Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cafe Style opens in Noida

Let me caution you on the onset that this is a local post and if you do not live in (or are planning to visit) Delhi then you may not find this relevant.

Having said that, how could I resist the temptation of reviewing the latest café in the neighborhood – Café $tyle? Having read about it in the newspaper a couple of days back, I was itching to go there and finally went yesterday with my parents. In the corner of the Sector 18 market in Noida, bang opposite the Great Kebab Factory and behind ICICI, this café has a great corner location. The décor is interesting with a motorcycle parked right in the middle of the restaurant and the entire façade in glass which gives it an open feel. They have also kept a few tables outside for those who like the evening breeze, both of which (the breeze and the outdoor seating) are a rarity in Delhi. There is also an open kitchen and a small bakery section where you can pick up some freshly baked breads.

We settled into our sofas and ordered a Minestrone Soup (split in 2) [Rs.120]. The ‘Beer and Cheese Soup’ on the menu had me curious and I can’t wait to go back to try it. The soups came in huge quantities and with some lovely bread on the side. The soup itself was delicately flavored and filled with yummy vegetables and smoked chicken (Rating – 3.5 on 5). And if that wasn’t enough to satisfy our greed, we also ordered something they call the Burguraabia (don’t know if I got the spelling right of that one). Its something I have never eaten before and one that I’m dying to go back and eat again. 2 HUGE pita breads stuffed with lettuce, smoked chicken, cheese, caramelized onion and tenderloin steak. The quantities were so huge that the 3 of us were done with our dinner basis these 2 things that we had ordered as snacks. And at Rs.195, the Burguraabia was a steal (Rating – 4 on 5)!!

The menu was very interesting the way it moved across cultures. The items would vary from Lebanese, Arabic, Mediterranean, Italian, English, Hungarian and Continental. They also offer a variety of deserts but our stomachs couldn’t take any more so had to leave it for the next time.

If you happen to be in the vicinity and want a quick bite, do drop in. Café Style may just give Kaffiiaa some competition.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Delhi 6..7...8...

Delhi 6 starts off nicely enough. The swadesi returning to his motherland India to fulfill his grandmother’s last wish is a line taken before and much appreciated. Ofcourse if their abode in India happens to be the ever-bustling Chandni Chowk, it sets the perfect backdrop for a film. The only way I can explain Chandni Chowk (as shown in the movie and in real life) is when you have been cooking a well herbed mutton biryani inside dum and finally open the lid, the burst of flavors and aroma reaches out to you and numbs you for a moment. Chandni Chowk is like that. Its colorful, it’s always chirpy, it has a life of its own. The place may not be the cleanest locality, but it gets my vote for one that has a complete and distinct personality.

Which is why I loved the first half. The Chandni Chowk showed in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham was a sham and completely unrealistic. And though parts of this movie have been shot in Rajasthan, the locality is very similar to that of Old Delhi. The same narrow galis (lanes), the same hole in the wall shops, huge ancient doors separating one lane from another and no place to walk. The houses where they stay are also very real with a wall built right in the middle of the courtyard to separate two fighting brothers, the Tulsi shrub in the center of the aangan (courtyard) and the narrow staircases that find their way onto interconnected terraces. The director did not go for large Havelis and opulent interiors as many do. Watching the film particularly reminded me of a Heritage Walk I took through the Old Ahmedabad finding my way through winding galis, old havelis dating back 200 years flanking the lane and opening into courtyards.

I must also confess that there is a high probability that the reason I loved the first half was because I am a self confessed Delhite. I was born here, have spent most of my life here and can not imagine calling any other city home. As Abhishek says in the film, its problems are mine but so is its glory. The movie doesn’t make any one community larger than life a la Singh is King, but shows you various aspects of life in Delhi albeit Old Delhi.

The Second half unfortunately goes downhill, not steadily but at an ever-increasing pace catapulting into a snowball of disaster. In his quest to bring in a social message yet again post Rang De Basanti, Mehra falls into the trap of bringing in too many and ends up patronizing the audience. The film would have been a better one if they had removed the entire angle of the Kala Bandar (black monkey) who is supposedly terrorizing residents (which is an actual incidence in Delhi but happened so long back that it seems fictional). It was unnecessary and repetitive. Also, the Hindu – Muslim divide is done to death and should have been left well alone. A film like ‘Bombay’ can not be surpassed.

