Monday 29 December 2008

Orbituary

There is a poem I had posted here a couple of months back. It struck a chord with me then and it does now....the last few words of the poem:

When it is truly time,
And if you have been chosen,
It will do it by itself and it will keep on doing it
Until you die or it dies in you.



It was a dear friend while it was around....but it dies a slow death. I feel it dying within me as each day passes.....the writer in me....it shall be missed....if by no one else, atleast by me.

Wednesday 24 December 2008

X-Mas Quiz Time!

Ho ho ho and all of that!! Christmas is here....time for the holly and the festivities...for trees to light up and tables full of delicious fare....for gifts and sharing!!

Refusing to do a serious blog on this awesome day, here is a short and silly quiz on how much you know about Christmas (and not historical type boring stuff)!!

Disclaimer: I know goggling it is very tempting but give it your best shot without checking, it'll be interesting to see the answers:

1.In what century did 25 December become the traditional day to celebrate Christmas?

2.Which famous Christmas story begins 'One dollar and eighty-seven cents'?

3.What colour is Santa Claus' belt?

4.Which country traditionally provides Britain with a Christmas tree for Trafalgar Square in London?

5.In the Ukraine, what does it mean if you find a spider web in the house on Christmas morning?

6.How many reindeer does Santa have?

Have a brilliant Christmas .....

Monday 22 December 2008

Of Stars, Super Stars and Aamir Khan

There are actors, there are stars and there are super stars! Let me help you understand the line that separates these. Take some recent films for example. Dasvidhania was a short sweet film which won completely basis its acting. Vinay Pathak proved his versatility and acting poweress. He is, what we call an actor.

Then there was Singh is King. A completely nonsensical movie with no story to back it or any great acting to write home about. Akshay Kumar did what he does best - comedy and pulled in the crowds. He is what we call a star.

Then came Rab ne bana di jodi. The reviews trashed it, called it names and forbade people to watch it. Result? Theatres that went housefull. Not just in the opening week but the next as well. Reason? Not Aditya Chopra, not the story, not the music. One simple magical word called SRK. Even if a movie was doomed and made as terrible as possible, you and I would watch Shahrukh Khan once on screen atleast. Its a sin not to. That, my friends, is the power of a Super Star.

The problem happens when a star and an actor like Aamir Khan tries to hold the Super Star mantle. He's a brilliant actor no doubt. Makes some of the best movies of the year. But a Super Star he is not. His personal involvement stops him from being one. To promote his films, Shahrukh may go on a talk show or at best visit a mall. Aamir Khan, according to the newspaper today, took to the streets of Delhi and with his own hands gave people the Ghajini haircut (which is just a fancy name for what NDA cadets know as a way of life). All to promote his new film. Great marketing tactic. Terrible for brand building. Aamir, no matter how many pups you name SRK, Super Star you are not....atleast not yet.

Monday 15 December 2008

Shantaram

I am yet to decide on a favourite book. There are many that I have liked but none that would be the best ever. The list started with Not without my daughter (Betty Mahmoody) and went on to add City of Djinns (William Dalrymple), Harry Potter Series (esp the last one), Da Vinci Code and many others. A key member of this prized collection is “Shantaram” by Gregory Roberts. Shantaram was a revelation. Not only because of the story (which in itself has more twists and turns than any fiction ever written), but also because of the characterization, the flair of writing and the vivid memory of the author.

I don’t believe that a movie (played by Johhny Depp) can do justice to such a brilliant book. Thankfully, the movie is on hold now and there’s not much talk of it.

Shantaram has had such a brilliantly colored life that it makes an engrossing read. In his book, he exposes the Mumbai underworld, the terrorist activities in some countries, flesh trade, sex workers etc. One of my favourite sections is when he lives in the slums for more than a year and learns their ways and mannerisms going on to become the slum doctor. His flair for writing coupled with his photographic memory makes this book as vivid and imaginative as a Harry Potter novel (well, almost). As you walk this road with him and see him evolve from the convict that he was to a slum doctor, a mafia member and eventually one who wants to come clean, you can not help but applaud him. It is not that he always did good things, but the humility with which he accepts it and moves on, talks of a man with character.

Shantaram paid his dues in the prisons and is back in India. He is settled in Mumbai and it is not uncommon to see this tall burly man with his blond hair in a long ponytail riding his bike in Colaba or having a beer at Leopold with his wife (a Swiss Princess). He has recently been seeing back at his favourite haunt Leopold to show solidarity with the city.

If you get the chance, do get your hands on the book. It’s a great read.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Oye Lucky Lucky Oye reviewed

Resignations flying here and there….not that it matters. In my opinion, taking responsibility is not about quitting. The easiest thing to do is to quit. Taking responsibility is about doing damage control and making sure that it does not or rather CAN NOT be repeated.

Anyhow, in an attempt to bring back some semblance of normalcy in life, this weekend we decided to go catch the new film “Oye Lucky Lucky Oye”! What I love about the film most is its name. You can not help but sing out the name every time you hear it (yes, hum it in your head now)! Imagine the Husband’s embarrassment when he went up to the counter and said “Two tickets for Oye Lucky Lucky Oye” :) !!!



If you haven’t heard about the film, its ok, don’t chide yourself. They barely did any promotions and there are no big names to attract you. Abhay Deol (the only Deol of this generation in my opinion who can act) plays the main lead. He plays a Delhi boy from a deranged (trust me on this) family who grows up to be one of the smartest petty thieves of the country. Abhay played out his character brilliantly and you can’t help but love him. The guy who plays his role in flashback also did a great job. Paresh Rawal and Archana Puran Singh are predictable but funny.

The story line may remind you of Bunty aur Bubbly but don’t be fooled. The problem is not the lack of familiar faces. The problem is with the story line. Or the lack of it. The film is a series of witty lines and funny scenes strung together sprinkled with some very hilarious but strange music. Even with my decent understanding of Punjabi, I couldn’t make head or tail of most of the songs in the film.

Lucky, the protagonist, starts out playing an ambitious petty thief which is where I guess the problem lies. The fact that he ends up a petty thief even in the end. Even though he has the country’s police behind him, his kind of theft involves walking into a house and picking up just about anything he can see….as small as a photo frame!!!

Anyhow, the movie is a laugh riot. You will thoroughly enjoy it while you are in the hall…and just as soon forget it as soon as you step out. Good pure entertainment.

Rating: 3 on 5

Thursday 27 November 2008

Mumbai mayhem

I don’t even know if I should feel angry or sad or numb. I feel nothing. These attacks…and the periodicity with which they occur has numbed us. We don’t panic like we used to. It doesn’t scare us anymore. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad one.

The drill is automatic now. You see it on the news, your hand automatically reaches for the phone. You message or call people who may be affected. You get a reply that they are alright. You thank god. The next day, you go to work as usual. Everyone changes their profile descriptor on Facebook to do with the tragedy. It may range from XYZ is angry..and sad, to XYZ is wondering will this stop!! Everyone’s name on messengers changes to reflect the same. You make some business decisions like postponing activity in that city. And you go home.

End of story.

Only to be repeated again.

As I said, I don’t know if I am angry or sad….probably just numb.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Dasvidhania....and lists

There is a list I made almost 4 years back. 20 things I want to do before I die. A movie I saw recently, Dasvidhania reminded me of the same list, one that I haven’t gone back to since so long. So here is my list, slightly altered to account for the 4 years in between….and a tally of where I stand. Why am I writing this here? Not so much to share, I would rather keep it in a locked drawer. But rather, in an attempt that if I put it here, maybe I will be forced to revisit it sometimes to see if life is going where I thought it would … or should….

20 things I want to do before I die:

1.Go on a luxury cruise. One with swimming pools and casinos and dining rooms with live singers and huge double bed cabins with the porthole looking out into the vast sea

2.Work for 4 hours everyday and spend the rest taking dance/singing/piano/guitar/language classes and taking care of my home and family

3.Send my parents on the orient express in rajasthan

4.Ride in the canoes in the waterways of Venice and eat at quaint lil cafes serving pasta and wine. Walk the pathways of Florence.

5.Go for a vacation to Kerala, in luxury. With massages and the works

6.Collect famous paintings – hmmmm….does a Van Gogh Poster count?

7.Start a restaurant where I cook once in a while

8.Have my man propose to me in a quiet place, in candle light or moonlight, in formals, with flowers, and wine, one one knee....it should be the most romantic thing in my life – OK don’t know how this will happen unless the Husband decides to do a rerun

9.My own home with a garden...and a picket fence...and a huge dog.....and flowers in every room...the house smelling of freshly baked cookies

10.Give painless childbirth – Science need to advance faster for this one

11.Wear a flowing gown on my reception – hmmm….we need to do a re-vow thing like the rich and the famous!!

