Tuesday, August 25, 2009
our daughter l recently expressed a desire to see a good hindi movie.when she asked for my suggestion, i recommended 'love aaj kal' or 'kaminey'.she opted for the latter.she is a shahid fan and i wasn't surprised.after all he is the chocolate hero.we landed up at 'inox' well ahead of start time. i was forewarned that if i missed the beginning,it would be very difficult for me to understand the story.'inox' is near home and has a genteel ambience.though i booked the tickets in the morning as soon as the counters opened,i didn't get the best of seats.when we were waiting for the doors to open,we quickly had some lovely icecream.she chose cookies with cream and i went for the guava which i thought was heavenly.and that was helpful. it saw me through the first half by keeping me cool.i just didn't know what the hell was going on.the movie was at a frentic pace,more than a dozen characters,each doing his own thing,leaving audiences like me in utter confusion. i had half a mind to walk out but then l insisted that i should be patient and that in the second half the plots will unravel and clear my confused mind.had she read any review or not i did not check with her,but as she predicted the haze got cleared and i did not repent having stayed back.
'kamina' in hindi means a crooked person.someone greedy.a rogue or a scoundrel.the film begins with a 'voice over'.charlie and guddie are morally incompatible twin brothers.played by shahid kapur.both hate each other and have speech impediments.charlie lisps endearingly and guddu stammers.charlie is a small time gangster.guddu works in a ngo.born and brought up in dharavi,asia's largest slum,the brothers lose their doting father while they are young.he gets involved in some petty theft and commits suicide.the brothers are devastated.guddu is a thinking person.he plans out his life till 2014 and displays it in a chart form in his room.enters sweety(priyanka chopra) on the scene who his head over heels in love with guddu. she wrecks his plan.she is the sister of a maharashtrian gangster politician bhope(amol gupte of 'taare zameem par' fame),who cannot live without his vadapav and his 'jai maharashtra' slogan which he belches out every now and then.sweety mothers guddu's child.hence the urgency to get married.the gangster cum politician brother comes to know about it and is furious and wants to stop the impending marriage.then there are three bengali brothers who fix the races in the mahalakshmi race course and charlie's alliance with them to make quick money.charlie gets doublecrossed by the jockey and furious to take revenge he chases him to a posh hotel to kill him.then there is the druglord tashi, two corrupt cops who kill three drugdealers and collect a guitar case supposedly having rs 10cr worth of cocaine.there is continous crossfiring between the cops and the gangsters in the hotel and charlie boots off in the police van which has the guitar case. charlie now thinks that his life is made. the crooked cops and bhope strike a deal.the bengali brothers on finding that their brother mikhail has been shot go on a killing spree and kill all of bhope's men.the police get hold of guddu and try to extract information from him thinking that he is charlie. they realise their folly. an exchange of captives takes place.the brothers meet and there is a huge clash.finally charlie saves guddu and gets shot. but he survives. he starts his offcial booking counter in the racecourse and settles down with his ex girlfriend. guddu becomes the father of twins! it is happy ending after a phenomenal show of gangsterism and stunning violence.
vishal bharadwaj of omkar fame and the new maverick of bollywood has writen and directed this film.another story on slum barons,police and politician nexus in the maximum city.the urge to get away from his wretched life to become prosperous and dignified drives charlie to lead a dangerous life.shahid kapur has come out with his best performance so far and gets into the A-list.priyanka chopra as the marathi mulgi acts below her normal standard.bhope is good in his characteristic style.some of the songs are very hummable."dhan tan tan" is the best of the lot.the cinematography is great.producer ronnie screwala has shown guts in introducing new age cinema to the indian audience.this movie also is having its share of controversy. a ngo has filed a defamation suit for hurting the sentiments of lord jagannath devotees for a scene iin which a semiclad model's picture is fixed on the toilet wall with the caption 'apna hath jagannath' running below it.
when we were coming out of the cinemahall, i overheard some young viewers saying it was "cool". one humorous guy said it was "fimply fuperb".song composer gulzar in an interview suggested that kaminey actually is a 'term of endearment'.when two persons have a healthy relationship they do address each other sometimes as kaminey with love and no malice.but to call someone 'kaminey kuttey' is really bad language.
to sum up, it is an edgy and cult film soaking in violence.it is a dark comedy. it is different,it's plot is complicated,it runs at a very fast pace and keeps you to the edge of your seat.if you want an adrenaline rush in your system you will enjoy it.'kaminey' is a box-office hit.i was told by a friend to take my brains along with me and not to leave it behind which one does for a run of the mill hindi film. for me one experience was sufficient. i wouldn't like to see it again. thank god my brain is in tact.
