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I wrote about The Comedy Store sometime ago. At the time they had flown down three comedians for a limited number of shows held at different venues. This event was a forerunner to the launch of the Indian Edition of The Comedy Store.

 Well, it finally happened. The Comedy Store has opened in Palladium, High Street Phoenix. As a part of their opening ceremony celebrations last week they were giving away free passes to the show. I got them, courtesy a friend who’s an investment banker.

“So how did you get the passes?” I asked.

“Oh well, I’m in business with them,” he answered suitably vaguely.

“Oh so you’re extorting money from them?” I quipped.

He wasn’t amused. “I’ve got equity in the club.”

Seeing a show my earlier quip fell flat, I resisted the urge to say, Same diff. Extortion *squealed in high soprano*. “Since when do private equity guys invest in comedy clubs?” I asked instead. “Don’t you have a more serious internet business model with no foreseeable revenue stream to finance?”

“Just because internet business models have a long gestation period doesn’t mean they are not viable business,” he said.

Have I illustrated the point several times already or what? Then again, you don’t have to have a huge appetite to invest in a restaurant.

Anyway, I went in with high expectations and it is with regret that I have to say that I was kinda disappointed. For one, the first comic and the emcee, Paul Tomkinson (?) repeated many jokes from his earlier performance at the Grand Maratha Sheraton. I hadn’t taken to his brand of comedy even then, and to have it repeated almost verbatim was, well, intolerable.

The second comic was even more insipid. And to illustrate the point I can’t remember a single joke he cracked. The third comic was a Canadian who was obsessed with Indians carving nude female statues on temples. I laughed at his jokes but only because he had the look of a madman and scared me little bit.

Afterwards, I remember feeling grouchy. That was royal waste of time and money. Okay, the passes were free but the cab cost me a whopping three hundred each way. And the three Margaritas I downed weren’t on the house either.  

I tried to analyse why I wasn’t tickled. I’m easy to please. I still laugh at fart jokes. And I had gone there ready to laugh. Did I mention the Margaritas? If that’s not priming for laughter, I don’t know what is.

And then it occurred to me like a blinding flash on a dark night. The problem was with the material. Observational humour about the Indian accent and Indians scratching their bellies and-slash-or crossing the road at whim, boring *also in high soprano*. Hack attack. Done to death in films and TV shows. (oh, come on, these days? When one Indian character is mandatory?)

However, but club should take heart from the fact that the rest of the people were, to use internet speak, ROTFLTAO. I looked around to see if it was just me who was left cold. Nope, my friends were too. My conclusion: People who’ve seen a fair amount of stand-up comedy will find it considerably short of awesome.  

PS: The Comedy Store is having an open mic night this coming Saturday. People who are interested in forging a career in stand-up comedy can contact The Comedy Store.

PPS: No, I don’t have their numbers. Get off your ass and look it up yourself.

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Bird Attack

I am a die-hard Alfred Hitchcock fan. But even so, I always thought of Birds as kind of lame-assed. A town being terrorized by killer birds! And they were not even the eagle type predatory birds. I mean it was as bad as being terrorized by a renegade car! However, I’ve changed my mind. I now fully endorse Mr Hitchcock’s views that normally gentle aerial creatures can be killers too.

It happened yesterday when I went running. I went to the park and after performing a few perfunctory stretches, took to the dirt track at a leisurely pace. Suddenly, I felt a swoosh down the back of my neck, like a bird flying past awfully close. I turned around to see it was a crow. Now crows are kind of intrepid, but even for a crow that was a bit too aggressive. Strange as it was, I shrugged it off as a freak occurrence. But then it happened again. And again. I look around to check whether others at the park were similarly troubled. Nope. It was just me. And then the lone terrorist was joined by two compatriots, then another two. Soon there were a gazillion of them circling overhead.

Great. So now the crows have got a vendetta against me. Why, for God’s sake? I’m nice to birds. Actually, I’m nice to all animals, but I’m especially nice to birds. I feed them bread crumbs and morsels of roti and regularly put out water in the summer months. I sometimes even put out a feast for them comprising leftover pizza or biryani. A hospitality that mostly crows avail of, I might add. So why then the ingratitude? Unless…it had something to do with the leftover dosa I’d laid out for them one day recently. I remember feeling very…well, philanthropic, thinking I was doing a good deed, treating them to a new flavour. But perhaps it had caused them food poisoning? I had, after all, forgotten to put it in the fridge last night before. Omigod, what if someone had died? Their chief perhaps? Perhaps they were exacting revenge, patiently biding their time, looking for a chance to attack me? Were crows vengeful? I thought not. But then I also thought one didn’t need injections in the stomach anymore following a dog bite. A notion that I’ve had to revise painfully in the recent times.

