Robin Ghosh and cross-border “infiltration” in South Asia

If you are from India you may have heard of Robin Chattopadhyay and Robin Majumdar, both exceptionally talented contributors to the Golden Age of Bangla Cinema in Kolkata. I’ll wager that very few people in India have heard of a versatile music director by the name of Robin Ghosh.  I was intrigued to find out more about him because I could guess at his Bengali ethnicity from his last name.

Robin Ghosh is the music director who composed the songs for Aina, a 1977 Urdu movie which shattered all records to become the biggest box-office hit in Pakistan. Ghosh also composed the songs in Harano Din which was released in 1961 and was one of the earliest Bangla films made in Pakistan. His style of composition in Harano Din reminded me a lot of music directors across the border who were composing songs for Bangla films in Calcutta. For example, “Ae je nijhum raat” sung by Firdausi Begum in Harano Din reminded me of Hemanta Mukhopadhyay’s compositions, especially “Ae purnima raat” in Nayika Sangbad (1967) even though both tunes are distinct.

However, I am told that Robin Ghosh is best known in Pakistan for the lilting songs in Aina. The story revolves around the trite  misunderstandings in love that unnecessarily permeate South Asian cinema, but the music is brilliant. Take for example the song Mujhe dil se na bhulana featuring Mehnaaz and Alamgir:

Does it sound familiar? Think twice if it doesn’t, because if you’ve watched Bollywood movies it should.

Exactly! It is the centerpiece of Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s soundtrack for the Bollywood hit Pyar Jhukta Nahin (1985) featuring Mithun Chakraborty and Padmini Kohlapure.

Maybe, like me, you were already familiar with Robin Ghosh’s compositions, but you just didn’t know it?

My point is a simple one. Even before My Name is Khan took Pakistan by storm, this sort of cultural “inflitration” had been going on from both sides. Before the age of Himesh and Pritam, before Adnan Sami and Atif Aslam, there were the likes of Nadeem-Shravan who ruled the roost and were particularly fond of Pakistani music.

I take your leave with one of my favorite songs from my childhood and the original which not only has a similar tune, but similar lyrics too! The song Tu meri zindagi hai was a bit hit in Aashiqui, a Bollywood movie featuring the expressionless visages of Rahul Roy and Anu Agarwal. That a romantic movie with a couple from matchmaking hell could do well at the box-office attests to the popularity of  the Nadeem-Shravan soundtrack. Arguably, the movie also launched the careers of singer Kumar Sanu and lyricist Sameer.

Now listen to the Pakistani counterpart by Tasavvur Khanum also called Tu meri zindagi hai.

To be completely fair to Sameer, he didn’t lift the entire lyrics. I actually prefer his version even though bandagi rhymes better with zindagi than aashiqui does. Now Kumar Sanu’s nasal twang… that I could do without.

Let us keep the discussion civil folks.

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

A review of a pre-globalization society as determined from Maine Pyar Kiya

Civilized cultures existed in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Similarly, intelligent life-forms existed in South Asia before the proliferation of cable television, cineplexes, shopping centers, cell phones, and the Internet. Using the cultural keystone Maine Pyar Kiya, I have attempted to painstakingly piece together details about the life of the “common person” as he or she lived in the era predating globalization.

I present a Short Metaphysical and Anthropological Treatise on a Pre-Globalization Society in South Asia as Determined from Sooraj Barjatya’s Maine Pyar Kiya. If I have succeeded in presenting a snapshot of life in that long-gone era, I will consider my life to not have been spent in vain.

Suffice it to say that the Age of Maine Pyar Kiya was for all means and purposes an idyllic one.  However, there were cultural iconoclasts at odds with the prevailing customs of the day (cf. random grumpy faces). Deconstructing the themes leads us to the conclusion that there is irreducible complexity in Maine Pyar Kiya

More Bollywood Science here.

Disclaimer: These are my personal views and do not necessarily represent the position of the scholarly community. Fair-use rationale for images: All images are low-resolution and used only for purposes of demonstration for no monetary gain where a free equivalent is not available. Copyright of original works resides with the original creator (most likely Rajsri Pictures).

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

How to make medical decisions based on Bollywood movies

A few days ago, I wrote a short medical article on how Bollywood was an excellent source of information on how to treat bullet wounds. Based on the excellent feedback I received, I decided to search for a suitable venue for publication in a scholarly medical journal. Physicians and life scientists generally use PubMed, a comprehensive database provided by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

In searching the database, I came across a medical article published in the March 2010 issue of The Journal of ECT entitled  “The depiction of electroconvulsive therapy in Hindi cinema.” You probably didn’t know this, but  electroconvulsive therapy or ECT is  popularly referred to as “shock therapy” in Bollywood movies.

Who knew?

