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a girl on a scooter, a man in a helicopter, perhaps they’ll meet? or episode 2 of episode 1

this is the second part of a longish take on the first episode of the television drama iss pyaar ko kya naam doon? to read the first part, click here.

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hai re nand kissore.

almost in classical vein, iss pyaar ko kya naam doon? seemed to begin with an invocation to the almighty. the large woman bustling about who turned out to be the not to be ignored and rather lovable bua ji, said not only krishna’s name… but her first tartly flung word to a wedding guest, “arri o rameswar ki dulhain…,” – o, rameswar’s bride – brought ram into the little call to the powers that be.

but even before that, two words had caught my attention. the episode opened on scenes of an old city as we went down its roads, to music with the clip clop beat of tanga, a horse drawn carriage, in it. lucknow, said the super, then camera moved over the gateway of a compound that had an array of homes, where clearly the not so wealthy lived… and at this moment, a wedding was on there. all the guests sat in the large courtyard, while bua ji rushed about supervising boisterously the daytime ceremonies.

the words on top of the gate… gomti sadan.

to me, lucknow, a city i have alas never been to, says, nawab, wajid ali, kabab, pehle aap pehle aap, but most of all… bhoolbhulaiya, the fascinating maze. once you get lost in it, will you find the way out?

was this an invitation to enter a maze? that would take us via its many twists and turns and confounding puzzles to the ultimate destination… and if so, what was its destination? surely not that pyaar that is so difficult to name?

and gomti… why, it is the river of course. a flow, a pulse, a course in it. and if i see the movement depicted in the episode, there were two people moving from two different points to the same place, it did seem to reflect a river rushing down its course, in anticipation, of what even the river has no idea… usually rivers flow toward the ocean… was it just chance that the protagonist’s name meant… the ocean?

would the river meet the ocean here, an ocean that came surging from the skies and caught and held it in its arms and gazed longingly into its heart?

am i being fanciful? perhaps. but that is what the 28.56 minutes of episode always ends up doing. in it i find a fabulously well laid out structure… an opening where almost every element of story and what’s important to ipk is introduced, all major characters except one. the backstory is hinted at poignantly. the issues of galat, sahi – right or wrong – come in. as does zameer or conscience. and rajkumar, rajkumari. the contrast between the protagonists’ different worlds is clearly established. the characters’ essential traits are drawn and they are at counterpoint.

there is even jalebi and of course, the first meeting.

to do so much in so little time and so smoothly is not easy, that too while you are making sure you have a grand first episode with a wedding and a fashion show and a deadly deal and a flashback giving enough opportunity to jazz up action and drama. the creatives really worked on this one and someone got the essence of it perfectly. like hot knife through butter goes the episode, unerringly and gleefully moving from scene to scene, taking us to the utterly delicious scoop at the end. oh, somewhere around 10:50, it also manages to take the viewer to outer space and heart attack.

there was a lightness and expert touch to the whole thing. none of the usual “serialness” here. even the very desi middle class milieu and people being portrayed was done with understanding and yes, that thing so missed in our soaps, understatement.

the wardrobe, the sets, the look, the feel, the acting, a certain style to it all, realistic even. and a note of that other thing often absent from this type of entertainment… intelligence.

i noticed our lucknowi receptionist at sheesh mahal properly on later viewings, he was such a perfect caricature, spoke of a wacky fun sense in someone in the team. yeah, the man was a cliche but pitched so right. that lost look on his face, he so genuinely a poet, reminded me that in l.a. almost every waiter at the hotel was an actor in waiting.

