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A Kaali-Peeli Bombay Taxi Wins the Race and How!

Join the exciting ride with Alok Kejriwal in Getting Dressed and Parking Cars. The book takes us into the world of Games2win, a startup that dreams big in the gaming world. Imagine creating a game inspired by the crazy streets of Mumbai and the Iconic Kaali-Peeli Bombay taxi– it’s all part of the fun!

Read this exclusive excerpt for a quick ride in the taxi that’s set to win the race.

Put your seatbelts on!

Getting Dressed and Parking Cars
Getting Dressed and Parking Cars || Alok Kejriwal

***

 

I quietly assembled a small team from my previous companies to fire up the Games2win engines and was happy to see how excited they all were. My team and I had been involved in client service for years, and we were yearning to get started on building our own products.

 

I again turned to my colleague Dinesh Gopalakrishnan and decided he would be responsible for the car games vertical. My instructions to him were clear—‘Dinu, you need to start making brand new parking and driving games. They need to be casual, differentiated and fun. Also, I need at least ten unique titles split equally between the two types. So, step on the pedal and hit the road now (pun intended)!’ Dinesh was excited and went all in.

 

Before mandating Dinesh to make casual car games, I had thought very hard about the genre. How could I make driving and parking games ‘easy to play, but impossible to master’ (the magical recipe for creating great games)? What would make these games sticky and addictive despite being casual and snacky (meant to be played for short periods)?

 

My insight came quickly.
Real-life driving was the best reference!

 

In the real world, we drive or travel in a car from Point A to Point B without colliding with vehicles, objects or pedestrians. It’s impossible to imagine driving in the real world while having mini accidents on the way.

 

Leveraging this insight, I decided to build online car games with the opposite scenario. I wanted our online car games to be designed such that it would be impossible for a first-time player to navigate the car without an accident.

 

In the online game, while navigating congested roads and avoiding collisions with other vehicles, obstacles, pedestrians etc., players would not be able to complete a mission on the first attempt. After trying and losing the first time, the player would wish they had been more careful and would take another stab at playing the level.

 

Having bettered themselves, even if the player succeeded in winning the first level, the next level would be designed to ensure that a steep learning curve would be required to pass that level (play multiple times). The rest of the levels would gradually get harder and harder.

 

I was implementing the golden ‘easy to play, impossible to master’ game-level design mantra to make my first set of games.

 

Using this principle, a simple, well-designed game with minimum content could deliver multiple gameplays while providing endless entertainment to the player.

After understanding my design concept, Dinesh took up the task seriously and started game creation.

 

When we began thinking creatively for these car games, one exciting idea we devised together was a game called ‘Bombay Taxi’. The idea’s genesis was the streets of Mumbai. The ubiquitous black and yellow or kaali-peeli taxis, as they are fondly called, were unmissable and distinctly Mumbai.

 

If you haven’t sat in a Mumbai taxi, you should bump it up to the top of your list of must-dos. The varied interiors, stickers, idols of gods of all religions perched in the centre of the dashboard, and the beads, malas and flowers dangling from every available hook in the front section will awe you. And at night, the interior lights and illuminations on offer can give the world’s best designers a run for their money! Unsurprisingly, the first ever Apple store in India, which opened in 2023, is located in Mumbai and has drawn strong design inspiration from the inimitable kaalipeeli taxis!

 

Driving in Mumbai is hard. It means being super adept at navigating choking traffic, narrow roads, marriage, funeral and religious processions, avoiding crater-sized potholes, driving through flooded streets, zip-zapping two and three-wheelers and obeying all traffic rules and signals.

 

I often tell people, ‘If you can drive a car in Mumbai, you can drive a car anywhere in the world!’

 

The reality of Mumbai driving became our game design, and Dinesh created different types of Bombay taxis (typically, older generation Fiat cars, small SUVs and mini cars) with distinctive stylizations. He designed terrific ‘street levels’ in Mumbai that featured fisherwomen selling their wares on the road, confusing railway crossings, kids playing cricket on the main streets, hawkers selling their
wares almost everywhere, cows doing their own thing, food sellers, handcart pullers and the notorious ‘three-wheeler’ drivers, all contributing to the confusion and chaos that embodies the Maximum City .

 

Dinesh also amazingly recreated the sounds of Mumbai roads, featuring a cacophony of cars honking, hawkers shouting, trains, buses and trucks blowing their horns, street music and other typical Mumbai sounds.

 

The final car-driving game he produced was fantastic. The moment I started playing it, I couldn’t stop. When I finally did, about forty minutes had passed!

 

No sooner did the game go live on games2win.com than it became a super hit! It was bound to be.

 

***

Get your copy of Getting Dressed and Parking Cars by Alok Kejriwal wherever books are sold.