The authors of the medical research article, all Indian physicians, felt that Hindi movies were a source of misinformation on shock therapy. To remedy the injustice, they first identified 13 Hindi movies between 1967 and 2008 “based on inquiries with e-communities, video libraries, and other sources.” These 13 movies were then listed in Table 1 of the research paper. The movies identified in this research were Jewel Thief, Raat aur Din, Khamoshi, Yarana, Arth, Coolie, Damini, Raja, Dastak, Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega, Kyon Ki, Woh Lamhe, and Manthan Ek Kashmakash (starring the other Sanjay Kumar and Anisha Babi if you insist on knowing).

The authors state that “between 1967 and 2008, 13 Hindi movies contained referrals to or depictions of ECT.” I hope they had good reasons for excluding Pagla Kahin Ka, Khilona, and Dhara , all of which that have explicit referrals to ECT within that time-frame.

Shockingly, the authors found inaccuracies in the depiction of ECT in Hindi movies. Who would have thought?

The authors also provide a thorough discussion of the implications of these inaccuracies. Two points are worth quoting from the abstract of the medical article.

“Although the inaccuracies are a cause for concern, we suggest that because Hindi cinema is generally hyperbolic, the public may be willing to distinguish real life from reel life when facing clinical decisions about ECT.”

Hindi cinema, generally hyperbolic? Although I probably couldn’t recognize a hyperbole if it burst out in song-and-dance wearing a tomato red chiffon sari, it is possible that the authors’ comment might be a slight understatement.

“Nevertheless, considering the potential for harm in the dissemination of misinformation, filmmakers should exhibit a greater sense of ethics when creating impressions that might adversely influence health.”

Shame on you Hindi filmmakers for not having any ethics! Priyadarshan, I know you probably haven’t had time recently to browse through issues of The Journal of ECT, but I really must protest. This sort of ignorance on medical matters clearly will not do!

The public deserves better.

More Bollywood Science here.

Disclaimer: These are my personal views and do not necessarily represent the position of my current or former employers. I am not a physician and have no knowledge of ECT so my comments should be taken with a pinch of salt. Fair-use rationale of images: All images are low-resolution and used only for purposes of demonstration for no monetary gain where a free equivalent is not available. Copyright of original works resides with the original creators.

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

How to treat non-lethal bullet injuries: lessons from Bollywood movies

Abstract: There is currently insufficient detail on how to perform emergency surgery for ridiculous bullet wounds that result from confronting Hindi film villains in everyday situations. Therefore, a clinical survey was undertaken with the purpose of identifying acceptable medical procedures compliant with known Bollywood practices. Two case studies presented here demonstrate that despite identical etiology, disparate outcomes result from the state of inebriation of the patient during the medical procedure. Here, the “daru kharab cheez hai” (liquor is evil) theory is validated using the popular Bollywood actor Dharmendra as a test subject. Therefore, it is the recommendation of the author that caretakers use alcohol only as a local disinfectant in order to avoid unnecessary molestation of health-workers. It is hoped that the research presented here will ultimately lead to a renaissance in modern health-care.

Figure 1: Successful surgical procedure for ballistic trauma

Introduction: The goals of this study are two-fold.

One of the least appreciated concepts in modern medicine is the “daru kharab cheez hai” theory widely prevalent in Hindi films (Vide Anthony Gonsalves et al. 1977). Briefly, this theory states that filmi heroes perform uncommon and unnatural acts under the influence of alcohol, which they would otherwise avoid. However, alcohol is also widely used in Hindi films as a local disinfectant for emergency surgical procedures and to prevent hypothermia after song-and-dance routines in Switzerland. To address this disparity, a comprehensive review of the wide body of relevant Bollywood filmography was performed.

The second goal of this study is to recommend appropriate field practices for treating trauma injuries. Filmi heroes are known to be exceptionally prone to non-fatal ballistic injuries suffered from poor aiming at close quarters by villains and/or their cronies. These injuries can be identified by a simple chemical examination for tomato sauce or water-soluble paint.

Methods: One filmi hero, Dharmendra, referred to colloquially as Dharam Paaji (D.P.), was subjected to different ridiculous, but non-life-threatening injuries (Vide: Kartavya; Shehezaade). A knife was sterilized by the acceptable method of heating on stove. The heroines (Rekha and Jaya Prada, respectively) were then instructed to remove the bullet. In the control study, D.P.  did not drink any alcohol, whereas in the experimental analysis alcohol was taken by mouth at the dose of one bottle of Old Monk desi rum and one bottle of VAT69 blended phoren scotch.

Figure 2: Validating the "daru kharab cheez hai" theory

Results and Discussion: The results presented herein (Figures 1 and 2) unambiguously establish the benefit of using the “knife to wound” method for treating bullet injuries.

Based on the results presented, the author would like to caution against allowing the filmi hero to imbibe alcohol during the 24 hours before or after the surgical procedure as it can result in undesirable outcomes.