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at gomti sadan, while the merriment and the aunt’s loud urging to dance and show joy got going outside, a lovely young woman at the window of a room looked out, a worried air about her. in  the background, a figure in silhouette moved and a voice said, “jiji, jija ji phone nahin utha rahe…,” didi, brother in law is not picking up the phone. your ears picked the soft “ph” sound. and now that i think of it, the villain of the piece was also a jija ji, wasn’t it?

the girl in a mustard veil said she was scared, were they doing the right thing? and yet… to ask for such a large amount on the day of the wedding.

in seconds, we knew what the problem was… no need for fussy long winded dialogues.

camera turned to look at the girl who said “phone” with a soft “ph.” first we saw her eyes, then her lips, her hands holding her sister’s… and we heard her gentle, light, childlike voice.

it was clear, she loved her sister a lot and her father… she would not let his shop be mortgaged for the dowry demanded that morning, she would go and speak to her brother in law to be and settle the issue. a voice full of hope and innocence… yes she was scared, but she would go see to the matter, jiji, tum mat ro… you don’t cry.

next thing we know, this girl dressed in lehenga choli with lots of shiny gota, all decked up for a wedding day function, is wearing sneakers and running out as her father joins the revelers; after spending a couple of tender moments with his daughter, the bride to be, he lets his martinet sister push him into some dancing.

from his very first shot, shashi gupta looked like an unusual man, a not too predictable father for this sort of family and background. he actually wonders if giving his daughter in marriage to a boy from a family that badgers for more money on the day of the wedding is a good thing or not. his wife, garima, more entrenched in the thinking of her set up, is aghast. they are ladkiwale, girl’s family… they must accept everything.

clearly, her husband is not really convinced. looking at this calm, poised man, who has the bearing of a wise and knowledgeable person, you begin to understand why he has a daughter who can hare off to confront a brother in law to be on the the issue of dowry. girls from gomti sadan don’t do such things, this would be considered too daring and even foolhardy by most. on your sister’s wedding day you do things expected of a girl… you dress up, you put mehendi, you giggle, laugh, dance, act a little coy and wonder about when your rajkumar will come, you don’t steal your dad’s shop’s deed and go off to some faraway hotel to make sure your family is not put through any hell.

maybe shashi gupta has taught his girls to be not the usual gomti sadan girl.

and as you watch the measured shots and the scene is coming alive with song and revelry, you start noticing the sound, the music. not loud and unnecessarily dramatic as you would expect from a serial… instead, timely, catching the mood, and always apt. 

for instance, as shashi pauses by the pillars of the verandah and looks at his daughter sitting outside, a soulful strain is heard for he possibly knows this means she is going away. an exchange of smiles, and a beautiful pause in sound as sadness comes, then the bride looks up and the song comes in… sinuous, earthy, demanding that you enjoy the moment. lovely interplay and understanding of conflicting wedding time feelings. plenty attention to detail, thoughtful and sensitive direction, smart editing.

in the meantime, the girl who is scared but will go, has gone, we don’t know her name, nor what she looks like.

and did the song just say, “lal pari ban, banno hamari…?” red fairy? really? i think if we look at this episode, we will find it is embedded with ipk things, some obvious, some not so. of course, the pigeons are here already too. there’s something really thrilling about this game the creatives seemed to have played here… i wonder if they planned this or it just happened by chance. i wonder too if i am reading too much into things.

the song stopped when the sister of the bride had to come in… for she was not around. “ai payal, khussie kahan hai?” asked their mother.

hey, payal, where’s khushi?

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and at last we heard what she was called and also her pretty sister in mustard and earth shades. at the question, we cut to the girl hidden behind a scooter, bright blue, talking to herself… actually to devi maiyya.

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and it was before the goddess, her true and deep friend, companion and  confidant, that we finally saw khushi’s face for the first time. starting with earrings… earrings were going to be important too. and payal…

when i looked at sanaya irani and later watched her on that mad ride through crowded bazaar streets with two milk cans on either side of her chariot, what struck me most were her flowing slim figure and that elegant look which was really not that easily associated with the quintessential north indian middle class.

she was too fair… too lissome… too sophisticated.

yet those who cast her knew she would be just right. in fact, no one could be a better khushi. in that contrast with the expected, that unpredictable element, was khushi given her distinctiveness, her specific self.

