Sunday, December 31, 2006

i (don't) see you

it was a comedy of errors. s text messaged l and asked her to buy tickets for the a r concert. l ended up buying tickets for ar's film "i see you". i was hoping to see a r rehman and we ended up seeing "i see you". produced by 'ke sera sera' and 'chasing ganesha' films (i don't know what that means) and directed by debutant vivek agarwal this film is also a love story like the earlier one "vivaha" that i had reviewed. only the difference is that while the latter was between two mortals,the former is between a mortal and a spirit.

the story is about raj jaiswal (arjun rampal) who is the hot-shot anchor of the "british raj" tv show being broadcast from london. the handsome man is having lots of fun what with his roving eyes and girls swooning over him. one day when the casonova returns home he finds a woman in his apartment. he is shocked to see her. as the conversation develops shivani (vipasha agarwal) explains that she is a spirit. she is a doctor and in her hospital there is an organremoval and sale racket going on led by a senior surgeon and that she was a witness to one of the kidney removal cases. the doctor tries to get her killed in an accident .luckily she survived and is in a coma. she fears for her life as the doctor is now determined to finish her to remove all evidence. what is her cause? she wants to get back into her body and stop the surgeon from removing the life plug.she pleads for raj's help.

she breezes in and out of his apartment at any time of the day or night.and she even visits him in his office.fortunately or unfortunately raj is the only one who can see her and speak to her.raj falls in love with the spirit to the disbelief of his buddy akshay (chunkey pandey) who even gets a psychologist (boman irani) to help raj out of his madness. meanwhile shivani's mom (kiron kher) visits her daughter everyday hoping for her recovery. ultimately when the surgeon tells her that there is no hope,she agrees to the withdrawal of the life support system which is keeping her alive. the spirit sees and hears the conversation. she rushes to raj and asks him to speak to her mom and prevent her from signing the letter. raj tries but unsuccessfully as the mother doubts his intentions. he gives up perhaps more terrified by her dog than by her who does not trust these media people.he decides to get the patient out. raj alongwith his friend pose as doctors and commit a daring act of taking the comatose patient out of the hospital and he brings her to his flat.

now scotland yard steps in. a hindi-speaking officer is in charge of the investigations on the 'organs scam'. the sherlock holmes type pipe smoking officer's investigations bring him to raj's flat. the comatose body is forcibly removed and brought back to the hospital.the spirit is heartbroken. the plug is pulled out by the doctor and she is supposed to be dead. the police officer arrests the surgeon. miraculously shivani recovers and joins raj.

you have to hangup your senses to believe in such a story. the direction by first timer agarwal is very average. arjun rampal's acting is good though for a seasoned actor it could have been better particularly the scenes when he first meets up with shivani's spirit. even the newcomer vipaasha(rekha look alike?) does not perform too badly. screenplay by suresh nair is good and the cinematography by ashok mehta of 'moksh' fame(arjun's first film) is excellent. music by the duo of vishal-shekar is great but only in parts. there are two hummable songs out of four in all. 'subah subah' and 'halo halo'.the second one is an eyecatching disco number with trapeze artists et al choreographed by shamak davar.

this is arjun rampal's production debut. the love story has been shot entirely in london. the inspiration for the story is from an earlier hollywood movie 'just like heaven' starring reese witherspoon and mark ruffalo. the film title has been plagiarised from " i see" directed by steven stahl.

don't waste your time watching the movie. get a cd and listen to the songs. and if you have absolutely nothing to do and you want to see pictures of london rent a dvd and fast track forward. also the movie seems to have been released at a wrong time. cinema viewing is minimal during xmas and new year eve. a movie for the urban class and mutiplexes ,it is bound to flop in the boxoffice.poor arjun.he seems to be having a record number of flops. where do i see him?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

laptops aplenty

it is going to be no notebooks but just laptops for schoolgoing children in mumbai. to reduce the burden of schoolbags,a school in a mumbai suburb,santacruz, has gone hi-tech. no more textbooks and notebooks. from academic year 2007,the podar international school will procure 'classmate pc' for students. it weighs only 1.3 kgs. and will cost about rs 20,000/-. the school is even prepared to subsidise the student's cost by 50%. the pc will be used extensively for doing class work,taking down notes during lectures,for reference work and any project related work. even for examinations based on multiple choice questions.the school has already provided 65 teachers with laptops costing rs 52,000 a piece. the pc will look just like a book.