In my opinion, if these 2 elements would have been removed, what you would have is a sweet love story between an ambitious girl from a not so open minded family and an NRI in the backdrop of all these wonderful characters. Each person in the ensemble cast has done a great job, be it Bandu the Jalebi wala, Jalebi the untouchable, Gobar, Waheeda (as graceful as ever, the sweet bua and not to forget the adorable 2 boys who did not even get a mention in the credits. Sonam is the image of classic unaffected beauty and doesn’t put on any airs. She floats through her performance brilliantly putting the dumbstruck Abhishek in place when required. Rishi Kapoor is his reliable best. Abhishek wasn’t bad but has done better. Cyrus was the disaster – completely wasted and gave a wooden performance.

The music also demands a mention, I could have been spotted in the hall dancing on my seat whenever a song came up. Rehman, the man of the day with 2 Oscars, did a great job and Genda Phool is something of a national anthem as are Kala Bandar, Masakali, title song and Raina Tu. Cant wait to get my hands on the CD.

The screenplay was also designed in an interesting manner around a Ramayana skit drawing a correlation between the epic and modern day evil. Another special mention goes to a fakir who keeps walking around showing people a mirror, urging them to look within themselves, a concept that I loved in the beginning but was torn to shreds when Abhishek started spelling out in his sermon in the second half. Should have been left unsaid.

-spoiler alert-

My Paisa Wasool moment in the film was when the 2 boys face Jalebi and blurt out “Mujhe Mard bana de”. These 2 feet somethings had the hall in splits!!

All in all, get some popcorn, enjoy the first half and go home in the interval. Trust me, you wont regret it.

Rating: First Half – 3.5, Second Half - 1. Overall – 2.5

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dev D (D for dope, D for daru, D for disappointing)

I refrain from reading reviews before watching a film. I like to go with a clean slate and develop my thoughts on it but before I sit down to review it, I like to read what Raja Sen, Rajeev Masand, Nikhat etc. wrote on it. So, even though Dev D released 2 weeks back, I hadn’t read a single word on it before we went to see it last night.

And let me say at the onset that I was disappointed. With the direction, the acting and the take on the story. Devdas may be a done to death tale but it’s an epic nonetheless. It’s an epic of powerful characterization, each actor has a persona be it Paro’s mother, Paro’s husband, Dev’s father and mother, Chunni Lal, Dev, Paro, Charamukhi. Dev D falls flat in this case. The actors merge into one another and no one holds their own. I can barely remember any other character besides the 3 protagonists. Chunni, who has always been a colorful picture is reduced to a slum dwelling pimp.

Secondly, the story stands for undying love and the kind of longing that every woman wishes a man feels for her. It also epitomizes what a loser Dev was with his incapability to take a stand when it mattered. This version unfortunately just manages to show the 2nd part – what a loser he is. Love is replaced with lust and some sort of a ridiculous hormonal imbalance. Apparently, neither of the 2 women want much more from Dev but to sleep with him. It’s interesting to see Indian movies getting bolder but here its just unnecessary. Paro doesn’t fret for a moment when she gets married and dances gaily at her wedding.

Lastly, it’s always interesting to see a new take to an old script but this one exaggerates away to glory. The doped out, drunk beyond comprehension Dev (Abhay Deol) doesn’t cut it, he stumbles through the film (literally) and cant make up his mind what he’s so damn upset about. The acting is very substandard, Paro is hyper active (couldn’t get over the fact that she got this role perhaps), Chanda doesn’t change her expression and Dev is…well, drunk (and I really wish he had kept his shirt on)! Abhay was far better in Oye Lucky…any day!!

The movie has its plus points. The music is used as a narrative and the treatment given to it (fade in fade out) is interesting. But the 18 songs sound soundtrack starts getting on your nerves as this 3 hour long movie moves along. It’s a good job at background score, just not something I will remember when I leave the hall. The script doesn’t give in to the obvious and refrains from cheap one liners. I agree with Masand, look out for a particular scene in the bus involving a bus ticket. That one shot was paisa wasool for me.

Go watch the film for an interesting love triangle, a lot of neon lights, a break dance sequence in a pub, a view on how the MMS scandal a couple of years back changed the life of a school girl and some time pass. Better still, get a DVD.

Rating: 2.5 on 5

Monday, February 16, 2009

Broccoli Soup to beat the chill...

Cold winter evenings, a warm blanket and hands wrapped around a mug of warm soup! Now, what could be more heavenly than that? I've grown a strong dislike for the readymade Knorr soups and the likes and love to experiment in the kitchen creating new soups. I have a delicious one I make from Almonds and Grapes (and let me keep that one secret else how will I surprise you when you come over) but this post is about the yummy Broccoli Soup I have recently concocted. Its simple and perfect to beat the cold.

