Spaghetti Bolognese – My Version!

This is my version of the popular sauce (ragu alla Bolognese) that originated from Bolgna, Italy. Traditionally this is made with beef mince but my version uses lamb mince. The recipe is a variation of many recipes that I have tried earlier and it incorporates the best of both worlds – knowledge derived from expert chefs and my own unique ‘genius’!

Without further ado I present my version of a dish that is easy, delicious and a great prelude to a romantic night.

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

500gms Lamb mince

2 Medium Onions, finely chopped

6 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped

1 Glass of Red Wine (any decent, cheap red will do)

2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar (optional)

½ tsp Dried Rosemary

¼ tsp Dried Thyme

1 tsp Dried Oregano

3-4 Fresh Basil leaves (optional)

8-10 Medium Tomatoes

2 Green tomatoes, chopped (optional)

Salt to taste Parmesan / Cheddar Cheese

Half a packet of spaghetti

2-3 tbsp Olive Oil

Procedure

  1. Boil water (approx 500 ml) and throw in the tomatoes. Let them boil until the skins begin to peel off. Remove the tomatoes from the water. De-skin the tomatoes and blend into a thick puree.
  2. Heat oil in a pan. Throw in the dried rosemary and thyme. Fry for around 1 minute or until slightly brown (do not burn)
  3. Add the chopped onions and garlic. Fry until they turn soft.
  4. Add the mince. Fry for another 4-5 minutes until it just changes color.
  5. Add the wine and balsamic vinegar. Cook on high flame until the gravy is reduced to nearly half.
  6. Add the tomato puree and chopped green tomatoes. Season with salt. Bring to a boil.
  7. Cover and let the sauce simmer for approximately 30-40 minutes or until the mince is cooked. This is your bolognese sauce – simmering gently waiting to be done and gently put over steaming spaghetti!
  8. Boil some more water in another pan. Add a teaspoon of olive oil and some salt to this. Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water as per the instructions on the pack.
  9. When the spaghetti is done, drain and keep aside. (Ensure that you do not make the spaghetti too early as it will dry up really fast)
  10. Tear the basil leaves and mix them into the bolgnese sauce.
  11. Make a bed of spaghetti on the serving plate. Put a generous amount of the bolgnese sauce on this.
  12. Generously sprinkle grated parmesan or cheddar cheese. Enjoy the meal!

I was so delighted with my recipe that I had my son make it the following night. It was successful. I polished off two glasses of good Indian wine in celebration of this wonderful dish. Dim the lights, serve this to your beloved in a nice white plate, with a glass of wine, soft candle-light and even softer music. A fresh salad on the side will be great but not essential.

Let Her Rest…

She sleeps. Yet she is. Without rest.

She gazes. Into the dark ceiling. The seamless cover. Of black.Lit by a thousand twinkles. Interrupted by. A hazy foreground. A gray lining. Partly covering. Silver stars.

Her mind wanders. She lingers. Over the past. Worries. About now. She thinks. About tomorrow. She wonders. About how. It will unfold.

She knows. Tomorrow. Will be no different. From today. Or yesterday.

The stars will shine. Over her. While she dies. A thousand deaths. Will not end her journey.

A journey. Of colorless infinity. Spotted. With small speckles. Of colorful bursts. Within many. Light years of dark nights. A journey. Of little truth. And many lies.

She will live. Through this. And many other journeys. Sometimes disturbed. Sometimes limping. Mostly numb. Otherwise unhindered.

She will find solace. In the blackness. She will hide. In the seamless. In the distant. In the near. In the cries. In the tears. In the whispers. In the torment. In the hidden. In the laughter. In the mystery. Of a naked night. Like million. Other nights.

She will survive. While I die. A million deaths. While I seek. Countless desires. Impossible dreams. While I lust. For life. With her.

She will just. Survive.

Survival. Is not. A sin. It is not. Defeat.

Survival. Is. An instinct. Driven by necessity. Emerging. Out of darkness. In the hope. Of a brighter. Morning. In the hope. That every little speck of brightness. Illuminates. Her soul. Like. A million suns.

I am. Entangled. Intertwined. Bound. Within your bounds. I live. Your dreams. I feel. Your darkness. I see. The brightness. In the little sparkles. Like you.