Acknowledgments: The author wishes to thank the makers of Kartavya and Shehezade for sharing of materials and methods.

Mandatory Disclosure: No animals were harmed during these experiments.

References:  1. All images are low-resolution and used only for the demonstration of the purpose of the study. Copyright of original works resides with the original creators.

2. The text is subject to copyright (registration in USA and India) and cannot be used without prior permission from the author and publisher (A.M.).

More Bollywood Science here.

10 lines from Hindi movies that warn of imminent danger

I am no astologer and the following lines from Hindi movies may seem quite harmless, but they are ominous. If you’re unfortunate enough to say any one of these lines, you’ll suffer the consequences I mention.

  • Babuji, kya sheher ke saare log burre hote hain? (Dad, are all the people from the city evil?)

Two hours later: After a decade-long misunderstanding, your love-child sings a sappy song that brings you back together with your lover.

  • Daulat se sabh kuch kharida ja sakta hai (You can buy everything with money)

Two hours later: After losing your family in a natural disaster, going blind, and begging for forty years, you are reunited with your family on your death-bed. The same thing happens when you say main bhagwan nahin maanta… (I don’t believe in God…)

  • Itni raat gayi kahan ja rahi ho meri rani? (Where are you going so late in the night, my queen?)

Ten minutes later: The hero comes out of the woodwork and ends your diabolical laughing, lip-licking, and chest-scratching by beating the crap out of you.

  • Tu chinta mat kar, main teri school ki fees bhar doonga (Don’t worry… I’ll pay your school fees)

Two hours later: Your brother shoots you down like a dog on the street for not turning yourself in to the police.

  • Agar mujhe kuch ho gaya to meri biwi ko yeh chitti pouncha dena (If anything happens to me, make sure my  wife gets this letter)

Two hours later: Dressed in a white sari, your widow collects a gallantry award on your behalf during Republic Day.

  • Saab, hum unionwaale garib zaroor hain, lekin izzat se jeena chahte hain (Sir, the workers of this factory might be poor, but we’d like to live with dignity)

Two hours later: You son, Vijay, finds the factory-owner (who is actually the leader of a global smuggling ring) and avenges your death.

  • Chalo hum tum picnic pe chalte hain… (Let’s the two of us go on a picnic)

Two hours later: Your kid ends up hating you for what you did years ago on that stormy night. Often goes together with line 1.

  • Mere khilaf is gaon mein koi kuch nahin kar sakta (No one can do anything against me in this village)

Two hours later: The son of the farmer you murdered in broad daylight leads a peasant revolt and burns down the haveli you live in.

  • Main bhoot woot nahi manta (I don’t believe in ghosts)

Two hours later: You admit to your possessed wife that you killed your mistress, and then you die a gruesome death in the woods next to your haunted bungalow.

  • Mujhe nahin lagta tum zindagi mein kuch kar paoge (I don’t think you’ll ever achieve anything in life)

Two hours later: Your son proves that you are a royal idiot by becoming the most successful businessman, singer, sportsman, or patriot since Independence.

© 2010-2012, Anirban

Quotas for the underprivileged in the Bollywood Hindi film industry

There was a rather peculiar question in the All-India Pre-medical and Pre-dental Entrance Examination a few years ago. The question in the biology section asked if children of doctors were genetically inclined to become doctors themselves. I am sure that there were some students who filled in the “b” or “c” circle with their No.2 pencils  for all questions they did not know the answer.  Some must have chosen that option.

Will we ever see this story outside of the The Indian Bakwaas?

Reflecting back to the gist of the question, I can say that it is certainly true that many physicians want their children to follow in their professional footsteps. The same also applies for practitioners of professions such as law, politics, sports, and engineering. The Hindu caste system was originally based on professions. Even today there is controversy regarding the touchy topic of race and ability. Geneticists are however, quick to point out that there is no “race gene” in the human genome.

Arguably the most visible instances of offspring following in footsteps all the way down to nepotism can be found in the Bollywood Hindi film industry. A staggeringly large proportion of lead actors and actresses who get their first “big break” in Hindi films come from filmi households.

Yes, I have heard many of the usual arguments. The parents of these youngsters finance many of the movies. They are well-connected. They have acting in their genes. They are more marketable.

Further, arguments are made that financiers can choose whoever they want in a free country.The public is not forced into watching anyone’s films. And many actors and actresses related to industry folks have flopped miserably over the decades. For every Hrithik Roshan, there is an equal and opposite Puru Rajkumar.

These are all valid points. But my question is this: if we can have rational discussions on mandatory reservations for underprivileged castes and classes in India in the public and private sector, why can’t we imagine quotas in the top-spots in films for those of us not related to film-royalty?

© 2009-2011, Anirban