12.Visit a wine making festival and trample on the grapes in the casket

13.Write a book – Believe it or not, this one is done!! The Guide for Expats moving to Noida.

14.Die at a good age, not too old that I am dependant, and before my husband

15.Ride a two wheeler on a beautiful road with trees on both sides in a beach town – Do I hear Goa beckoning?

16.Explore India....not just the cities...but smaller towns that ppl have not heard about – one big tick mark here….we go to a new town every month to explore.

17, 18, 19 and 20 are still open....to be added as and when...

Monday 17 November 2008

Russian food in the heart of Delhi?!!!?

There are few things I enjoy more than exploring a new place or a new restaurant tucked away in a corner, unknown to most. And my latest discovery fits the bill exactly! I mean, how unknown can you possibly be if my brother-in-law, a Russian Linguistics alumnus from JNU had not even heard of it. But, as I usually do – I consulted 3 different books and 4 sites for a varied opinion (with Vir Sanghvi being my food god vouching for the place) and decided it was worth the trip to the other side of town.

If you are familiar with Delhi, you will know that it takes hell of a lot of motivation for one to travel from Noida to Anand Niketan (a tiny expat colony near RK Puram). Bravely we set out and were joined by friends who couldn’t pass on the opportunity to try out a cuisine as unique as Russian!! With the help of Google maps and 2-3 frantic calls to the place, we finally parked our car outside the deserted marketplace of Anand Niketan. It is the sort of place that convinces you that someone played a prank on you and there is no way there could be a restaurant inside the dingy building. Nevertheless, brave as we are, we stepped in and found in front of us a signage that announced that we had found the place.

We stepped into this tiny eatery and were immediately transported back to memories of our trip to Egypt. A small room greets you with 4 tables and 16 chairs in all. There is a TV in a corner that arrogantly plays on its Russian Sitcoms. The owner, a Russian himself takes the orders and cooks the meals. It is in clipped sentences that he answers you and hints that perhaps its best you don’t talk much and just eat quietly.

On asking about alcohol, he suggested that they offer Beer and Vodka. As neither were listed in the menu, we ordered 2 vodkas which promptly came in shot glasses and chilled, perhaps how it should be taken, but completely alien a concept to the Indian palate. My humble request for a sprite was met with contempt and a glass of his home-made punch (Kompot) was promptly served – which was not such a bad idea either.

The menu was short but interesting. We ordered a variety of dishes including 2 mutton dishes, beef stroganoff and a chicken Bline – which by the way is the name of the place in case I haven’t mentioned. Pronounced Blee-knee, it’s Russian for pancake and those are his specialty. As expected, the food was delightful. The piece de resistance was the Stroganoff. I make a great one (if I do say so myself) with chicken and mushrooms but this guy took the cake! The dish was perfectly flavored and left us wanting for more.

The prices were great as well. We ended up with a bill of Rs.300 per head and that included drinks so it was a steal. The next time you feel like trying something new, I suggest you give this place a visit….though I would love to keep it my little secret.

Dostana Reviewed

What a fun weekend. I am wondering whether to blog about the new restaurant we discovered or to review the movie we caught yesterday. Food leaves a lasting impression so let me talk about that in the next one.

Lazy Sunday afternoons beg for an exciting evening so we went on to catch the new movie – Dostana.

If you are movie critic, gay rights activist or just someone taking himself/ herself too seriously, please do pardon me for my review. Despite what the critics say - I loved the film. It is an out and out comedy with no head or tail. Yes, it is full of clichés; yes, Priyanka does seem to have a Neil and Niki hangover (I don’t see anyone complaining though); yes they wasted brilliant actors like Boman Irani and Kiron Kher. But at the end of the day, what you do get is a hindi masala movie that had the entire theatre in splits.

The film is about 2 supposedly hot guys (John I can imagine, but Abhishek???) who lie to their flat-mate Priyanka about being gay so that they can get to stay in her cool apartment. As neither of them is really desperate to move to a new place, it does seem odd that one would fabricate such a story just for the appt. Nevertheless, they do move in and the story goes on about how the 3 of them become great pals.



The script writer threw in some witty quips and the first half will have you in splits. The acting is not bad and what works best is Abhishek Bachchan being completely at ease with taking his own case. The fact that someone can get so into the character and make such a complete fool of himself truly deserves applause. Thankfully, he doesn’t take off his shirt a la Johnny boy (who can afford to do so). For some strange reason his character is believable because he drives a pink Cadillac, wears pink clothes and sports a red watch (even while he is supposed to be straight…why????).

So don’t listen to those spoil sports who are trying to find reason in this madness….go check the movie out. I loved it…so sue me!

Rating: 3 on 5

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Quantum of Solace Reviewed

Hollywood has come a long way in action sequences and special effects. If you compare recent action movies to those made 2 decades back, you will notice the finesse with which the new ones are executed. The cuts are sharply edited and no unnecessary talk dilly dallying with the villains.

Quantum of Solace is another one from the same genre. It is a fast paced film where you really are scared to blink or breathe lest you miss the next shot and lose track of the scene. The action is quick and hard. More than once in the movie, I found myself trying to duck a punch that Daniel threw, which is how realistic it was. The stunts did not dwell on themselves and did not give you enough time to appreciate one before the scene moved to the next.

The story, like in most action films, was irrelevant (with exceptions like Bourne Identity). The good guy trying to get the bad guys (who, his government is convinced, are not so bad after all). Aiding him is a pretty thing who kick-boxes with the same finesse as dropping a tear. What they do in the interim is immaterial, point is that in the end, they get the bad guy and he gets his due.

Story finished.

Or unfortunately not. While writing this review, I had almost forgotten that this is a Bond film. Which is what I suggest you do too. Quantum of Solace is a well made action film that might even get a 3 or 3.5 on 5. But the second you expect me to believe that this man running around throughout the movie in a soiled tux with a blood stained shirt, breaking people’s noses and wallowing in the loss of his beloved, is Bond – all I can do is blink and look at you as if you are raving mad! Because he is not. Its not even about him saying “The name is Bond”, or his martini being shaken and not stirred, its not about the gizmos that he is supposed to carry or the fact that Bond doesn’t fight like street fighters, its about the basic fact that Bond is the ultimate in charisma, sophistication and witticism – each of which this movie lacks.

I refuse to rate this film in this review. Because they lied to us. I want Bond back.

Friday 7 November 2008

Not the Presidential Elections for once!!!

Apparently there are only 3 things that people want to discuss today. In order of importance:

1)Barack Obama becoming the President of America
2)The Global Economy crashing (I say crashing and not slowingdown thanks a report that just came out yesterday certifying this could well be the next recession)
3)What you should do with your money given that Barack Obama is president and the global economy is crashing

Ofcourse, 80% of the people around don’t even know the full name of the Indian president or what the sub-prime really is. Its become a fad of sorts to have an opinion on these.

So I carefully peeled myself away from the monotony of discussions and my thought express went chugging towards a completely different direction - cinema. There are some movies that leave a lasting impression on you for some strange reason. My list of awards(from the top of my head) is below…feel free to add in yours:

1)Chitti Chitti Bang Bang – For the most infectious title song
2)In Pursuit of Happyness, Cinderella Man and Life is Beautiful - For examples of how people of exceptional character tide over insurmountable difficulties
3)Sound Of Music – For its sound track
4)Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge – The perfect love story….
5)Khuda Ke Liye – For the other side of the Pak story that gets lost in Indian media
6)My Fair Lady – For the line “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain”
7)Dil Chahta Hai – For a refreshing new genre when Bollywood was stagnating
8)My Best Friend’s Wedding – For giving me my favorite phrase; “This too shall pass”
9)Jaane Bhi Do Yaron – For the unbeatable Mahabharat performance
10)Scent of a Woman – For a tango so graceful that I wanted to learn the dance
11)Shrek 1 – For the cutest ogre ever
12)The Ring – For freaking me out beyond repair.
13)Raat – My first horror and one that did not allow me to sleep for years

Monday 3 November 2008

Lazy Weekends

Of all addictions available to man (and woman), sleeping is probably the most satisfying and most infectious! This weekend, I almost never left the sanctuary of my bed. A soft pillow, curtains drawn and afternoon slumber...what more could a person ask for!?! Which is why, I am struggling with the urge to run home as I remind myself that a Monday morning may seem like the end of the world, but this too shall pass. Actually that is one of my favourite sayings. Spoken by the wise one...actually spoken by a waiter who finds Julia Roberts outside her best friend's room in the Movie - My Best Friend's Wedding. She's sitting there, desolate and alone, wondering why she took so long to tell him that she loved him....and how could he ever marry someone else....when this housekeeping guy comes up to her and tells her what his grandmother always told him - That this too shall pass. Simple words, but give courage!!

