Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

For over a decade, I have maintained the irrelevance of the Oscars, shunning it as a fofoshishilala extravaganza with little or no consequence to the movie industry at large. The declining viewership of the Oscars was a comforting factor that I was not the only one thinking this way. The last time the Oscars had an overwhelming audience was the 1970 Oscars when Midnight Cowboys won the Oscar.  Tonight was different.  I watched my first Oscar in 10 years with the sole intention of wanting to know what happens to Slumdog?

What I think of the movie is irrelevant. I loved it. lets leave it at that. I am happy that ARR, a talented musician from my state won, though not at his peak, and certainly for work that is far from his best, and far from original. This discussion is not even about whether slumdog is poverty porn. This discussion is about the Oscars, and how the so called media and entertainment elite view the world.

My theory is simple :  The west is predominantly disposed to art, movie and literature that panders to the stereotypes that have been created in their mind. Quick, if you are from North American or Europe or Australia, What are the three things that come to your mind about India? I can almost guarantee that you will have one if not more from this list

  • Poverty
  • Weird religious festivals
  • Bollywood
  • Cricket
  • Heat
  • War with pakistan
  • and if you are higher in the education ladder : outsourcing

You can certainly guarantee that any piece of mass comm that does not follow the above stereotype is doomed to be an also-ran. Allow me to present further evidence

  • Crouching Tiger hidden Dragon : Sure China is all about mysterious Kung Fu fighters, no wonder this thing had so many Oscars. How come Beijing Bicycle had not takers?
  • La Dolce Vita: Eccentric loud Italians, sure won a bunch. How about Malena, my favourite movie of all times (Monica Belucci in the movie has nothing to do with it), the best it got was 2 nominees.
  • Gandhi: There is no way this could have missed the Oscar

This is predominantly in the category of the Best Motion picture. If you look at Best foreign motion picture, it is quiet disenchanting.  Almost 90% of the movies either pander to the stereotype or worse, peddle political violence, bloodshed or poverty.

Dont get me wrong.. most of the other Oscar winners deserve some type of an award, the movies, actors and actresses have done phenomenal work, but when it comes to judging a winner, just those ingredients don’t seem to be enough.

Another movie based in India won the Oscar tonight, this was for the best documentary – Smile Pinkie. Guess what the story was about : A real-life tale of a poor child with cleft lip in rural India, who gets a new lease of life when an India doc does plastic surgery. Touching story and a great documentary. But should this be the only recourse to win?

Anyway, I predict Bollywood making a few more of them India based movies, stories are plenty : Kashmir, Riots, Kargil War, the Partition, Poverty, child-workers, sex-workers, diseases, infant mortality, the rare practice of sati…….

A more home truth : this does not apply to foreign movies alone…anyone care to guess why Akheela and the Bee did not make it?

For the intellectuals, who wish to discuss this topic further, Orientalism by Edward Said, is a prerequisite.


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A few hundred yard from the sanctum sanctorum of the Guruvayoor temple, are a line of music stores. Over the years that I have been visiting there, very little had changed.  The music that blared for those stores in questionable yet colorful union was either Yesudas’s melodic salutation to one of the gods, or Balamurali Krishna, and a very rare Bombay Jayashree.

All that changed with this trip. Just as I got out of the temple there was this groove akin to Buddha Bar, delirium, Cafe Del Mar or even Sarah Brightman. Hmm… what a disgrace, I thought to myself. As I walked further the grove beats, apparently just a long prelude, turned into a full fledged chant. I have heard chats mixed with western beat before, but this was different. This was hardcore stotras and slokas that form the very core of the Hindu scriptures, they were chanted to the beat of bars in Paris and Ibiza. How dare they…sacrilege.. screamed part of my brain …my feet stomping and enjoying it simultaneously. Very confusing state of mind..indeed.

So I decided to go into the store and take a look. There were 7 volumes (wow). Here are the links where you can buy the CD’s or listen to samples.


I bought four of the 7 volumes, just to listen analyze, put my 2 cents of thought. Three weeks later, I am hooked. There maybe a niche that this music has unearthed. From a cognitive point of view,  the Indian mind has not been traditionally trained to appreciate the purity of sound and take it for exactly what it is. This is a major reason why jugalbandi’s and fusion had very little takers.  Also prayer was not considered a genre of music to tamper or experiment with. This CD series though has lent credibility to mixing prayers with and different family of music. The westerners figured this out with Gospel rock long time ago.

