Thursday, 31 December, 2009

The Year that Was...

Another year comes to a close....they seem to be merging into one another. I think back to New Years last year...or even the year before that. It’s all so vivid, as if it only happened yesterday. The years go by like a film in fast forward with the scenes blurring coz of the pace.

I've realized my life is alternating good years with those which could be better. By that logic, the next one should completely rock :)! On another note, lets think back of some of the things that made this year what it was. My personal goal in life of traveling temporarily satisfied with the countdown - 3 weeks roadtrip across Canada additional to weekend trips to Agra, Jaipur, Lucknow, Nainital, Mussoorie. Work trips to Goa, Bangalore and Mumbai. Not a bad count at all! 2 friends married off to their childhood sweethearts. Best friends moving out of town and some of them returning to visit often. One of my closest friends carrying a tiny version of herself inside her. Some relationships scarred. Some rediscovered. Professional satisfaction with getting exposure unlike any peer, handling new challenges and handling them well. My office moving to 5 kms away from my place which saved me the evil of Delhi traffic. I knew it was too good to be true when the corporate office moved yet again to Saket, 20 kms and a 2 hour drive away! I tried and fell for many new cuisines that I had not explored thoroughly before like Greek, Brazilian, Authentic Mexican, Malaysian, Sushi etc.

On a more macro level, the metro reached Noida. The media got a lot more aggressive which may be tiresome for celebrities but is good for increasing accountability amongst politicians, police and other government departments. TOI launched Crest which is a weekly ‘Readers’ Paper’ not for people like me who just browse quickly through the morning paper. Bollywood gave quite some duds but at the end of the year redeemed itself with Paa, Kaminey, 3 Idiots, Tum Mile and a handful more. A film based on India got an Oscar for the first time and an Indian of the stature of Rahman was honored there as well. The world also tragically and suddenly lost a great musician - Michael Jackson - the man who made everyone want to dance on the moon!!

All in all, an eventful year. And one that changed me in many ways. I find myself a slightly different person today than the one who ushered in New Year last year.

My last year’s New Year Resolution was to learn a new form of dance and thanks to my doting sister, I discovered the Salsa dancer in me.

My new year resolutions. A list of 10 so that I do manage to cross off a few by the end of it.

1. Get a doggie
2. Launch a business idea
3. Try yoga or art of living
4. Give more time and attention to my family and best friends.
5. Be more social
6. Find a publisher for my book “Quick and Yummy Recipes for the Working Woman”
7. Adopt a lifestyle where I live each hour of my day on my own terms
8. Laugh out loud more often
9. Travel to atleast 3 new destinations in the year
10. Be stronger

So thats all about me...What are yours???

Tuesday, 29 December, 2009

Avatar - A Phenomenon

It would be unfair to review this as a movie. One doesnt go to see Avatar as a film. If you did, thats where you went wrong. Avatar is a 3D experience. Nothing short of that. And if you havent seen it in 3D, go see it again. This time, see the real thing.

A storyline based on the done-to-death - there is another world called Pandora which is rich with a certain mineral that has a very high price on earth. Thus, humans find an indigenous way of turning their bodies to resemble those of the inhabitants of Pandora to convince them to move away so that we can loot their wealth.

So, whats new, you ask. Now with the storyline out of the picture is when you will be able to appreciate the world that this movie opens up for you. James Cameron conceptualised a world that is no less wonderous than "The Lord of the Rings" or "Potter". And that is saying a lot. Pandora is what dreams are made of. The trees rise to talk to the clouds like the 'Faraway Tree', flowers as large as humans glow in the dark and cotton seeds fly around like little angels. Every aspect of Pandora is phenomenal, be it the hammocks in which the natives sleep, the way the ground lights up when you take a step or even the floating mountains.

Seeing this film in 3D is like taking a walk through disneyland. The screen is so vivid that you sometimes feel that the arrow may come and hit you. The subtitles seem to float in the air and the computer screens in the film are designed in this fantastic semi circular way that seems surreal in 3D.

The experience only gets better as you get more involved in the film. The protagonist volunteers to go mix with the natives (Na'vis) to act as an insider for the US marines and eventually help drive them out. Predictably, he falls in love with the daughter of the clan leader, Neytiri. The film touches the core of your being in its sensitive portrayal of the Na'vis and you find yourself aligning with them and cursing the evil humans. They are pure...and brave...and wonderous.

It would be unfair to review this film. Or to rate it. It is not a film. As I said, it is an experience. It is a connect. Go, see it...and allow the Na'vis to let you into their world...

Friday, 25 December, 2009

3 Idiots Reviewed - Trust me .. Aaall is welll

Maslow is not always correct. Sometimes self actualisation cuts the queue and manages to weed its way through even before all other needs have been fulfilled. And that is what this movie is about. About not living a life for the sake of living it,but rather doing it on your own terms.

3 Idiots like many Aamir Khan films is not a movie, its a riot! The story line is based on Chetan Bhagat's "5 Point Someone", his first book and his best work till date. Its the story of 3 friends who meet at an engineering college in Delhi and how they change each other's lives. The films runs in flashbacks between their days at the college and the present where 2 of those friends are trying to look for thier 3rd pal who disappeared after the convocation.

The movie is smart and the script witty. Each scene has the audience in splits. The director does oscilate a little too often (and too suddenly) between tear jerk moments and comedy but you find yourself forgiving him this folly as you're too busy laughing your head off.

The actors have done a phenomenal job. Let me confess, I was very skeptical when I entered the hall! 42 odd year old men posing to be college students seemed just too ambitious to me. But thats the beauty of the film. It just doesnt matter how old they are or look. One is so immersed in the film that you dont bother with technicals like this. Madhavan shows once again that he can handle diverse roles with aplomb. He is fun, geeky and very likeable as Farhaan, the wannabe wildlife photographer whose father decided he would be an engineer 30 seconds after he was born. Sharman Joshi has incredible comic timing and has the audience in splits. What is more important though is that he can as easily urge a tear out as he can make one laugh out loud. He may never be SRK, but we should look forward to some very good work by him.

Boman Irani plays the dean of the college. A role too exaggerated to allow him room for improvisation. Having said that, he acts out his character perfectly as the stuck up arrogant professor whose aim in life is to churn out factory manufactured engineers who all have top grades but rarely have a mind of their own. His daughters Mona and Kareena did a great job too. In the tiny roles given to them, they amuse the audience.

As expected, this film is made for Aamir Khan and he is the focal point of the screenplay. But not in a hogging sort of way. He plays the guy who doesnt believe in conventions and challenges the system but not in a rebellious way. Rather through the belief that one should study for education, not degrees. Success will follow you, it shoulnt be the other way around. Sounds a little preachy? Well, Baba Rancho as they rightly call him in the film, is always ready to distribute free gyaan. But you forgive him as well. Because he gives to us the most hillarious scene in recent times involving a speech on Teachers Day which is probably a well known hostel joke but nevertheless had the entire hall rolling on the floor.

Last but not the least, 2 more actors deserve credit. A new actor called "Omi" who plays the geeky "Chatur", the quintessential engineer who mugs up from the book and goes to US to buy his $3 million mansion with indoor swimming pool. The guy is so brilliantly funny that I find myself giggling as I type this. Also commendable are the efforts in a tiny role given to an actor who plays "millimetre", a boy who does odd jobs in the hostel.

The music in the film is already a hit nationally. Everyone can be seen humming to the tunes of "Aal is welll"....The other track "Saari Umr Hum" took me back to my MBA days. The feel of the song is typical hostel...the strumming of the guitar, the friends...

All in all, full paisa wasool. As I always say, please dont nitpick with things like how a certain scene involving delivering a baby is stretched or how the baby kicks in the womb everytime he hears the words "aal is well"...Dont bother with questions like this.

Buckle up. Get your popcorn ready coz you wouldnt want to miss a minute of this film. Go see it. For some great laughs. I loved it, you will too.

Rating: 4.5 on 5

Paisa Wasool Moment: When Aamir rushes Sharman's ailing father (who used to work in the postal department) to the hospital on a scooter - Sharman exclaims to Aamir how he could possibly get him on a scooter. To which Aamir retorts "to aur kya karta? speed post se bhejta??"

Friday, 18 December, 2009

Notre Dame - Not Paris yet but in Quebec

Absolute stunner of a church. Thought would share some images. The Notre Dame stands tall in the centre of the cultural district of Montreal and is absolutely breathtaking.

PS - Pl forgive the dark photography. The flash was not allowed indoors.

The Main Hall

The Wedding Hall inside

This instrument played during mass is made with more than 100 chimes and can only be played by this one guy who has been doing this for 30 years!!