While one part of me was, to put it eloquently, crapping in my pants with fear, another part of me couldn’t quite get over how cool it all would be if this bizarre behaviour was because of some unexplained phenomena. The most obvious one that occurred to me was that the crows were devil’s minions. The universe was being taken over by Satan and I was the only threat to an otherwise assured takeover bid by the horned one. The less obvious, and more X-filesy, was that the crows were a part of a primitive, alien civilisation.

While I was loath to abort my run, continuing down the path was fraught with peril. Just as images from The Omen and Birds assailed my mind, one of them swooped down, pecked viciously at the top of my head and flew off. And then he did it again. He was followed by another and another. I swear the last flew off with a chunk of my hair. That was it! The crows flying away with bits of my flesh and bone I can live with. But hair, no sir, I wasn’t ready to lose my hair just yet.

Thoroughly spooked, I flailed my reams above my head and ran to the track keeper screaming, “Help!” I belatedly remembered the advice that if you’re ever in any danger, screaming “fire” is likely to elicit more facilitatory action than screaming “help” is going to. But with trees felled to clear the field for the track, and the fledgling grass green from the pre-monsoon showers, there was no way the threat of fire was going to rouse anyone, least of all, a snoozing track keeper into action.

Then the weirdest thing happened. The track keeper jumped up and charged down the track. Only, instead of scaring the birds away, he shooed me! “Get off the track from there.” And, as though that wasn’t enough to convince me that the world had gone mad, he shouted, “Are you blind?”

What the fuck? I felt hysteria bubble inside me. “Not yet, but soon if the birds continue like this.”

He pointed to a black thing in the middle of the track. “Can’t you see that thing?”

“Yeah, it’s a little rock. So?”

“It’s a wounded hatchling.”

I peered closer at the furry ball “That’s a live thing?!”

For God’s sake, not only did it not look alive, it didn’t even look like a crow. It looked like a…a mynah. And what was with the whole crow kingdom protecting it? What was it, little orphan Annie? Or some kind of a messiah?

He looked at me with me like he would at a suspected paedophile – with a mixture of disgust and suspicion. “Yeah. The crows are just trying to protect it from predators.”

“But I’m not…I”

“Look just keep off the track on this side and you should be fine.” Although it made sense, I wasn’t about to risk my well-being on the track keeper’s less then precise *you should be fine* assurances. Not even for a scintillating blog post. So I left. And that was the major excitement in my life last week. And here you didn’t believe writers led dull lives.

I’ve received such interesting commenst and views on what women want that it reminded me of a popular fable I’d heard some time ago. It goes like this:

King Arthur was one captured by a neighbouring king who agreed to spare the former’s life if he could answer one question, What do women want?

Since King Arthur didn’t know the answer, he sent his messengers all over his kingdom looking for anyone who did. In the course of their travels, the messengers came across an ugly, wizened witch who claimed she knew the answer. She would, however, only reveal it if Lancelot agreed to marry her. Knowing the gravity of the situation Lancelot acquiesced, whence the witch answered, “What a woman really wants is to be able to be in charge of her own life.”

As soon as they heard it, everyone, including the neighbouring king, knew that truer words had never been spoken. And so the wedding between Lancelot and the witch was solemnised. On their wedding night, the witch announced that she had the ability to be beautiful half the time. She asked Lancelot to choose: either she could be beautiful during the day or at night.

Unable to make up his mind, Lancelot said that he would let her choose. Upon hearing this, she announced that she would be beautiful all the time, because he had respected her and had let her be in charge of her own life.

The moral of this story? It doesn’t matter if your woman is pretty or ugly, smart or dumb. Underneath it all, she’s still a witch. And if you try to control her life, if you don’t let her have her way, things will get ugly!

Here’s something I wrote for AND magazine on the above mentioned subject:

When I was first asked to write on the subject I figured I’d scour the net to find out what people were saying about the subject. I mean, why write when you can copy, right? If you do it smartly and copy from many sources you can get away with it too. After all, steal from one, it’s plagiarism, steal from many, it’s research. Everyone knows that.

But guess what I found? Apparently, all we women are looking for is love! With someone who’s thoughtful and caring but not dull, sensitive and a good listener but not a sissy, a bad boy but not a cad, adventurous and sporty but not wild and reckless. After a few minutes of surfing two things became obvious to me. One, all women want five guys, and two, I’d have to do this the hard way and write the whole thing myself.

Humour aside, methinks men tax their tiny, primeval brains too much.  Unlike what they believe, they are not so prominent in our list of top ten things we want. In fact, they figure way, way down. For, what we want is simple really.

1.We want to be able to eat anything and not gain weight. Have you seen those skinny young women who eat like horses, with plate after plate of food at the buffet table without putting on any weight? Neither have I. On the rare occasion I have seen one, she’s usually on their way to the loo. You know, to upchuck everything she just ate. But wouldn’t it be divine if we got to keep everything in and still remained stick thin?