in farwaway libya,the government of libya has reached an agreement with a nonprofit us group which is developing a lowcost educational laptop computer.the objective is to equip all 1.2 million libyan schoolchildren by june 2008 with a laptop. actually the originator of the idea is nicholas negroponte, the it guru. he is designing a wireless connected laptop that will cost about 100$ once the mass production commences.the laptops will be manufactured in taiwan. negroponte convinced munaawar gaddafi,president of libya,on this idea. in no time the libyan president found out the idea to be extremely appealing. it is likely that libya may become the first country in the world where all schoolgoing children are connected to the internet through educational computers.earlier when he was in cambodia, negroponte gave the cambodian children some experience in laptops,the first english word that came out of their mouths was "google"!

lalu prasad yadav,india's new management guru,who spoke in hindi very recently to a group of students from harvard and mit,has provided laptops to 4200 railway staff at a cost of rs 23 crores. he expects that there will be an increase in productivity as administrtaive and operational efficiencies of departments will improve. also it is a way of encouraging employees to carry their work home. according to a railway board member,their officials should have all the data at any point in time at their fingertips. surely with laptops with them that would be child's play.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

karva chauth

many years ago i worked for a boss who was a be exact he was from northwestern india and he belonged to a place which is now in pakistan.his wife was very fastidious when it came to 'karva chauth'. quite a modern woman but then on karva chauth day she would be completely transformed into a sati savithri.she would keep fast for the whole day and do pooja till the moon rose in the evening. and not even drink water. then perform a special arati,distribute sweets and join in the merrymaking; all for the sake of her husband.

it is said that for those married hindu women who follow the tradition properly,long life for the husband is a given. performed about nine days before divali in the krishna paksha (black half of the month)) chaturthi,in the month of kartik this festival is very popular in northern india. it is the most important fast observed by the hindu women of north is also very popular among newly weds. karva means a clay pot. about nine inches in diameter and having a capacity of about two litres,lots of goodies are placed in the pot which is beautifully painted from the outside and exchanged with familymembers and friends after praying for the longevity of their husbands.the daughter-in-law also hands over the 'baya'- a basket full of presents from the mother to the mother-in-law.

in the olden days, girls were married off when they were young.the husband was the nourisher and protector. he was deified. he was considered to be the patidevata. however there was a practice of establishing a 'confidante' for the bride in her new environs. the married girl would adopt a girl from her in-law's village as a godfriend. in the new surroundings, she would be her friend,philosopher and guide. in fact this relationship used to be sanctified during the wedding ceremony. in case of any quarrel with the in-laws this girl would intervene and help sort out matters. it is believed that karva chauth started off as a function to celebrate the bond between these two friends. over time the girlfriend got relegated and the husband got the upper hand and the undivided attention of his spouse.

there is a story of a woman named karva. her husband was bitten by a crocodile. she caught hold of the crocodile and tied it up with a cotton cloth. when yama came to fetch her husband, she asked yama to send the crocodile to hell. he initially refused. she threatened to curse him. yama was so scared of the woman's curse that he agreed to send the croco to hell and give long life to her husband.

these days the younger generation have their own ways of performing karva chauth. they keep fast alright. they perform pooja and then it is a long long wait. for the fast to end and to see the rising moon through a sieve alongwith the husband. they kill several birds with one stone. they go for a beauty treatment. or for a tattoo. or to the mehendiwallah or the churiwallahs. or do all. and why not? if you are praying for the long life of your husband, you might as well try to look as young as you can.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

ponkh-sev,a palate tickler

i am always amazed at the various ethnic varieties that indian food offers.a friend from gujarat met me yesterday and he brought with him ponkh and sev. ponkh is a speciality of surat and is generally eaten during is accompanied by pepper sev. the small green lentil-looking beans has a slightly sweetish and succulent flavour. and after eating it one washes it down with lots of chhaas or lassi.

it is ponkh season now and my friend advised me to eat it when it is fresh. "if you want more do let me know and i will send you fresh ponk from surat"', he added, confident in the belief that i will crave for more. shopkeepers generally sell ponk alongwith some sugar.the price for ponkh currently is about rs 240/kg!.