Beautifully carved statues of saints

Wednesday, 16 December, 2009

The Thought Express goes places....

Check this out....

My first blog interview....of many more to come-

Read it here

Monday, 14 December, 2009

Paa Reviewed

Sue me - but I cant find a flaw in this film. After watching a film so overburdened with expectations...and still walking out appreciating it...there must be something fantastic at work here. Paa, the new baby from the Bachchan household (and ABCL) (and the only baby despite constant rumors about Ash and Abhi) doesnt disappoint. How important the film is to the family is obvious with the amount of effort they are putting into its promotions. And wearing that makeup must be a commendable task for senior!

But for a moment, do this. Forget who this movie is made by. Forget that the 12 year old boy in the film is actually India's living legend 5 times that age. Dont try to find Amitabh in the film. Coz you wont see him. And then, trust me, you will love the film as much as I did.

One would expect it to be a tear jerker. A yound kid with a rare disease that makes his body age 5 times faster than his real age. Kids can be brutal with peers about such diseases. Add to it, he's born out of wedlock which makes life a little more complicated for him. The perfect recipe for a teary film? That's what I thought when I walked in.

Thankfully - when I walked out, I thought differently. The story line of the film is well known by now. A student of gynocology and an aspiring politician fall in love and have a child. The child has a rare disorder in which his body ages 5-6 times faster than his real age. Thus, 12 year old Auro actually looks 65. Simple story.

But the movie works...and how. And it works because of 5 fantastic performers. So lets go in ascending order. At number 5 is the actress who plays Vidya Balan's mother. Brilliant performance. Strong. Touching. Real.

At number 4, we have younger Bachchan. As much as I dislike most of his films with the exception of Guru and Bunty aur Bubbly, the effort he puts in for this role shows right through. He's believable, smart, reminds us of Rahul Gandhi and Sachin Pilot as intended and is instantly likeable. The white kurta pyjamas that the sports through the film suit him much better than most looks he has experimented with.

At number 3, we have Vishnu - Auro's best friend. This little 2/2 kid with his witty one liners is fantastic. He's quick, he's funny and he's adorable!

At number 2, is an actress that we all love to bash - for immaterial things like her dressing sense. Vidya Balan is one of the most under-rated actors in Indian Cinema. The strength of her performance that we got a glimpse of in Parineeta comes out in full force here. She's strong yet vulnerable....she's beautiful...and she's believable. She doesnt resort to unnecessary theatrics, and yet steals the show. She plays Auro's mother - and does the impossible. She doesnt allow us for a moment to pity the child, but to appreciate him. And she is one of the prettiest actresses in India today. She may not wear tiny dresses, but let someone see her in the film and tell me that she's not gorgeous! Be it her student avtaar with curly hair and skirts or her doctor look with beautiful saris...she personifies elegance here!

So let us now come to number 1. As expected, the star of the show is a little boy called Auro. He wins not because of who plays the role. But because of the character given to him. He is hillarious and witty. Auro doesnt solicit sympathy for a moment. Instead, he plays a role that is so funny that we cant wait to see what he says next. The script writer deserves an award here.....and Auro, for bringing the script to life.

Many people dont like the film. Say it disappoints them. Pit it against 'The curious case of Benjammin Button'. Dont do that. Its not even a similar story. Dont listen to them either. Go with an open mind and let yourself be entertained. And it shall.

Rating: 4.5 on 5

Paisa Wasool Moment: Vishnu's quips like "My father doesnt understand me. I'm a creative person na...he cant get me!! One he's given me his face, for which he should be saying sorry to me for the rest of my life....and yet he treats me this way"!!!

Sunday, 6 December, 2009

Tum Mile Reviewed

Let me disclaim at the onset that this review shall not include my opinion of the actress in the film. It is a matter of principle. Nevertheless, a film is the combination of efforts of various people and this one is an effort that demands appreciation, thus I shall review it.

Tum Mile is a tale of the day that Mumbai was flooded. Not the annual rain floods that Mumbai-ites are so used to, but a day that the rain gods tested the city. Actually, let me retract that, it is not a tale of the floods. It is a tale of 2 people. 2 people who fell in love 9 years before this fateful day far away in Cape Town. Who discovered each other and the joys of togetherness. Who found a sense of being complete together. And whose paths went different ways 3 years later.

That fateful day, Mumbai brought those two together. In a moment where one doesn’t know whether we will see the rising sun the next day or not, clarity is a thing that comes suddenly. One suddenly realizes what one wants, what one yearns for. The one person whose wellbeing is of upmost importance. The one face one needs to see lest the dawn never arrives.

The film works because of its reality quotient. The relationship the 2 shared in the past is easy to relate to. Their fights are real, their frustrations are as are the way they deal with them. The film doesn’t over dramatize unnecessarily. It is easy to dwell on things like the father who never has time for his family but the director steers clear of such trivialities and keeps the story on course. And keeps it real.

The sound track of the film like all Emraan Hashmi films is exceptional. Each song touches the heart.

The movie also works largely because of the actors. The 2 protagonists carry the film almost single-handedly (or double handedly if there’s such a word) on their shoulders with the other actors not having too much screen time. The only other person who has a meaty role is the friend who seems like a first time actor and yet does a good job.

Don’t nitpick in the film. I don’t know how a painter/ waiter can afford a pad like the one they stay in. I also don’t understand why the friend would agree to walk around the flooded city to help his friend’s girl and not head home to his own wife who must be worried sick. But as I said, don’t bother with these.

All in all, worth a watch. Good ol’ love story. Feel good.

Review: 3.5 on 5

Wednesday, 25 November, 2009

Sunday Brunch @ The Yum Yum Tree

Sunday Brunches have a charm of their own. There is something about Delhi’s winter afternoons that demand indulgence. A lazy morning following the late Saturday night that leads up to an afternoon of sin is the perfect way to spend a weekend.

In terms of selection of cuisines, my obvious preference is always Italian. My parents often joke that I should have been born in Italy rather than India. After Italian, my list would perhaps move on to Mediterranean. Which is why, I surprised myself this Sunday by opting for an Oriental Brunch. I had heard a lot about the “Yum Yum Tree” at New Friends Colony and decided that it was time to pay a visit.

Located in a market that defies logic, having some of the better pubs in town and yet always seeming so shady, the restaurant has created its own niche by not sticking to Chinese or Japanese cuisines. “The Yum Yum Tree” has a variety of tastes on offer be they from Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, China, Malaysia or Korea. To put it slightly, it is not a budget meal. The Sunday brunch costs Rs.1500 per person inclusive of tax (including unlimited cocktails and beer) but in my opinion, is worth every penny.

The décor is modern fusion with a lot of interplay of colors. There is a section that has been created especially for kids to play in and keep busy, a haven for parents looking for a meal out. We were ushered in to take our seats. The tables have been placed around an innovative concept not seen in India – a Sushi conveyor belt. The belt goes round and round serving fresh Sushi as the chefs prepare them.

As Sunday brunches should, the meal starts with drinks of your choice. The brunch includes unlimited cocktails from their list or Tiger beer. I would highly recommend the Mojitos. Well flavored with lime and mint, the drink is smooth and comes in a HUGE tumbler. They also have a range of Grey Goose Martinis you can choose from or stick to the safe Spiced Bloody Mary.

The servers start the first course with platters of Sushi served on your table. I was never a Sushi fan until I had someamazing sushi in Canada and now I officially call myself a convert. The crab sushi and the prawns sushi at YYT were phenomenal and I could not get enough of them. The next course served promptly is that of starters. The basil flavored Prawn skewers were well herbed. If you like them, the chicken satays were great too, though I honestly don’t like the peanut sauce that Indonesian food cant seem to do without. There was an interesting roll made with crispy duck. For the vegetarian palette, there were Wasabi Stuffed Mushrooms and a surprisingly good Cheese Wonton served with Mango Relish. The Beef Bulgogi, a Korean preparation was just right but the coup de grace was the Pork Spare Ribs. The ribs, dipped in barbeque sauce were to die for!!

This was then followed with a course of 6 types of Dimsums with 2 veg varieties, and one each with pork, chicken, prawns and beef. I am not a Dimsum person so this is one course I gave a skip.

And thank god I did. Because, this is when they brought on the main course dishes. One could choose between or have all of them ranging from Three Ginger Chicken, Thai Red Curry, Malay coconut curry prawns, Stir Fried mushrooms, Noodles, Roti Canai and Rice. My favourite was the prawn curry with steamed rice.