i arrived in raipur yesterday for a stay of two nights.i am doing some senior management staff hiring for my company and i decided to stay at the babylon international.it is an excellent hotel with all amenities including wifi.the restaurant serves very tasty north indian food and the buffet breakfast has a wide spread(never knew that conjeevaram idlis share honours with paranthas and other stuff).there is the coffeeshop which is mandatory for all 5 star hotels.there is also another all-vegetarian restaurant called 'rangoli' which i went to last night with a business colleague for dinner.
we were welcomed by a lady in traditional rajasthani dress.she applied the tilakmark on our foreheads.she suggested we order a thali as they were serving special rajasthani 'khana' that evening.we thoroughly enjoyed the delectable rajasthani cuisine.mildly spiced and no overload of ghee. butte ke putali was the starter. followed by aloo baigan ki sabzi,bhindi peanut poukra fried,ker sangari,special panneer,dal tadka,baati/choorma(rajasthani food is incomplete without this) and gulab jamun to tickle the sweet tooth. all simple marwari fare.but the presentation was elegant,service very courteous,items tasty and the ambience just the right one for the rajasthan theme for the night.
the transparent glass-enclosed kitchen gave a feeling of comfort to the diner as one could see the high standard of cleanliness and hygiene . we saw everything being cooked by the chefs who wore traditional rajasthani headgears.as we were seated right in front of the kitchen, we got the puffed-up phulkas at the right temperature too. see,smell and eat.that was the message. and we liked it.the papads helped us to digest all that we ate and the thin paans left a pleasant feeling in the mouth.
though i am not like my daughter l a true blue foodie,i think we got a bite of the desert.the rajasthani ambience was there all over with nicely decorated mewari glasswork hanging at different places adding to the colour and true rajasthani flavour.one thing was sadly missing though.the rajasthani folk music. the soothing and sonorous notes would have added greatly to the ethnic feeling that we experienced.
me and my wife are extremely fond of mallipoo.in her case it is but natural.as she hails from the citadel of this absolutely enchanting flower-madurai.the fragrant smell is so unique that it leaves a deep impression in your mind.i crave for these mallipoos-white in colour and full of aroma to adorn my gods-photos and images for my puja. and to give it to my better half which immediately soars her spirits.
i was saddened to read an article recently in the 'outlook' magazine that thanks to the younger generation of south indian girls who have discarded the traditional dresses and have become hep in their attire and hairstyles that mallipoo is no more a 'hot cake' it used to be. in fact it has become 'infra dig' for them to wear mallipoo on their tresses.i never imagined that this famed flower will have such a dramatic fall in the eyes of the youngsters of today.
with an annual production of more than 70,000 tonnes the lower demand has made the producers look for alternate markets.besides exports of the flower to the middle east having a large south indian diaspora large quatities are being diverted to the perfumery industry.
i get my requirements from matunga.priced by the mozham(about 9 inches in length), about three mozhams can make your purse lighter by about rs 20 on a normal day.if it is special pooja day or a festive occasion or if the madurai malli special train has not arrived, then the prices skyrocket.some compare its price volatality to the fluctuation in prices of shares in the stock market.
mallipoo is also an accepted aphrodisiac. one of the reasons why many women adorn their tresses with malli is that it attracts the opposite sex(married women do for their husbands only) and always the bed on a wedding night is adorned with mallipoo.
we had a pet dog named mallipoo. my wife is fond of oxymorons. our dog was jet black and had the peculiar cocker spaniel smell. she couldn't think of a more appropriate name for her pet.and till i married off my daughter i never knew that men could be allergic to flowers and to mallipoo. flowers are taboo in my daughter l's house. so we make do with artificial flowers and garlands when the occasion demands.and that is no substitute.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
some months back, my daughter l gifted me with a book.she thought her dad needed to lose some weight.she reminded me several times to read the book.one fine morning i started reading and finished it pretty soon.i also started losing weight.whether the credit goes to rujuta or me, i will leave it to the reader to guess. but i must say her theory works.no,no fears.i have no ambition to reach size zero. i need to lose another 10 kgs. phir to paisa vasool.and i'll buy my loving daughter something terrific as thanksgiving. read my review below. i'll urge you to buy the book.it will motivate you to eat all the lovely things and still lose weight. wishing you happy reading and happy weight loss.
