Monday, October 08, 2012


Courtesy -

I’d just about started middle-school (meddle school as far as I was concerned). I guess it was mid-term holidays. We had loads of homework to keep up the ‘industrious momentum’. I had elaborate plans of keeping a slow momentum though, but they were thwarted by Amma’s x-ray mind-reading techniques.

On one such difficult morning, I was struggling with a Geography exercise. I had to label the locations for great deserts of the world. My Gobi was passable, though it had usurped half of Russia too. Sahara was bang on. Atacama – now was that a desert in South Africa? South America? Indonesia? Errr ...the moon? Amma had already checked on me twice to see how I was getting by. If she came around the third time, it would mean I’ll have to do one of her impromptu tests. Thank God she did not work for any education boards – we would have a lot less graduates. She always maintained our tests in school were not vigorous enough. Or worse, she would unleash Appa on me.

Now Appa always maintained our education system was not good, and if he had his way, we’d all pass out of high-school in mid-forties. Appa was big on ‘knowledge for knowledge’s sake’ and did not like the commercial approach we had in place. Anyway, Appa would mumble ‘Attacama, Attacama...’ and then disappear for a few minutes. He would bring out some pre-independence era book tucked away in his rusty iron trunk. He would dust it against his thigh and flip the pages. The book would smell of mothballs. The author would be some English explorer who’d have settled down in a remote shire after exploring caves and deserts and stumbling upon tribes. He’d have sold about two copies, one of which had found its way to an iron trunk in Malleswaram. Appa would then start reading this bloke’s adventures in the Attacama. All entertaining, but I would still be flummoxed as to where the hell the desert was. And Appa would forget he had to ‘teach’ me, and would eventually settle down for a quiet read till Amma came along and chastised both of us severely.

The Sister, meanwhile had finished writing all the alphabets in capital letters and small letters, and had even finished writing her three times table. She wanted to start on her copywriting, but Amma had gently reminded her to play; since copywriting could be done next week. This punctuality and orderliness in The Sister is a singular aberration in her character that remains to this day. I’ve warned her many times about this abnormality. I’ve even set examples on many occasions – showed her how to take things easy unless one is in mortal peril; even explained to her how this relaxed approach is beneficial for blood circulation...but to no avail. Tcha!

But that day, it was different. Amma came along the third time and said Appa would be taking us to the cinemas so I’d better finish the homework fast. I tell you dangerous spikes in excitement does wonders for the memory. In a flash the sedate brain surged in electricity and retrieved the answer with absolute clarity. Attacama was in South America. Now, it’s another matter that I put it on the wrong coast, and I had wiped out Uruguay, parts of Brazil and Argentina from the face of the earth. But at least I had got the continent right, so I was let off.

The movie was supposed to be a cartoon one in Sangam, Majestic. The place looked like a picnic spot by the time we reached. Balloon wallahs were making a killing. So did the cotton candy fellows. I was, however, too grown up for such frivolous pleasures; though I longed for the helium balloons. The Sister was too dignified to ask for anything that reminded her of her 1st standard status.

There was the news reel and Vicco Turmeric advertisement and the movie certificate. I perched on the seat and swung my legs excitedly – the lights had dimmed and the movie would start now. I guess all the parents were excited too. A sudden murmur rolled across the hall and some of the men even stood up. But they sat down. The movie had started.

First there was this spiral circular thing that moved across the screen to thunderous music. Inside the circle was the silhouette of a man walking purposefully. And then suddenly he turns and shoots. Red paint fills the screen and the circle oscillates and opens up to an aeroplane scene. Something happens and one aeroplane blows up. Then, an old man is speaking on a red phone in a room that has the richest leather sofa I’d ever seen. His room also has a leather door. My jaws dropped.

Then, there is a very handsome man in another aeroplane. He’s kissing a woman in a way no Hindi movie hero has ever done. Suddenly the girl pulls out a gun, and the pilot also starts fighting with the handsome man. The handsome man pushes the bad man out of the plane, and then the girl pushes the handsome man. Now both men are floating skilfully. The handsome man somehow floats faster and catches up with the bad man. He beats the bad man and steals his parachute. But he does not see the other bad man. This bad man has steel teeth. He tries to bite the handsome man in the ankles. But the handsome man escapes. I had not breathed – what a thrilling fight sequence. And the handsome man – I’d never seen eyes so blue.

And then, the screen darkened as the most seductive song started playing. The opening credits had shadows of wiggling naked ladies all over the screen. The handsome man said his name was Bond. James Bond. (And my heart has never been the same since.)

Parents shifted in their seats uneasily. This was no trailer. Yup – Sangam had done some mixup – that was the only explanation. No parents in their right mind would bring young children to watch James Bond. But everyone had spent nearly ten rupees for the tickets and snacks, not to mention bus charge – so walking out was not an option. Money does not grow on trees you know. So some parents resorted to taking the children out whenever there was a hint of lust. Some just commanded the children to close their eyes. My parents just allowed us to deal with it.

I was thoroughly entertained. I found everything so grand and beautiful. Oh those spectacular places, cars and clothes and those sleek, stylish women. I was captivated. I did find some scenes mysterious – especially the ones where Bond wrestled with naked women on the bed. The women seemed to enjoy it. I had a theory that this behaviour had something to do with babies. I also sensed it would be a bad idea to ask Appa and Amma. A discussion with friends revealed we all had the same theory – and later on, Harold Robbins, Irving Wallace and to a certain extent, James Hadley Chase confirmed the theory beyond a doubt.