By now, my stomach was protesting that it could not under any circumstance be subjected to any more food. Nevertheless, not listening to it as I rarely do, I went ahead and dug into the Chocolate Mud Cake and the Cheese Cake for desert.

All in all, full value for money. By the time we walked out of the place, I believe I must have weighed atleast an extra 3 Kgs. But it was so worth it. Highly recommended.

PS – There is a smaller but similar spread on their Tuesday Deals (Rs.550 + tax inclusive of drinks). Check out their website for more information.

The menu for the greedy:

Friday, 20 November, 2009

Live The Way You Want - Anyways...

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered
Forgive them anyway

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives
Be kind anyway

If you are successful, you will win friends, some false and some true
Succeed anyway

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you
Be honest and frank anyway

What you spend your life building, someone destroys overnight
Build anyway

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous
Be happy anyway

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow
Do good anyway

Give the world your best anyway
Because, You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God
It was never between you and them anyway

# Borrowed from Suchitra K.'s blog.

Wednesday, 11 November, 2009

Ajab Prem ki Gazab Kahani Reviewed


Expectations are a darn thing. They can ruin something for you even before it happens. Take for example the case of Ranbir Kapoor’s latest “Ajab prem ki gazab kahani”. The guy has been on a roll and one automatically hoped for this one to crack it as well. Hmm…well, lets just say, he didn’t quite manage to.

Actually the post has started on the premise that the film’s success was his burden. Let us distribute the burden on everyone. The director, the producer, all the actors included.

Don’t get me wrong. Ajab Prem ki Gazab Kahani has its moments. Made in a manner which is not so much Govinda but more non stop nonsense like a Charlie Chaplin film (though not in the same league), the film is cute and fresh. The director has attempted to make it look like a parody, making everything seem real is not his intent. Else how could he have explained things like a train stopping in the middle of the bridge just to pick up the protagonists who are in the middle of a chase.

The best way to enjoy this film, and yes it is possible to enjoy it, is to leave your logic outside the door. To give it company, also leave behind your expectations….and your watch. The first 45 minutes drag by with you literally hanging on to every joke trying to find it funny. But hang on, it only gets better from here. The latter half of the film gets some quick quips in and unknowingly, you will find yourself laughing out loud. Ofcourse you sometimes wonder what’s with the deal about the stammering, but hey, dint I tell you to leave your logic outside??

The actors have actually done a good job. Ranbir is in my opinion the next big thing. He just seems to get better with each film. Katrina is absolutely stunning!! And her acting is cute and sweet. The music of the film gets a thumbs up. The songs are addictive and the picturization well done.

Some reviews have gone overboard and compared the film with Andaaz Apna Apna. In my humble opinion, that’s pure blasphemy. Don’t weigh down the film with your expectations and walk in for some entertainment, you may end up with a few clean laughs.

Rating: 2.5 on 5

Paisa Wasool Moment: When Salman Khan (guest appearance) says to Ranbir about Katrina “Arre tu itna kyun ghabra raha hai jaise meri girlfriend ko apni bolke introduce kara raha ho” !!

PS: I am in complete confusion about why all guys want to look beefy. Salman and Upen Patel, both who obviously gym and are portrayed as having awesome bodies in the film are in my opinion just plain blah. Bulk is not hot guys, lean is. Check out Ranbir….

Monday, 9 November, 2009

Eternal Love - A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, in a far away land lived a princess. The princess had many a suitors but she had given her heart to a prince from another kingdom. The prince loved her with the same fervor that she did. One day, the prince came to her and said “Oh fair one, my duty calls. As much as I would like to stay, my people need me. I will travel my lands and serve my people. But my heart will always be true to you”.

The princess held on to his hand. She smiled through her tears and said “Darling, our love transcends distance and time. Go do your duty, do what is right. But know that whenever I will close my eyes, it is your smile I will see”. The princess then brought out a beautiful old carved box and gave it to the prince asking him never to open it.

Years passed. The father of the princess, the king had many enemies. One dark night, a masked intruder entered the princess’s chambers, pulled out his dagger and pierced the heart of the Princess. Not wanting to be caught, he slipped into the darkness and ran away.

The next morning, the king was rushed into the princess’s chambers. He couldn’t hold back his tears when he saw all the blood around. He held his daughter’s hand in his and started weeping. Suddenly, to his astonishment, the princess opened her eyes and said in her soft voice “Father, weep not. For it will take much more than a dagger from your enemies to kill me”. The king stepped back and lo behold, the princess got out of bed, unharmed and alive as if nothing had happened.

The kingdom declared it a miracle. There was rejoicing all around. When the news reached the prince, he was distraught with worry and sent a scroll with his messenger to the princess. It said “Oh fair one, tell me who saved you. I will honor that person for life”.

The princess sent a short scroll back. The prince smiled when he read “My love, you don’t need to look far for my savior. For it is you. The wooden box I gave you has my soul in it. Till the day you keep it safe, no one can hurt me. I remain – always yours”.

Friday, 6 November, 2009

Book Review - Two States (Chetan Bhagat)

Two States. The Tale of Chetan Bhagat's marriage. Supposedly 'inspired' by his story but seems like more truth than fiction. I had given up on him after One Night @ a Callcentre. The first book - 5 Point Someone was actually a good read. Quick paced, with all the drama of a masala film, set in Delhi so references to places I'm familiar with. But the subsequent books fell so flat on their face that I concluded it was just his marketing strategy of pricing at Rs.95 that made him sell.

His latest book makes me eat my words. Its not a literary wonder by any yardstick. Yet, its an interesting tale told in a style which makes the reader part of the story. The book is about how a Punjabi boy from Delhi falls in love with a Tam Bhram (Tamil Bhrahmin) in IIMA. Unlike films, the story doesnt end there but goes on to narrate how they win over both the sets of families and finally managed to get married. Underlying this story is the pulse of the various countries that exist within the boundaries of India. The contrast drawn between the people from Delhi and those from Chennai offers a hillarious read. Not becasue it is far from the truth but because it is far too close to the truth. As much as I love being from Delhi, I must admit we tend to be a tad bit (!!) loud and show - offy. The bigger the car, the better to show off amongst relatives, office colleagues and even random neighbors. Unless there are some diamonds dangling from the bride's neck, the wedding seems to lack a little lustre :)! And our weddings do tend to look like the "All Continents Buffet" I ate in Canada....with atleast 6-7 cuisines being served and counters like live pasta, fish grill etc. taken for granted. Random relatives do expect to be given Saris and gifts at every wedding (why should they be rewarded I have always failed to understand). And yes, unless there is a DJ and a sangeet, we dont officially call it a wedding.

The portrayal of Chennai is brilliant as well. Of auto drivers who will always pretend not to know anything but Tamil, of women who dress in bright gold saris with so much gold on them that it could solve the economic crisis a few times over. Of roads that are spelt as tongue twisters. And weddings that happen at obscene hours in the morning with food served on banana leaves.

Most of it is exaggerated. But exaggerated so well that the reader cant help but chuckle along. The story is believable, funny and fast. Which is what works for the book.

I believe it must have taken a lot of guts for Chetan to write the book. There are things you dont want to share even after marriage. Making out on the IIM Campus is best hidden under wraps. Or things that you cant share like what he thought of his mother in law when he first saw her snap. These are potential timebombs! As 'inspired' as this book is, I give it to Chetan for having the guts to go out and write this. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Friday, 30 October, 2009

On cloud 9!

OK so I'm floating in the air!!! There is a spring in my step and a smile on my face! And one of the reasons is a mail I wrote yesterday to an author I greatly admire. Let me give you a background. As a reader, I am inclined towards fiction. Non-fiction doesnt interest me much. Yet in my list of 4-5 best books read till date, there features a non-fiction book called "The City of Djinns" by William Dalrymple. It is a tribute to this city I love and cherish - Delhi. William came to Delhi with his wife in 1989 to write this book but the warmth of the city enveloped him such that he could never leave and settled right here. When I was on his website yesterday, I thought as a writer, I love it when people come and tell me what they liked in my work. So, I decided to write to him and do the same. Here is what it said:

Dear William,

I am quite certain that you get enough and more fan mail which makes me doubt that this mail will reach you. Nevertheless, there have been very few books which have made an impact on me like The City of Djinns did and as a writer myself, I felt its best to let you know that.

Born and brought up in Delhi, I have affection for the city that is difficult to understand or explain. Besides being a literary masterpiece in terms of the art of the language, the love that you have for the city reaches out from the book and grabs the reader. It is difficult for even the hardest of cynics not to soften when you whisper about the alleys of this city and the secrets it shares. The book is not a string of words but rather like an old woven quilt which is patched together with colorful pieces, each unique in its own way and yet collectively stunning.