Come my beloved. Embrace me. Forgive me. For I have. Caused this darkness. Upon you. I have slit. Your belly. I have entered. You. I have. Violated. You. Until. You accepted. My attack. As you did. Darkness. You embraced me. Without complaint.

Upon you. I spit. I shit. I fuck. I fornicate. I procrastinate. I create. I destroy. I multiply. While you tolerate. While you endure. While you remain. Constant.

I want you to know. Today. Now. I attacked you. Because I felt. I had to. To survive. But. The truth is. I am you. You are me. We live. We exist. We dream. We survive.Together.

I am your spirit. And like you. I will never perish. Yet. Abuse. I will. Not out of hate. Or disrespect. Just. Out of habit. Terrible. Human. Habit.

Let us. End this duel. Of day. And night. Of love. And hate. Of laughter. And tears.

Let us. Cuddle up. Curl. Into each others arms. Let us. Share the warmth. Let us smell. The toil. And make love. While we await. Another dawn.

Dev Anand, Chargesheet and me.

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When I was 30 I was troubled by questions of death and questions of life after death. The ‘soul’ was a fascinatingly escapist concept for me but supremely confusing. I have a spiritual friend – somebody who I end up having conversations with when my questions reach a point of extreme anguish. He told me that the soul was basically ‘impressions ‘ left behind by the deceased. These impressions were an amalgamation of deeds, work and relationships created by the deceased in his lifetime. I liked my friends simple logic but my hopeful mind did not wish to accept this one line solution to an abstract hope of immortality.

My twitter timeline which is a better source of information and concise entertainment than redundant newspapers or hysterical news channels was flooded this morning. Dev Anand RIP, Dev Saab RIP and many other eloquent, some not so eloquent, some downright rehearsed micro blogs have populated my timeline all day. Dev Anand is no more. And my spiritual friends simple logic has reappeared.

His soul will remain in this world for many generations. Through his films, through his songs, through images of a man who epitomized life. His impressions will remain with me until I leave behind my own impressions for the mortal world.

For me to write about Guide, Hum Dono, Tere Mere Sapne, Kala Bazaar, Jewel Thief, Johnny Mera Naam is futile. There are many more articulate writers out there with a better command over this language and with a deeper insight into Indian cinema than me. I am not qualified enough to write a treatise on my idol Dev Saab’s body of work.

My first film ‘Jayate’ was mixed at Dev saab’s Anand Studios in Bandra. I wanted to get a glimpse of my idol. I loved standing in the studio lobby surrounded by posters of Navketan films. Dev Saab by then was sadly reduced to a caricature by distasteful mimicry in even more distasteful films. He was still prolific but the output was an embarrassment to even his most ardent fans. I was happy to forgive all his cinematic misdemeanors and to live in my unabashed admiration of his delightful past body of work. Every time I caught glimpses of Dev Saab running up the stairs, jumping out of his car and always looking terribly busy my day would be made. My romance with Anand Studios and my distant romance with Dev Anand continued through most of my films.

Cut to December 2008. I was living in the village. Temporarily separated from films. Living a detached existence. My phone rang. “Hansal… Dev here… Dev Anand… I want you to do a character in my new film. Karle. Mazaa aayega…”. I left for Bombay the same day. I met Dev Saab at his Anand Studios office. I met a frail, fragile bodied man with the energy of an eighteen year old and with the childlike excitement of a debuting film-maker. “Thank you Hansal for coming over. I’m glad you are working in my film. Mazaa aayega… Mazaa aayega…”. He gave me a quick brief on the character and my costumes. Not that it made any difference to me. I was, I am and I will remain a terrible actor who never gives up. But there was no way I was going to let an opportunity to be a part of a Navketan film pass by. There was no way I was going to let an opportunity of sharing screen space with my idol pass.

We shot in Mahableshwar, a hill station that Dev Saab has frequently used in numerous films over the decades. Dev saab would simply give me and my co-actors single lines to deliver. All our lines were delivered looking straight into the lens without much thought or background. Dev Saab would correct us or cut the shot the moment we paused while delivering our line or if we shifted our look away from the lens. All our lines were delivered breathlessly in classic Dev Anand style – without the panache. Dev Saab would come running to us from behind the camera to make corrections in our delivery, to mark our exact positions and to demonstrate how he wanted us to act. Every ‘ok’ take would meet with a high energy shout of approval from him. We had no idea who we were really talking to in the film or what we were doing in the scene. It did not matter. We would have delightful discussions (led of course by Dev Saab) on his earlier films and his current films. He believed that times had changed and he was keeping up with the times by making topical films inspired by the changing social fabric of our country. He also felt that his earlier films had very poetic dialogue while to make films in the current scenario one had to write dialogues that were conversational and not excessively poetic. I had never met a man more articulate, more charming and more positive than Dev Anand. My insignificant role in his last film ‘Chargesheet’ will remain my most cherished life experience.