there are many ponkh buffs in gujerat and mumbai too. they organise ponkh picnics in farms and in rural areas where the families and friends sit together under the shade of a tree and partake of the ponkh. ponkh is generally taken raw. some like it roasted and take it alongwith sugar granules. i had it raw with green hot mint chutney and the combination was superb. like the iftihaar parties during ramzaan,politicians in gujerat throw ponkh parties where both political friends and foes are invited.

i studied in gujerat for five years. yet, i had never heard or tasted ponkh. and though i have been living in mumbai for more than twenty years at a stretch now, i had not tasted ponkh. this was my maiden consumption of ponkh and it left me with a satisfied feeling and yearning to ask for more. the taste has to be friend perhaps guessed it right.there will be an encore.

"vivah" (huf ultd.)

last friday we went over to metro adlabs,a heritage structure, to watch 'vivah'.and in the foyer i took a good look at the beautiful belgian chandeliers.thank god,they did not get lost in the transformation from mgm metro to its current avatar of a racy mutiplex.

'vivah',has been produced under the barjatya family banner of rajshri productions. suraj barjatya,the director,has eminently succeeded in producing an excellent film. steeped in hindu culture and traditions, the film is full of sentiments and emotions. the story is about the love between a young boy from a city(delhi) and a young girl born and brought up in a small rural town(madhupur). prem(shahid kapoor) the handsome dude, has returned from usa after his studies and has joined his father's business. a common family friend bhagatji(manoj joshi) suggests to prem's father(anupam kher) a matrimonial alliance between their family and that of alok nath a smalltime businessman in madhupur. alok nath sends his orphaned niece's(poonam) photograph to anupam kher. the father has a tete-e-tete with his son and shows him the picture. though initially taken aback at the suggestion of marriage so soon, prem is willing to go along with his father. the father convinces him that early marriage is good for him. after seeing the girl's picture he agrees to go over to their place for a formal 'dekko'. when they meet on this occasion it is love at first sight. prem is shy and it takes a long time for him to even hold poonam's hand. poonam is a bholi-bhali,seedhi-saadhi,acche sanskaroanwali, pyari bitiya of alok nath. she can't even talk to him excpeting to say that "koi sawal nahin hein".

they meet on several occasions when both the families get together to picnic in a hill-station nearby. their meetings are stealthily done,the rendezvous being the terrace or the garden outside.their mutual love strengthens. prem goes to japan to clinch a deal and she wishes him best of luck. "main aapki safalta ke liye bhagwan se prarthana karoongi". there is a lot of shuddh hindi from poonam which constantly foxes and amuses the delhiite prem. he clinches the deal in faraway japan and there is celebration all around.

wonder what prem is allergic to. he seems to be having a running cold all the time. "zukhaam mein thanda jal nahin peete". yet another shuddh hindi message to her lover. the simpleton poonam doesn't have a cellphone.whenever the black instrument rings,she rushes to it as it invariably is a call from prem.and munshiji, her father's secretary, is only too glad to oblige. and in response to poonam's quiet advice prem clasps his cellphone to his chest!

the day of the wedding is fixed.alok nath plans to gift a lot of family jewellery to his favourite niece.the stepmother(seema biswas) is upset that nothing may be left for their daughter chhotu.her jealousy and dislike for good-looking poonam is apparent.she refuses to cooperate and help her husband in the preparations.unmindful,alok nath goes ahead and warns her that she will repent for her foolhardiness.

then tragedy strikes. on the day of the wedding and in the midst of the preparations,there is a fire in the is an inferno.alok nath is dumbfounded and bewildered at the turn of events. poonam rushes to save her younger sister chhotu with whom she has a great bond. and risks her life. chhotu is saved but poonam suffers third degree burns. her face though is saved. the news is conveyed to the baarat. they all rush to the scene and console alok nath. prem meets poonam in the icu and applies sindhur on her forehead.she asks him to see the burns and only decide after that. there is no changing his mind. his father gets the topmost plastic surgeon from delhi to assist tthe local surgeon and the critical operation goes off smoothly.the wedding takes place with the usual dhoomdhaam. the stepmother embraces poonam and it is obvious that she is fully repentant. all is well that ends well.

a fascinating spinoff of this movie is the interest that the painter m f hussain has started taking in amrita rao. fida hussain has gone fida over her.he has seen 'vivaha' nine times so far and after the last screening at 'plaza', dubai,he threw a grand dinner party. he said that a delicious movie must be followed by a delicious feast."she has entered my canvas". he has been bowled over by the portrayal of an upright and bashful girl by poonam. he raves over her and predicts a tremendous potential for her. after madhuri of 'hahk' fame,it is now the turn of amrita, the new muse of maqbool fida hussain.