From a “share of the ear perspective”  music, drive music and lounge music did not mix until now.

One of the reasons why I think this mixture is pleasant and will find takers is the subtility of the mixture, the beats are “in the back ground” preludes, and interludes complement the prayer and do not take a life form of their own. the mind does not feel  impious, impure or like there is a breach of sanctity.

Further research lead me to the musician behind this series, found here:


Amazing what a 23 years old from a tiny town is capable of doing.  Something also to be said about the state where the two most popular Hindu prayer singers are Christians.

Thank you Stephen Devassy for introducing me to  some of the finest prayer chants…and also adding prayer into my regular life…the girls singing the vocals could do a much better job.

I bought 4, am off to the store to buy the remaining 3 CD’s.

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I am a die-hard Suneeta Rao fan, so this blog is likely to have a major bias. So much so that I am still waiting for her autograph per my sister-in-law’s promise (she worked with Suneeta). I know the readers are going to kill me here, but I would easily consider her to be India’s Sting (Gordon Sumners that is). Look at the similarities, both are time tested (over a decade and a half to two), both evolve with time (80’s pop to soft rock to alt rock / tempo of 90’s and 2000’s) and both have amazing vocals.

I must say her latest release, Waqt is vintage Suneeta, very unlike some of her mid-life experiments


Suneeta gets the indi-pop formula right. Firstly she sticks to the basics that created her fan base:

  • Popish vocals interspersed with powerful indian classical accents “Note this is so unlike the retro fitting fusion artists”
  • Consistent across the scale moments, hitting the low and the high octaves
  • Innovative beats
  • Folksy rhythm accomplishments
  • Great use of the base guitar
  • Memorable preludes

Secondly, she does not hard to blend to a genre like the indian rock bands, read my previous blog on the review of Rock On, you will know what I am talking about.

Third,  she stops at the right now. She makes sure all aspects of the music are tempered, no extra alaap’s (other that the prelude for India Girl.

Here is quick review of the songs

  • Aaj Mohe : average, nothing major to write home about
  • Indian Girl : Decent vocals, innovative chorus,
  • Ishq Da : Not an original song, but the song has awesome vocals, a little bit of Qurbani movies influence. Other than the ISHQ word this song is pretty good
  • Lage More nain : Vintage Suneeta, you can see the RnB influence when the “pop” part of the song comes into play, very well interlaced instrumentals. Gori tera gaun bada meets colonial cousins
  • Sun Zara : this is a song gone wrong, funny lyrics,  questionable beat, reminded me of those songs that Nirupa Roy used to sing to God to get her sons bask..only this time there are english chorus
  • Waqt : Pretty funky and haunting, melange of good aspects of indian modern rock feel, some powerful indian classical, some Hip-Hop, chants, my favourite in the album

But Suneeta, seriously next time please get a better lyricist. Its high time we stop using word like Leherein, Pyar, Mohabbat, Barsat, parvana, dil, etc… come on I am sure we can find a great story without using those words …you have already proved that with Kesariya !!!!

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Awesome preludes, great lead riffs, questionable lyrics, substandard  chorus,  unoriginal score, poor drumming, zero consistency – somehow music does not all come together.

Given the hype and lead in, I really had really high expectations for the music of Rock On: Maybe one reason why I am fairly disappointed. The music and the movie epitomize the struggle that India Rock music is facing and likely to face for a while to come : Brilliant Talent, poor execution.  The sheer might of the talent comes right at your face in the lead riffs of Sindbad the Sailor and Socha Hai, the lyrical genius is apparent, then why oh why is the music substandard? What makes rock music rock? (Also refer to my previous blog on musical orgasm) Let’s go back to a few classic Indian rock sound tracks (in my opinion)

·         Ground Zero : 13 AD

·         Indus Creed : Rock N Roll Renegade

·         Strings : Anjaane

·         Most songs of Junoon

The underlying theme is easy to detect even for the musically challenged musically orgasmic chorus, unique lead, temo that perfectly paints the lyrical canvas and perfectly laid interludes. While it is difficult to create, you cannot go wrong with your audience with this pattern. Music of Rock on fails in all these categories. Even in comparison to a recent comparable score of Life in a Metro, Rock On does not rock. The song, Rishtey of Life in a Metro had many a good attributes going for, while not all perfect, songs were decent, well directed and composition well executed.