2.We want to be Ageless. And not by resorting to chemical peels or laser treatments or any of that synthetic stuff. Have you seen some of those well-preserved socialites (names have been withheld to protect identity)? We don’t want to look like we’ve been pickled in vinegar! We want to be cryogenically frozen at twenty-two, twenty–five, tops.

3.We want to have a good, nay, great hair day. Every day. And while we are at it, why not throw in a good skin day and good nail day too? In fact, from the moment we wake up, we want to look like we’ve just stepped out of a salon.  

4.While we are walking out of a salon why not do it in five inch heels? With poise, and not slithering and sliding like some victim of alcohol abuse. Everyone knows that heels are sexy. They make legs looks longer and more defined, but only if you know how to walk in them gracefully. Which brings me to the next thing on the wish list. The ability to glide in five inch heels as insouciantly as if we were wearing skids.

5.Have all the money in the world. I’m talking millions, billions preferably. Ideally we’d like to inherit that money. Like Paris Hilton. But if that’s not possible, then we’d like a job that requires us to possess no talent or tact. Just a bitchy temperament. Like Simon Cowell. Who doesn’t want to say stuff like, ‘If your lifeguard duties were as good as your singing, a lot of people would be drowning,’ and get paid forty million dollars for it?

Continued tomorrow.

    6.A gay best friend to listen to us and give us fashion advice. We all want a Will to our Grace, sharing the secrets of our soul. And that’s because gay men get the despair, the angst and the should I call him or will it make me look needy conundrum. They totally get the drama, relish it even, and, more often than not, may even trump us in that department. Besides, it is huge fun for gays and us fag-hags to talk about men we are attracted to, each safe in the knowledge that the other person is not pitching to the same guy.

    And then there’s the shopping. While our female friends are competitive when shopping and ‘secretly want our ass to look fat’, there’s no risk of toxic advice in shopping with our gay friend.

    7.Romance and sex. Breaking news, WE LIKE SEX. Tender as well as red-hot, passionate animal sex. Who doesn’t like their eyes rolling back in their heads from sheer, unbearable pleasure? The only reason many of us don’t like sex is because our partners think a G-spot is short for Gold Spot. They are too focussed on their own pleasure. And if they do think of us they think going at us like a battering ram is IT.

    And we like romance. We all like to be wooed and made to feel one in a million. But sincerely, and not just because they want to get into our pants. Yes, we like to be made to feel so hot that they can’t contain themselves. But we also want romance just for the sake of romance. So yes, we like romance and sex, preferably in the same guy. I mean after all the gratuitous eating and endless shopping with our gay best friend with all the money that we have, who has the energy to pander to two guys?

    8.Equality with chivalry.  We want to be treated as equals but that doesn’t mean we want we the door slamming in our faces all the time. A guy who holds the door open will go a long way, maybe even all the way, with us.

    9.No PMS. I was going to write no periods, but as the time for their cessation draws ever closer, I discover I’ve grown rather attached to them. So I’m just going to settle for no PMS. No bloating and crankiness when that time of the month approaches. And if we have to have PMS then let it be only crabbiness. After all, bad temper is something others have to live with. It’s the bloating that’s a bummer, really.

    10.A genie to grant us all that. Well, duh!

Badmaash Company

It’s five o’clock on a Sunday and we’re sitting in Olive. We have good food and drink in our bellies, time on our hands and a strange reluctance to call it a day. What better way to spend time than watching a movie? Everyone wants to go for Iron Man but I veto that. The next choice is It’s a Wonderful Afterlife which we all agree upon. F wants to go for it because she’s Gurinder Chadha fan. A wants to go because he doesn’t want to watch Iron Man and he doesn’t want to watch Badmaash Company. Me, I just wanna stare at Sendhil Ramamurthy and drool.

Even though we arrive at the choice of film with minimum dissent, it is still six thirty by the time we leave. So we drive to Globus where there’s only a single screen and that’s screening Badmaash Company. Onwards to Suburbia where also they’re showing Badmaash Company. We drive to some four multiplexes and all that’s running is Badmaash company. By now we’re wondering if it is not the universe telling us something. “If by universe you mean Yashraj Films, sure,” A retorts.

We got to Gaiety-Galaxy as a last resort and all that’s running there is, you got it, Badmaash Company. Defeated, we bow down to Yashraj Films’ superior marketing, buy the tickets (only 75 bucks for balcony!) and walk in during the first song.

That is twice in two days I’ve missed the beginning of a film and I’m wondering if it doesn’t augur something. Turns out it does, that the film is crap. Although to be fair to Parmeet Sethi, he has tried to address the logical issues that invariably crop up when you’re trying to make a film like that.