Serves: 2

1 small Broccoli flower (200gms or so)
1 large onion (chopped)
1 tsp garlic paste
1tsp olive oil
1 bay leaf
Salt/ Pepper to taste
1/2 cup Milk
2.5 cups water

1)In a thick bottomed pan, heat the olive oil and add garlic. When fragrant (and not brown or golden), add the onion and sauté till it is transparent.
2)Add Brocolli flowerets broken into small pieces, sauté for a minute or 2.
3)Add the water, salt, bay leaf and give it a boil. Boil on low heat (covered) for 15minutes.
4)Cool slightly, remove bay leaf and churn in the mixer till smooth.
5)Put it back in the pan, add pepper to taste, milk and give a boil.
6)Check for seasoning and serve hot.

If you’re not overly health conscious, you could also add in some cheese when you add the milk and garnish with some on top. Or serve this with garlic butter bread.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Luck By Chance Reviewed


I don’t know whether it’s the genes or the food served in the Akhtar household, but genius seems to flow in their blood. Father Javed Akhtar needs no introduction and neither does his step mother Shabana Azmi. They both command respect with their contribution to Indian cinema and culture. Mother Honey Irani is a remarkable across in her own right. Following suit, son Farhan first wowed audiences with his direction in the gen-next flick Dil Chahta Hai and followed it up with Lakshya. As he wasn’t very happy sticking to only direction, he decided to try his hand with acting and even singing in the recent “Rock On” and became the new heartthrob of India. Not to be left behind, sister Zoya slipped into the director’s chair while bro tried yet another cap, that of a producer! So sitting at home, they decided to make this movie “Luck by chance” with sister directing, brother producing and acting & father writing the lyrics (and I’m sure giving Zoya a hand in the script as well). And I’m glad they did.

Luck by Chance may be touted by many as yet another take on bollywood – the casting couch, the double faces, the agents, and the hypocrisy. Another Madhur Bhandarkar’s Page 3/ Fashion, you ask?? No. Not even close. The movie doesn’t pretend to be an expose and refrains from being one. The way I see it, it’s a tale of a bunch of people trying to make it big in the Film Industry, at times compromising on themselves and at times justifying this compromise. Everyone knows how difficult it is to act for a living, and this film helps us see that from the point of view of the protagonists.

Farhan excels in his acting again. His no-flair and natural style charms you and even helps you sympathize with him when his character shows shades of grey. Konkana has always been one of my favourite actresses and continues her no-nonsense act. She is as believable as you and me and looks gorgeous in the last frame walking through the crowds with her newly found self-confidence.

The Akhtar family goes the Om Shanti Om way by bringing in friends to do cameos. Hritik Roshan is hot as ever and does a good play of a pricey hero act. Shahrukh plays himself and shows why he’s still the super hero. BTW, he plays his true self to such an extent that he is seen wearing his wedding ring which he has not in any film till now. Dimple Kapadia plays the yesteryears jaded starlet who is determined to make her daughter shine.

But the star of the movie is Rishi Kapoor. He and his wife Juhi play an entertaining couple that know the ways of the world and yet live with the nuances. The 2 have done a great job in this film and leave a smile on your face. The music of the film is also catchy but it doesn’t stick with you.

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable movie and a one time watch. Don’t expect any national awards here.

Rating: 3 on 5

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Talibanization of India?

Pub Culture is not a part of our culture and has led to unfortunate incidents like the one in Mangalore” BS Yeddyurappa, Chief Minister of Karnataka

If St Stephen’s were to open a co-ed hostel, it would also be required to build a maternity house alongside” MS Frank, administrative head of St Stephen’s College, Delhi University.

“….one should not be so adventurous…” Sheila Dixit, Chief Minister of Delhi referring to a young lady journalist traveling home after work at 3am who was chased and shot point blank in her car. Saumya Vishwanathan is a producer with Headlines Today, English News Channel. She was covering Bomb Blasts in Malegaon and Gujarat and had to sit late to complete the assignment. She was done by 3 AM and was returning from her Jhandewalan Office towards Vasant Kunj, her home when she was shot in her own car.

"Our volunteers will check parks, hotels and restaurants and swoop upon young lovers found walking hand-in-hand," Vijay Tiwari, a Shiv Sena activist in Lucknow, said. "We are deadly against Valentine's Day," Sapan Dutta, a Sena leader, said. "We are for civilized love and affection." Bal Thackeray comments “Only those who are not patriotic and has a lot of parents' money to spend will celebrate the day”.