A Book Review: “Don’t Lose Your Mind, Lose your Weight” By Rujuta Diwekar. Publisher: Random House: Year 2009: Pages 279: Price Rs 199/-
The present generation is obsessed with good looks and wellness. And why not? The fever is spreading to the older generation as well. Also many do not have the time to meet specialists for checking out their day to day health problems. The result is a plethora of books in the market with captivating titles to lure the wannabes with alternative therapies,special exercise regimen and DIY(Do it yourself) books. Whether it be yoga or reiki or ayurveda or weight-loss or nutrition. Besides the usual selfhelp books, there are autobiographies and memoirs from those who have done it. One such book by India’s top celebrity fitness guru and top-class dietician and written mostly in Costa Coffee,Oshiwara is the one under review. The entertaining and informative book has sold record numbers; for isn’t the author also behind Bollywood beauty Kareena’s size zero figure? Rujuta Diwekar’s Unique Selling Proposition ( USP ) is that she offers the reader a diet plan that allows eating your favourite foods at the right time and yet losing weight. Just follow her four simple principles. You can continue to eat your favourite paranthas and jalebis and still shed kilos. And she has a forward by the captivating Kareena(“Rujuta has not only changed my body but also my mind and soul”),to endorse her unique eating recommendations enough to get the cash registers ringing. Arguably,it is one of the best books on something that many of us neglect. Just grab a copy, keep eating your favourite snack and read the book page to page.You will love it. And you will also start loving yourself and become more beautiful. Losing weight has never looked so simple!
Monday, August 17, 2009
MARRYING ANITA: A QUEST FOR LOVE IN THE NEW INDIA By Anita Jain.Publisher: Bloomsbury: Year 2008: Pages 307: Price Rs 299/-
It is a memoir by an Indian journalist who has worked in top international cities after graduating from Harvard. She is in her 30s and modern as she has been raised in America though her parents are conservative. She has done the works- latenight parties,barhopping,internet dating et al.Yet she hasn’t found a soulmate. Marriage by dating appears to be an illusion and a shattering of her expectations. Realisation dawns that after all marriage by the ancient Hindu tradition of arrangment may not be so bad.Her search for love and marriage brings her back to her parents’ roots. She discovers a whole new world.
Early on in the book Anita Jain quite familiar with American style dating describes a series of missed opportunities and disappointments. Her parents are overtly worried about her single status..Upon returning to the U.S. to live in New York City after a prolonged stint abroad as a journalist, Anita Jain finds herself under more pressure than before to change her single status and starts to question the unchallenged merits of the way Americans chose their mates. She describes the New York dating scene in alternately humorous and despairing terms and, ultimately, decides to travel to India in order to live and work and look for a romantic “broadminded” partner.
She writes in a honest, straightforward, courageous, engaging and humorous style. You don’t feel like dropping the book whatever maybe the distraction. Some of her escapades make delightful reading though one feels sorry that at the end she is a loser. She is in awe of her parents who seem to be made for each other. Her father who takes up the onerous task of managing her online dating profiles is hilarious. Her dates end up with shock and surprise seeing her drinking and food habits. Will Anita find a husband? I won’t let the cat out of the bag. But I promise that you will enjoy the journey with her. The book addresses a major and complex feminist issue. The concept of “choice” in marriage. How it pans out for the women of the current generation. And how conventional wisdom on love, marriage and happiness could be turned upside down. Anita also writes about the new urban India, the changes that have taken place in the last ten years or so.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
English Version By Sanjit Narwekar: Orchid Books: Year 2008: Pages 246: Price Rs 150/-
It took me nearly four hours to finish reading this book. Almost twice the time I would have normally taken. Because I read and reread many words, sentences and chapters. I must confess that many times there were tears in my eyes while reading some of the heartbreaking incidents that the author so vividly describes. It is a book right from the heart with no pretensions.Vithal Kamat,an engineer by education and hotelier by profession has achieved success the hard way. And he is justifiably proud of it.
His father started as a small time restaurateur. Vithal, as an obedient and devoted son grew under his father’s tutelage. And enjoyed a deep and abiding relationship with his parents. He applied unwaveringly the Upanishadic sayings ”matru devo bhava,pitru deva bhava,athithi devo bhava” in his daily life. His parents were like God for him. At every step that he took in his business, he obtained their consent for his unconventional and daring actions. He did it before or after the decision but their stamp of approval was always there.