'maine pyar kiya','hum aapke hain kaun'',main prem ki diwani hoon' and now 'vivaha'. rajshri productions have constantly been conveying similar messages.good clean-cut values.strong social and familial bonding,the sanctity of marital bondage.sacred,pure and eternal. all obey elders and everyone is religious and do poojapaat. suraj barjatya has made his film the way he and his family would like it to be made.the characters have been handled sensitively. he knows and understands the common man's psyche.the music by ravindra jain is soulstirring.the songs are particular,"mujhe haq hai".he has a boxoffice hit on his hands.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

'baabul' or bubble?

s had seen 'baghban' and liked it. she suggested we see 'baabul' (girl's father)directed by ravi chopra, expecting it to be of a similar class. we both returned very disappointed. you just don't connect with the film and its characters.

the film addresses a burning social issue. widow is also about the father-in-law becoming the modern times, a daughter-in-law must be considered like a far so good. it highlights the fact that this is still a taboo in the so-called modern indian society.

a film is considered to be a medium which can influence the perceptions of society. however,in this regard, it has not achieved much success. people's attitudes on this subject remain fairly deep-rooted. there are about 40 million widows in india. social ostracism,abandonement by children,rape by in-laws,and financial and sexual exploitation by priests are all happening all the time. a succession of legislations hasn't helped either. widows are still seen as a curse. the husband is seen as a god. and once the god is lost the woman becomes a zero.

'water' and 'white rainbow' are also recent films which have focussed on widows. about 50 years ago br films had produced 'ek hi rasta', which was about widow remarriage and directed by b r chopra. the son, ravi chopra,who is now carrying the torch, has not handled the story competently .the first half is so slow that i asked s whether we should go home. (normally it is the other way around!) the speed catches up a bit after interval. but then,the interest is already lost and except for some fine acting by amitabh there is nothing else in the movie.

avi(salman khan) is the only child of the kapoors(amitabh and hema malini).he returns from abroad after his education and is pampered by his parents.amitabh while playing golf accidentally spoils the painting being done by mili(rani mukeherji) when the golfball falls into the paintcan which in turn results in a splash on the painting. millie is very upset.they have a tiff and millie leaves with a bitter taste in her mouth about the attitude of these rich people. avi meets mili by accident a few times and falls in love with her.he puts up a show that he is a commoner and working for balraj kapoor(amitabh) as he he knows that mili will reject him if she comes to know that he is balraj's son. millie comes from a middleclass family and her head is properly fixed on her shoulders.when she comes to know that avi has told a lie and that he indeed is balraj's son she is terribly hurt.balraj makes up by apologising to her and says that his son whom he calls 'buddy'(and vice versa) is really not at fault because he was aware of the cold relationship between them and did not want to lose millie. later millie and avi court each other,they get married and millie has a son,ansh .her boyhood friend rajat( john abraham) who loves her dearly is sad that millie has found another person but her happiness is supreme for him.after millie's marriage,rajat who is a musician goes away to europe. avi goes to london for a business meeting but on his return he meets with an accident very near his home and dies.

millie is totally devastated and is on the point of a complete breakdown.balraj empathises with his daughter- in- law and thinks of a solution to bring back happiness to millie's life. he meets rajat and tells him about avi's tragic death and would he marry millie whom he loves and bring back happiness to her life? rajat agrees; but then balaraj's elder brother balwant living in rural punjab would have nothing of it. he says the marriage will take place only over his dead body.he accuses balraj of having invited their widowed sister- in- law for millie's first marriage much against his objections and for having brought bad luck upon his he will not allow millie, a widow, to marry a second time.balraj prevails on balwant who realises his folly and relents.