whoever selected her did a marvellous piece of casting, and we have heard someone else was considered for the role… she was second choice.

but no one really could be more khushi.

light, frothy, fey, carrying off the entire khushi get up with style and grace and essential sanka (craziness), sanaya was really the character she had decided to portray.

after her quick confabulations with devi maiyya, wondering what to do about the sudden call to up the dowry to rs 20 lakh, khushi set off on her scooter for the hotel. a quest taking her to an unknown place where she believed a good man would be found who’d listen to her plea. well, she did meet a man…

i really enjoyed the shots of lucknow streets, its colour, chaos, people, feel. and sanaya was totally into the trip now, being the curious, full of life khushi.

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raju singh’s music for madcap sanka devi pranced in… hoi hoi hoi hoi hoi. it was a musician’s understanding of a girl called khushi. she was lively, spritely, noisy, fun, lilting, traipsing, unstoppable, unavoidable, and really gurgling along… if you’re near her, expect crazy stuff to happen hoi hoi hoihoi. her sound was unmistakably from the land, indian, folksy, happy, chirpy.

by now raju singh had already started establishing a sound scape that is different, distinct and delightfully conversant with the subject at hand. soon he will blow me to another planet with a piece of music.

along the way, khushi stopped at a traffic light and in a well directed scene we picked on both the creepiness and charm of indian roads if you happen to be a girl. especially a girl rather beautiful on her scooter.

on the one side were ugly lecherous men, being sleazy and derisive. makes my skin crawl, because i know that is exactly how things are.

on the other sat a corpulent clan on a burdened scooter, some five of them squashed up. reminded me of the bajaj scooter ads of the seventies and eighties. father and young son with large cheeks and boteroesque stance looked at the girl in lehenga quietly. but a question in their eyes. 

she warmed to this appraisal, possibly praying for something to take her mind off the other sick gaze.

she gathered what puzzled the large family, and made up a little tale. khushi will remain prone to this trait. she said, she has a drama competition, pronounced “kumpetition,” at school so is going dressed as a princess, rajkumari, for that.

prompt came the question from the rather still boy, really? then where is your prince… your “rajkumar?”

“phir aapke rajkumar kahan hai?”

and the sound of a chopper was heard at that very moment, around 10:50 or so… and she looked up.

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a strong vibrant note entered and captured the screen, she turned to look at the chopper. a story that touched both earth and sky, that had a flight in it, a reach for dimensions beyond… in that little turn of her head was there a hint of a different deeper sensing? a hint of telepathy of an inordinate and stated kind some day? at present, it is all unconscious…

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and onto a famous landing.

a helicopter flew in gracefully and banked circling an old mansion, a classic haveli, with domes and minarets… the music picked up tempo even as the chopper landed. someone opened the door, a group was waiting impatiently on the grounds armed with mikes and questions… the media, someone held them back.

the propeller hummed and circled.

music scaled up… low angle shot of a lean man with long legs, coming out, he is in a jacket and white shirt, wearing shades.

legs unfold, man descends, a grim dissipated look on face, an aloof stance.

he walks up in slow mo… directors left nothing to chance as they created the perfect entry for the world’s most flawed hero.

he came and stood on the green lawn, looking toward the looming building… tan-tan-tan, the melody started to open up, he took off his shades. a roll of drums, tempo lifting. a western, sleek sound, moving with power and grace, filling the entire frame and beyond, taking over… declaring a presence. you wouldn’t have to hear this sound many times to know it or who it belonged to. one listen, and it will stay etched in the mind, conjuring an image of a man not easy to look away from.

a profile shot… i have no doubt it got embedded in many memories instantly. and something said, strangely enough, all is well.

as he stood, still, inert, like he was outside the pale of things… his eyes told a story of their own. dark, turned inward, concentrated, in their own realm.

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since i’m almost having a cardiac arrest just looking at the edits, we’ll end here today. the rest to continue tomorrow.


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