He dreamt big,very big.To become India’s biggest hotelier and overtake the Oberoi Group.Which he expressed with some chutzpa to Rai Bahadur Oberoi himself in a chance meeting. And he fulfilled his dream by building the world’s best environmentally sensitive hotel -‘The Orchid’ which has won innumerable accolades.
The book is divided into 35 chapters and filled with sparkling anecdotes that makes his autobiography most lively and interesting. The young formative years when the six siblings and parents lived cramped in an one room apartment, the family feuds, his affection for his youngest brother(the black sheep of the family) though misplaced and betrayal by friends and relatives which brought him to the brink of self-extinction. Perhaps his past karma saved him from near suicide and put him back on life’s journey with hope and courage to fight the many battles which lay ahead of him. He acknowledges with gratitude that the blessings of his parents and support he received from his wife and children and a few friends were what really helped him to maintain his sanity and reach the zenith of his profession.
Vithal Kamat is a shining example for young people to emulate.Sincerity,hard work,honesty,simplicity,self-confidence,a friendly and helping attitude,an open mind,creativity and an ability to face the toughest situations and most importantly the ability to dream big and to achieve the dreams is what this honest book is all about. Don’t take the book’s title lightly. The metaphor in the title of the book is very apt. His life is like an idli. Difficult to make but soft,tasty,white,clean and enjoyable. His creation of a fivestar ecotel-‘The Orchid’ was an unparalleled success against the heaviest odds. And what saw him through was his willpower. The modest and godfearing family man has proved right the French commander Napolean Bonaparte’s saying that “Nothing is impossible”.
“Veni,Vidi,Vici”- He came, he saw, he conquered.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
in june, alongwith my wife i did a pilgramage to tirupati. earlier in march i had worshipped lord varadaraja and lord yahtokthakaari at kancheepuram. i normally have no difficulty in getting the lord's darshan at kancheepuram.it does not have the type of rush as in tirumala and as my father hailed from kancheepuram,i have my contacts to ensure a hassle-free darshan. but in tirupati,i do not have such contacts. one can plan well in advance,book on the internet and have a reasonably peaceful darshan.in our case,we are unable to do such long-term planning which the net booking calls for.hence, i have to use 'influence' to get darshan. for the last twenty years or so,i have been managing in this manner. i wonder when my luck is going to run out.
the sacred abode of lord vishnu is nestled amidst the peaks of seven hills(representing the seven hoods of adisesha).this most venerated and richest temple of the world situated at a height of about 3000 ft above sealevel is more than 2000 years old and is a twenty minute uphill car ride from the base tirupathi. as per our family tradition,we chanted the vishnu sahasranamam and completed it just when we reached the top.also it has been the family practice to visit the padmavathi(wife of lord srinivasa) shrine at tirucchanur(6 kms from tirupathi) and obtain her permission and blessings and then embark on the steep climb and on return visit the sri govindarajan(lord srinivasa's elder brother) temple at tirupathi. lord venkateshwara(srinivasa) is the reigning deity of tirumala.services are offered to him round-the-clock excepting for about two hours after the 'ekanta seva' around midnight when he takes some rest. about one lakh piligrims visit the temple everyday and on special occasions the crowd could go to a staggering seven lakhs. the arrangements for accomodation though are satisfactory,it is a herculean task for the ttd authorities to manage such a huge gathering.many of those who seek the free darshan have to stand in serpentine queues sometimes for fortyeight hours!
so we feel guilty when we go for the break-darshan causing inconvenience to the regular devotees.reports keep on coming that ttd authorities are going to scrap this preferential treatment.break- darshan is a facility for vips enabling them to jump the lengthy queue for a darshan of the lord. from six hours in a day which were kept for break-darshan,it has now been reduced to one hour.even break-darshan worshippers have to stand in queue for some four hours at times. the final decision on scrapping now rests with the cm of andhra pradesh.the break darshan regulars include l k advani,bigB,s m krishna,anil ambani, jeetendra and his daughter ekta,anand mahindra,vijay mallya,sachin tendulkar,shilpa shetty(recently kissed by a priest but not in tirumala) and last but not the least janardhan reddy,minister for mines(gold?) who donated a crown for a staggering rs 40 crores.made out of 34 kg of pure gold it has an emerald of 880 carat and about 70,000 diamonds.