A few months later I was summoned to dub for my part. I had a throat infection and my voice was squeakier than it is. I’m sure Dev Saab was very upset that I did not dub for my character. A throat infection is the oldest excuse in the Bollywood book of excuses for not attending a dubbing session. I regret letting Dev Saab down. My voice was dubbed by a heavy voice with a heavy North Indian accent. I wanted to apologize to him. I wanted to meet him. Unfortunately that will never happen.

I will always smile with recollections of my ‘Chargesheet’ experience. I am blessed that an icon named Dev Anand came into my life and made it slightly less insignificant than it was. I am thankful that my idol touched my life with impressions that will remain etched in my consciousness for the rest of my time on this material universe. Dev Anand RIP.

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Chapter 1

Wind on my head. You on my mind. I travel. An uncertain journey. An arduous path. The mountains. Loom large. Your thoughts. Invade my mind. I wonder. I wander. I seek. The unknown. I crave. A future. I live. A present. I fear. A past.

It was 2007 when I took the decision. I was enraged with myself. I was enraged with the films I was making. My mind was bereft of ideas. Film-making had become a chore, an attempt to portray something meaningless through even more meaningless wide-angle lenses. Distorted images, frantic camera moves and non-existent scripts. I had only myself to blame. I was seeking nothing. I was angry. But the anger was misdirected. I was unable to look back at my own work. I was afraid to reflect.

I decided that it was time to stop. To do nothing. To reflect. To contemplate. To read. To cook. To wander. To leave the city.

It was a selfish decision. It meant uprooting my family. It meant putting them through a period of change. It meant putting them through an uncertain process that did not necessarily have a tangible end. But I had to do it. I had to find myself again.

The last few years have been difficult. Yet they were the best years I have yet spent in my limited life. The shift to a small village on the outskirts of Bombay was pleasant. I was enveloped by silence. There was a calm that took some getting used to. I rediscovered books. I rediscovered music. Love, time, quiet and space were my only companions in the beautiful wilderness. I found solace in oblivion.

It took me nearly 1 year to detoxify myself from the filth that had choked up my mind. I wrote meaningless things. I expressed myself openly. I flushed out my misdirected anger. I worked on stories. I worked on scripts. Every time I finished writing I realized that I was far away from discovering myself let alone delving into story, characters, layers and structure. It was a process of self appraisal. I distanced myself. From the demands of the city. From the narrow confines of ‘what works’ and ‘what doesn’t work’. From the JW Marriott coffee shop. From Barista. From multiplexes. From malls. No Bombay Times. No Mumbai Mirror. No Mid-Day. No traffic. Just pure solace. There was no rush to make a film. No desperation to be prolific. No compulsion to comply. No reason to conform.

But it was far from meditative. There was chaos in my mind. My mind was filled with fear. I feared an uncertain future. I was warned by many members of the trade that my absence would result in me being out of work. That I should sign a film immediately. That I should start a new film immediately. The greater fear was that I did not want to make a film. And that was scary because there was nothing else I ever wanted to do. Suddenly my calling was slipping out of my hands. An even greater fear was the trouble my family would go through because of this inner turmoil. Why should they bear the brunt of my introspection? I had made very little money from films. Finances were running thin. Soon the patience of people closest to me would be running thin.

My family stood by me during this chaotic period. While frustrated at my doing practically nothing my wife stood by me. She empathized with my confusion. She understood my need to find myself. My parents and children patiently (sometimes unknowingly) waited for that moment of truth to strike.

On hindsight I feel that film-makers are a selfish lot. Their need for self-discovery and self-gratification isolates their nearest ones. Their need for isolation makes their dearest ones lonely, sad and often confused. Film-makers also suffer from the ‘victim syndrome’. They believe that nobody really understands them or their ‘inner turmoil’. The truth is that they are victims of their own need for expression. I am still not sure whether being a film-maker is a lonely profession or whether it is a selfish profession.