amitabh carries the movie on his shoulders.he even sings a song in his own voice.the climax is when he gives his state-of-the-nation type address .just the way he did in 'baghban'. rani mukeherjee is passable. salman as the happy- go- lucky pampered son is ok.parmeet sethi,aman verma and sarika are practically on mute.the music is below average. a story of good intentions sadly defeated.

our great expectations burst like a bubble.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The World Is His Plate

he was in india some months back.probably the most interesting and adventurous cook around. he is also a writer. the superchef's two best selling novels are "kitchen confidential:adventures in the culinary underbelly" and "a cook's tour". he has also recently taken on the role of a tv show anchor .quite a multifaceted personality.anthony bourdain.

he visited 11 countries for the "anthony bourdain: no reservations" show. bengali fish, rajasthani royal fare and mumbai's street food will feature on his shows.he shot for national geographic at udaipur, mumbai and kolkata. and he says he had a whale of a time. drinking and eating.not in fine restautants but from the road shops. and he found the mumbai burger absolutely out of the world. mumbaikars will be happy to know that firstly a foreigner has fallen in love with 'aamchi mumbai' and secondly that omnipresent wada pav,the delight of the mumbaikars has caught his fancy.slathered with red and green chutney,decorated with raw onions and lots of green chillies and folded into a bun,the potato vada pav was about the best thing he has ever eaten,he proclaimed. he even met the dabbawallas when he was in mumbai.he loved the smoked curries made by the rajasthani royal family.and had jhalmuri in kolkata! he will never try to cook indian food he said. he would leave it to the indians. he found india beautiful but frustrating.

the 50 year old gastronome had travelled to india in search of new wisdom and old secrets.he has eaten a live octopus in korea, a cobra heart in ho chi minh city, a boiled foetal duck egg in vietnam and chicken skin,heart,wing and gizzards cooked in a black soy and mirin sauce in japan and drank ganja tea in puerto rico. he says he is completely dysfunctional and nothing makes him more nervous than cooking a simple italian meal in front of his girlfriend.

the loud and leanfaced and leanframed celeb chef is quite eccentric. but then isn't that the hallmark of brilliant people?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

'gale mein khich khich ho, toh khichdi lo,aur khich khich dur karo.''

there is a nip in the air and the first signs of winter setting in are visible. with the change of season also comes throat irritation. and in a polluted city like mumbai for some it is perennial. ask grandma for a remedy and she will give you a quick fix. the good old khichdi or kitchari.

for many it is their comfort food.morarji desai,ex prime minister of india, swore by it. and it is a favourite breakfast for the gujeratis. it is not confined to them only. with its umpteen variations this 'all-in-a-pot' concoction is popular throughout india. and why not?

where else can you get vitamins,minerals,carbohydrates and proteins from a single dish? normally it is considered to be the food for the 'convalescing' as it is recommended by doctors for detoxification. but then besides cleansing your intestines, it provides you with the required nourishment. some take it for breakfast,some for lunch and others for dinner. it can be taken at any time and can be a fantastic all-in-one meal.

take rice,legumes,vegetables and spices.and of course a polyunsaturated oil.carrots,beans and cabbages and even potatoes and spinach can be added .tomatoes,green chillies jeera,asfoetida,bay leaf and turmeric powder add to the looks,feel and taste.

soam, a veggie restaurant at chowpatty, is having a monthlong khichdi festival. the khichdi comes with curd and cucumber kadhi preceded by some appetisers like masala chaas and papad. khicdi na poodla,bhajiya and handvo.
the main course of khichdi includes masoor,saatdan(seven grains and lentils) and bajra. the masoor is topped with sliced and lightly fried onions.

a one-dish meal which is healthy and tastebuds-satisfying.

dadima is right.just go for it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Wedding of the Century

the eagerly awaited marriage of lord srinivasa with goddess padmavati took place in mumbai at the mmrda grounds,bandra-kurla complex, on saturday 2nd and sunday 3rd december. 6 lakhs devotees,70 priests from Tirumala,1800 volunteers,12 performers from chennai for the naadaswaram troupe,rs 50,000 worth of jasmines,kanakambarams & tulsi leaves,6 lakh laddoos and a budget of 2.5 crores says it all. it was a marriage made in heaven. a celestial wedding attended by all the gods and goddesses and devatas and even rishis in attendance. a wedding that cannot be missed.