Coming back from my rambling, I did manage to squeeze in some time for some random reading. There is this book written by our batchmate from school - Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan called This is about me. N, one of my best friends bought it in the enthusiasm of we-know-the-author-lets-see-how-she-writes...and instantly regretted it. She couldn't get past the first 10 pages and thus, I took over the task. This post is not a book reveiew, because frankly there wasnt much in it to review. Typical chick-lit....use of slangs, abusive language and sexuality....do these cliches still sell?? Did not create much of an impression on me, be it the story line, the use of language, the characterisation or even the structure. All in all, quite forgetable.

What it did do though, is to get me to think. What was it that helped her get a 3 book contract from Penguin? Her being a journalist would have helped...definitely in getting the contacts....but there really wasnt much more that I could see. So, what stops me from writing fiction? I may not be very good, but the competition apparently is not path breaking either!

And that, my friend, is the next project. To write a book of fiction and to get it published. Not as easy as I thought...the story idea itself has still not formed, when when I get there (and I will get there), I promise it will be a darn good one....

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Maladies or not

There is this strange phenomenon. Its called I-think-you're-faking-being-sick.....somehow the only way people believe you are ill is if you have a fever. Which is strange. So you could have a head that feels like its full of cotton and sneezing till the neighbors cant sleep but after all...it-just-a-cold!! Or your throat could be hurting like a million knives are poking...but how bad could a sore throat be??

Wonder where this perception came from. It would be a lie if I said I was also not guilty of the same. How many times has someone come upto me and said I'm not feeling well and I asked, do you have a fever? And if the person said, no I have a cold, how many times have I disregarded the same?

Is it me or dont you think its true???

Sunday 26 October 2008

The week that was!

Phew. What a week. I am exhausted, ill and completely drained out. But it was all worth it. One of my best friends got married. And when I say best friends, I refer to a set of 4 girls whom I have been with even I knew how to spell friendship...around 20 years back....and considering I'm not that much older than that, its quite a feat! So, it wasnt one of those weddings where we ate and left rather one where we were in the organising committee so as to speak.

The sangeet. engagement was awesome....we were blackmailed by her to do a performance on stage and boy did we dance?!? We literally had to be dragged off the stage. Of course in the middle of our dance when we are all in the mood, our dear friend incharge of the music decided he had enough and he told the DJ to phase out the music coz the dance was over....except that it WASN'T!!! But we refused to be dettered and went ahead and did the entire damn thing again....even got an encore :)!! So there is my option of a second career !!!

The sangeet and the wedding both turned out to be Page 3 events. We never paid much heed to the fact that our friend happened to be an established model coz for us she was just the same kid in pig tails. So there we were, wondering why the sangeet was being invaded by the likes of Vineet Jain, AD Singh, Rohan Gavaskar, Zaheer Khan, Neha Kapoor, Asmita, Tupur and Tapur etcetra etcetra..... We finally decided that the entire Lakme Fashion Week had decided to gate crash the party and only realised much later that they were invited when we heard that the party ended at 5 in the morning!!!

The wedding was beautiful. She looked gorgeous and completely refused to play the shy Indian bride. She was on top of everything, what we should wear, what we should do, when we should eat....it was like event management!! I dont think it has hit her even now that the event is over and she has a husband in tow!! The highlight of the evening was something far removed from her marriage of course. A few minutes into the venue, we realised that it was a dry and vegetarian affair. Right next door (at the venue where 2 years back I got married) was another wedding of an Army family, which to our scheming minds spelt alcohol and chicken!! So all decked up as we were, we happily gate crashed the wedding, walked around, chatted with the guests, made ourselves completely at home and had our own little party on the side. I have always wanted to gate crash a wedding....and now realise just how easy it is (wonder why we bother cooking at home when there's almost a wedding every night in the vicinity :))!!

So that's the short version of the excitement of the week. My throat is croaking, I think I'm coming down with the flu and my calves feel like I have been standing since 10 year....but it was so worth it....I would do it all over again!!!

Wednesday 22 October 2008

I'm back - and how!!!

I thought about it long and hard...I swear I did. I thought about abandoning the blog, did not want to write anymore. But I couldn't do it. And I attribute my change of mind to the following 3 reasons:

1) The poem I posted a few days back....about how you should only write if it come bursting out of your soul and you dont feel that you have an option but to put it down. It is not something that everyone reading this will understand....but I blog the way I think...spontaneously....without any calculations about the merits or demerits of what I wrote....

2) An article a colleague wrote (you can read it on Grimescene in my blog roll). The post was about how he had nothing imp to say but he just had to blog....it was killing him not to write it down....I could relate to that...

3) And the reason for the sane bunch of people who think that the above two reasons just dont make sense.....I realised that my blog is my CV when I get freelance contracts....and sabbaticals just dont make sense!!

So here I am, back in action. The past week has been crazy...juggling just everything possible. And tonight is one of my best friend's sangeet.....and in all our enthusiasm, we are performing for her on stage (or being blackmailed into it :)).....except for the fact that all of us are in a complete crazy mood so the poor audience will really wonder why we went on stage in the first place :)!! So super excited about that....

Add to that, my best friend is back in town from London....a pilgrimage she makes only when one of us plans to get married .... so considering that the last time I met her was when I got married (which was 2 yrs back!!!!), its a reunion of sorts as well!!

So I'm off.....wish me luck for tonight and I promise to come back and tell you how many tomatoes were thrown at us :) !!

Monday 13 October 2008

Kidnap ...... Why lord....why???

I haven't felt like writing since a few days and that is quite uncharacteristic of me. Writing is more often than not like breathing where I am concerned so this sudden lack of motivation to pen down something needs some more examination.

So,woke up today and decided that I can not give in to this, and here I am back doing just that!

We saw Kidnap a week back. Even dragged my dad out of his holiday stupor to see this movie that was hyped like most are. Imran Khan - the new kid on the block...in a mean new avtar. Sanjay Dutt like never before. Manisha Lamba....ummm well just Manisha Lamba! So what does one say about the hype after spending 3 hours and a couple of hundreds in a hall? In one word - 'Blah'!!!



I have just one question. Why did they bother making this movie? I mean seriously, there is no premise, the script is one of the most pathetic ever and the actors seem to be taking themselves too seriously. The done - to - death cat and mouse story of a kidnapper and the hero is one that can still make a good screenplay for some great hollywood flicks. Then why did the writer not bother to take this one through? Correct me if I am wrong, but if someone is giving you a set of clues (which were ridiculous in themselves) and leading you upto a location (where you the kidnapper are, by the way), why would you hide in a cupboard and wait for the person to leave????? For heaven's sake, you just spend 4 days of your time and 2 hours of mine trying to get him there in the first place!!!

Leave the story aside, lets come to the actors. I dont blame Sanjay Dutt for running away from his family....if you see the kind of clothes Manisha Lamba (who plays his daughter) wears (or doesnt wear), any father would!!!! Someone seriously did some cost cutting in the poor waif's wardrobe budget. Picture this - you have been kidnapped, you are in a house alone with this crazy guy. And what do you wear? Barely anything!!!! And you manage to do a few dances with him on waterfalls in the mean time as well!

Sanjay Dutt was alright but age is catching up with him now and his paunch shows! Imran Khan just did not cut it! He has over exposed himself. And the best is that after the whole drama is over, he comes back to meet his victim in a very lets-keep-in-touch kind of way...and she agrees!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Geez!!!

If you feel my emotions seem a little exaggerated, pray do see this movie. And come back and tell me how many hair do you have left on your head that you did not pull out :)!!

Rating - 1 on 5

Saturday 11 October 2008

Quantum of Solace Reviewed

.
Hollywood has come a long way in action sequences and special effects. If you compare recent action movies to those made 2 decades back, you will notice the finesse with which the new ones are executed. The cuts are sharply edited and no unnecessary talk dilly dallying with the villains.

Quantum of Solace is another one from the same genre. It is a fast paced film where you really are scared to blink or breathe lest you miss the next shot and lose track of the scene. The action is quick and hard. More than once in the movie, I found myself trying to duck a punch that Daniel threw, which is how realistic it was. The stunts did not dwell on themselves and did not give you enough time to appreciate one before the scene moved to the next.

The story, like in most action films, was irrelevant (with exceptions like Bourne Identity). The good guy trying to get the bad guys (who, his government is convinced, are not so bad after all). Aiding him is a pretty thing who kick-boxes with the same finesse as dropping a tear. What they do in the interim is immaterial, point is that in the end, they get the bad guy and he gets his due.

