Celebrating Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar

A short note on my love for the Aamir Khan, Ayesha Jhulka starrer, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. I talk about how it’s a lesson in filmmaking!

Poster from Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar

If you are an Indian and you don’t know about this film, you must have lived under a rock. It probably is among the most iconic films of all time. While people dismiss it as a school / student rivalry film, I think the right category to slot it in is that of bildungsroman (aka coming-of-age film). It was after all about a boy, Sanjay Lal Sharma (aka Sanju) that had seen just the rosy parts of life and how he was shaken into growing up and standing up for his brother, father and community.

In terms of a standalone film, JJWS had everything going for it – a compelling story that never gets old, a plot with enough ups and downs to keep you hooked, almost perfect casting (with dreamy-eyed small-town kids to the English-speaking expensive-blazer-totting flamboyant privileged kids to the simpleton, the common folks that you’d find in any small town in India to others), music that instantly becomes an earworm, characters that you want to root for (you want Sanju to do well and you want Shekhar to suffer) and a climax that literally forces you to get on your feet and clap out loud!

Even though the film is more than 30 years old and the last I saw it would have been a few years ago, the visuals are so fresh in my mind that I can recall the narrative with scary accuracy. I can reproduce shots as if I am staring at a photo grab from the film. I can relate to (and even empathise with) each action taken by each character in the film – even if the character existed in blank, white or grey. Back then when I was younger, I may not have been able to. But today I can.

I mean look at Ram Lal – the father of Ratan and Sanjay. By the day he is at the school and then whatever time is left, he runs Ram Lal’s cafe. While he holds no ambition of his own, his salvation is in providing for his two sons (one, the picture-perfect obedient and the other, picture-perfect petulant). He wants his son to win a bicycle race and come out on top as a champion. The real desire is not the success of his son but the chase of the glory of the days gone by and the satisfaction of having taken his revenge. He wants to live his life via his son. Even with his flaws, he makes personal sacrifices in the way he lives. He’s saving as much as he can and for that, he’s literally pinching pennies. If this is not how a father ought to be, I dont know what could one be. And despite the flaws, he is perfect and commands respect.

PS: Back then, I couldn’t identify with Ram Lal with as much nuance but thanks to SoG, I have been able to appreciate the limitation of us humans (in our ability to do things) and want of living the life you’ve wanted (and are unable to get) through the life of the ones around you. I understand the need of creating winners, even at a personal cost and the sacrifices you must make to even give these kids a shot at winning!

Look at Ratan. The elder brother. His sole reason for existence is to get his school and thus his father the glory they believed they deserve. He spends all his time, his entire life chasing that one dream. And just when he is almost there, he is left injured. To see the scenes unfold from the sidelines. The injury itself is a result of a freak accident triggered by a frivolous act by his yet-to-grow-up younger brother. And no, unlike the modern-day young people, he submits to fate and moves on. Unknown to him, he plays yet another important role in the film. Probably the most important role. That of the trigger, the inspiration, the reason for young Sanju to want to grow up.

Aamir Khan as Sanjay Lal Sharma aka Sanju

If Sanju became Sanjay Lal Sharma and lifted the trophy, it was not his hard work or dedication or anything. It was Ram Lal’s sacrifices and Ratan Lal’s inability. And no, I dont mean to take anything away from Sanjay. He has had his ups and downs but eventually delivers on his destiny.

Now Sanjay is a curious case. On one side he had his father, his brother, his sidekicks, and the never-leave-my-side love interest. On the other, he had a formidable adversary, tall odds stacked like a mountain and the weight of the monster of expectations on his back. He was bang in the middle and each time any of these moved, he was churned and polished. And oh boy, did he shine like a diamond?

What made the film even more special is those tiny moments that seem to mean nothing and yet added to the layers of the story. There is this scene when Shekhar and his flunkies are at Ram Lal’s Cafe and Ratan is forced to wait at them. There is this instance when Sanju is imagining Devika dancing on top of a car in her The-Woman-In-Red-ish dress. Anjali on the other hand is imaging herself when Sanju is air-kissing someone. Uff!

The music from the film is a tome in itself. An entire generation grew up proposing to their loved ones with Pehla Nasha. Yahan Ke Hum Sikandar made me want to be a part of a school of cool kids. Rooth Key Humse made me pine for a brother that I could be with (sorry SG2 :D). The track was used to break the monotony and showcase the growth of Sanju as a person. There were more tracks – each written, performed and shot as well as any other.

Since the film is from 30 years ago, I found the direction and camerawork dated. But the team got the art spot on. From the sets to the decor to the costume to even the side characters, everything was spot on. I mean look at this signboard for Ram Lal’s cafe.

Ram Lal’s Cafe

The green background and white, serifed text, in all caps is gorgeous. The apostrophe is missing. Maybe on purpose. The RC logo looks like something done in a small town. The blue and yellow shade is in contrast to the green board.

Look at those scarves that Anjali is using to tie her hair. Look at those simple tees and shirts that have their buttons open. The fence they are leaning on looks weathered and looks like something you would imagine at a cafe from the pre-Starbucks era! Each scene of the film seems to have been made with a lot of attention to detail. Exactly the kind of work I would want to do.

Let me talk about the story. You know how a film ought to follow a three acts structure where tension rises at each point. The protagonist needs to accomplish a hero’s journey. And all the while the story must be technically sound, it needs to keep people hooked. JJWS scores on all three counts. In fact, it does it so well that each incident can be plotted on the charts even by a novice writer like me!