the vigrahas(idols) of lord srinivasa,sridevi and bhoodevi were brought from a senior archaka's(priest) home in tirumala. a practice which began in the 1700s by the mystic composer annamacharya(1408-1503 ad) of taking the deities outside tirumala for the kalyana utsavam and which was discontinued after his death was restarted by ttd(tirumala tirupati devasthanam) some time ago. this was an extraordinary event. the wedding ceremony took a little more than 2 hours and had all the trappings of a typical sri vaishnavite marriage.

huge digital screens two of them were placed in two corners to make the marriage visible from all parts of the enclosure and outside for those who could not gain entry. Elaborate arrangements were made for smooth conduction of the ceremony by sies (south indian education society) mumbai. the wedding and other poojas on both the days went off without a hitch. among the vast congregation one could see many iyengar mamas and mamis clad in panchakaccha veshtis and kancheepuram silk saris respectively and the mamas with the vaishnavite mark prominent on their foreheads.

the ceremony began with vishvaksena(commander-in-chief of lord vishnu )aaradhana,followed by punyavachanam,the purification of the area where the marriage was to be conducted .followed by 'ankurapanam' when the 33 crores devatas were invited from the heavens to witness this awesome spectacle. and bless the couple and the people at large who had come to witness this unique function. a short 'sankalpa'(resolution) was done where the gathering was asked to recite a prayer for peace and prosperity,particularly in mumbai. the whole area reverberated with the chanting of the mantra as recited by the 'brihaspati'(main priest and repeated by the congregation. then the actual wedding began.

the invocation to the lord of fire,'agniprathista' was done. after that,goddess padmavati's father lord aakashaganga gifted 'nutanavastram'( new clothes) to the groom. after wearing the new clothes the groom arrived at the mandapa. the groom(lord srinivasa) gifted bright orange & silk saris to the blushing brides(sridevi and bhoodevi). however the brides and groom were not permitted to see each other yet. till the goddess was handed over to her husband by the father .when the 'kanyadaanam' was completed,the 'rakshabandanam' for the priest,lord srinivasa and the goddesses were done. and then the 'maangalyadharanam' took place when the sacred 'mangalasutra'(taali) was symbolically tied on goddesses sridevi and bhoodevi. and before the actual tying,the 'taali' was shown to all devotees for their blessings. and then the 'mangalaaarti' to the newly wed couple was performed to protect them from evil eyes.the ambience resonated with the chanting of "govinda, govinda", the ceremonial music and the singing of annamacharya's compositions. and one of the priests danced with joy chanting "govinda, govinda".

on sunday the 3rd december,the programme started at about 5.45 pm and lasted till 8.15 pm.about 3 lakhs devotees came to watch the celestial wedding.this was the second time that such a wedding was performed outside south india on such a massive scale(the first was on saturday the 2nd december). a rare and once- in- a- lifetime event indeed. the sponsors had made excellent sitting and security arrangements. the utsavamoorthies of the lord and his consorts-sridevi and bhoodevi were placed on platforms on the dais.the programme started with one compere speaking in tamil and another compere translating the same in hindi .interspersed with annamacharya's kirtans,the wedding was conducted as prescribed by the vedas.

both hh jayendra saraswati of the kanchi kamokoti mutt and hh sri andavan swamy of srirangam were present to witness the wedding of the century.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

oh london!

my first visit to london was in 1979 when i was 35 years was also my first trip company had sponsored me for a management development programme at cambridge.i was in the uk for about 8 weeks and frequently shuttled between cambridge and london and later between birmingham and fascinated me beyond measure and since then i have been visiting london on business a couple of times a year every is an exotic place to travel to and it casts a miraculous spell on you.

this time there was an added reason and motivation to visit london. l and h had moved to london from new york last year and were planning to return to india soon.i spent about six days in two phases and thoroughly enjoyed my stay.when you live in an area so centrally located like south kensington, you have all the big shops at arm's length and the high street kensington tube station within walking distance to take you to any part of london, the transportation is so good that you remain very mobile.i went for many long morning walks to kensington park and hyde park;one almost enveloping into the other.high street kensington is a five minutes' walk from l's home.and then i also travelled on the tube to picadilly and oxford street for more shopping. from picadilly,one evening,i walked down to savile row and admired the small and beautiful tailoring shops some of which have existed from the 1700s.