End of Story



Or unfortunately not. While writing this review, I had almost forgotten that this is a Bond film. Which is what I suggest you do too. Quantum of Solace is a well made action film that might even get a 3 or 3.5 on 5. But the second you expect me to believe that this man running around throughout the movie in a soiled tux with a blood stained shirt, breaking people’s noses and wallowing in the loss of his beloved, is Bond – all I can do is blink and look at you as if you are raving mad! Because he is not. Its not even about him saying “The name is Bond”, or his martini being shaken and not stirred, its not about the gizmos that he is supposed to carry or the fact that Bond doesn’t fight like street fighters, its about the basic fact that Bond is the ultimate in charisma, sophistication and witticism – each of which this movie lacks.

I refuse to rate this film in this review. Because they lied to us. I want Bond back.

Quantum of Solace Reviewed

.
Hollywood has come a long way in action sequences and special effects. If you compare recent action movies to those made 2 decades back, you will notice the finesse with which the new ones are executed. The cuts are sharply edited and no unnecessary talk dilly dallying with the villains.

Quantum of Solace is another one from the same genre. It is a fast paced film where you really are scared to blink or breathe lest you miss the next shot and lose track of the scene. The action is quick and hard. More than once in the movie, I found myself trying to duck a punch that Daniel threw, which is how realistic it was. The stunts did not dwell on themselves and did not give you enough time to appreciate one before the scene moved to the next.

The story, like in most action films, was irrelevant (with exceptions like Bourne Identity). The good guy trying to get the bad guys (who, his government is convinced, are not so bad after all). Aiding him is a pretty thing who kick-boxes with the same finesse as dropping a tear. What they do in the interim is immaterial, point is that in the end, they get the bad guy and he gets his due.

Story finished.



Or unfortunately not. While writing this review, I had almost forgotten that this is a Bond film. Which is what I suggest you do too. Quantum of Solace is a well made action film that might even get a 3 or 3.5 on 5. But the second you expect me to believe that this man running around throughout the movie in a soiled tux with a blood stained shirt, breaking people’s noses and wallowing in the loss of his beloved, is Bond – all I can do is blink and look at you as if you are raving mad! Because he is not. Its not even about him saying “The name is Bond”, or his martini being shaken and not stirred, its not about the gizmos that he is supposed to carry or the fact that Bond doesn’t fight like street fighters, its about the basic fact that Bond is the ultimate in charisma, sophistication and witticism – each of which this movie lacks.

I refuse to rate this film in this review. Because they lied to us. I want Bond back.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

A marriage is on the cards

My 100th blog post. How apt. A Milestone of sorts. A thing of great significance. Which is what this post is about as well.

My best friend's getting married. In a few weeks.....they shall be man and wife. Its a time of great celebration, a time of excitement and planning. New beginings and hope. A wedding is a great thing.

On my wedding day, tired as I was of smiling for the camera, a gentleman came upto me and said something very interesting. He said "The wedding was great, but now the marriage starts....all the best". And it was....everyone wants a wedding, atleast every woman does, but not too many realise the intricacies of the marriage that follows it.

So why am I so pensive when I have reason to celebrate? Weddings are great occassions...I should be happy for my friend, join in the gaieties! And I will....but before that, my two bits of selfish advise. It is very easy for one to get lost in married life - there will be so many people clamoring for your time...you will not have a moment to think....new adjustments....setting up a new home....its enough to overwhelm a person....

It's easy to get lost in this cacophony. To focus so much on new relationships that old ones might get a little lost. But once in a while, do look back. Friends are they who stand and cheer you on...even when you are not looking. If you need to talk....to vent out....to share....to question....I'll always be here....standing right behind you....because thats what best friends are for....to cheer you on ....

God

God is a controversial topic. Actually its not....religion is...but in the middle of all the cacophony of religion, we forget the concept of god somewhere.

I am not an aethist. I believe in god. I just dont believe in religion and irrelevant concepts around it. I dont believe in rituals ... but I believe in faith....

Similar is my theory of god. I do not know if god exists. But I believe that we create the thought of a god who controls everything so that we have hope in life. We like to have someone to blame when things go wrong, its always god's fault or fate's. When things are down, we like to believe that there is someone we can depend on. Some hope of things getting better by divine intervention. God gives us hope. Even if it is self created.

So by that logic, I dont know whether god really exists. To me, god doesnt really exist in reality, we keep him/her alive in our hearts to give us strength and hope....

Sunday 5 October 2008

Wilderness....and pine trees

Just back from Shimla...and dont feel like writing a travelogue (that'll come later). Actually dont feel like sitting in office....or having a schedule...or a set of tasks. Just want to sit on the verandah of the cottage, staring at the valley below and the pine trees. Nothing but silence around you. The occassional chirp of a bird. The buzz of a bug. The book which begs for your attention but the forest seems more interesting.

The nip in the air. Clouds that come and hug you and when they move quietly away, they take away with them your worries. Here, nothing seems to matter. Nothing is important. The constant having to be somewhere.....having to do something....seems so pointless suddenly. As William Henry Davies in his poem Leisure asked "What is this life, if full of care..... we have no time to stop and stare"

I did....







Sunday 28 September 2008

Because You don't mess with the Zohan!!!


I still can't stop laughing!! This movie should ideally have been reviewed 5 minutes after I left the hall. For the sole reason that my opinion on the spot and in retrospect is strangely varied. One thing is common though - the movie is a complete laugh riot!

Zohan is a superhuman of sorts whom no one can beat in a fight....he also happens to be a casanova who thinks his purpose in life is to make women happy! And he does this in a manner that makes you still believe that he is innocent and pure! Unfortunately, he happens to be the answer to all prayers of the Israeli Army. All said and done, he manages to flee from his life to live his dream - to cut and style hair.

What follows is a hillarious narrative where he takes New York by storm. Adam Sandler was always funny but he almost outdoes himself! The thing is this - the movie is a riot but go alone or with your partner. Do NOT go with parents or little children as many in the audience realised. The movie should ideally have been given a 'A' rating but somehow it scraped through.

For a fun evening out with popcorn on the side, go watch this flick....be careful not to fall on the floor laughing....after all, You don't mess with the Zohan!!!

Rating: 3 on 5

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Dahi Chicken - at the cost of a burnt hand

After much cajoling and many a threats, dad finally agreed to come home for dinner last night. He's been bitten by a strange how-can-I-go-eat-so-often-in-my-daughter's-home type of bug. Which ofcourse is completely out of the blue and very uncharacteristic of him!!

Nevertheless, now that he did agree, it so happened that he and The Husband both had sore throats. And Indian food is a cuisine where the lack of spices is almost equal to lack of taste. So I took up the challenge (yet again), and decided to take matters into my own hands. The cook was asked to make the staples of daal (pulses), salad, rice etc. And yours truly decided to make Dahi Chicken.

In the process, I did manage to burn my hand (quite badly in my opinion) when the hot oil came splashing out of the wok....take my word for it - bay leaves may look very innocent but put them in hot oil and they can be as notorious as mustard seeds!

Nevertheless, the dish did come out quite well, if I do say so myself....considering that I made up the recipe myself.

Dahi Chicken
Serves 3

Ingredients:
Chicken (washed and cut into pieces) - 1/2 chicken (around 400 gms)
Onion (thinly sliced) - 1 (large)
Garlic paste - 1 tsp
Ginger paste - 1 tsp
Bay leaves - 2
Oil - 1tbsp
Salt - To taste
Coriander Pwd - 1/2 tsp
Cumin Pwd - 1/2 tsp
Chilli Pwd - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric Pwd - 1/2 tsp

For the marinade:
Curd - 3/4 cup
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Chilli Pwd - 1/3 tsp
Coriander Pwd - 1/2 tsp
Garlic paste - 1/2 tsp

Method:
1)Mix all ingredients of the marinade and coat the chicken pieces with the same. Keep aside in the fridge
2)Heat a wok with the oil. Put in the bay leaf and after around 20 seconds, add the onion. Fry till limp.
3)Add ginger-garlic paste and cook till light brown
4)Add the pieces of chicken. Do not add the curd marinade (put that on the side for the time being). Add salt and the spices. Cook on low heat for 10-15 mins till chicken looks cooked and its water starts drying up.
5)Add curd marinade and 1/4 cup water. Mix, cover and cook on very low heat for 15 minutes. Do not worry if the curd looks like its curdling. Its supposed to look this way.
6)Serve hot with rice or chapati.

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Chicken Stroganoff and Monday blues

It’s strange how I write most of my articles in my head. Much before I put it down on paper (or the keyboard thanks to technology), I have already finished writing it. Have done the layout and structure, decided the tone, and even written most of the text.

Cooking is a similar experience for me. Much before I reach home (on the few days I feel like cooking after work), on my drive back, I am already planning on what to make, what I will need, how I will make it etc. I can almost taste the dish even before I have started.

So driving back on Monday, I decided that I needed something to lift my mood, drive away the Monday blues. And besides writing and traveling, only cooking can help me do that. The dish I finally decided on was Chicken Stroganoff. And wow what a dish. The quantity that was meant to serve 4 was cleaned out by the 2 of us within 10 minutes. Don’t believe me? Try it out for yourself!