In fact, as an aspiring filmmaker, I think this film deserves to be made into a mandatory study. As the film celebrates its 30th anniversary, I can only congratulate the filmmakers for a job done well and invite my younger friends to go see the film!

And as I end this, what do you think of the film? What are your favourite parts? What do you recall the most about it?

Lemme know!

271220 – Morning Pages

I talk about, well, morning pages. And I talk about music, films, people, ideas and more. In a nutshell, just another day 🙂

8:51 AM

Another day when I woke up late.

That’s cool. I am finally in the Goa state of mind, you know, not worried about work or money. For a change. Guess the hippi-isation of me is complete.

So morning pages for the day. Since I started asking people about this, am getting great feedback. Note2Self. Stop using “great” a lot. The word has been sort of patented by someone greater that is hoping to make his country great again. I love how you create such slogans. I wish I could!

On the morning pages, BG told me that these are not meant to rant and then seek feedback. I agree with her and while I may rant, the intention is not at all to seek feedback. Ranting and being critical is my nature. I like being ultra harsh on myself and others around me. I have had people drift away from me cos of this. And you know what, it has worked well for me so far. So I am ok. Maybe once I stop being harsh, I will know if the harshness was actually working!

So despite BG’s input, I will continue with the morning pages in the same manner that I have been going in. Though I would take Krishna’s input on making these more about ideas and less about reflection and future-gazing.

Lemme start with a few ideas.

Remember that caretaker-hustler that I talked about a few day ago that is trying to sell me a disputed property? He’s back. This time he has a 4 bedroom place that he wants to sell for a crore and a half. I am not sure how he’s getting these fancy notions about me. Poor thing doesn’t know that am not known to have a penchant for real-estate deals.

Yesterday was a particularly useful day for ideas. Spoke to two Nikhils and talked about two different ideas. One related to events. Other related to content. The two things that I think I know well. Not sure which one of these would work but I realized that I need to be able to sit across the table to crack such conversations. I am not being able to do these virtual meetings and conversations well. Guess I am too old. Wait. Why do I want to abuse the older generation? Most seem to have taken it well. It’s me who’s an anomaly.

The thinking that I did on book2 in the first few days of moving here? That seems to have taken a back seat. That’s the thing about creative projects. If you stop working on those, work stops! So need to get going on that.

Oh, while I am writing, I am tripping on music from Dangal. Here.

Back to morning pages.

So ideas.

While talking to NA yesterday, I realized that I am more of an idea man than anything else. The trouble is that there are way too many idea-men around me. And everyone has learned that adage that ideas are a dime-a-dozen and execution is what matters. So, my value is diminished per se. That probably needs changing. Either, the ideas get so superlative that you can’t ignore. Or you find a partner that is as cool with execution. Like a Shikha. Or Prakruti. Or Akshay.

Wait. Rather than talking about ideas, lemme talk of an idea.

So, today I am supposed to go watch a filmscreening at the Museum of Goa. It is followed by a talk with the writer and the actors. There are some big names here. What if I put the film festival in motion at this venue? The guy clearly has a screening space for films. I have had this idea to do a screening festival for at least 2 years, if not forever. So, why not?

Here’s another idea

Get a house in Goa and convert that into a BnB. That challenges obviously is to manage guests in the times of COVID. But from what I am seeing, there are people that have moved here lock, stock and barrel. And there are people that are moving in for a few weeks, few months to work from here. If nothing else, it is solid passive income. Need someone to throw in the money though.

That’s the thing. Money gets money. Even WEB had access to money when he started his partnerships.

In absence of that, like Naval says, you need a network to create opportunities. And that will probably be the trip for me in 2021. I have stayed away from creating networks and time and again I have seen people reach places they don’t deserve just because they can network their way in. No, I am not sore at those people. I am surprised that I missed this simple fact. If there is one lesson that I can pass on to the next generation, I would say they ought to go to the fanciest schools, colleges, live in places that are above their means, get memberships at clubs, play golf and so on and so forth. These are the places where you get to meet interesting people. If there was a social network to get all these people online, I’d love to join that. ASmallWorld did that well in early 2000s. I don’t know where they are. Maybe create a platform for such people in Goa to interact with each other? What could this platform be built on top of? A Who’s Who guide in Goa? A magazine? Do people still read magazines? A physical club? Like Soho House? Again, do people frequent clubs anymore? And will people travel in Goa? Will have to think more. What do you think?

Ok, the last bit for the day.

Living in Public.

Everyone knows about building in public. A movement where start-up founders are creating businesses in public. They share what they are upto. They share the lessons. They talk about failures. They do small experiments to see what sticks. They pivot fast. Each pivot is public (far cry from the secrecy that typical startups are known for)

I think this living in public is going to be the future of life. It would make you more accountable, more accessible, more human, more authentic, more connected, more consistent. It would reveal your true nature. You know, like you are naked. If everything you did, even in the privacy of your bedroom were to be published on the front page of a newspaper, how would you change?

In one of the unpublished pieces I wrote for one of my books, I talk of a guy that dies in his bathtub. The guy outwardly is an Alpha, a macho. But he has these ducks floating in his bathtub. Imagine when the world finds that, how would it change your reputaiton? That!

So yeah. I want to talk more and more about this living in public. May be write a manifesto or something that encourages others to do so.

It beings immense peace when you know that you dont have to keep pretences!

With this, its over and out for the day.

See you guys on the other side.

953 AM

PS: Every time I publish these morning pages, I send these to a few friends on WhatsApp. In case you want to be added to the broadcast list, lemme know.