l and h are great hosts.almost every evening after returning from work we would visit one of their favourite restaurants or pubs. quilon,wagamama,marush,churchillarms and many marush, i enjoyed the meditteranean food;while at quilon(st james court) it was a veg thali and unforgettable avial prepared by the very amiable chef from palghat.

wagamama was like a production line in a factory with hundreds of people coming in and going out in an orderly was a new eating experience.there was a wide range of items in the menu.each chef has his own workstation.the food is light and spicy.the sitting arrangement is like in a school or college canteen. you sit on benches.the waiter has a computer keypad which send your order directly to the concerned chef.and if you have ordered several dishes you may get them in any order depending on which chef prepares it is a great place for veggies.wagamama is a japanese restaurant chain and there are some 55 of them in the uk.they believe in "positive eating".

churchillarms is an outstanding pub where i had the best thai food in my life.its ambience is out of the of the oldest pubs in london,it has its own special can see large portraits of winston churchill hanging at several is a lively pub throbbing with energy and can really lift your mood.and the thai food is worth walking miles to eat.(one would never have expected to see thai food in a typical british pub)

a day before my departure for india we visited a pub in nottinghill.after a few beers we walked along portobello street.its market is internationally known.and we walked into many shops and also saw the fantastic flea market which is open only on saturdays.and the shops were selling all sorts of antique and secondhand stuff.jewellery,furniture,radios,cameras,bric-a-braq,clothes and food.there were vegetable and fruit produce also on sale in the market on the is supposed to be 300 years old and one of the top ten destinations of tourists who visit london.

on our return, we went to 'melt', a chocolate shop and tasted some exotic chocolates. walking back via kensington palace grounds it was too much of a temptation to resist.a 'dekko' of the 70 million pounds mansion of lakshmi nivas mittal,the steel czar and the second richest man in the uk.

the weather was very pleasant throughout my stay,as it had not turned too cold. there were intermittent showers though.and as they say the weather was typically english!

Friday, December 01, 2006

'haute coutre' for the gentleman

while i was visiting l in england recently,i wanted to fulfil a very old desire of spending some time windowshopping in savile row. the street famous the world over for its handmade suits known as 'bespoke' suits. as luck would have it,l had only the previous day met two brothers from india.they had bought over a tailoring company in savile row and were deeply involved in the business of making and selling 'bespoke' suits.i expressed a desire to meet them.without any fuss suresh agreed to meet me.

and then for nearly two hours i was totally enthralled by his suaveness and knowledge of this business.he explained to me why he and his brother mahesh gave up their lucrative managerial positions in the us and uk and decided to make and sell 'bespoke' suits.nutty?.no.passion? yes.not just passion but absolute passion.the brothers are so involved that their wives think that they have gone bonkers over the end of our discussion suresh removed his jacket made it into a ball and flung it into the ground. he picked it up and wore it again. it looked as elegant on him as it was earlier. no wrinkles,no distortion. the crease remained intact.

they hail from a very illustrious family in chennai. the boys are very well educated with undergrad qualifications from usa and mbas from ivy league business schools. can the love for making handmade suits be so compelling to make one give up one's well-paying and prestigious job and make one start a venture 'de novo', and about which one's knowledge is limited? it was not certainly foolhardiness. it was the confidence in one's self to learn and make a success of the new business. good luck to the brave youngsters for their passion,dedication and committment.

i was brought up in kolkata. my father was a suit afficianado and all his suits were tailored by the best tailor in kolkata. barkat ali and sons,park street. sometimes, i accompanied him when he went for a suit trial and was very impressed the way the main tailor attended to him and then my father would be delighted to see and feel the fitting. he had then told me about saville row in london and its legendary suits.

when i first heard of bespoke suits, i wondered what it meant.suresh explained to me that its meaning is "to have been spoken for".you had to be introduced to the tailor by a friend. hence 'bespoke'. 'bespoke' suits and 'made to measure' suits are not one and the same. whereas 'made to measure' suits are cut from standardised templates and then cut and sewed,in the case of 'bespoke' suits, the tailor literally starts from scratch.the tailor keeps the cloth in his choose the material that you want.he then takes more than 20 measurements. a personal pattern is made by hand and cut.using this pattern the cloth is cut and trimmed.alongwith the best linings and other single tailor sews the garment together. even the buttonholes are carefully made by hand. as well as the slit in the jacket where you insert the rose. so carefully done that the stem doesn't break. the ultimate in indulgence and style. for the first suit you may be required to go for three or four trials and the whole process may take about 10 to 12 weeks.