There is pain. In my heart. It happens. Every time. I embark. Upon this path. A path. That is agonizing. Yet full. Of ecstasy. My breathing. Gets hurried. My mind. Searches an answer. To a riddle. A riddle. That I call. A story. My heart. Seeks salvation. In a temporary moment. Called creation. I also question. My anxiety. And wonder. Is it worth the pain? I have no answer. Except. My restlessness. Self imposed. Self inflicted. Painful pleasure. I feel privileged. Yet pressured. I ask. Why do I have to be different? Why do I have to persist? Yet I persist. Into an unknown quest. I attempt. A conquest. Of my own demons. I am thankful. And resentful. That I guess. Is life.

Personal circumstances, financial compulsions and the urge to make films again got me back to the city. I journeyed back to the city knowing only this much. I would make a film that I wanted to make. I would make a film the way I wanted to make it. I would make a film with complete honesty. I would make a film with somebody who believed in my story. I would make a film with somebody who believed in me. The process of making the film had to be organic. The story had to be from within me. It had to express something I felt deeply about. The characters, screenplay, structure had to flow from conviction and not compulsion. The shots had to germinate from the scene. The mis en scene had to evolve from a space that belonged to my characters. Nothing would be forced. Nothing fake. Nothing convoluted.  All this was easier said than done. The real battle had just begun.

I did not have a story yet. I had worked on many scripts and toyed with many ideas. Some of them were unrealistic dreams. Some of them were out of date. Some of them were simply terrible. One of them was an idea that I had for nearly 5 years. It was an idea that had consumed me for the longest time. It was a script that I wanted to make but ended up making ‘Woodstock Villa’ instead. It is a script I still want to make. That script is another story. And hopefully another journey.

February 11, 2010 changed my life forever. A tragedy gave birth to a story. A story that had to be told. A story that had to be seen. A journey that had to be witnessed. Finally I had a story to tell… My untitled dream was born…

I closed my eyes. As she flowed past. I tried to focus. On her journey. I tried to block. Thoughts of myself. But the mind. Played its game. Her journey. Got muddled. With mine. Both hindered. Both in turmoil. Yet flowing. Merging. Resting. Flowing. Sometimes rushing. Sometimes calm. Many confused moments later. I opened my eyes. My mind. And me. At peace. Until the next hurdle.

Stranger

Somebody. Who meets a stranger. In his room. For the first time. Kisses him. Lets him. Feel her. Just the lure. Of the forbidden. Of rebellion. An expression. Of disdain. Of boredom. An act. Of impulse. Of lust. Without regard. For the past. Without respect. For commitment. Just another moment. In a life. Where. Every new moment. Erases old moments. Where. Every act of lust. Endangers love. A life. In which. A great future. Is a thing. Of the past.

Remembering Chhal and Those Days of Uncertainity

Friday, August 03, 2007
4.25 am IST

Directors are an insecure lot. In fact I feel that most of us in the film business suffer from a great sense of insecurity. To some it is the insecurity of sustaining a livelihood. To some it is the insecurity of sustaining fame. To some it is the insecurity of sustaining expectations. To many it is the insecurity of surpassing expectations. To many like me it is the insecurity of being able to make their next film.

I have spent the last five years in near oblivion. A debacle called ‘Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai’ which seemed like a minor aberration became a major stumbling block. I hated the film. It was a creative low. It was tasteless. It showcased film-making at its worst. I made the film. And I have yet to forgive myself for this debacle.

My new film is nearly ready. We are deciding on an ideal release schedule. Once again, I feel insecure.
Times like these make you look back at your life, your films. You begin to question your own credentials. You begin to question the past. Did you ever make a good film ? Have you ever managed to suitably engage an audience in your tales? My sincere apologies if this piece sounds depressive. It is not intended to be so.

Friday, August 03, 2007
4.25 am IST

Clouded by these thoughts. Bereft of imagination. Full of alcohol. Staring listlessly into my laptop.
My email id is suddenly alive. A man named Rahul writes a passionate comment on ‘Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar!’. Not one but three comments! Somebody bothered to read a post that is more than eight months old. Someone, somewhere made a mental connection with me. Reminded me of the past. For some odd reason I re-lived ‘Chhal’.