Here is what I think about some of the songs:

Sindbad the sailor : prelude is great, then comes the average rest of the song

Socha Hai : Great prelude, great lead riff, surrounded by below average lyrics and an unimaginative chorus

Pichle Saat Dindon – Come on, someone actually believed you  could make a live version of this song,  Shankar Ehsaan, Loy, what were you guys thinking???

Zehreelay – Looks like a pretty pointless song that ESL added when they are really tired of working on this movie. Beta grunge to abhi door ki baat hai, pehela, garage ka soocho!

Tum Ho – a corny attempt at being an anthem / ballad song in the rock album (a la Poison’s Every rose has its thorn)

Ye Tumhari – What is this song?  I didnt get it.

The movie preview in Yahoo (http://in.movies.yahoo.com/upcoming-detail.html?news_id=170 ) is pretty hilarious, the Synopsis reads “In 1998, rock music had a shot in the arm with the emergence of Grunge. The voice of teenage angst found an audience across the globe and rock music seemed like it was on the threshold of becoming the leader in mainstream music.“ Dude, whoever you are, you must be stoned when you wrote this. Here are some fairly basic info on the characteristics of grunge

·         Grunge started in late 80’s, peaked in the early 90’s (Nirvana 1990-91) declined / stabilized by 1998

·         Altered chords, heavy distortion, feedback

·         Slow, complex and altering tempo

·         Mostly Baritone (heavy) serrated vocals

Music from Rock On is anything But.  Other than Zehreelay (which sucks!!!) nothing in the play list even comes close to grunge.  At best its pop-rock with some good lead thrown in.

Music directors, musicians et al. your current generation is fairly advanced in term of taste, exposure and understanding of Rock music…please grow up.  I also have this nagging feeling that (ESL) Ehsaan, Shankar & Loy are having creators block. Reminds me of the time in the late 90’s that the famous ARR created some pretty bland music. Whack pack time people!!!

Then again, the Indian movie audience is pretty unpredictable, given the insatiable appetite for “rock” this movie may have its short moment in the sun with metro youth audience.  A few months down, there is nothing in the music that will make me remember it.

I hope the movie is much better, I look forward to watching it. In Mid-west America that means a wait for 3 or 4 months before the DVD releases or my begging and pleading with the local grocery to rent the theater and play this movie sooner.



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Well Well Well,  Just came back from India, was visiting there after 3 years.  Three things had me smiling like a kid in a candy store: moms dosas, Hyd airport and Rolling Stones magazine.

Being a die hard music buff / critic, the first item in my agenda was to get hold of a copy of RS India, not just the latest but the first as well.  After much emotional persuasion my brother-in-law reluctantly let me have one of the five. Yes RS India launched with five covers. I must say I was not disappointed with the RS first edition or with their vision for India. I just hope they live up to it.

This blog is about my opinion of RS and how it can / may help change the music scene in India.

First my opinion on Rolling Stones. RS is probably the only magazine that represented the counter culture of the late 60’s and early 70’s. It was NOT meant to be a POP CULTURE MAGAZINE FOR THE YOUNG or a Music ONLY mag. How do I know this? I am so obsessed with the mag that I keep picking up old copies (from the 70’s and 80’s) every time I go near an old / used book store.  However since pulp magazine guy Ed Needham was hired and the death of the Flower Power, RS started leaning more towards Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll : Moving from counter culture to pop culture, a big difference for folks like me who for some strange reason wish we were living in the ‘60s. I don’t blame the mag, it had to survive and keep up with the times, a sad reflection of the evolving music scene and times itself. Jann Wenner’s famous words “ RS is just not about music, but about the things and attitudes that music embraces”  had to be slowly forgotten just like we forgot that Bill Gates once said “No one in the worlds will need more than 64 MB..”or some such ridiculous thing. You cant really blame Jann, the music now is more about music rather than what the music embraces. A few consistent themes and the positive outcome of RS have been: 1. recognize great music work, spread the word to create a fan / listener base and 2. provide substantial knowledge on the music and the artists of bygone eras and 3. provide info otherwise unavailable to the common man, regarding aspects surrounding music like lifestyle, attitudes, politics etc… and that’s the reason the mag still makes a good read for me, more to verify things that I already know and to a certain extent introduce me to new music.