if you visit marks and spencers or any other big retailer, you can buy a readymade suit for about 200 pounds.'bespoke' suits from savile row can cost you a the range of 2000 to 3000 pounds at the lower end.and more, depending on the selection of the can even go upto 10,000 pounds! savile row seems to be on an upswing now after many years of stagnation. it appears it is making a revival. from a business perspective it is the ideal time to enter this field.

the brothers from india are doing a great job.competing with the english in their very own bastion.using management techniques and modern technology and the skills available in india. they are making a fine combination and fusion of east and west.they have stitched for the rich and famous,the bold and the beautiful,royalty and gliterrati. they eat,drink and sleep 'bespoke' suits. that defines passion. and i will let you into one secret. they were born as triplets. and the other sibling keeps himself miles away from 'bespoke' suits!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

no jaan in 'umrao jaan'

after 'jaan-e-man',which was the last movie i saw,i decided to see 'umrao jaan' before leaving india on my business tour.the earlier one made in the 80s by muzaffar Ali was an outstanding was based on the urdu novel titled 'umrao jaan ada' written by mirza hadi ruswa. i am currently reading its english translation by david matthews.

to remake a box-office hit is always very risky.and jp dutta did exactly that.when one compares the new and hyped umrao with the old,i must say,it falls far short of expectations. rekha was outstanding in the earlier version.the images of dusky rekha keep coming to your mind. that of a beautiful courtesan and an accomplished but sad poet,and her mujras and ghazals still come forth in your mind's eye and ring in your ears.

aishwarya has acted brilliantly.aishwarya as umrao jaan is a tawaaif she is dressed in the most expensive clothes which could be the envy of begum sahibas! she holds her own and inspite of the heavy burden of rekha behind her she essays her part charmingly.aishwarya steals the show. she has been dressed extremely well and the makeup is flawless.she exhibits a wide range of emotions brilliantly and her dances are scintillating.take aishwarya out and the movie will collapse.everything else about the movie excepting the story and aishwarya is just average.abhishek's acting as the nawab besotted with the courtesan,the background music,the choreography,et al does not impress.the only redeeming features are aishwarya,shabani azmi as the kothewali and the costume designs.period.

director jp dutta in trying to put old wine in a new bottle has sadly failed.the earlier 'umrao jaan'was a musical masterpiece.brilliant soundtrack and unforgettable khayyam's music.the lyrics by sharyar and several hit songs by asha bhonsle were beautiful.the current umrao jaan has average cinematography and very average music by anu malik.there are just too many mujras and the movie is very very has emerged without a soul.a great disappointment indeed.

the movie starts with umrao jaan meeting her biographer and telling her sad and poignant story.her tragic and ironic life set in 19th century lucknow.we get a feel of the culture and ethos of that bygone period through many flashbacks.the lucknawi culture of sher-o-shayiri,ghazals,mujras.sponsored by rich nawabs.of happy childhood memories as amiran when she is the apple of her dear abba's eye,the games she played with her dear younger brother,the loss of a silver ring given by abba for which she was spanked by her ammi,her tragic kidnapping by her neighbour and father's enemy dilwar khan,her sale to a kothewali,her rechristening to umrao jaan,her life in the kotha where she was brought up with love and affection by her foster parents,the learning of dance,music and literature, her love affair with a young nawab,betrayal by him as he decides to marry a girl of his father's choice,her misplaced trust in a bandit king,her return to her birthplace faizabad for a performance and her eventual meeting with her mother and brother in their 'bangla',and who sadly reject her because she has brought dishonour to her family.she returns to the life that fate has destined for her.that of a courtesan.

if lucknow was the heart of avadh,umrao was the heartbeat.due to her proficiency in writing and composing poems umrao had ada as her signatory name.ada means coquetry.she was loved and respected.but then her's is a story of great angst and pathos. the avadhi vidaai song "agle janam mohe bitiya na kijo"("don't let me comeback as a daughter in my next birth") is heart-wrenching.