*Someone please tell him that insider trading is illegal, though.*

The premise of the film is simple. It is early 1990s. Boy live in chawl, boy has ambition. He want become rich, not slave away in dead end like dad. Unfortunately for boy, boy’s father think all businessmen capitalist pigs. Boy goes ahead anyway and set up Friend’s & Co with three other friends, one being squeeze. Friends & Co business model import duty evasion on Reebok Shoes, duniya ki sabse badi shoe company. The largest shoe company in the world.

Enter Manmohan Singh and duty rationalisation. Overnight boy’s business go bust. He then decide to move to the US of A. He decide this because he want grow bigger and better. But mainly he decide this because it is Yashraj Film and Yashraj Film always shoot abroad. In the US of A they make plenty money and spend plenty more. And then, since it is Bollywood film and not Catch Me If You Can, it is only matter of time before his life catch up with him.

In Parmeet Sethi’s defence, while the story may not be much and the editing is choppy in places, the film doesn’t drag. In terms of performances, Shahid Kapoor tries to act like SRK which is funny because SRK can’t act. But he’s still better than the others which says a lot about the overall acting levels in the film. Anushka Sharma looks slim and svelte and has the requisite wardrobe but doesn’t have the looks for sexy.

Yikes! Enough time and money wasted. No more films for me. With the exception of Kites. And that also only because of Hrithik Roshan and the associated drool factor.

Iron Man II

Iron man released this Friday and I had no idea it was releasing. For some strange reason that upset me. A closer inspection of my feelings revealed it had to do with being robbed of anticipation. You see I like the anticipation of watching a film almost as much as (and in some cases even more than) watching it. It’s a bit like the anticipation of a meal après a fast. Much more fun than the actual act of eating.

Anyway to get back to story, I figured out why they launched the film with such little publicity. That’s because they figured they’d spend the money in bribing the reviewer instead. Four stars the-fucker-who-shall-remain-unnamed gave it.

As soon as I read the review, I dropped everything I was doing (including an expensive china dish) hopped into an auto and sped to Cinemax to catch the cheap morning show (I’m only a poor writer and can’t afford regular shows) although at 140 a ticket the only thing cheap about it is the management’s disgraceful attempt to pass it off as a cut price ticket. AND IT WASN’T EVEN FOR THE RECLINING LOUNGE! AND I MISSED THE FIRST FEW MINUTES PRIOR TO THE OPENING CREDITS.

The plot, for the lack of a better word, is closer to home now that the evil Paki terrorist horse has been flogged to death. And the enemy this time around is the US Army that wants to obtain the Iron Man technology. Impervious to Tony Stark’s trademark braggadocio assertion, the suit is not Iron Man, I am, the Army appoints Stark’s friend ‘Rhodie’ Rhodes to acquire it. To add to Stark’s woes, the thingie he wears in the centre of his chest, the motor that keeps the shrapnel away from his heart is giving him Palladium poisoning.

Then there are Tony’s other nemeses, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) and Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke). Justin Hammer’s got a real hard on for a lucrative Army contract. The only problem is whatever his company, Hammer Tech manufactures has as much sizzle as a damp Diwali cracker. Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), an evil Russian genius hates Tony Stark because Tony’s father, Howard Stark was responsible for getting his father deported to Russia. “Well that makes two of us,” Tony should’ve said to him, at least according to the back story they’ve given him about how (sob) his father never loved him.

That’s the plot. The rest of the film is a lot of mumbling on Robert Downey Jr.’s part, blowing up a lot of cars in Monte Carlo, him giving grief to Pepper Potts, him flirting with Agent Romanov (Scarlett Johansson), him bullying Jarvis.

A whole lot of talk and not much action. You know, I’m thinking the new trend they’ve started on TV, subtitling? Excellent idea. Especially when you got to watch someone like Robert Downey Jr. who has a tendency to mumble. Far funnier? Sam Rockwell. At least I could understand what he was saying. And what was that whole thign about Sam Rockwell oozing malevolence? Does malevolence means ineptidue in your lexicon, Mr Reviewer?

Mickey Rourke, neither good, nor bad. Indifferent is the word that comes to mind. Gwyneth Paltrow is efficient as the long suffering Pepper Potts. Scarlett Johansson is sexy as Agent Romanov. On an aside though, why did they make her a brunette when everyone knows blonde = sexy. And isn’t Romanov a male name? Shouldn’t it have been Romanova? What are they trying to do, rewrite sexy and gender equality?

My verdict, go watch the Hindi version. At least, it will be coherent and hilarious. Sample:

“Tony Stark, lauh purush ki tukneek amrikan thal sena ke havale kar do.”

“Kabhi nahin. Lauh purush purush se banta hai, tukneek se nahin.”

Doesn’t make sense? Neither does the movie.