Chicken Stroganoff



Serves: 2 if you are foodies like we are. Else 3

Ingredients:
Boneless chicken 200 gms
Mushrooms 200 gms
Capsicum (cut into thin strips) 1 small
Onion (chopped finely) 1
Garlic (crushed) 4 cloves
Oil 2 tbsp
Flour 1 ½ tbsp
Cream ¾ cup
Tomato puree 2tbsp
Tomato ketchup 1tbsp
Salt, Pepper, Chilli Pwd To taste


Method:
1)Cut the boneless chicken into small pieces or strips. Marinate with salt, pepper and chilli powder for half hour
2)In a thick bottomed pan or pressure cooker, heat 1tbsp oil (can be substituted with butter for better taste but more calories). Fry onions till lightly brown.
3)Wash mushrooms thoroughly and cut each into 2. Add to the onions and sauté for a minute or 2.
4)Remove the onions and mushrooms from the dish and keep aside. Add 1tbsp oil to the dish and sauté the chicken on medium heat till browned from both sides
5)Add 1 ½ cups water. If cooking in a pressure cooker, give one whistle and cook on low heat for 2 minutes. If in a pan, cook on medium heat for 15 minutes.
6)Remove ½ cup stock from the pan and cool. Add flour and stir so that no lumps are formed.
7)In the pan with the chicken and remaining stock, add onions, mushroom, salt, pepper, chilli pwd, tomato puree, ketchup and garlic. Give one boil. Add flour mixture while stirring continuesly. Just before it is about to boil, take it off the heat.
8)Add cream. Stir. I usually substitute the cream with milk for a healthier option. Put it back on the fire. Cook on low heat for a minute and remove.
9)Serve hot with sticky rice or garlic bread. Can also be served on top of a bed of fettuccini or fusilli.

I have made my own version and recipe for sticky rice. Try it at your own risk.

For sticky rice, take the appropriate amount of rice in a pan and add water. Do not wash the rice or drain the water. For one cup of rice, add 1 ¾ cup water. Cover (but leave a corner exposed so that it doesn’t boil over) and cook on medium heat. When the water is almost dried up, add ½ cup milk, salt and oregano. Cook covered for a few minutes. Add more milk if needed. When the rice tastes cooked but is still al dente, remove from fire and serve.

Monday 22 September 2008

Bangalore Calling

The new and swanky Bangalore Airport was honoured with my presence last week. As I got off the Jet Airways flight (which surprisingly served an amazing chicken and cheese pizza inflight) and entered the arrival lounge of the new airport, I was a tad bit disappointed. Relatively large and airy though it was, the airport did not seem anything to talk home about. It took them all these years to build this, I thought to myself! I briskly walked out and located my cab. The facade outside was much nicer though with a well planned parking and pick-up area that reminded one of the Dubai airport.



The drive from there into town was another matter altogether. It is no secret that Bangalore has worse traffic than most cities in India. Add to that the fact that the airport is more than 40 Kms outside the city in the OTHER direction from the area with all the IT offices. It took me more than 7 hours after I left my home in Delhi to reach my regional office there!

On the way back, after a harrowing 2 hours drive, I entered the airport and checked in. The atrium was nice and large similar to the Mumbai domestic departure. Climbing up the stairs, I proceeded towards Security check. It was here that I discovered what the hype was all about. Built on the lines of an International Airport, it had a variety of shops to spend your time. A crossword (A chain of book stores) was the obvious priority given my love for books. A book heavier and several hundred rupees lighter, I proceeded to check out the stuff at Shoppers Stop - which had a full fledged store in there. There was also a shop that sold the regular airport gifts like Snickers, Mars, Nuts etc. A nicely laid out Barista (coffee shop like the Starbucks) and an Illi (American coffee shop) were all there for one to sit down and relax.

None of the cramped surroundings, no scrambling for seats. No buses to put you on the aircraft (they used the chutes like International Airlines). Walking into my flight, I bid adieu to Bangalore, to the memorable time I had there and to the latest addition in its cap - it's cool new airport!

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Kaffiiaa Reviewed

Now I know how proud one feels when your child does well...for me, my articles have that place as of now :)!! So when one of my favourite reviews gets published, it does make me happy...

Check out my latest review on rediff...it's about an Italian Restaurant in Noida called Kaffiiaa. One of my favourites these days, for their splendid food and unbeatable prices.

You can find the article here


The decor


Outdoor Seating

Sunday 14 September 2008

Delhi attacked...shaken but not stirred.

The inevitable happened. The Capital (Delhi) was rocked by bomb blasts yesterday evening. It wasn't shocking as it was bound to happen keeping in line with the series of blasts happening these few months across the nation. So this post is not about the futility of such violence. It is not even about where I was when it happened and how I felt, because the people who want to know that already called and asked...

The post is about those people. A catastrophy like this acts like a distiller in one's life sometimes. You see clearly what you mean to people. People who'se lives would be affected drastically were you injured, called within 5 minutes of the blast. They didn't bother with sms, they picked up the phone to hear your voice and if you were ok. My list was quite predictable. Ras heard it on the news in the middle of Canada at what must have been breakfast time for her and went frantic. My best friends did not miss a beat either....

People who care about you in some way, messaged within the hour to check on your family's well being. Again predicatably, my friends in other cities wrote in to see if all was ok....

Not so predictable was the indifference of a few though.

As I said, those few hours acted as a distiller. The blasts themselves deserve another blog...perhaps in a couple of months when it has sunk in and the fear has gone though....

Thursday 11 September 2008

To write or not to write - It ain't a question no more..

A few minutes back, a friend introduced me to a treasure....the works of Henry Charles Bukowski. A poet that I had not heard of, but a man after my own heart. Below is a poem of his that seems as if it came straight from my head:

So You Want To Be A Writer

If it doesn't come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don't do it.
Unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut,
don't do it.
If you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your typewriter searching for words,
don't do it.
If you're doing it for money or fame,
don't do it.
If you're doing it because you want women in your bed,
don't do it.
If you have to sit there and rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
If it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
If you're trying to write like somebody else,
forget about it.
If you have to wait for it to roar out of you,
then wait patiently.
If it never does roar out of you, do something else.

If you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

Don’t be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and pretentious, don't be consumed with self- love.
The libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to sleep over your kind.
Don’t add to that.
Don’t do it.
Unless it comes out of your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would drive you to madness or suicide or murder,
don't do it.
Unless the sun inside you is burning your gut,
don't do it.

When it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

There is no other way.

And there never was.

------------------------------------------

And if there ever was any doubt in my head, I now know for sure that I was born to write. Because anything that happens in my life, the first thing that comes to my head is - "How will I write about this, what tone will I take...". Its like the words are dying to come out...

The Husband sometimes kids (or maybe not) that if I talked aloud whatever I write, I would be a very talkative person...more social as well....words on a paper (or now a keyboard thanks to modern science) express more than I will ever say out loud. Now I know its not strange, it just makes me who I am...

Tuesday 9 September 2008

On a busy Monday evening...

I was driving home yesterday after work. As much as I love to drive, the stretch of 18 Kms. choco-block with traffic is not my idea of fun. While driving, I got a call from a colleague about a website that had not been updated with our information. I opened my laptop on the passenger's seat and connected to the internet while driving. Everytime the traffic would slow down, I would type 5 words on the keyboard. I would go slow on red lights so that I would have the time to reload the page.

After around 40 odd minutes of driving when I finally sent the email that I was working on, still driving home, I suddenly had a strange experience. It was as if I saw myself as a third person would see me. On the wheel of my car, trying to focus on the road at the same time as stealing moments to work on the laptop. And it hit me. It hit me how completely ridiculous I was being. How could I let myself get so involved in something that I would risk my own wellbeing. Leave alone the danger factor in what I was doing. The point is that it was so completely irrelevant in the larger scheme of life. And I was becoming a slave to the system.

Needless to say, the laptop was forced shut that very instant. The next 20 minutes were spent singing loudly along the soundtrack of 'Rock On'. And that is the story of how I yet again saved myself from becoming the exact person I loathe.

Sunday 7 September 2008

A Wednesday - watch it NOW....

Bollywood amazes me often these days. We are not churning out dated scripts with the same formula anymore. Rather, the same subject is being treated differently. To be frank, when I heard that 'A Wednesday' was based losely on the Mumbai blasts, I sighed to myself. The subject has been done to death and yet another film playing on the emotional angle of the blasts did not excite me. Nevertheless, being a good sport, I agreed to go watch it.