The movie was Moonraker. Ever since, I’ve not missed a single Bond movie. Like all Bond fans, I was heartbroken when the franchise ran into problems – and in the decade where no Bond was forthcoming, I spent time watching re-runs in Rex and Plaza and learning Bond trivia. Goldeneye is the name of Ian Fleming’s pad in Jamaica. And I think ‘The world is not enough’ finds mention in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The phrase is supposed to be Bond’s family’s motto. ‘Quantum of Solace’ is a short story that has no bearing on the movie.

Perhaps no other Bond movie caused a sensation like Octopussy, at least in Malleswaram. Geetanjali theatre which predominantly screened Kannada movies made an exception. When the posters of Octopussy came up in Geetanjali, it was an event in the history of Malleswaram. Block tickets for entire neighbourhood had been booked Рeven elders who thought our good old Helen aunty was risqu̩ had let their guard down РBond in Benaras was too much to pass. Besides, no one as beautiful as Maud Adams has ever been wrapped in a Benaras silk

When GoldenEye was announced, I was beside myself with ecstasy. ‘Remington Steele’ was to be James Bond. Sometimes the heavens just shower on you. First day, first show in Plaza. It was heart-warming to see a lot of senior citizens turn up. Trust Bangalore to have a faithful following! I was thrilled to see ‘M’ was a woman. And Moneypenny was even more sassy.

The books themselves are not so kinetic as the movies. Fleming maintains a plodding pace for most part, revving up towards the end. But one can get up close and personal with Bond only through the books. No one else has cast a sociopath as a hero as successfully as Fleming.

There’s always a debate as to who the best Bond is. I think each actor has interpreted Bond in his own way. Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan were more of the charmers. Sean Connery had the best blend – of being cold, calculating and cruel while being the great seducer at the same time. Daniel Craig. Now there’s someone who knocked me off my socks. I was sceptical about him – but he just proved everyone wrong, didn’t he?

My best James Bond movie has to be On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Ironically, George Lazenby who essayed the role is probably the most forgettable Bond, next only to Timothy Dalton. But the entire movie was beautifully shot – it has the best action sequences and THE BEST theme and background score. It's a cult classic if you ask me.

My best opening sequence is from Casino Royale – mind-blowing creativity.

As usual I look forward to Skyfall. Perhaps the storyline of Bond movies have now become predictable. But I anticipate no other brand this way. Of seeing the ‘Broccoli presents’; of seeing that spiral circle encircling Bond; of the spectacular opening sequence; of the haunting title tracks; of Bond saying ‘The name’s Bond. James Bond.’; of M, Q and Moneypenny; of vodka martini; of slimy villains and their sidekicks; and of course of cheesy one-liners. In fact, when I’d heard Adele’s ‘Set fire to the rain’, I thought this chica’s voice is right there with Shirley Bassey ; they must make her sing for Bond. And voila! Who says thoughts don’t come true?! I quite love the Skyfall theme, it is reminiscent of Carly Simon’s Spy Who Loved Me track. I hope the movie reverts to vintage Bond and focuses more on the characters rather than gadgets and guns.

Many theories float around about this enduring Bond brand. Is it the guns? Girls? Cars? Locations? Well, as far as I’m concerned it’s something deeper. Bond represents everything that is anti-system. He’s the eternal bachelor, his excesses in sin and vice are extraordinary, he is godless, lives for the moment, has license to kill – and he does all this in a government job – so his pension is secured. Not a bad life at all :)

Here's to 50 more years of being shaken AND stirred.

© Sumana Khan - 2012


  1. I started taking interest in Bond movies after Pierce Brosnan entered the scene. Since then I too have been a fan although I think I should watch the earlier ones too. It is an achievement that the series has survived for so long.

    1. The earlier ones are sometimes laughable - but in those days it was cutting edge LOL! 'They have sharks and underwater fight scenes'...:)

  2. Not a Bond fan at all, but you totally took me down memory lane with Remington Steele and dusty old books from iron trunks. :D

  3. Hahahah I so totally enjoyed reading this one!! A toast to this post! :D

    I grew up watching Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. He will remain my favourite, no matter which Daniel Craig steps in. But I need to catch up on the earlier movies as well... never got around to it so far!

    1. Looks like I've been around for ages LOL!

  4. In our house it was mandatory to finish dinner and be ready with fruits whenever a bond movie was to be shown on TV. And I should say it is the first movie where I watched steamy scenes while sitting beside my parents. Shocked and not knowing what to do, I went on staring at the screen. :P
    I wasn't too keen on older movies though. It looked all fake and too funny. Of course in those times it was cutting edge but even now, somehow it doesn't quite cut the line for me. But I have always love Sean Connery. And then Pierce Brosnan came and I lost my heart just like you did :) But still I didn't call myself a fan or follower.
    Then I got married and the Bond mania came home. Husband is a fan and follower and hence I caught up with the old movies as well. I should say, he grows on you. And now I'm a fan of the new bond movies having Daniel Craig. I used to make fun of him before watching the movies. He didn't look one bit like a playboy. But then he's my fav bond right now. Looking forward to skyfall. The track is alright, but nowhere near to Die another day.

    1. I'm waiting for skyfall too! yes...the old Bond movies look funny now, but I still enjoy them.

  5. Although I am no Bond fan, absolutely enjoyed reading this post :)

  6. I love the tales you tell of your family...I can almost picture the scene. An absolute delight to read.

    About Bond, who was not shaken and stirred by him?