It is strange that it sometimes takes someone from outside (though you have now lived here much longer than most of us) to rediscover the beauty of a city. Shantaram did the same for Mumbai though in a manner which was more about getting under the skin of the city. The City of Djinns unveils Delhi in a fashion which is elegant and almost ceremonial, layer by layer.

The book besides having a constant place on my bookshelf is also my favourite thing to gift to people I am close to. So that they can better understand a city which is so close to my heart.

Thank you for writing it.


I thought that was the end of it, untill 2 hours later, I saw in my inbox - A REPLY FROM WILLIAM DALRYMPLE!!!!!!!!!!

Ah thanks Harnoor: what a sweet letter! Love to know what you'd make of my latest: Nine Lives, the only book I've written with no mention of Delhi!


Sent from BlackBerry® on Airtel

Monday, 19 October, 2009

Of love and friendship

True love is fodder for the cynics...but enduring that is difficult to find in today's world. Love that stands the test of time....2 hearts that beat as one..its not just a tale from a story book my friends, it happens. Rarely its seen, but it does happen.

Childhood sweethearts. Thats what H & K have been. We've grown up together - all of us. The same group since junior school. I remember the days when K used to give me a ride to school in class 4 coz I didn't want to take the bus. Then in class 7th is when we met H and the rest of the guys who formed what we call 'our gang'. I dont know what it was, the age at which we were or what else but this friendship that formed all those years back, stuck with us till today. The guys for some strange reason would call themselves the 'Copper Gang' (I have a feeling it had something to do with them all endorsing the deo Copper!!!!)....and as cheesily, we would call ourselves 'Sweepstakes' (for the life of me, I cant remember why). As much as they would like to refute us, we believe K& H started liking each other in class 8th (they insist it was 10th). Whichever the case might be, they still go back 13 years!!

There are few things in life which are constant. But in our eyes, their love always was. Even when they would be unsure, we knew in our hearts that they were made to be with each other. H belongs to a rare breed of gentlemen who would do anything for a friend. And he has...stretched himself for all of us all these years. K is the light of our gang...always chirpy...always the imp!! Individually, they mean the world to us, collectively, they show us what love is about.

The engagement was yesterday (where we literally had to be pulled off the dance floor) and the wedding is in 2 days....the first wedding where I will dance with the Baaraat also and steal the shoes too!

An ode to our 2 best friends - may you always smile. Love you.

Friday, 16 October, 2009


Restless nights
And endless dreams
Waiting for
That never comes
False laughter
And fake smiles
To fool everyone
But if you look
Really deep into her eyes
You will find
The secret that she hides
For no matter how many people she is around
She is still really alone

Thursday, 15 October, 2009

A lil bit of magic...

What an absolutely lovely evening yesterday. It’s refreshing to know that there is still some childish enthusiasm left in this world. I constantly squash my own wondering when “childish” became a thing not to be.

So it was a friend’s birthday yesterday. We suggested that he and his fiancé - lets call them R & P, drop over in the night and we could have a nice dinner together. So I raced home after work, got my groceries and set about cooking. The menu - Cheesy macaroni with arrabiata sauce, Veg Au Gratin with pepper salami and garlic bread. In all my enthusiasm, I also baked a chocolate cake to be cut at midnight. But let’s not digress here. I am not the hero of this story.

The hero of this story is P – who went about all day talking to just about 100 vendors trying to figure out a crazy surprise for R. So finally when the clock struck 12, we blindfolded R and led him outside the house. When he opened his eyes, he saw the cake with candles on it and something that completely blew his mind! In front of him stood a buggy (carriage) pulled by 2 lovely white horses and decorated with 200 balloons. Amongst all the surprises he would have expected, this is one he would never have thought up of!! P had managed to find the buggy guy, get him to come on time, found a balloon guy who came and put all the balloons on the buggy…all by herself!

So there we went, the 4 of us on this crazy buggy, singing “Aelo aelo…aelo ji sanam hum aa gaye….” in the middle of the night on the roads of Noida for a ride. If we would have charged all those people who drove past us and tried to steal our balloons, we may even have made a profit. Or even put a fee on those who did a double take, rubbed their eyes and looked again to confirm that this was for real!

P – cheers to you. Its not often one meets someone who still believes in magic…and in creating it! You were awesome!!

Telecom cost for trying to find vendors: Rs.500
Cost of buggy: Rs.x
Cost of balloons: Rs.y
The look on R’s face when he saw this and the look he then gave P which said I-cant-believe-you-did-all-this-for-me : Priceless!!

There are some things money cant buy!

Thursday, 8 October, 2009

India in all its Glory!!

If you ever had any doubts about the rich diversity of India, the cuisines, the languages, the cultures - this one is for you. A single snapshot of why one can tour India all their lives and yet never get bored....

Tuesday, 6 October, 2009

Ek rahe Eer, ek rahe biir, ek rahe phatte aur ek rahein hum!!


Let me tell you a very interesting story. When I was in Ahmedabad, my parents went and got a glass bowl with 3 gold fish in them. We decided to name them Eer, Biir and Phatte…after the song sang by Amitabh Bachchan. Eer, Biir, Phatte lived a great life – they would swim around all day and be fed yummy food (well ok, fish food)!

Then one fateful day, my mom came down from her room in the morning and found Biir floating on the water. We said a prayer and laid our lil pet to rest. Eer and Phatte continued to play with each other and live happily.

Then came the summer vacations when we had to make our annual pilgrimage to Delhi. Eer and Phatte were reluctantly handed over to our neighbors who promised to take care of them…alas, when we came back, only Phatte was to be found. Eer had left us too.

Phatte would swim around dejectedly and we just couldn’t take it anymore. So we went and got 2 more fish for its company and named them Heer and Ranjha. Heer – Ranjha made friends with Phatte quite fast and spent many a days frolicking around.

One fine day, my dad decided to give the glass bowl a wash. He gently put Phatte in the water jug followed by Ranjha. Unfortunately, my dear dad forgot (how though I don’t understand with it swimming under his nose) that Heer was left and there Heer went, down the drain (literally). I console myself with the thought that Heer must have gone on to live the life of the queen of the underground – with her looks, it wasn’t far fetched.

Nevertheless, there we were, left with our final 2 fish.

Imagine trying to explain to people why we had 2 goldfish called Phatte and Ranjha!!!

Friday, 2 October, 2009

"Wake up Sid" Reviewed


Just got back from the hall and been wanting to review it asap. Finally a breath of fresh air. If you go back to my review of Jaane Tu Yaan Jaane Na, you will see that I mentioned thats its tough watching a film like this and not liking it. Somethings are just not made to be disliked...

Wake Up Sid revolves around the life of Sid (Ranbir Kapoor) who literally needs to wake up. A spoilt brat of a rich father, he doesnt see the need to grow up and deal with life. Until he meets Aisha (Konkana), a girl from Kolkata who has moved to Mumbai for the sole purpose of finding her own independence and her own space.

What follows is a predictable yet endearing tale of their lives and how Sid finally finds himself and the person he is.

A light film with a well written crisp script, you wont feel bored for a moment. The characters have been chosen well and each does his/her role justice. Be it Anupam Kher as Sid's dad, his mom, his friends or even the ever-so-hot Rahul Khanna. Each has a small role to play but they dont disappoint. The main leads Konkana and Ranbir do a great job. Konkana is witty in some scenes, sensual in some, exasperated sometimes and naughty in some. She is one of the few actresses I personally like, I truly think she's beautiful. Ranbir is clearly the rising star of bollywood. The camera loves him and he makes even the most mediocre scenes look good. He can do a spoilt boy tantrum with the same panache as an intense almost-lovers argument. He is one to watch out for...

The music of the film is catchy (Shankar - Ehsaan - Loy). Upbeat in parts, romantic and melancholy in some. I especially love the song Iktaara (lyrics at the end of the post).

The movie is a refreshing break from the action flicks coming out these days. Its one which will make you smile. Watch it.

Rating: 3.5 on 5

Paisa Wasool Moment: When Sid and Konkana fall asleep holding each other. Its just for a moment, but a moment that touched my heart....