Here is my opinion on RS India (as per my cover to cover read of the first edition in India). RS India was to have 35% local coverage, I thought to myself, how much content is there to publish here without a heavy doze of Bollywood. I was amazed, ONLY 1 out of 170 pages was spent on Bollywood. Such a breath of fresh air. The magazine lived up to my expectations. It had the international features, launch the mag, Led Zep, Hendrix, RadioHead, Winehouse, Jay_Z, Depp et al; this is hardly a surprise considering the size of the industry and the appeal to the Indian audience. However the promised 35% local content blew my mind. I went in expecting the coverage of the usual suspects Strings, Indus Creed, Rabbi (he was indeed covered), KK… Instead it exposed me to the following artists / bands / artist / articles and they were all awesome feast for my music appetite 

        Soulmate : the blues band from Shillong

        Amit Chaudhuri who I have heard a few times before

        Good coverage of Avial, who I am already a fan of

        Skin Alley

        Half Step Down

        All of India’s Axe men: I had not heard of Dhruv Ghanekar, Rex Vijayan or Rudy Wallang


        Susheela Raman, Thanks RS, but I discovered her a long time ago and have been following her music ever since.

What was amazing was that a lot of these guys were promoted by indie records (read my previous blog on why this is a good thing).

The movie reviews and the selection of movies to review were less than impressive, everyone knows about Cohen Brothers and NCFOM,

Now I am wondering where they are going to get local content for the remaining editions, since I cant get RS India edition in the US, I am relying on the undying love of my brother–in-law to save up the copies for me.

RS can do great things for Indian music scene. Firstly, It can continue to provide the much-needed exposure for artists like Rudy Wallang, who without RS has no hope of reaching a wide listener base. I am very encouraged by the first edition, if they remain true to the format and commitment on the content, then its going to be great going for local artists. Secondly, it needs to move India music fans to embrace their own genres and bands that belong to “the generation of the Y2K”. It saddens me to see old has-beens like Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Fleetwood Mac making such a big splash when they are rarely given a chance to perform in the US.  Don’t get me wrong I love those guys, but come on, there are a million good artists that have come on since then, All over the word people are embracing newer music. Secondly, move the Indian audience from listening to big stage performance bands to just to smaller plain good music bands, Very few acts can pull full off a full concert on their own these days: I mean it takes five divas (Celene Dion, Maria included) to pull of ONE night show in Vegas. Look at http://www.summerfest.com/ to see how many bands it takes to pull of an evening of music. This will also be great for the Indian music Industry (or should I say Indie). Thirdly and most importantly, move India to have a music industry that is free of the bollywood gutturals: Do I need to explain any further and Lastly, allow the industry to create and users to embrace genres of mucis, Indian blues, rock, metal, groove, urban, etc… This is the only way for the industry to grow and get listeners unlimited supply of software.

RS can help do all of the above, and going by the first edition they are likely to. I am a die hard optimist. I believe in music itself and the potential for resurgence of the Indian listener to demand high-quality, music that is unique, original and touches him and few like him(her).

Till my next blog about the music industry….and the critique of the above artists…Adios


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What is common to the following:

  • Guns and roses : Sweet child of mine
  • Metallica : Nothing else matters
  • Orff : Carmina Burana
  • Thaigaraja : Yendaro Mahanubhavulu
  • Shankara Bharnam : Brocheva Revarura
  • Chitti Babu : wedding bells
  • Hariprasad Chaurisiya : Rivers
  • Bob Marley : Redemption Song
  • Miles Davis : Sketches in Spain

Other than the fact they are awesome awesome pieces strung together by superior musical talent….. All these pieces have unconventional musical orgasms embedded within the songs and that’s what makes them great.