‘Chhal’ was a reaction to ‘Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar’ . The critics bashed ‘Dil Pe…’. Many friends were unwilling to acknowledge the man who made a film like ‘Dil Pe..’. I was completely flummoxed at the response that my labor of love had received. I slipped into severe depression. There seemed to be no way out. The next film looked impossible. The production company I had floated with two other friends was debt-ridden and in no shape to make another film. No producer was willing to make another film with me. The thought of returning to television was depressing to say the least.

The year 2000 also saw a major slump in the fortunes of the film business. Films were failing with amazing regularity. Many traditional distributors were closing shop. Revenue models of films recovering investments from the sale of music, overseas and satellite rights were fast becoming a thing of the past. When I look back I think that this phase was the beginning of a new chapter in films. In the years following this phase there was going to be a major turnaround. A turnaround in the way films would be made. In the way films would be marketed, promoted and sold. Most importantly, there was going to be a turnaround in the way films would be exhibited. Single-screens with huge capacities were slowly going to be replaced by smaller screens and would hold smaller capacities. However, in early 2001, this was still a thing of the future.

Suparn ‘Hyperactive’ Verma

I met Suparn Verma at an internet chat that he had hosted with Manoj Bajpai from my home. He was a rediff.com staffer then. After the chat was completed I had tea with Suparn. We had a passionate conversation on film criticism, journalism and our favorite films. I was in the middle of the ‘Dil Pe…’ schedule then. After he left I sent him an email asking him whether he was interested in writing films. He called back expressing surprise. ‘How did you know that I wanted to write films? We never spoke about it when we met! Of course I want to write!’. Hyperactive, positive and focused. That is Suparn. Almost seven years after our first interaction and with very little hair left on his head Suparn still remains that way. The hair has dwindled, the spectacles have grown thicker, he has written some terrible films, directed one of his own terrible scripts but Suparn remains as enthusiastic and crazy as ever. I have great expectations from him. Someday he will live up to his full potential. He will make a great film.

Suparn wrote a script which we christened shaadi.com. It was a tongue-in-cheek, funny, realistic portrayal of life in an urban marriage. I wanted either Saif Ali Khan or Akshaye Khanna to act in the film. They were at the lowest depths of their career then. They were not ‘saleable’. I found a producer for this film but he was never excited by my choice of cast. The script was kept in abeyance for some other time which for me meant that it probably would never get made. Shaadi.com is a journey that might take up another voluminous post. Maybe some other time.

I was contracted by a producer to direct a love story which would mark the debut of Abhay Deol and Tulip Joshi. I think the film was titled ‘Kuch Dil Ne Kahaa…’. Phew! Thank God it never got made.

Suparn in the meanwhile kept inundating me with synopses of ideas that he had. I refused to even read them as I was unsure of their future. Chhal was one of these ideas. One night after consuming a huge amount of alcohol I happened to glance through some of Suparn’s story ideas. I gave it to my assistants Kanika and Shashi. I think I told them that it had the potential to be made into an interesting film.

I passed out to surface late in the morning. I woke up to find that Kanika and Shashi were still there. They told me that the idea was interesting and that I should read it. I saw the potential of creating a film that would showcase my proficiency as a technician. I saw the potential of making a slick Hong Kong style thriller. I decided that this would be my next film.
I called Nitin Patil, the reluctant producer of shaadi.com. Told him that I had a script that I wanted to make in a budget of approximately Rs. 1 crore (USD 250,000). Was he interested? He said that he would drive down from Nasik where he lived over the weekend. I was persistent. I told him that if he wanted to make it he should come now! Nitin Patil rushed to Bombay. I told him that I would make this film on a tight budget but it would be with actors and technicians of my choice. And I told him that I wanted to begin shooting within a month. 26 locations, 35 days, new actors, new technicians, super energy. Nitin Patil agreed immediately. Without his belief, single-mindedness and passion Chhal would have been impossible.

Kay kay was an actor that I found virile and extremely potent. I had worked with him on a television series based on Jeffrey Archer’s Kane and Abel. Kay kay played Abel. I have always believed that he was an actor who could easily become a sex symbol because of his quiet intensity, his aloof exterior and his unusual looks. He could easily become India’s Chow Yun Fat. We decided that we would approach his character of an undercover cop in such a way that it would be believable. His internal vulnerability towards the world that he was supposed to destroy would be identifiable. His internal turmoil stemming out of newly developed friendships in a world that is largely seen as cruel and ruthless would be real. The action sequences designed around him were stylized, violent and slightly over the top. Kay kay pulled off the character with great aplomb. Sexy in a simple way, stylish in an understated way, Kay kay was spectacular. This wonderful actor is finally getting his due.