Lyrics of Iktaara:

"Orey manva tu to bavra hai
Tu hi jaane tu kya sochta hai
Tu hi jaane tu kya sochta hai bavre
Kyun dikhaye sapne tu sote jaagte

Jo barse sapne boond boond
Nainon ko moond moond
(Nainon ko moond moond)
Jo barse sapne boond boond
Nainon ko moond moond
Kaise main chaloon, dekh na sakoon
Anjaane raastein

Gunjasa hai koi iktara iktara, gunjasa hai koi iktara
Gunjasa hai koi iktara iktara, gunjasa hai koi iktara
Dheeme bole koi iktara iktara, dheeme bole koi iktara
Gunjasa hai koi iktara iktara, gunjasa hai koi iktara

Sun rahi hoon sudh budh khoke koi main kahani
Poori kahani hai kya kise hai pata
Main to kisiki hoke yeh bhi na jaani
Ruth hai ye do pal ki ya rehgi sada
(kise hai pata… kise hai pata)

Jo barse sapne boond boond
Nainon ko moond moond
(Nainon ko moond moond)
Jo barse sapne boond boond
Nainon ko moond moond
Kaise main chaloon, dekh na sakoon
Anjaane raastein

Gunjasa hai koi iktara iktara, gunjasa hai koi iktara"

Tuesday, 29 September, 2009

I Can't Think Straight Reviewed

“I Can’t Think Straight” deals with an issue often taboo in most cultures and manages to deal with it without going over the top. Lesbians and Gays have been fighting for their rights and dignity for years now but still there are enough and more societies where they are proclaimed evil and it is treated like a disease or a phase that they are passing through.

It is neither. It is a choice that they choose to exercise. It is the way they have been born. Some people get attracted to thin people, some to tall and some to their own gender.

Unfortunately these views are not shared by most people I come across and it quite explains why it takes a lifetime for someone to come out of the closet. The film deals with 2 women, Lisa Ray who plays an independent fiery girl from Jordan and an Indian Muslim girl Laila. The story takes one through their realization that they are actually gay, their coming to terms with it and finally taking the decision that their happiness is theirs for the taking.

To be frank, most people would at the back of their head know that they are watching the film hoping to see the two hot women making out. But the beauty of the film is that it takes you along into their lives and makes an easy watch. The sensitivity with which the roles have been played out, make it equivalent to cinema like Bend it Like Beckham. Any of the two women could have been replaced with a man and the film would still be as impactful.

Both the leads give good performances. Not award winning but captivating enough. The one thing that struck me in the film is how the fiercely independent woman from Jordan is the one who is ready to live her life in denial as her society wont accept it while the more demure and shy one from India is the first to take a stand and come out clean.

All in all, a good DVD watch. Keep some popcorn handy.

Rating: 3 on 5

Paisa Wasool Moment: In the credits, when Lisa’s mother tells her friend that Lisa is lesbian, the ignorant lady says “So what? Many of my best friends are Lebanese”!!!!

Friday, 25 September, 2009

"Wanted" Reviewed - Watch at your own risk.

Q) What does a certain hero do after he's had a flurry of flops and has reached the point where he doesnt care anymore?

Ans) He decides to go out and have a ball.

And thats what Salman Khan did. Let me guess how this happened. Prabhu Deva (yes the same crazy dancer we all love has turned director) and Salman are sitting over a couple of drinks one night where Salman is cribbing about how he's sick of movies and how he mostly sleep walks through them these days. Prabhu Deva in his drunken state, blurts out "Sallu, why dont I make a movie where you have all the fun you can have as many weapons at your disposal as you some random steps that people will later hate me for....say what it is that you want...diss your girl....and have some really funny dialogues to ensure you enjoy on the sets". "But Prabhu, what will you do for money"? "I have that figured out....we'll just get someone like Ayesha Takia to prance around, act dumb and pretend that you're god's gift to mankind"!! And the pact was made. Unfortunately, a pact that even Prabhu Deva couldnt get out of once he sobered up and realised what he had done.

And so, Wanted was born.

I mean, come ON. After something like Kaminey, you give me 'Wanted'?? Let me add as a disclaimer that I was dragged against my wishes to the hall to see this film. With all my logical judgement screaming for me not to. But I guess I had to see it to do this social service of telling the world about it.

So my advice? Dont go. Stay home. Watch TV, water the plants, take the dog for a walk. Just dont go watch this.

Why am I being so judgemental you ask? Well, remember the conversation Prabhu and Sallu had? They actually carried out their threat. The movie is an out and out Salman Khan film where he goes around killing whom he wants (he's a hitman who changes gangs for money). For the most part, he looks old, haggard, pudgy and a little too cocky. Give me the shy Salman from Maine Pyaar Kiya anyday....the one who innocently says corny dialogues like "Dosti ki hai...nibhani to padegi hi"!! Surprisingly, the only scene where I thought he looked hot was when he was fully clothed in a uniform but ofcourse he managed to rip off his shirt within 10 seconds of that.

My anger at the film also went up a couple of notches at the director's obsession with Salman and the complete ignoring of other actors. The movie has some great actors like Vinod Khanna who are so brilliantly wasted that future generations will never be able to guess what good performers they really are.

Ayesha Takia is the reason this movie is a commercial hit. She prances around, pouts when asked to and acts like she's the little dainty bird. Someone needs to give her a good shake and tell her to drop the act! Its a shame though, coz she really did some wonderful work in Dor. She has some help in the get-the-rickshaw-walas-to-the-hall-strategy with the gangster's girl who's only purpose was to wear tiny clothes and say things like "oohhh...I like him".

All of this you get a good dose of in the first half and if you're still awake, you will be highly tempted to walk out. Don't. Now that you have spent money and are watching it, stay for the 2nd half because that really is the saving grace.

The ONLY reason I liked the film was surprisingly the 2 villains. Mahesh Manjrekar plays the sleezy cop so well that you almost want to reach into the screen and slap him. Though the award goes to the big daddy hero - Prakash Raj (playing Gani Bhai). The National Award winner from South India has so much fun in the film that you cant help but have fun with him. His witty quips, dark humor and comic timing make him one of the best villains bollywood has seen in the recent past. If only for him, watch this film.

All in all, get a DVD, watch the first hour on mute for eye candy and skip to the 2nd half for Prakash Raj. Watch at your own risk.

Rating: 1.5 on 5 (with 1 for the villains)

Paisa Wasool Moment: When Gani bhai is being bashed up by the cops and he sudenly says "timeout, lets catch our breath". So both of them sit, catch their breath and then start fighting again!

Friday, 11 September, 2009

Canada from the eyes of a Self Confessed Foodie

Canada's national dish - Poutine. Fries drizzled with barbeque sauce and topped with cheese curd

Burger and fries at Mont Tremblanc

Pasta made by me at the cottage

And this is just breakfast!! At Perkins in Ottawa

Huge Italian Sausage Hot Dogs with Poutine

Butter Chicken, biryani, daal, seekh kebab and naan at Lahore Tikka House in Toronto

Fish and Chips at Niagra-On-The-Lake

Rib Eye Steak at Niagra-On-The-Lake. Pure Heaven

Pizza avec fromage et basil; et Penne dans rose sauce in Quebec City

Spagetti Carbonara with Ham in Quebec City

French Crepes being prepared in Toronto topped with Nutella, Strawberries and Banana

Steak With Mushroom Sauce with a GIANT cheesy baked potato at The Keg

Wine tasting at the Vinyards at Niagara-on-the-Lake

The best Tandoori Chicken and Daal Makhani I have ever had!! Cooked by D&R

Monday, 7 September, 2009

Fpriderman...fpiderman.....Kaminey Reviewed!!

There are movies that are nice and sweet …like a lullaby. And there are movies which give you a good shake and ask you to hop onto the roller coaster. Kaminey would fall in the latter as would Johhny Gaddar. Not a national award winner, but an entertainer nevertheless.

Kaminey is the story of twin brothers (Shahid Kapur) who have a fall-out. Predictably, one is a gangster and the other works with an NGO on AIDS awareness etc. But this is where the predictability ends. The movie moves through a series of events that are connected in some bizarre way and if you don’t pay attention for five minutes, you may lose the plot. So you strap on your seat belt and race along with the characters, impatient to know where the next scene will take them.

The movie wins on two counts. As everyone is falling over themselves to tell you, it brings to India the Quentin Tarantino style of making movies. Racy, edgy, quick cuts. Hand-held cameras used for many scenes, the camera too close to the character’s face for your comfort, shot mainly in the night, with a lot of rain. It is not cutting edge but it sure cuts through the chase. The movie doesn’t proclaim itself to be a film about Mumbai Mafia, neither is it a thriller. It is a car whose breaks have failed and is swerving into the traffic with you hanging on to your seat.