Two concepts obviously beg for definition: “Unconventional” and “Orgasm”

“Orgasm” in music is that piece in the song that deviates from the regular path  / structure to give the listener an adrenalin rush or a “high”. There cannot be a narrower definition as different individuals with different mental composition are simulated by different deviations…Duh… that’s why you have genres in music, however the concept of orgasm is fairly universal.

So whats “conventional”. Its easy to get to embed an orgasm into the music. Here are a few conventions:

  • Crescendo followed by a pause: This is one of the most tried and tested techniques. Lynard Skynard and Fleetwood Mac mastered it, Hindi movies are filled with it, even Shiv Hari in the song Chandini (remmebr the cresendo of “maine is dil pe likh diyaa teraa naam…. then pause… then “chandini o meri chandini”) tried a go at this. Bach and Tchaikovsky and more recently A R R milked it like hell !!!!
  • Just plain crescendo : Another tried and tested techniques. Hindi movies are filled with such samples : Koyee kahe kehata rahe, Tu cheez badi hai mast mast, Nach Baliye….Rolling stones (Start me up, The who (most of their songs especially Teenage Wasteland and Pinball wizard)
  • Change in tempo (mostly towards Allegro): Highway Star by Deep Purple, Sanata was a guru here, Floyd still milks this and most of the pallavi’s in Carnatic music revel on using this concept to demonstrate the players expertise
  • All of the above

To me most of these techniques are fairly conventional, don’t get me wrong, you still have to be a good enough musician to pull these conventions off. Good musicians at best provide conventional orgasms, great ones ..well… go unconventional. Sorry folks though most of the world believes Stairway to Heaven to be the best rock song ever, and I love it a heck of a lot, it is still conventional, the solo raises tempo, and crescendo.

So what so unconventional about my list at the beginning of this blog? My attempt to explain…

Using, “pass over notes” and regular notes in the blues scale, Slash provides an amazing solo intro and an another great solo somewhere near the third minute. Neither of these solos have any allegro or crescendo. Then Slash succumbed to going conventional for the last solo, no one is perfect, we can forgive him for that.

Kirk Hammett, in Nothing else matters, provides one enduring lead towards the end of the song lasting less than 45 seconds. No fast tempo, no major deep purple kind of licks.

Carmina Burana, at first looks like is filled with crescendo, give it a second look (or hear), its the chorus and not crescendo..O fortuna…velut luna….all controlled well placed deviations

Shankarabharanam, Brocheva probably one of the best pieces composed for motion pictures down south, uses multiple pauses to create an illusion of change in tempo, just brilliant.

Bob Marley??? and here??? Sure, don’t underestimate the musical genius of reggae or Bob. In the redemption song, the complex chord structure is enough to give you a high.

…and Miles….what can I say about Miles or even BB King that you already did not know? 

Get the picture?

Its important for people in the music business to understand this concept. Why do people still listen to the oldies, just for that reason, there were awesome riffs, solos etc…. Unconventional orgasm is almost dead, available just in rare spurts here and there.

Now that Indie music is on the rise (thanks mainly to the Internet putting the record labels in a fix), I only hope things get better. Indie music thrives on trying to get unconventionals to the mass. There is a risk here, as I indicated earlier, not every one gets tickled by the same music. That’s why I personally believe a committee approach is better for the music business compared to the current, single manager, single talent hunter concept. Its near impossible to predict a hit single or album, but if you really try and listen to the orgasm embedded in the song, you atleast increase your chances of producing a hit(s). And for gods sake… put an end to conventional pop…people?

Here are some of my predictions (indipop and otherwise) that became hits 

  • Strings : Anjaane
  • Shaan : Tanha Dil
  • Life in a metro the entire sound track
  • Sound track of Don 2
  • Sound track of One Tree Hill
  • Ryan Adams as an artist
  • Unkle Kracker & Train
  • Bare Naked Ladies (most albums)
  • Gajini
  • Rabbi ( a little conventional at times)

I am glad that Indi-pop and Indie music are alive and kicking… I believe they are the ones,  and not the large Labels, that will produce the next slash. Also evident from the soundtrack awarded at the Oscrars (www.oscar.com).  I just hope they revive “good-music”, since Music and business in the music business are always at logger heads and the overall quality of music is neither here nor there.