Prashant Narayanan was never my choice for the gangster with a heart of gold. It was a case of out of sight and out of mind. My initial choice was Aditya Srivastava. Aditya read the synopsis and expressed skepticism about playing this character. It had an uncanny resemblance to another character that he was supposed to portray in Shivam Nair’s film Informer. Therein lies another story. When Aditya told me about this uncanny similarity between my film and Shivam’s (scripted by Anurag Kashyap) I was a bit perturbed. Shivam was one of those guiding forces in the initial days of many careers including my own. He provided invaluable help and guidance when I made my first film Jayate… I immediately called him and told him that we should read each other’s scripts and find out ways to overcome any striking similarities. Shivam asked me not to make the film. I thought that was a ridiculous suggestion. I told him so. We decided to meet soon. The meeting never took place. I have been repeatedly accused of stealing Anurag’s script and making it into Chhal. Friends like Abbas Tyrewala who were under this impression realized the truth when they saw Chhal. There was no question of stealing anybody’s script. This was Suparn’s script and he was not even remotely connected to Anurag or Shivam. These allegations left me quite disillusioned. But that is not the point of this post…

With Aditya out of the picture I was suddenly lost. I approached Atul Kulkarni. He was skeptical about doing the part as he had just played a similar part in Chandni Bar. I tried to convince him that my character was far more stylish but to no avail. In any case, I think it is always good to cast an actor only if HE is totally convinced about his character, the film and the director.

We were stuck. Out of desperation I approached Uday Chopra. He was impressed by the role and the character. But he wanted a week to decide as he was offered a film of a similar genre. He had to decide between that film and mine. He decided to do the other film – Supari. I am eternally thankful to Uday Chopra for making that choice.

I knew Prashant Narayanan for many years. He was a successful television actor and one of my earliest friends in the business. He was always shamelessly pompous, obsessed by himself and a very good actor. I was having dinner at my favorite hang-out Sizzling China, an ubiquitous, low brow, multi cuisine, now defunct restaurant in Versova with my girlfriend. Prashant was celebrating his wife’s birthday there. We met briefly as he was about to leave the restaurant. After he left my girlfriend asked me why I did not think of him to play Girish. It was an inspired suggestion. Prashant lent his own personal traits to the character of Girish. His glasses lent a certain level of sophistication and intelligence to his looks. Prashant’s nervous energy combined with his cockiness provided the ideal foil to Kay kay’s understated character. Without Prashant Chhal would never have been the film it eventually became.

The film marked the debut of cinematographer Neelabh Kaul . We decided to create two distinct worlds within the film. One was the world that Kay kay experiences prior to infiltrating the gang. The web of deceit that he was eventually going to entangle himself into would be gritty, bereft of colour and very high contrast. We decided to use the Bleach Bypass process again (We had tried this process in Dil Pe…). Neelabh perfected this process after a series of tests. As a cost saving measure we had decided to shoot on Fuji. I have continued shooting most of my films after Chhal only on Fuji. I simply love the color rendition, the blacks, the contrast and the feel of Fuji. I also love the cost of the stock. I think it handled the bleach bypass / silver retention process much better than Kodak stocks we had used in Dil Pe…

Once Kay kay’s character gets embroiled and emotionally warped we decided to bring in more color and warmth into the film. The color was enhanced using an opal filter that lent the right amount of warmth to the visuals. While Kay kay’s life in the film was filled with romance and affection his mind was also off balance. We decided to represent this by always keeping the camera ‘canted’ towards the left or right. The camera was never straight.

Chhal was never a great script . It was never a unique story. It was simply a triumph of collective human spirit. All of us wanted to contribute to the story. My production team went that extra mile to procure permissions at impossible locations. The fabulous confrontation scene between Kay kay and Prashant was made spectacular because of the choice of location. It was a remote location on the outskirts of Bombay that was discovered accidentally. A violent confrontation achieved poetic connotations because of the location.