The second reason why the movie works is the brilliant characterization. There is barely anyone in the film who has not been given a certain character which makes him/her stand apart. Shahid does brilliantly. Sweet in some shots where you want to cuddle him like a teddy bear and rakish in some where he’s the bad guy your mother warned you about! Priyanka also plays her part well – the Marathi fireball, ready to take on the world for her love. But it is the gangsters who each help make this collage beautiful. Bhope Bhau – the crazy wannabe politician who can sell everything from his ideology to his sister, the Bengali brothers, who each look so non gangster like but often collapse into hysterics with a joke only they understand, Tashi – the suave gangster who deals with the Africans and doesn’t dirty his hands with Indian Mafia and my favorite – Mikhail (played by Chandan Roy Sanyal) who is forever doped, crazed out of his wits and treats Charlie (the Gangster Shahid) like his brother.

It isn’t an award winner, it may not even be a box office super duper hit, but Kaminey reminds you somewhat of the joker in Dark Knight…where you are repulsed by his face, you are intrigued by his antics and his dark humor and you just cant wait to get more.

Go watch it!!

Rating: 4 on 5

Paisa Wasool Moment: Charlie singing Spiderman with Mikhail…only that Charlie has a lisp – he says ‘f’ for every ‘s’…so he jumps around singing ‘fpiderman…fpiderman…’

PS – Did I mention I completely LOVE the music...and cant get enough of Dhan te nan....

Thursday, 13 August, 2009

Of Wineries and Beaches

I better keep writing or the backlog will be too tough to clear. Take for example the fact that I wrote just 3 days back...and there's already so much we've done in the mean time!!

So day 3 started with us heading out to Niagara on the Lake, a small quaint town just 15 minutes from the falls. In an effort not to waste any time, we headed straight to the vinyards to start off on our wine tasting tours! We went to Hillibrand, Jackson Triggs (where we also did the tour) and Joseph's Winery on that day. The vinyards themselves are just breathtaking....acres and acres of wines growing in geometrically perfect straight lines....and the French Chateaux style wineries in the middle of them! Of course after the 2nd winery, everything else started blurring :P!! Each winery let us choose one red, one white and one ice wine to taste. The Ice Wines are my favourite...the story goes thus - when the winter came, and the grapes froze, they would collect all of them and throw them away. Until one day a guy said, let me try making wine with the frozen grape too...and lo behold you got the sweet dessert wine called Ice Wine! 1 bottle of Ice Wine is made from the same amount of grapes as 10 bottles of Table Wine...and they are priced like that too!!

Some more interesting tit bits - wineries plant a rose bush in front of the vines...and that is because the bugs that attack the vines, attack roses first and they would get to know of it. We also learnt the correct way of drinking the wine...the swirling, checking for sediments and swishing in your mouth! I can safely say, this is one day that the Husband is not going to forget soon!

Day 4 had 2 more wineries and our favourite - Peller! And we took off for our ride back to Ottawa enroute Toronto. Which ofcourse meant that we make a pit stop at R & D's fav joint - the Lahore Tikka House....the taste of hot naan after days of deprivation even found a convert in me!

Day 5 in Ottawa. We finally got to see R&D's gorgeous town house. The streets are so beautiful here, like a doll town. We walked down to the park and went over to the supermarket for grocery shopping...where I believe I had to be revived!! I mean - they had 4 sections only for cheese for heaven's sake....and 1 entire row of dressings and sauces!!!!! Wonderland! A quick lunch of Fajitas followed.

But the icing on the cake was our evening walk at the Petrie Island. A beach just 15 minutes from their place!! We watched the sun go down over the water as boats raced past and impromptu beach volleyball games was the perfect end to a perfect day!

We're not going home!

Tuesday, 11 August, 2009

Travelogue Begins - Day 1 & 2

It’s 6:04am. I don’t have a clue what the date or the day is. I’m sitting in our suite of Crown Plaza by the French windows that directly overlook the Niagara Falls. The view is spectacular – for want of a better word. If there is one word that describes the falls, it is ‘Mighty’. It is a sight so awe inspiring that you can do nothing but stare! It has finally sunk in. I am in Canada.

7 years its taken for me to get here. In 2002 when my sis got married and moved here, I decided the trip was too expensive to ask my parents to fund. In 2005, I started working and got married in 2006. To cut a long story short, here I am now, 4 days from their 7th anniversary come to see whether the 7 yr itch is myth or not!!

Let’s come back to where we started. Please gear up coz this is going to be one heck of a journey. We flew out of Delhi at midnight on 7th Aug on Air France towards Paris. Watched Ghosts of GirlFriends Past and ate a very non appetizing VEGETARIAN meal(!!) of a tomato sandwich and cole slaw. Apparently we were flying over some airspace where non-veg is not allowed to be serve, but I personally just think they were just out of non-veg!!! The 4 hours stopover at CDG airport in Paris flew by and we continued our journey on Air Canada, which served much tastier food!! At noon on 8th August, we finally landed in Toronto, Canada.

Not willing to waste even a single day, we rested for a bit and were off to take the city on. First stop, CN Towers. THE place to get a view of the city – 147 stories up. A section of the landing has glass floor where if you stand and look down, you can actually see the bottom of the tower – trust me, it’s a sight not for the faint hearted! The hotdogs here are miles different from the ones back home. For one, the sausage is the size of 5!! We also topped that with a crepe with nutella, strawberries and bananas! Heavenly. The night was completed by a trip to the Greek Fest in town (Pilaros, Danforth). If you haven’t already, try their Gyros. The ones on offer were these wraps of chicken/ beef in pita with Tzatziki (a dressing of sorts). They are just purely scrumptious.

The next morning, we started early and with a breakfast of waffles and strawberries, we drove off towards Niagara. R & D had bought the all-inclusive passes for us and the entire day was spent visiting everything on offer. First up was journey behind the falls. They have built tunnels behind the falls and you can watch tonnes and tonnes of water cascading down in front of you as you stand right behind the falls! The board walk along the class 6 rapids had us convinced that they weren’t kidding when they said that these can’t possibly be tamed by rafters. The butterfly conservatory followed where thousands of butterflies flew around inside a tropical jungle setting. But it was the grand finale which was the cherry on the icing on the cake. The Maid of the Mist is a boat that goes to the mouth of the HorseShoe Falls at Niagra. And it is not an experience anyone can forget soon. With eyes that could barely open due to the mist, we squinted and held our breaths as we watched the fury of nature unleashed. There aren’t any words how I can explain the feeling of standing on that boat, staring at the falls crashing down just metres from where we were.

Absolutely exhausted by the end of it, we ended the day with a lovely dinner and beer sitting on the patio with live musicians playing on the side.

Life couldn’t have been more perfect.

Tuesday, 4 August, 2009

Love Aaj Kal Reviewed....

Thats the thing about reviews. You should never read one before going for a film and you should never write one after reading others. The best time to write a review is as soon as you come back from the movie, with your opinion fresh in your mind. Take for example what happened with Love Aaj Kal. I walked out of the hall with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. 2 days hence, I am confused about what I felt about it as everyone seems to have a conflicting view. So let me clarify at the onset. My review may be drastically different from a lot of others you read. For the sole reason that I liked the film. I did not compare it to Jab We Met or Dil Chahta Hai or anything else. I saw it as it was. And that is a sweet back to basics, girl-meets-boy-they-have-issues-but-love-triumphs kind of romance. The types that we dont see much of in today's age of complicated films.

The film, runs 2 parallel stories - one of Saif and Deepika, the modern day love, practical and rational. They take their decisions based on how they think the future will pan out instead of how they feel. Then there is a parallel story that is set in the 1970s about Rishi Kapoor's love tale. Imtiaz Ali has used an interesting creative device by making Saif play the young Rishi Kapoor, that too as a sardar. I daresay, Saif makes a dashing Sardar in the pursuit of a simple but gorgeous Punjabi kudi. Of the two tales, I personally loved that of Rishi Kapoor. The period setting, the 'adab' as they call it or 'nazaakat' of them falling in love without ever speaking a word stirred the romantic in me.

In terms of the acting, this is Saif's movie through and through. I try not to be a fan of Saif for personal reasons but he took the audience through the film single handedly. With some able guidance from Rishi Kapoor who seems to be getting better with each film. The sardar Saif was brilliant, the typical brave jat who weakens in the knees for a girl....the modern Saif was funny too, with great comic timing but it was obvious in his dialogue delivery that it was Imtiaz Ali's signature style. The simple girl in the flashback story was cute and played her role perfectly...I can see why they would not want to cast Deepika in the flashback.

Which brings me to her. Because the moment you see this film, you will realise that besides her smile and her ravishing looks, she really is bad! When she speaks, you look around for the script from where she is reciting and when she tries to be funny, you cringe. She makes Katrina look like a National Award nominee!

The songs were fun and had me dancing in my seat (with everyone in the hall wondering what I was on).