but that has set off a controversy of sorts.it is said that heavy lies the head that wears many crowns.the priests have a headache. they are worried that the lord's head is getting overburdened.they are afraid that this may cause a crack in the lord's moolavigraha(the main idol).lord balaji's jewellery kitty has already seven magnificent crowns plus eleven tonnes of gold,ornaments and many other precious jewels.on an average at any point in time the gold ornaments on the 'moola vigrha' weigh about 6o kg of gold.several years ago my wife's cousin,a professional expert in gemmology, was given the contract to clean all off lord srinivasa's jewels.she did it happily and in record time and which was well appreciated by ttd officials.
a closely guarded secret for centuries is likely to be revealed soon.the andhra pradesh high court has asked ttd to submit an inventory of properties and ornaments owned by lord srinivasa on the basis of a public interest litigation recently filed alleging certain irregularities by ttd officials.
the lord's(frequently called "govinda" by his devotees) pull is magnetic and his grace offers his worshipper the much needed solace." venkataadri samam sthaanam brahmaande naasti kinchana; venkatesha samo devo na bhooto na bhavishyati" ( there is no place equal to venkataadri in the whole universe; a god equal to venkatesha has never been nor will be). all pujas for lord srinivasa commence with"idam bhagawan" (this is god). if you want to know all about tirumala and lord srinivasa, i would recommend to you "Tirumala tirupati the legends and beyond" by sarita reddy and biraj yajnik.it is a beautifully illustrated coffetable book priced at rs 3600.there is another informative book on balaji by nanditha krishna priced at rs 295.early this year,i attended an exhibition of tanjore paintings from the personal collections of late sir c p ramaswamy iyer(dewan of travancore) at cymroza art gallery in mumbai.i took permission from nanditha krishna and took pictures of some very beautiful paintings.one that i liked very much and wanted to buy(the price was unaffordable) is the last picture shown above.now,i regret not having bought it.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
i took a short holiday after a long time.it was to a place which i might like to visit more often.a four and half hour drive from mumbai,it is the new free india hill city.i had heard about it from our daughter l and read about it in newspaper ads but came to see it for the first time.it is astonishing.it is awe-inspiring.it is amazing.the vision and the execution of the developers of this beautiful and nicely ensconsed hill city. at 2000 feet above sea level,this 25,000 acre land,lakes and hills terrain is the closest to a worldclass hill station you could get to. it is called lavasa.
based on the principles of new urbanism,lavasa(2500 feet above mean sea level) is about 200kms from Mumbai.we took the mumbai-pune expressway which covers about 140 kms of the total distance.the major portion of the remaining distance is on an excellent road built by hindustan construction company(HCC) who have developed this beautiful hill station. set amongst seven hills like sheffield in uk and tirumala in andhra pradesh,lavasa covers 25,000 acres of lakes(60 kms of lake front) and hills out of which HCC plan to develop 12,500 acres.lavasa is one fourth the size of mumbai and equivalent to the size of paris.it is being designed on the lines of a worldclass hill station by an american company.tieups with premier national and international institutes are being planned.ITC have set up a four star hotel.when completed around 2020 lavasa is expected to have a population of about 2 lakhs.by 2010,davase,the town in the the first phase of the project would be ready.
l had booked four rooms at the "ekaant" which has a capacity of 20 rooms.it has elegant and spacious accomodation,a well-equipped garden for children to play,a conference hall and restaurant with a breathtaking view. it was drizzling most of the time but we did get the breaks at the right time to explore the place and do some motorboat riding.there are many watersporting options like jetskiing,kayake,etc.we went to their hightech 'introduction' room housed in a huge building where we were shown 3D visuals of lavasa followed by a visual presentation of the upcoming hillcity. later we took a busride around downtown to see the new villas and apartments which were in various stages of construction.we also had a look at a sample flat out of many apartments available for booking(about 25,000 are expected to come up).perched as it was at a height of nearly six storeys, l must have wondered whether her old man would really make it to the sample flat.running alongside the waterfront, a beautiful promenade is being built with stylish cafes,boutiques,fancy eateries etc.you feel as if you are in some posh european resort.
on the whole,it was a calming,tranquil,soothing and refreshing experience. with no noise and no air pollution.of course, the whole stay was not hunky dory. we had a fair share of hassles. like our grandchildren falling a bit sick on the second day and yours truly suffering from a heartburn triggered by hyperacidity and followed by a stomach upset.all of us took it in our stride and did not allow it to dampen our enthusiasm. had our stay been longer we would have had the time to explore more of the flora and fauna that lavasa is supposed to have.it seems there are many rare birds which visit this place during winter.there is, as they say, always a next time.perhaps this coming winter.we will do it again.