pride marches??!!! And hey, you know what they say... you're as old as you feel!

    Moukound: hello! What the Guardian needs is a bollywood reviewer who understands bollywood... this review missed the point completely!

    Solitaire: Welcome here! And to be honest, I don't think this was so much about the Indian culture (as Winger pointed out)... it was just irrational on so many levels! atrocious review, good movie!

  26. Short Story:

    A mysterious man comes up and stands next to ddd while she waits for her hazelnut cappuccino. Seeing that he has a watch, and she left hers at home, ddd politely asks the man what time it is. "It's time to update your blog", he says, smiles, takes his coffee and goes away, leaving a flabbergasted ddd behind.

  27. JESUS H CHRIST!!!!! *yelp* WHO? HOW? WHAT? WHEN? WHERE??!!!!!

  28. Jesus H Christ was telling you to update the blog? Wow, you got some imp readers ;)

  29. exactly! sex isn't and ideally shouldn't be the focus of shows or movies! that is what makes the porn industry thrive!! :D
    yeah, ditto u on the movie... few good laughs and i loved d music too...

  30. Anonymous4:37 PM

    Oh lighten up, all. this dhaliwal character is pretty funny. and his other 'reviews' aren't half bad!! its obvious he was not hired for his deep knowledge of cinema or his ability to write finely balanced analyses of Bollywood!! So what. his reaction to the films he reviews is very likely the same as most readers of The Guardian.