I liked the film for its simplicity. For its belief in love. And in that nagging feeling that something is amiss. For its fiction of happily ever after. I dont believe in Soulmates and that there is one person for you in this world that you will keep searching for till you do find her/him. But its refreshing that someone does. The world needs some magic.

Go watch it without expectations. Its not the best film you would have ever watched. But its not one where you will be looking for the exit either. Sweet...simple...refreshing.

Rating: 3 on 5
Paisa Wasool Moment: Saif and Deepika in the Delhi Metro....he puts his arm around her as they always sat and suddenly realises that he can't do that anymore.

Thursday, 30 July, 2009

Upcoming Posts

I know I posts are long pending. I have to stop writing them in my head and actually come down to typing them here! But thats the thing...they are all WIP. I recently started reading the Half Blood Prince again after seeing the movie and am changing my opinion of the movie as each page turns. So will update my review once I finish. Then there is the long pending travelogue of my Goa trip.

But most of all, I am excited about my upcoming Road Trip in Canada. A long overdue visit to my sis (7 years is a lifetime in dog years!!) and a 20 day leave makes for some great anticipation.

So the plan is to maintain a travel blog for those 3 weeks. I promise to update The Thought Express with all the fun I am having and you can look forward to 3 weeks of feverish writing!!

Later then...till I finish the Harry Potter 6....

Wednesday, 22 July, 2009

In defense of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

As I walked out of the theatre, I heard a mix of reactions. Ranging from “Did you SEE the way they showed Dumbledore’s burnt hand” to “What a stupid ending! The half blood prince turned out to be Snape himself”!

{Spoiler Alert}

In the defense of the film, please do not criticize the script. It happens to be taken from one of the literary wonder series. The fact that Snape was the Half Blood Prince and the angst at why he killed Dumbledore might confuse you. But when you see the next film (or 2 as they are claiming to split the last book), it will all fall into place. Like one string of pearls that you never saw connected. And it will make you gasp in awe of the wonderous imagination of a lady called JK Rowling.

This ofcourse is true only if you are one of those who only watched the films. If like some of us, you are a pure blood and not a muggle in terms of being Potter fans and have devoured the series atleast twice, you are entitled to your opinion.

I personally had nothing against the film. Given that this particular book was not outstanding in the series, it was merely a router – an arrow that connected the previous books with the last. There was no major character building or theatrics. And to add to it, it is quite tough to get used to the fact that our own Harry, Ron and Hermoine are growing up and are constantly talking about ‘snogging’.

Given this background, the director did quite ok with the film. The cinematography was quite good, be it the death-eaters flying over the Thames or the way Professor Slughorn transformed from a sofa to himself. Special mention in terms of the acting would go to the very despicable Bellatrix dancing around the Burrow trying to tempt Harry out. Ron, Hermoine and Ginny are reduced to secondary actors in the background but that is a folly of the book and not the film.

What I do have grudges against is the fact that they deviated from the book. How can you explain burning the Burrow down when the next book clearly starts at the burrow?? Also, the fighting sequence (where was Bill??) at the end was a sort of an anti climax and could have uplifted the movie to another level.

I would be lying if I said I left the theatre with stars in my eyes like I did every time I watched a Potter film. My only grudge remains – when you have a masterpiece to follow….why in the world would you divert???

Rating: 2.5 on 5

Paisa Wasool Moment: Fred and George’s new shop of magic. How I would have loved to go there!!!

Monday, 6 July, 2009

One Crazy 'Hangover'

Comedy is probably the hardest genre to crack. Its not very difficult to make someone cry. Even easier to make a romantic film. But to make a film which has the audience in splits from the first frame right down to the last one is an achievement. And that is what Hangover is about. Pure unadultrated comedy.

The basic premise of the film is predictable. 4 friends take a roadtrip to Vegas for a bachelor's party. But thats where it ends. Needless to say, there is not one scene in the film that may be termed predictable. Even in your wildest dreams, you can not imagine what all these guys go through and how the movie progresses.

The characterisation is brilliant. Allan, the wierd dumb brother in law of the groom is the funniest. He doesnt even need to try hard, every shot he gives has the audience in splits. The groom himself (Doug) is probably the most boring character but to be fair, he doesnt have much of a role in the film. The hottie (Bradley cooper) who plays Phil is the most fun friend we all would love to have! But my favourite character in the film is Mr.Chow. He plays a don that the friends manage to be on the wrong side of. Him exclaiming in his squeeky voice - Fat man fell....or his not so political comments on - hahaha ....he is so fat it makes me laugh - were so unexpected that you couldnt help but burst out laughing.

Well all's well that ends well. Doug does end up getting married as planned (though that may be the only thing that went as planned). But not before 2 days of craziness that make sure you will recommend this film just as I am doing.

Go watch it. Not with kids or parents...but dont miss this one!

Rating: 3.5 on 5

Paise Wasool Moment: Allan wakes up hungover and groggy and goes to the loo. Not knowing that there is someone sharing the loo with him....can't tell more, it'll spoil it for you!!

Monday, 29 June, 2009

'New York' Reviewed

Some movies are entertaining, interesting while they are running and yet completely forgettable. That doesn’t make them good or bad, it’s just the way they are. New York fits in this category. I didn’t find myself gushing about it the next day and yet when I suggested my friends go watch it, it wasn’t out of spite (I suffered, so shall everyone else!)!

New York, as is obvious, is based on how the 9/11 affected the lives of the protagonists. Not in a documentary sort of way but rather in the form of a story. It revolves around the lives of 3 friends, played by Katrina, Neil Nitin Mukesh and John Abraham. The movie traces their relationship from college to 7 years later in completely different circumstances.

Being a Yash Raj Film, the eyes were treated to rich visuals, beautiful cinematography and imagery that would make even the drabbest of cities enthralling. The music was good (though not memorable) and did not seem to stretch forever. The screenplay would fluctuate between the present where Neil is being interrogated (rather politely) by Irfaan Khan (where have I seen that before?) to flashbacks on his life in college. Though not seat gripping, the narrative did not fall and kept us involved and interested.

Which brings me to the actors. Katrina Kaif is so incredibly gorgeous that it becomes irrelevant to expect her to act. She played her bubbly part well and did I mention how pretty she looked?? John Abraham seems to be getting more confident with each film. He definitely commanded screen presence in this one and is a feast for one’s eyes as well!! Which leaves us with Neil Nitin Mukesh. What a disaster! And this comes from a self confessed fan post his debut in Johhny Gaddar. The man seems to be at a loss of words, fumbling through the script and being dragged along by the others. I had moments where I wanted to reach into the screen and shake him awake but I managed to hold myself back! Irfaan Khan has done so many of these police/ FBI roles that even he seems to have lost interest in them. His constant repetition of dialogues (you have been ‘detained’) and references to Islam where completely irrelevant (on the jetty trying to tell Neil about the greatness of USA) were unnecessary. All in all, he’s done better.

My problem with the movie perhaps stems from the fact that I invariably ended up comparing it with the Pakistani ‘Khuda Ke Liye’ also based on how 9/11 affected innocent people. The latter was a piece of art, a piece of cinema that I will make my children watch decades later. The acting, the screenplay, the music, the emotions – there wasn’t a single flaw I could find in the film. If you haven’t seen it, then do not fret, you will enjoy New York.

Go watch it with some friends, take it as light entertainment and try not to notice the misspelt Barrack (!!) Obama at the end!

Rating: 3 on 5

Paisa Wasool Moment: Katrina Kaif in her red streaked hair look.

Monday, 15 June, 2009

Dhoni, India and T20!

Yes, India lost. Though the T20 World Cup did not attract as many eyeballs as IPL did, now that we have been knocked out of the same, everyone seems to want a piece of the pie to throw at Dhoni. He let us down, he’s playing politics, Veeru could have saved the day, Dhoni should be punished!!!

But wait a second. Aren’t we the same people who 3 days back were convinced that Dhoni is god’s gift to India? He is ‘Destiny’s Child’. Everything he touches turns to gold! Almost like the Alchemist himself? Then how can we so suddenly fall out of ‘love’? The fault, my friend, lies in each one of us. We ourselves build up our cricketers into some sort of demi-gods. When they perform, we almost open temples in their names and pray to them. But lo-behold. If they lose, it is like a personal betrayal. We think not twice before burning their effigies, throwing stones at their houses, calling them names and demeaning them in every way possible.

And the truth is that they are human beings. Exceptional ones to reach where they have and do what they do, but human nonetheless. The day we realize that and give them the benefit of doubt, we probably won’t feel so let down by them. Every single person in the country, without exception, seems to know exactly what went wrong and how they could have avoided this situation and won the championship. Well people, give them some credit. They reached where they did. They played like heroes for years. They did not this time. It happens. Deal with it!