Joya Chatterji’s Dive into Bombay Cinema’s Legacy

Explore the historical origins of Bombay Cinema, fondly known as Bollywood, in this excerpt from Shadows at Noon by Joya Chatterji. As the story unfolds, uncover the intricate mix of languages, influences, and talent migration that shaped Bombay cinema, creating a diverse and cosmopolitan industry that is celebrated all over the world.

 

Shadows at Noon
Shadows at Noon || Joya Chatterji

***

Why Bombay, one might ask? It was never inevitable that the ‘Maximum City’ would be its base, whatever film scholars say.  Mukherjee, in her otherwise excellent Bombay Hustle, argues that there was something exciting and dynamic about the city that made it the inevitable centre of the film industry. The argument is, to a historian, teleological. By the time Bombay showed its first full-length silent film, Raja Harishchandra (‘King Harishchandra’, 1913), studios were up and running in most major cities of India. Throughout the twentieth century, Calcutta and Madras were large centres of the film industry, and Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam and Telegu cinema were still thriving in 2000.

 

Nor was it inevitable that Hindustani, the language of Bombay cinema, would become the dominant language of the movies. Indeed, the subcontinent’s most renowned director, Satyajit Ray, made all his films, with one notable exception (Shatranj ke Khilari ), in Bangla. Nor has the flow of influence always been in one direction, from Bombay to these other centres. One of Bombay’s greatest stars, Waheeda Rehman, first performed in the Telegu film Rojulu Maraayi (‘The Days Have Changed’, 1955). She points out that its hit song in which she danced (she trained in the new form of Bharatanatyam) was bowdlerised in the Hindi version of the Telegu original movie. But because it usually flowed that way, I focus on Bombay cinema here.

 

The migration of talent at every level to Bombay cinema from other regions was fuelled by cultural influences that are not easy to pigeon hole. Take the case of Guru Dutt (1925–64), producer, director and actor in the 1950s, a period many regard (with justification) as the high point of Bombay cinema. He produced, directed and acted in some of the era’s greatest films. By birth a Saraswat Brahmin from western India, Guru Dutt grew up in Calcutta. He was often mistaken for a Bengali because of his (hard-to-define) Calcutta ways (marked even before he married the Bengali singer Geeta Roy in a Bengali caste Hindu ceremony). As a youngster he trained for a while at Uday Shankar’s school for the creative arts at Almora, where he was a peer of Uday’s brother, the sitar maestro Ravi Shankar. For their part, both Uday and Ravi Shankar grew up in present-day Rajasthan, where their father was in the employ of the Maharaja of Jhalawar, but their ‘ancestral home’, as we put it in these parts, is in present-day Bangladesh. (Uday Shankar was another sensation of the era, known for his avant garde choreography, his terrific talent as a dancer and his effort to revive old dramatic performance through modern dance fusion, rather than stilted classicism.)

 

Given that some of Guru Dutt’s best-known films are ‘Muslim socials’ (a genre depicting a Muslim urban aristocratic way of life), and given that Waheeda Rehman, Rahman and Johnny Walker (Badruddin Kazi, a former bus conductor), all Muslims, starred in some of his most famous films – Pyaasa (‘Thirsty’, 1957), Chaudhvin ka Chand (‘The Full Moon’, 1960) and Kaagaz ke Phool (‘Paper Flowers’, 1959) – and given his productive relationship with the scriptwriter Abrar Alvi, also a Muslim – it’s clear that Bombay cinema was a cosmopolitan world, which drew gifted people of all sorts towards it. Directors sought out talent wherever they could find it. It was a South Asian world of all the talents.

 

This brilliance was by no means born in Bombay, local to Bombay (or the British Bombay Presidency, post-independence Maharashtra after the former’s division into two states), or even the Hindustani speaking north of the subcontinent. It would be a gross mis – understanding to think of Bombay cinema as the film culture of‘Bombay-wallahs’. Bombay itself was being made by migration at the same time as its film industry.

 

A funny story illustrates this. A passionate movie buff from the Punjab, Raj Khosla, met Guru Dutt while the latter was directing a film. He wanted a job as a playback singer, but no such job was on offer. Guru Dutt, by all accounts a kindly man, asked Khosla whether he knew any Hindi. ‘Yes,’ he lied. He was hired, but he then had a problem: he knew some Urdu, like many Punjabis, but although Urdu has a similar vocabulary and grammar to Hindi, its script could hardly be more different. Keen Khosla went out and bought a Hindi reader the very next day. Of course he was caught out the minute he was asked to write something in Hindi. Far from sacking him, Guru Dutt found him something else to do and they became firm friends. The point here is that even Punjabi-speakers were flocking to what became known as ‘Bombay cinema’ (which was sometimes made outside Bombay).