With the explosion of Radio, the public is more thirsty for music software that ever before, its time for the Indie labels like Times Music and others to step-up, nurture talent and provide the required “orgasms”. By the way, I am happy and impressed with Phat Phish records for Bulla Ki… can we see more…

So how can you nurture talent? That’s for another Blog

For indie buffs here are some good grooves



To an old friend: You were a pretty good guitarist in college, I always thought you’d go unconventional, wonder what your music is up to these days.

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Tare Zameen pe

I am not a movie buff, especially not hindi movies. However one extremely cold winter day, when I was snowed-in thousands of miles from Bollywood, I decided to battle temperatures nearing -30 degrees C, to go to the local India store and rent a couple of hindi movies. One was Tare zameen pe (TZP) and the other was On Shanti Om (OSO) . I must admit, neither was disappointing. Prompted me to over do it till it feels good, so I went and got another couple of ’em Shoot out at Lokhandwala and Jab we met. That’s about all the Hindi movies I will be watching this season I guess.

I thought I’d write this review about TZP and OSO because there was something about these movies that made me smile and feel cool about what Bollywood was doing.

First about Tare Zameen Pe: Its a well made movie that just fell a few points short of the “awesome mark”.  Its a story about a dyslexic child, played by Darsheel Safary, that no one quiet understands is dyslexic. Parents, teachers, friends and neighbours alike shun this kid. Parents send it the kid to a boarding school where he is almost at the risk of being expelled, not to mention the kid itself going in to near manic depression. In comes the character played by Aamir Khan as a replacement art teacher, supposed to be have been a dyslexic himself in his younger days. He understands the kid, works with him and tries techniques that get the kid to come to terms with his disadvantage and gradually overcomes his disabilities.

Here is why the movie is cool: 

  • Awesome sets, very realistic, the place where the kid gets his solace seems real and true. The school settings are all so close to perfect.
  • The school scenes, reminded me of me, distractions outside the class room, inside the class room, secret joy in being punished and standing outside the class etc…. I still remember running out of my fift standard math exam, after doing just enough to pass, so that I could go otu and play “french cricket”. write to me if you dont know what this is.
  • Bollywoods discovery or should I say my discovery of Tisca Chopra. Very well played middle class house wife in bombay character. She reminds you a bit of “Rajini” (Priya Tendulkar) a bit
  • Ishaan’s acting is just amazing, Normally kids roles in Hollywood are filled with overacting “Papa aa gaye, Papa aa gaye” or “Mummy Mummy mujhe chocolate do naan”. No offence meant to Karan Johar, but the kids in Kuch Kuch hota hai were also pretty painful to watch.Ishaan played difficult role quiet well.  Its very difficult to act dyslexic, especially for a 9 year old kid. Its such a fine line which if you cross, makes you look like mentally retarded, there is a big difference and this kid seemed to have understood it and played it to the T. Decent music : Meri Ma may have the staying power to be in a top 10 list for a while
  • Controlled melodrama : Its so easy to have made this movie into a massive tear jerker, but the emotions were tightly controlled

Here is why the movie falls short of awesome:

  • Poor charecter / name build up : Come on, the next morning after watching the movie, I don’t remember Aamir Khan’s screen name or any of the teachers names, or for that matter the mother’s or the brother’s name. Mrs. Breganza in Baton Baton Mein had less than 15 minutes of screen appearance, I still remember her. Ishaan is well done though.
  • Ishan’s paintings could have been much better, I have seen how talented nine year olds can paint in Indian Schools

My defining moment in the movie: Aamir Khan picks up a box with Japenese lettering and uses “situational persuasion” technique to illustrate his point to Ishaan’s Dad. The Dads acting in this scene as he moves from disbelief to realization is very well done.

The women folks I know immediately started the conversation of who could have played Aamir’s character better. SRK? Abhishek? Saif? other yahoo’s. Not a debate that I particularly care to participate in. Aamir did a decent job in this lets just leave it at that. 

From a formula perspective, It’s a clever choice by Aamir Khan to uses pathos and logos as primary medium to convince you to like it, its almost like the movie Border or Gandhi, has anyone told you they did disliked either movie? Nothing wrong with that. I got more than my dollars vasool. I am sure this movie will win or has already some awards.

Watch out for OSO, Did I mention I just wanted Dhoom and Don 2? …Later

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