The Phantom of Mangal Pandey

We are at the Asian store, my wife and I, scanning the stack of DVDs for an interesting title. After a while I ask the owner if he has any new Hindi movies. He bends down and flicks out a DVD from under his counter: Mangal Pandey.

I hesitate. Ever since Inkspill declared, in no uncertain terms, that anyone who watches and likes Mangal Pandey is banned from visiting her blog, this scene has been haunting me. But I’m prepared.

“No, that must be a pirated version. I do not want it.” I tell the owner confidently.

“No sir, this is very different from the last movie you took. Here the camera is located at the centre of the theatre, so it won’t seem to you that you’re watching the movie from an angle.”

The last movie he’s referring to was Sarkar. Apart from being recorded by someone sitting at the corner of the theatre – which had the strange effect of the movie titles appearing in italics – it seemed as though the cameraman had set out to outdo Ram Gopal Verma in coming up with the most innovative of camera angles. The one before that – Bunty aur Bubli – was no better: the poor guy had gotten so carried away during the Kajrare-Kajrare number that he’d zoomed in on Aishwarya’s neckline, and we got to see little other than her busts heaving – with the camera moving – rhythmically to the beats.

“This time we’ll wait for the original.” I reply.

“But that will take a few months! The print is good, I guarantee. You need not pay if you don’t like the print.”

This is proving more difficult than I expected. I have to think of other reasons now.

“Actually, Inkyji has banned us from watching the movie.”


“Because … because the movie forces you to rise and leave.”

“Just because one person says something, you believe it? And who is this Inkyji?”

“Er… a friend. Yes. And she’s quite an expert on movies.”

“Really? Her expert advice is surely affecting our business – where does she live? In Sandhausen? Or Walldorf?”

“No, no.” I laugh. “She lives in Blogistan … Hindustan. Yes, she is quite influential. All the Desi Pundits refer to her reviews regularly. These days even directors come for her blessings before the release of their movie – they know that if her review is bad, the movie will flop.”

He shakes his head. “We have bought fourteen copies of Mangal Pandey, and no one wants to see it. Everyone is influenced by one person’s ideas – no individuality these days. But we have to adjust to these trends – can you give me the website where these reviews are available? Next time, we’ll look at the review and then decide how many copies to order.”

I spell out the address carefully – – while ignoring my wife’s impatient nudges that suggest we ought to be leaving.

“You can buy many copies of Iqbal.” I tell him, pushing away my wife’s hands that continue to nudge me. “Inkyji has some favourable comments on the movie and …”

Wife is now shaking me…”Wake up – it’s late! How much longer do you want to sleep?!”

I sit up on my bed and stare wide-eyed at the wall in front.

“It may be Sunday,” she continues, “but you need to clean up in the morning half so that we can sit comfortably in the afternoon and watch the movie.”

I turn towards the bedside table to look at the time. Next to the clock, half obscured by advertisements of the weekend newspaper, I spot the glossy label on the DVD: Mangal Pandey.

6 thoughts on “The Phantom of Mangal Pandey

  1. TT: What does TT stand for? Not Table Tennis, surely?

    Anumita: Do you also dream of M.P’s ghost?!

    Alpha: It had better haunt her. We shouldn’t be the only ones to suffer, should we?

    Rash: Haven’t watched it “yet”? Which means you are planning to watch it. Is someone listening?

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