India's Taliban is our very own elected government and politicians?? Last time I checked, I lived in a free democratic country?!?!! Please excuse me while I quit my job and go home to live within my 4 walls, covered from head to toe, saving the Indian/ Hindu Culture....

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Jaipur Day 2

I have suddenly woken up to the fact that I am lagging behind in my blogging. This came to me as a realization when I was reviewing things in my head this morning. My usual routine involves a 20 minute (thankfully so) drive from my home to office. I usually spend this time planning out my day and prioritizing. And when I thought that I must blog about the delicious Broccoli Soup I made yesterday, I realized that I had promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep….well, ok not really but I do have a long list of pending blogs. Besides a new Broccoli soup recipe I created and tried, I also have to finish the Jaipur travelogue (it seems that the trip ended on Day 1), a review of Luck By Chance and I have a half written draft of one about Indian culture and politics. So here’s an attempt to clear my closet. You can expect some rapid 2-3 blogs from me this week.

Where was I….yes, so we woke up on a lovely Sunday morning in this Rajasthani Suite. Sitting on the verandah, sipping tea from my silver teacup on this gorgeous sunny winter morning, I couldn’t help but feel content. THIS is what life was all about! We had a splendid breakfast on the patio and drove off towards the City Palace. Whoever warned you against Jaipur traffic was really not kidding, just try to drive from the gate of Johri Bazaar towards the City Palace, a distance of merely 400ft and you will know what I mean. The place is a mad-house, one that makes Chandni Chowk look orderly! Having said that, the govt/ royal family have done a great job with maintaining the look and feel of the old city. The walled city still has the same structures that existed before and the markets are all built like the olden times with arches and small stores (a similar standardizing exercise is being done in CP in Delhi now). The City Palace itself unfortunately was not much to write home about. I know now why Jaipur is a poorer cousin of Agra in the Tourist circuit. The momuments here have been disregarded and are in a state of complete disrepair. The museums within the City Palace are worth a look, there is one for arms, one for textiles, one showcasing their transport vehicles and a Durbar hall which has a grand chandelier. The fable goes that to ensure that the ceiling could take the weight of the chandelier, the Maharaja got 4 elephants to climb on top of the building and check for sturdiness.

After a quick round, we once again braved the Jaipur Traffic and took off towards the Jaigarh fort. The fort boasts to have the largest cannon in the world (Jaivana) but besides this, the fort doesn’t hold your attention. It is merely a series of high walls (that block the view) surrounding a pit (which to my imagination must have been the treasure area that was looted by Indira Gandhi). Not recommended.

So, we set off towards Delhi, saying goodbye to Jaipur. A delicious dhaaba (roadside eatery) lunch and an endless stretch of road took us back to our home.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire and the Indian IT Industry

Think you know everything about Slumdog Millionaire? I bet you dont know how the Indian IT Industry provided the basic inspiration for this film...

Done believe me? Read this...

Slumdog Millionaire - as inspired by Indian outsourcing

Last night I went to see the brilliant new film Slumdog Millionaire. Directed by Danny Boyle and based on a novel by Vikas Swarup, the movie tells the story of a young man from a Mumbai slum who achieves success on the TV game show Who wants to be a millionaire. His horrific experience of life in the slum gives him the exact knowledge required for each of the quiz answers. The movie has just won four Golden Globes this week and is being tipped for Oscar success, so it comes strongly recommended by most critics.

My Facebook status indicated that I was out watching the movie and this morning I noticed that Anil Tikoo, from the Indian technology firm NIIT, had posted a message on my wall suggesting that his firm was the inspiration for the movie! I dug around on the internet and - sure enough - he was right.

In 1999, Dr Sugata Mitra carved a hole in the wall of the NIIT offices in Delhi, a wall that divided NIIT from a neighbouring slum. Mitra left a computer there, available for the slum kids to use, but without any training or instruction. Within a month the kids were familiar with the operating system and could use the computer to access the web. The ‘hole-in-the-wall’ experiment became a well-known example of innate ability and Mitra and NIIT have developed a strong corporate social responsibility programme thanks to the success of this experiment.

When the experiment was publicised, Vikas Swarup heard of it and was fascinated by the idea that anybody from any background could do something extraordinary, provided they get an opportunity. He wrote his novel based on this idea, and the rest is history.

Source: Mark K Hillary's blog

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