There were three other men whose contributions made Chhal so special to many of us. Apurva Asrani, my editor. The use of jump cuts in crucial scenes and the jerky narrative style took story-telling to a different level. We had many fights while making the film but ultimately were proud of what we achieved given our limited resources and lack of technology. Viju Sha, the underrated composer. His background score enhanced the energy of the film. The brilliantly composed title track remains one of my favorite numbers till date. Unfortunately, the music company did not show sufficient belief in the music citing silly reasons for under-promoting the film. Last but not the least, Arun Nambiar my sound designer. He made the silences eloquent and created a multi-layered, violent world. He made the bullets sound musical and blended sound effects seamlessly into the background score.

Again I cannot but thank all these people and so many more nameless souls whose relentless efforts to achieve a cohesive, singular vision went largely unrewarded and mostly unheralded. We were let down by our distributors. The awards ignored us. The critics did not take the film seriously and many of them even went to the extent of calling Chhal a poor copy of Satya and Company! The irony is that Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai did not suffer from any of the above shortcomings (the critics rightfully bashed it). Yet it was a bad film that achieved success that it did not deserve.

An experience like this ends up extremely disheartening because you feel that such rare spirited collective effort has been wasted.

I sincerely hope that one day I get to recreate the magic of Chhal. That one day I can replicate the spirit of Chhal. That one day a film like this will get its due.

Dear Bombay, (My ‘Dhobi Ghat’ Impressions)

Dear Bombay,

Sorry my love for writing this random letter to you. I just want to tell you that I love you. I want to tell you that I am sorry my love.

I am sorry my love. I left you. I was angry. I was dejected. I was frustrated. I was hurt. I was cynical. I was disillusioned. I was selfish. I was stupid.

I am sorry my love. My love for you was not unconditional. My love for you was not selfless. My love for you did not stand the test of time. My love for you was not meant to be.

You did not question me when I abused you. You did not question me when I betrayed you. You did not question me when I hated you. You did not question me when I loved you. You did not question me when I returned.

I am sorry my love.

By the way, I met Arun yesterday. He lives in our beloved Mohammed Ali Road. He must be a good painter. He seems to love you. He listens to some really wonderful music. He is slightly ambiguous about his relationships. He smokes like a chimney. Just like you my love. He allows people into his life. He does not allow people to run his life. He lives in crowded streets. He is surrounded by humanity. Yet he is alone. Yes he is fragile. Just like you my love.

Then I met Yasmin. She described you so beautifully. She was so wistful yet she had so much hope strangled within her. I think I am in love with her. I want to hold her. I just want to tell her that all her longing can be fulfilled by you, my love. I want to hear her voice again. She kept talking to me last night as I slept cuddled in your arms. Can you find her for me?

I meet people like Shai every day. Smart. Mobile. Educated. Rich. Searching. Yearning. Running. Seeking. Refreshing. Uninhibited. Exhibitive. Giving. I must admit this. Initially I wasn’t too sure if I liked her but now I quite like Shai.

As I write this letter to you my doorbell rings. Munna has come with my clothes. Washed, ironed, folded and delivered. Some starched. Some ruined. Some old. Some new. The dhobi has been my unbroken connect with you my love. So many dhobis. So many clothes. But this Munna dhobi is quite a character. At first I was unsure if I liked him. But now I do like him a lot. He reminds me of you. He is much more than a dhobi. He lives for a better tomorrow. He is capable of love. He is honorable. He is noble. He is human. He is a survivor. Like you my love.

I met this bespectacled girl called Kiran Rao yesterday. Behind those big, round glasses were eyes that displayed so much love for you. Her love for you made me so envious. How could she? Tell me my love, do you love her? She calls you Mumbai. I call you Bombay. I met you much before she did. Yet she seems to love you much more. Despite the terrible name she calls you by. I think she meets you more often than I do. She expresses much more to you than I can with this juvenile letter. Can you please recite this small couplet to her?

naazuki us ke lab ki kya kahiye
pankhdi ek gulaab ki si hai

Can you thank this Kiran Rao for making me love you all over again? Can you tell her that her tribute to you called ‘Dhobi Ghat’ or ‘Mumbai Diaries’ has begun to heal my selfish, scarred heart? Can you please let her know that I will look forward to the rains because of her? Can you thank her for introducing those lovely people last night – people that will remind me of you for the rest of my life? Can you tell her that I have discovered my eternal love for you because of her?
Actually please don’t ask her all this. Just tell me this much…

Can you forgive me my beloved Bombay?

With love,
Hansal.