The film not only surprised me, it made me sit up and say 'Wow'! The script itself is unique and I wouldnt want to spoil it for you by telling the story. So I wont. Let us instead discuss the cast. The movie is built on 2 pillars, one being the extremely talented Anupam Kher and the second equally if not more - Naseeruddin Shah. Anupam Kher is so brilliant in his role that you find yourself hanging on to every word of his. He's smart, sharp and composed....characteristics that make him believable in his role of Commissioner of Police - Mumbai.

Naseeruddin has time and again proven himself and he does it yet again...in a role where he has to play various characters at once, he does a job par excellence. The rest of the cast does a good job as well. Jimmy Shergill plays the angry young man in an interesting fashion. He's put on some weight and thankfully cut his hair...all in all, surprisingly he looks good as well.

The movie is fast and the plot races on. When you feel you've got it all figured out, it takes a complete U Turn and leaves you speechless. The script also questions right and wrong and confuses you on what emotion you should feel at the end. If you like cinema that makes a statement, go watch this film. It will make you sit up. If on the other hand, you watch movies only for entertainment and songs, give this one a skip, my friend.

Rating: 4 on 5

Wednesday 3 September 2008

Moment of Truth

With the recent influx of game shows, all of them tend to look alike after a point. American Idol merges into America’s Got Talent… ‘Are you smarter than a fifth grader’ is only a step away from ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’…So in the middle of all this cacophony, I stumbled upon a show called ‘Moment of Truth’ on Star World

The format is a question – answer show. The participants have to answer questions on their lives in front of their family. There is a polygraph that decides whether the person has spoken truthfully or not. The more questions you answer truthfully, the more money you make. Simple, isn’t it? Not so, my dear.

The questions range from a simple ‘Have you ever stolen money’ to more intimate questions. Take for example last week’s show. This sweet looking girl sat on the answering chair. Also present were her husband, her parents and her sister. Imagine her quandary when she is asked ‘Were you in love with someone else on your wedding night’. More than that, imagine her husband’s reaction when she replied ‘I have to say yes’. The follow up question was even better and as a surprise was asked by a guest – her ex-boyfriend. He asked her ‘Do you think I am the man you should be married to’. On national television, the girl replied ‘Yes’. As if this wasn’t enough in wrecking her marriage, the next question did the trick. When asked ‘Have you had any sexual relations with anyone other than your husband since you have been married’, any self respecting person would leave the show if the answer was affirmative. In the quest not to lose the money, she went ahead and said Yes.

Ofcourse she lost all the money on a simple question like ‘Do you think you are a good person’. But the point is that she was ready to risk her marriage and the stability of her life for the money.

And it makes great viewing. Our natural instinct to see someone squirm in their seats makes us all voyeurs. And makes the show a great hit!! Go check it out…

Sunday 31 August 2008

Rock On rocks all the way...

Refreshing, honest and real. Thats Rock On in a nutshell. It's not a movie that pretends to be something else. Its not a soppy romance nor is it a documentary on rock bands. The movie is a story of 4 friends who have a band called 'Magik'. As life takes over and makes them move away in different directions, they find themselves stuck in a life that they never wanted. The music still plays in their veins but can not find expression anymore.



Some say that the movie reminds them of Dil Chahta Hai. That may be inevitable as Farhan Akhtar not only acts in the film but has also produced it. But frankly, I could find no part I could say was influenced from the film.

Farhan Akhtar, as expected, does brilliantly! The man is sheer genius which given his genetic make is not surprising. What do you expect when you put the talent of Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar together! He not only does a great job acting (and its a good role which shows various facets of his personality), he actually sings all his songs!! The man can direct, act, sing and looks great too!! Some people have it all!

Luke Kenny plays Rob on the keyboard. He too does a decent job of his role. Arjun Rampal seems a little restrained in his acting and sometimes one feels like shaking him up and saying "Come on...we know you can loosen up". But all said and done, he manages to play the frustrated loser quite well. Prachi Desai plays the elegant sweet wife of the rich man and does a passable act.

My favourite in the movie though is Purab Kohli. The man is so versatile and manages to get a smile on your face everytime he's on the screen. I'm not sure if it's a factor of the script or his acting, but he wins hands down.

I liked the movie for its casting largely. The cast consists of people for whom acting is not their main profession. Farhan is a director, Luke a former DJ went on to head programming at Channel V and quit in Feb this year to pursue his interests in music and films. Arjun Rampal is an erstwhile super-model. All of them started off doing something else and realised that their heart was not in that. Not too many people have the guts to walk away from the familiar and try out something new.

The music of the movie gets you tapping your feet and even before the film is over, you are already waiting to get your hands on a CD.

All in all, Rock On rocks....its a movie made for the metros and for people like us who can probably relate to it. Who isn't stuck in a job far removed from what they thought they would do back in school right??

Rating: 3.5 on 5

Tuesday 26 August 2008

The latest kid on the block...

The new LG KF510...my latest gadget. I am quite shallow when it comes to gadgets..don't really care much about the nitty gritty of it. I dont ask for much either - Requirement number 1: Must be VERY sexy to look at. Requirement number 2: Should be user friendly (Can't do the whole thing of reading manuals and all. Requirement number 3: Should not be very common. Requirement number 4: Did I mention sexy??



My latest LG fits all these categories. With all jazz given like a 3MP camera with auto focus and flash, FM, bluetooth blah blah .... the phone does the one thing that others in the market have not been able to do. Stand Apart. Just have a look at the red display and you will know what I mean.

The touchpad, though ultra cool, does take a little getting used to. Dialing with one hand on the steering and eyes on the road can be a drag (not that I advocate doing that)! The vibration mode also is a little soft. And as all my friends roll their eyes and say - it still is a LG. Keeping fingers crossed that it lasts long enough for me to show it off. But all said and done....wow, what a phone!!

Thursday 21 August 2008

Birthday time!!

Because I never knew that I was the luckiest person in the whole world!! I had an inkling, but I never really knew :)!! And for the first time, I am not sad that my birthday is over....because I had the most amazing day ever yesterday.

I am lucky because the Husband outdid himself yesterday! He planned an entire party, in my own house, calling our friends over....managed everything right under my nose, and I had no clue!!

I am also lucky coz as I mentioned before, I have the bestest friends in the whole world! They do it so effortlessly everytime.... make me feel special! They planned it all...full with baloons and gifts....down to the last detail!

And to all of you who made it over yesterday....thanks for being a part of it. It being in the middle of the week, and traffic being a bore....you guys are the best!!

Tuesday 19 August 2008

A weekend in Shahdol

There are some times in life that you find yourself in a moment stuck in time. In that moment, it doesn’t matter how successful you have become, or how many accolades you have gained. It doesn’t matter how fast life seems to pass you by. Because in that time warp, all that matters is the moment itself.


Imagine walking along a river bed. The water flowing besides you, sometimes calm, sometimes fast. As you hop along the rocks on the riverbed, the water seems to want to join in and cascades down a waterfall in pursuit.

Now imagine walking up a gentle slope to a temple atop a hillock. You walk behind the temple and sit down on the parapet below a huge Peepul tree. As the wind blows through you hair, you watch the lands stretch out towards you. Acres and acres of green farmland. And time stands still.

This is the weekend I had. Our visit to Shahdol was primarily to meet The Husband’s grand parents and spend time with them. But little did I know that this gem of a town would charm me such. This post is not a travelogue, that will come later in a more commercial forum. This post is about the fact that a 2 day trip to a serene environment like this can help calm your soul like nothing else can.

As we walked along the narrow streets of Shahdol, it did not matter what deadlines we had to meet and where we had to reach in life. What mattered was the moment. The ‘now’. The little things that we so often forget. And things that we rarely notice. Like a crow in the courtyard asking for its daily meal. Like the fact that water from a well still tastes much sweeter than any Evian you may buy. Like the fact that a grandfather wants nothing more than to have someone to share his thoughts with. And that a grandmother gets no greater pleasure than to have her family sit around her and devour the delicious food she so lovingly prepared.

Because, we so often forget to stop and smell the flowers. I know…because I smelt them in Shahdol.

Monday 11 August 2008

Singh is in the house!!

Singh is King, Singh is King, Singh is King….

Songs that are fun to hum…characters who make you laugh…and the pyramids in the background! Singh is King may not be the blockbuster some of us envisioned it to be, but an entertainer it sure is.



Akshay Kumar plays the role of a villager from Punjab who is sent to Australia to bring back Lucky, a fellow villager who has now become the king of all dons in Australia. In the middle of all this madness ofcourse, he somehow finds himself in Egypt (the locales justify the lack of logic) dancing with Katrina and eventually (predictably) brings out the goodness in the goon gang.

Why did I like the movie? Well, frankly I was getting tired of movies stereotyping Sikhs as silly side actors who were around for a laugh. Whatever this movie may not have been able to do, it surely succeeded in making Sikhs cool!!! Dude, imagine Snoop Dogg wearing a turban and rapping with Akshay…and not the Southall kind of rapping, truly good stuff!! It can’t get cooler than that! So when you have a turbaned Lucky doing crazy stunts on para-gliders and all, its not so funny no more!!