 

Still, the city itself would become the hub of the great studios of the era where the first generations of Hindi movies were made. Studios like Bombay Talkies established themselves on the northern periphery of the city, in Andheri, where they had some access to its urban amenities but could just about avoid its accompanying cacophony. Bombay’s wooded hinterland provided scenic backdrops to many a movie.

***

Get your copy of Shadows at Noon by Joya Chatterji wherever books are sold.

Jude Sequeira’s drunken escapades in Bombay’s Orlem

Philomena Sequeira knows what she wants by the time she turns fourteen. Her father wants something else. Her neighbours deal with adultery, abandonment and abuse, by hoping for a place in heaven.

Life is unyielding for the tenants of the rundown Obrigado Mansion in Orlem, a Roman Catholic parish in suburban Bombay. They grapple with love, loss and sin, surrounded by abused wives and repressed widows, alcoholic husbands and dubious evangelists, angry teenagers and ambivalent priests, all struggling to make sense of circumstances they have no control over.

Gods and Ends takes up multiple threads of individual stories to create a larger picture of darkness beneath a seemingly placid surface. It is about intersecting lives struggling to accept change as homes turn into prisons. This is a book about invisible people in a city of millions, and the claustrophobia they rarely manage to escape from.

**

The well appeared to have been there forever, sunk into the earth at a time when there couldn’t have been too many people around to use it. And yet, as any careful observer might have noticed, it had once been cared for, its sides carefully scoured, solid stone steps marking circles as they disappeared into its gloomy depths. Until the outer wall collapsed, sliding slowly into the murky green water, there may have been a few informal meetings held nearby. Some of the early residents of Orlem may well have stopped to chat around it on sunny mornings, to discuss dissolute husbands or the latest scandal from the goan villages they came from, while stooping down to draw water.

On the night of 24 December, only one voice was heard. It was between 1 and 2 a.m., and the water lay undisturbed, its opaque surface broken only by lethargic leaves slipping, sliding, gliding down from laburnum trees looming darkly above and around the well. The only other sound came from an unsteady stream of urine pattering down, over the ruined edge, through a space where the wall once stood.

front cover of Gods and Ends
Gods and Ends || Lindsay Pereira

 

‘Come from England, come from Scotland, come from Ireland,’ the voice slurred tunelessly. ‘Looking out for a pleasant holiday? Come to Bombay, meri hai.’

Jude Sequeira pissed his cares away. He was dimly aware about urinating into a source of drinking water for some of his neighbours, but was too drunk to care. The half bottle of cheap whisky he had consumed lay volatile in his stomach, warming him, while making his head swim ever so gently. The song he was singing continued to pour out of him, its lyrics a jumble. After singing it twice, he looked up and stopped in awe. Above him, in a hole cut out through the trees that formed a canopy, a few stars twinkled brightly. He couldn’t remember the last time he had seen stars.

Smiling to himself, he shook his penis half-heartedly, the last few drops wetting his toes. As he tried to zip up, something caught his eye. A mouse? A cat? Swaying slightly, he turned. There was a sudden moment of clarity when he recognized the figure standing before him. His lips moved as he struggled to articulate something that seemed to be just out of reach. Teetering for a few seconds, suddenly on the brink of sobriety, he slipped. The splash echoed briefly before receding into the night. The waters closed over, stifling a scream before it reached his throat. As he went down, Jude found the name he was looking for.

On the ground above, all that remained were his slippers: a pair of grimy Bata chappals, their blue straps long faded. In time, a milky sun rose, its appearance heralded by noisy sparrows.

**

All About Jazz! 7 Things You Didn’t Know about Bombay’s Jazz Culture

Bombay, renamed Mumbai after the goddess Mumbadevi, defies definition. Vibrant, engaging and provocative, Bombay, Meri Jaan is an anthology as rich and varied as the city it celebrates.
Salman Rushdie, Pico Iyer, Dilip Chitre, Saadat Hasan Manto, V.S.Naipaul, Khushwant Singh and Busybee, among others, write about aspects of the city. In one piece within the anthology Naresh Fernandes explores the jazz culture of the sixties. Intrigued?
Read on to find out 7 things you didn’t know about the jazz culture of Bombay:

  1. There was a class divide between musicians and their audience

  1. There was no correct way to play jazz. You just went with the flow.

  1. Most jazz musicians were originally from Goa

  1. What was considered high praise by jazz musicians may surprise you…

  1. Bollywood songs were arranged and assisted by jazz musicians like Chic Chocolate.

  1. Jazzy weddings?A jazz song from Lorna Cordeiro’s album became a standard at Goan weddings

  1. Grave diggers were in high demand


 
 
Bombay, Meri Jaan, comprising of poems and prose pieces by some of the biggest names in literature, in addition to cartoons, photographs, a song and a Bombay Duck recipe, tries to capture the spirit of this great metropolis.
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