Thursday, 11 June, 2009

Words that soothe...

I have often wondered how people pray. I don’t mean the rituals but the prayer itself. When one stands in a temple/ church/ mosque/ gurudwara, do you chant something, do you talk to god as a person, do you recite verses?

So before I ask you, let me talk about myself. Perhaps as an offshoot of my upbringing (and my mom’s undying efforts), when I close my eyes and join my hands, automatically the verses that come to my lips are those of the ‘Mool Mantra’ that start with ‘Ek Onkaar’. The Mool Mantra is supposed to be the first composition that Guru Nanak wrote when he gained enlightenment. I have also often wondered the meaning of what I chant and here is a part of what I have understood….

Ek Onkaar Sat Naam Karta Purakh Nir Bhao Nir Vair Akaal Murat Ajuni Saibhan Gur Parsad Jap Aaj Sach Jugaad Sach Aij

Ek Onkaar – There is but one god. He manifests Himself ceaselessly throughout His Creation in diverse forms

Sat Naam – His name is truth/ he is the ultimate truth

Karta Purakh – He is the creator

Nir Bhao – Fearless

Nir Vair – Without any hate

Aakaal Murat - God is a Being beyond time: An Eternal, Indestructible Entity

Ajooni – Never been born / doesn’t have a physical form

Saibhan - God is self-creating, existing alone without external support; God is self-begotten and has no origin

Each of these meanings are so simple and yet so pure. Which is what most religions were when they were created. What we see today in the garb of various religions is not how they were made. All religions, without an exceptions (except perhaps Budhism) have been hijacked by a group of people at some point of time in history who declared themselves the ‘keepers’ or ‘protectors’ of the religion and what we have today is not a shadow of the truth. But let me not digress, this post is not about religion but about praying for peace of mind.

So what about you? When you pray (if you do), do you talk to god? Do you recite something? If yes then what? Tell me….

Wednesday, 3 June, 2009

Wolverine Reviewed

The perfect recipe for a Monday evening to drive away the blues – hot chicken biryani, chilled lemonade, feet up on the bed and a movie DVD in the console. That is how we decided to take this week on. So yesterday evening, we kicked off our shoes, dimmed the lights and settled in for the much awaited film – Wolverine.

Now it is difficult to critique a movie which stars the delectable Hugh Jackman. When choosing which mutant hero they would use to launch the X-MEN feature-film prequel series, the creators of the hugely successful franchise had a no-brainer of a decision in going with Wolverine. Not only is he the most well-known and popular X-Men character, but Wolverine--as brought expertly to life in true leading-man fashion by Hugh Jackman--was essentially the star of the three previous X-MEN movies (and I would vouch for that). Ever since his act at the Oscars this year, I have become a sworn fan. He doesn’t disappoint here either from flashing those rippling muscles at no provocation to being the ‘good’ guy. It’s tough to think objectively on this one, but objective we must be and alas, the film fails to please.

Wolverine is the back story of the fiery and conflicted Wolverine (James Logan), whose mutant powers include killer claws that shoot from his knuckles and a regenerative ability that allows him to live seemingly forever. The movie follows Logan from his first recognition of his mutant powers as a young child up through his infamous Adamantium rebirth and the total memory loss that would subsequently fuel his angry quest. It traces his relationship with his half brother Victor (who will go on to become SaberTooth) and how Logan develops a conscience thus putting an end to their ‘together forever’ pact!

So far so good. The problem I suppose is that the filmmakers couldn't decide what to cut out, so they threw everything into the pot and hoped for the best. The results are half interesting, but half filler. Also, the pirated version of Wolverine, albeit what’s claimed to be a “work print” of it (one that lacks various digital effects and is shorter than the real thing), is unfortunately the only one available as of now. Which means that the special effects were more or less a half baked video game and I suspect play a role in our lack of satisfaction with the film.

The script has many open loops and is not very tight. The director has built up characters for no joy. Take for example the exemplary action in the first half by the sword guy who eventually is reduced to a moron who is supposedly the perfect (?!?) mutant (who is slain in 30 seconds flat by the wolf brothers). Or the very good looking Remy LeBeau who can manipulate any material into a weapon. Unless they bring him in for the next X-Men movie, it was a complete waste of a character.

I hate to be a bubble burster (if there is such a word) but I truly tried very hard to like the film. The film itself is not bad. Its just that when you follow up on a cutting edge series like X-Men, you are expected to be fantastic. And fantastic it is not!

Rating: 2.5 on 5

PS – I know Ras is going to go all out with protests. But truly, for a moment forget that Hugh Jackman was in the film…now don’t you agree partly with me??

Saturday, 30 May, 2009

The cacophony of silence

The deafening cacophony gets louder
Each passing moment brings the inevitable closer
It started as a whisper
Barely noticeable
Easy to miss
It was always there but never pondered upon
A constant reminder
The noise started getting louder
Till it reached a crescendo
Couldn’t hear anything anymore
Surrounded by it
Drowning, willingly so
And then as suddenly as it had arrived
It was gone
And silence was all around
Not a hush
Air heavy with the unsaid
I wonder now
What’s worse
The deafening crescendo
Or the chilling silence

Thursday, 28 May, 2009

'How NOT to be attacked in Australia’

I couldn’t resist! I apologize to my sister and my entire gang of cousins and friends staying abroad in advance. I know should not have an opinion before trying it for myself but I have often been wary of moving abroad for 3 reasons. Firstly and most importantly, I would hate to be treated like a second class citizen. To have the fear in my head that the laws can change anytime and I would again need to prove myself for merely living there. Secondly, I am spoiled rotten in India. I have a cook, a gardener, a housemaid, a car cleaner, a dhobi blah blah blah. I am unfortunately too used to lying in my bed and ‘managing’ to get work done!! And lastly on a lighter note, I go crazy when anyone comes back to India and go on and on about what is wrong here – the pollution, the poverty, the corruption, the traffic, the heat etc. It’s something that is part of this country and we live with it. India is changing – constantly. It is something that I believe in very strongly and am proud of the visible progress I see around me every passing year. America gained independence 233 years back. It’s just been 62 years for us. Give us time.

I would love to do a stint in another country, live in different cultures. But the urge is just not compelling enough to pack my life here and go blindly in the hope of a better one.

Anyways, what brought on this post actually was this bunch of hilarious inputs I was reading on Rediff on ‘How not to be attacked in Australia’ spurred by the recent gory racist attack on an Indian student in AUS!! And believe it or not, the inputs were from people who have lived in Australia since a long time and are settled there. They all insisted that Racism is just not a ‘very’ common phenomenon but we must be ‘careful not to offend locals’.

Here are my favs:

1.After 7 pm, always travel in the first compartment of the train (Imagine the chaos that would happen in Mumbai trains if people followed this advice)!!

2.Try not to walk alone or travel alone on a Friday or Saturday night (so have a weekend pal to drive with coz driving alone on weekends can get you hurt)!

3.It is even possible that when you are waiting at road intersections people including girls may shout, gesture or thrown beer bottles or foodstuff at you from there cars. My advice is to be relaxed while walking alone. (are you kidding me??? Throw bottles at you?? Did you write this with a straight face?? Let them try that with me in Delhi! )

4.Since, we cannot take matters in our own hand, as we are foreigners here, its better to be vigilant & report anything that may affect me or someone else. (so let us put our heads down and pray!)

5.Most of the brawls in pubs happen either due to excessive drinks or do to matter relating women. So kindly avoid both. (what? Pubs, women or drinks?)

6.Late night fights happen due to money and need for cigarettes. Have $5 in your pocket. If you sense trouble, drop the money before them and run away from them. Most likely they would pick up the money and go away.(don’t blame us for giving money to beggars then. At least they don’t knife you for it)

7.Always remain friendly and converse with them in English. Even if you are with your friends/ peers who share a different/ common language, please converse with each other in English when in public places (This would be crazy to implement in India. Imagine Bengalis, Gujaratis, Punjabis – everyone only allowed to talk in hindi! Why go there, why don’t we shun European tourists when they chat in French or even the Russians or Spanish? Only talk in Hindi please!!)

8.And my absolute fav - The local young generation works on weekly wages and the amount they get on Friday spend on booze and clubs. I have seen them go berserk on Friday and Saturday night and damaging even the national property leave alone attacking Indians. The best way to avoid is to stay away during these timings and stay put in hotel or your room. (ummmm….so please only sit at home and watch TV on weekends!!)