Besides this sudden burst of pride towards Sikhs, the movie had its funny moments with Akshay’s excellent comic timing and the funny man himself- Javed Jaffrey to boot. Katrina Kaif looked as gorgeous as ever. It’s amazing how we are perfectly ok with her inability to act or emote…because she is just so gorgeous isn’t she? Neha Dhupia surprisingly has a meatier role than Katrina and does a decent job in it. Ranveer and Om Puri both remain under-utilized but you can not have the spot light on everyone now can you?? So all in all, the movie was about Akshay Kumar ….showcasing him and his amazing screen presence.

Watch the film if you liked Namaste London. You’ll come out smiling for sure. Just don’t expect any national awards here.

Rating: 3 on 5

Friday 8 August 2008

Of education..and clipping wings...

I got this article in my mail as a forward. I am not the kind of person who usually bothers with forwards, more often than not, they directly hit my trash can. Curiosity got the better of me and I clicked on it. The title read: The disadvantages of an elite education. That being interesting enough, add to it that its written by a student and now professor at Yale.

You can read the article here

The article touches many topics, most of which I identified with. Though it is set in the American system and the examples are all location specific, I found it to be as indicative of our B-schools as possible. There are a lot of things I agree with including the fact that it makes us socially incapable but this blog is about another point.

I always felt that I was apart from the crowd, did not fit in because my idea of the life I want to lead is not the typical management student’s dream. I don’t dream of being a CEO or running a $40 billion enterprise. I don’t see the point in traveling the world if you don’t have time to stop and smell the flowers, I rather backpack. But reading this made me realize that I am not alone.

It says “If one of the disadvantages of an elite education is the temptation it offers to mediocrity, another is the temptation it offers to security. When parents explain why they work so hard to give their children the best possible education, they invariably say it is because of the opportunities it opens up. But what of the opportunities it shuts down? An elite education gives you the chance to be rich—which is, after all, what we’re talking about—but it takes away the chance not to be. Yet the opportunity not to be rich is one of the greatest opportunities with which young Americans have been blessed. We live in a society that is itself so wealthy that it can afford to provide a decent living to whole classes of people who in other countries exist (or in earlier times existed) on the brink of poverty or, at least, of indignity. You can live comfortably in the United States as a schoolteacher, or a community organizer, or a civil rights lawyer, or an artist—that is, by any reasonable definition of comfort. You have to live in an ordinary house instead of an apartment in Manhattan or a mansion in L.A.; you have to drive a Honda instead of a BMW or a Hummer; you have to vacation in Florida instead of Barbados or Paris, but what are such losses when set against the opportunity to do work you believe in, work you’re suited for, work you love, every day of your life?

Yet it is precisely that opportunity that an elite education takes away. How can I be a schoolteacher—wouldn’t that be a waste of my expensive education? Wouldn’t I be squandering the opportunities my parents worked so hard to provide? What will my friends think? How will I face my classmates at our 20th reunion, when they’re all rich lawyers or important people in New York? And the question that lies behind all these: Isn’t it beneath me? So a whole universe of possibility closes, and you miss your true calling.”


When I took a sabbatical to rethink my life and find a direction I wanted to follow rather than go through the corporate rut, within a month of doing so these same doubts found their way back into my head. The fact that I am well educated, rather than spurring me on, pulled me back into the race to make money. It was hinted and sometimes blatantly stated that it would be a complete waste of my education if I did not use it and work in a corporate job. The perception of my intelligence, my standing as an individual and the entire purpose of my life suddenly changed.

I write all this here as an attempt to remind myself of who I am and the way I want to live…hoping that I will find it in me to tear away from all this and be content.

Thursday 7 August 2008

Co-ed hostels....OMG!!!

There's a statement in the front page of the Newspaper today given by the principal of St.Stephens college in Delhi. For those who are not familiar with education in India, admission in Delhi University is a dream of many and St. Stephens is arguably the best graduation college in DU to get into for courses especially in science. So much so that the cut off percentage for most courses stops at some obscene 92% odd which means only the extremely brainy or the talented(for sports quotas etc.) get through (leaving aside other quotas ofcourse).

So when the principal reacts to a proposal of a Co-ed hostel by saying "If we go for co-ed hostels, we will have to build maternity wards next to it", it just strikes me as absurd. And a cover-up of Oh-I-was-just-kidding is even more so. Sometimes, I feel, we really should give more credit to people. I agree that parents and professors are only concerned and in some cases their concerns are even justified. But if you allow a person that age to vote and choose the leaders of your country....to get behind the wheel and drive on the roads, then allowing them to make choices about their own life doesnt seem too daunting.

A case in point is the institute I did my post grad from. MICA has a beautiful campus in the middle of a jungle outside Ahmedabad. When I say jungle, I really don't exaggerate. Getting from there to the city usually involves a change of 2-3 modes of transport. In the middle of this wilderness, MICA is governed by Professor Atul Tandan, a notable name in the corporate world who chose to get into academics. Thankfully, PAT (as he insists on being called) is of the opinion that everyone is capable of making their own decisions and are responsible individuals. Thus, MICA is not run with a stick in hand like some institutes. When I was there, PAT decided that our accomodation crunch would be solved by allocating one hostel as a co-ed hostel, one as boys hostel and one as girls. There was no fanfare nor were there any eyebrows raised on such a decision. Contrary to the beliefs of people like the principal of St.Stephens, we all did not jump in joy and rush to get a room in the co-ed hostel. Most of us preffered our space, and chose to live in the separate hostels....who wanted to see a guy outside the door early in the morning when we went out for tea?? Some students did choose to live in the co-ed one and believe me, it really WASN'T a big deal!!!

So all in all, we got through MICA without the need of any maternity ward....no permanent damage was suffered by anyone in my batch to the best of my knowledge. And we got through just fine....

So, sir, with all due respect, please give the kids a break!!!

Wednesday 6 August 2008

Kismat Konnection ... zzzzzz

I’ve been avoiding writing a review on this one. One feels like reviewing a movie that you either like or dislike. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t reach either ends of the spectrum and leaves one just blandly indifferent. Which is probably the worst fate for a movie.

The premise is not too bad. Shahid Kapoor has the worst luck in the world and life just doesn’t seem fair. In a moment of complete despair, he visits a fortune teller (Juhi Chawla) who tells him that there will be one person who will cross his path and all will be fine. This person predictably happens to be Vidya Balan who even more predictably happens to hate Shahid the second they cross paths. The movie moves along with then ofcourse eventually falling in love.



So what really worked for the movie? Hmm….not much. The location was not bad, being shot in South-East Asia. The songs were forgettable and not much to write home about. Acting also was really quite blah with everyone just getting by their roles. Shahid for some strange reason tried to do a mix of going back to the cute boy look of his earlier flops and an imitation of a shirtless Salman with his formidable biceps getting full coverage. Someone should have told him to stick with the corporate look he had in Jab we met with specs and shirts….that just ended up making him look incredibly sexy. Which brings me to the actress who has probably forgotten what sexy looks like. I hate to repeat what magazines claim but Vidya Balan truly is one of the worst dressed actresses today. Her clothes seem awkward and her hairstyle way too random. It’s hard to believe that she is the same woman who defined beauty as Parineeta. Juhi is cute as ever but she barely had a role. Probably the best part of the film is Boman Irani’s little cameo. He really is a brilliant actor and remains under-utilized.

All in all, quite forgettable. Watchable on DVD but towards the end, you may just doze off.

Rating: 2 on 5

PS- I know the snap is not from this movie. But he just has never looked so good since Jab We Met, has he??

Sunday 3 August 2008

Celebrating friends...

I've said it before and I'll say it again...I am just so lucky to be surrounded by people who love me…and have through the years. I have been one of the lucky ones who found friends who stayed despite the storms and the silences. My friends make me who I am. If I were to explain to you here what they mean to me, it would be pointless, because unless you are one of them, you wont really understand.

My friends from school, or rather from the day my earliest memory starts, are still the people I call when I need a hand. It would be silly to slot them into any group….because they are a part of who I am. 21 years I have known them…and not once have they let me down.

College days wouldn’t have been the same without my friends there. Redefining ‘cool’ and making a place like Ahmedabad rock, we did it all!

And then there is him….I got lucky….my soulmate is also my best friend. I did not know how it was possible for someone to be so giving, so selfless, until I met him.

Friendship days are corny....but in the spirit of celebrating each day, I raise a toast to my friends who make me who I am...

* To Rasna, because sisters make the best of friends
* To Neha, for knowing just what to say and when not to say anything....
*To Bini, for just never saying no to my plans....and egging me on...
*To Shri, for bringing some sanity and some madness to our lives....
*To Kani, for just being so Kani!!!
*To Hritik, who redefines being accomodating!
*To Banka/ Gandhi/ Aashish, for it being just the same when we meet, no matter how much time has passed
*To Leks, because distances…or years don’t matter
*To Anju, roomies that shared lives and continue doing so…
*To Rakhi, my partner in crime and yet so wise
*To Surbhi, my little bit of Delhi in Abad
*And lastly….to him…because I wouldn’t be complete without you.

Thursday 31 July 2008

Delhi on high alert...

Apparently there is a threat mail sent to the Japanese Embassy on about how Delhi is going to be the next target for the bombs after Bangalore and Ahmedabad according to the story here

I dont believe in these sort of things usually. When someone bothers to threaten, rarely is it ever carried out. Who has to do does. When the Met department says its going to rain, it rarely ever does.

Having said that, please be safe....if you are in Delhi or any place in India for that matter, do be safe and vigillant.

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Mindless futility....

7 blasts in Bangalore.....16 in Ahmedabad....2 car bombs found and diffused in Surat. Well planned and perfectly coordinated to create panic and chaos. A letter sent to a media company claiming responsibility for the same. Achievement - zilch.

After I got through the first few minutes of worry and contacted the few I know in the respective cities, the futility of it all hit me. 40 odd dead....200 injured. And what gained? The chaos that the culprits wanted did not reign. The effort was full - the mail claiming responsibility also said that this was a revenge for Gujarat (presumably the 2002 riots). Must have hoped that people will suddenly turn to their illogical evil sides and take to the streets creating mayhem. What happened? People went home and slept. Gujarat riots are a topic I avoid for fear of rambling on with sentimentality stuffed in. But I truly think that people are just sick of this crap. They dont really care about politics and are becoming immune to the voilence that tries to stir such emotions. At least I hope so.

For all who were there in those times, hope your families are well. This too shall pass.

Monday 28 July 2008

Kung Fu Panda Reviewed....

We really should stop watching those Jackie Chan types Kung Fu movies! In a day and age when animation is no longer for kids but more real and entertaining than reality is (If you don’t believe me, go check out ‘The Curse of the Golden Flower’) , it is not a wonder that Kung Fu Panda has a huge adult fan base. This weekend, it was this movie that we checked out and we couldn’t have been happier.



Kung Fu Panda is the story of a bungling panda, Po, who has always dreamt of being a kung fu warrior. Unfortunately his father (who happens to be a goose) does not encourage the same and wishes to hand over his noodle shop business to him. By a stroke of luck and a lot of clumsiness, Po finds himself in the middle of the Kung Fu scene much to the disappointment of the master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and the Furious Five - Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Crane (David Cross) — a quintet of supremely skilled martial artists trained by Shifu.

Extremely entertaining, the movie is not only hilarious in parts, but also has fabulous action and theatrics. Tiny parts of the movie like Po getting completely out of breath every time he has to climb the zillion steps up to the hall are a delight. The action scenes like when the Furious Five fight Tai Lung, beat any Kung Fu movie hands down.

The movie also managed to have a lesson to be learnt unlike movies these days. “There is no secret”, which means that if you believe you can do it and the other person perceives you as one who can, then anything is attainable.

A movie to be thoroughly enjoyed…..as proven by the VERY loud strangers sitting next to us and guffawing at every second dialogue. So, don’t take my word for it, go check it out yourself. And no, you are not too old for this one….

Rating: 3.5 on 5

Friday 25 July 2008

Of random thoughts...and yummy munchies

So here I am, finally got a new haircut to beat the boredom (much to the despair of the Husband), planned a trip to meet his grandparents at their place in Shahdol (Madhya Pradesh) in August and waiting for the Friday evening to dawn. Life is not too bad I would say! So as you would have guessed by now, I don’t have a new story to tell or a review to share today but the random ramblings of my thoughts. Which, I guess, is the point of Thought Express (duh!!)…

I have also discovered a new snack to patronize and I have been dying to share it. Top Breads in Noida Sector 18 has come up with a thing called “Chicken Pocket”. It is essentially a quarter of a Pita bread, halved in the middle and filled with coleslaw and chicken with lettuce. Divine!!!!! Somehow most roads go via Top Breads these days ;)!!

Ofcourse, if you rather just sit in front of the TV and munch on some chips, here’s the secret behind a great dip I make sometimes:



Ingredients:
Mayonnaise – 2 tbsp
Hung curd – 3 tbsp
Mustard sauce – A dash
Maggie chicken masala cube- ½ cube (I don’t know the substitute for this in other countries…Ras, pl suggest)
Chilli Flakes – ½ tsp

Method:
Mix all ingredients and blend into a smooth paste. Enjoy as a dip with chips, nachos, chicken nuggets and almost anything!!! To alter the flavor, you can substitute the chilli flakes with oregano or other herbs. Do not mix flavors though, stick to one.

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Monsoon Styles

Monsoons pulling you down? Check out my article on Rediff about how to dress smart this monsoon.

Get the complete article here.

Some of the snaps I had saved for this and really liked but didn't make it:


Photograph: Loleia

Monday 21 July 2008

Batman....this one's forever!



What happens when comic books don’t remain for kids anymore? They become cults! And that is what “The Dark Knight” has promised to make Batman into. No theatrics of animated characters like the Riddler. No perfectly painted faces. No fancy random gadgetry a la 007. Just pure superhero versus villain.

And what a villain. Before I went and saw the movie, I had already read reviews that raved about Heath Ledger’s performance and how he had immortalized himself. It all seemed like one of those “He’s gone so let’s just say something nice about him” sort of tales. And then I watched the movie. The man is so talented that he did not just immortalize himself, rather went ahead and immortalized the Joker. It wasn’t just his chalky make up or his brilliant lines “I won’t kill you coz you are just too much fun”. It was his persona, his being. He sent shivers down your spine, made you wish you didn’t leave the kids alone at home. He made batman look inept. And that is no mean feat.

Batman himself was alright. Nothing great, I especially failed to understand why his voice suddenly became raspy the second he donned his suit. But the effects were fab! Don’t miss the scene when the batmobile transforms into a super bike (sorry for the spoiler…couldn’t hold myself back). The girl was not really required, but then it’s a superhero movie, what did you expect?

Harvey Dent was another character played brilliantly. The make up in the second half left me cringing which was the point I guess!

All in all, I wouldn’t call myself an authority on Superhero flicks, but in my modest opinion, this one beats them all. The best superhero film ever made. 152 minutes that leave you wanting for more. The Dark Knight reigns supreme.

Rating: 5 on 5 (4 for the movie and 1 in tribute to the best Joker there ever was).

Thursday 17 July 2008

Jaane Tu...ya jaane na...

With my faithful friends grumbling about the delay of my review on Jaane Tu (Neha the Deva’s grudges can be very daunting!), I decided it was but time I wrote about it. On our crazy Movie Saturday last week, we started the day with Jaane Tu – the film people can’t stop gushing about.

Actually it’s wrong to call it ‘gushing’. Jaane Tu leaves you with a feeling like you are floating on air. None of the awe on direction that Johnny Gaddar demanded or the acting poweress shown in Omkara. But you leave the hall with a silly smile on your face. And that is the beauty of this movie. You enter the hall knowing EXACTLY what the story is going to be …. Boy and girl are friends….everyone else thinks they should be together….they date different people but finally realize they really should be together. And that’s it. No twist in the tale, no random fight scenes…..just pure predictable entertainment. The script writer made a brilliant move introducing this age old sequence of events in a fresh look without any jazz. And all this in an age where we are surrounded by cinema trying too hard….with people flying around and having talking pink teddy bears on their back (I mean what was Priyanka Chopra thinking???). Never underestimate the power of simplicity and the judgment of the audience.



To do a quick run-down on why I think the movie worked:
1.Simple story. No twists that can fall flat
2.New faces that don’t carry baggage of expectations
3.Variety of relationships ranging from brother-sister, best friends, parents-child, cousins, each one interesting in its own right.
4.A brilliant Naseeruddin Shah who can make you laugh even if he is stuck standing in a frame on the wall.
5.Peppy music that doesn’t bore the hell out of you a la AR Rehman

When I walked out of the hall with that silly smile on my face that I mentioned before, I turned to the Husband and the first thing I said was “They are so smart. They actually made a movie that is difficult to dislike”. And that’s the crux of this review. You may not love the movie or coo “soooooo cute” like some people have been heard to have said….but you will just find it so bloody difficult to dislike the film!!

Rating: 3.5 on 5

Tuesday 15 July 2008

Where time stands still....

The Husband on top of the world ... literally...

Location: Leh and around

















Photographs: Rohan Tiwary