Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year BBQ

Chicken, duck, emu, kada, lamb, chonak, bangda, pomfret, prawns, calamari, crabs and for the veggies, paneer and mushrooms... On the charcoal grill...

All are invited :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Anna Question

Just 200-300 people have reportedly turned up at the fast at the MMRDA ground on Day 2 of Anna's fast, compared to the 100,000 expected by Team Anna. In contrast, Delhi had seen 40000-50000 supporters each day...
What happened?

People got tired of the "campaign" by Team Anna? Thought it looked more like a circus..?

Lost faith in Team Anna?

Too busy at work? Mumbai versus Delhi issue?

Want to give the Parliament a chance?

Whatever the reasons, I think it's sad that Team Anna and the country lost a great chance to press the advantage when they had the upper hand... a classic example of not knowing when enough was enough.

The Lokpal Debate

Politics may be dirty, but it's definitely intriguing! See what's happening on the Lokpal Bill... the way the politicians are playing Anna, the way the politicians are playing this amazing battle of wits...

The government, which enjoys a simple majority in the Lok Sabha, got the Lokpal Bill passed, but couldn't get it Constitutional Status, which requires 2/3rd majority. This gives the government (read Congress) a way to say, hey, we did all we could, it's the BJP which spoilt the party by refusing to give it support...

Tomorrow, the bill goes to the Rajya Sabha, where it gets really interesting! And really puts the BJP in a spot... if they reject the bill, it's clear that the BJP was against the bill and "not serious" about fighting corruption. On the other hand, if they support the government and pass the bill...

On the other hand, the BJP is talking about rejecting the bill because it's not strong enough. Other parties are fighting for various amendments... from quotas in the Lokpal to whether the CBI should be in or out, whether the PM should be in or out...

And meanwhile, Anna is fighting a lonely battle at the MMRDA ground in Mumbai... sidelined, and ignored, a victim of his team's misguided intentions, and a missed chance to build on the awesome support his anti-graft movement had garnered.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Don 2 3 in 3

Another "record" for me - 3 shows of the same movie, on 3 consecutive days. And before you snigger, trust me, I have very valid reasons :) (why am I even justifying it to you? :))

Anyway, watching a movie multiple times really allows you to appreciate subtleties and tie up lose ends. Also, makes you appreciate the difference between 2D (the first 2 times) and 3D (the third time)... while some of the action is fun in 3D (especially when SRK does his really cool dance moves), in general, if you wanna appreciate good action, stick to 2D. Action in 3D is typically in-your-face and blurred, and wasn't as much fun...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Star World

Master Chef -> White Collar -> Big Bang Theory

How am I supposed to work at night?

Fire On The Expressway

Saw a pretty bad accident on the way back from Mumbai yesterday... a Scorpio (looked lke that) caught fire just before the mega Lonavla tunnel, and the flames quickly caught the underbrush and leapt up the slopes to the road above.


By the time fire tenders came to douse the flames (and they came pretty quick!), the jeep had been reduced to an unrecognizable smouldering heap of charred metal.

Thankfully, looks like no lives were lost, the occupants (looked like a lovely extended family in two vehicles on a Christmas weekend trip) got out before any one got harmed.

Secret Santa

Had a Secret Santa event in the team today - every one got together earlier this week, picked lots to decide who they will be the Secret Santa for - and today, we all got together to open the gifts. Was an amazing team bonding activity... and a lot of fun!

Some things remain the same, no matter how old you get!

Movie Review: Don 2

The King is Back, and he's back with a vengeance. Step aside Idiots and Chulbul Pandeys, aur dekho kaun aaya, yeh hai Don!

While I am still wiping the drool off my jaw, here's a quick review of possibly the best ever action flick from Bollywood, India's own Mission Impossible meets James Bond, and then some.

Don 2 kicks off with a sensational entry by Don in the jungles of Thailand, where a Ramboisque SRK escapes mayhem and murder to surface, quite inexplicably, surrenders before his nemesis, Roma the cop (Priyanka Chopra). The move starts making sense when Don escapes with Vardhan (Boman Irani), and puts in motion his adrenelim pumping, thrill-a-min action plan to rob the currency plates from the Deutsche Central Bank. Any more of the story will be blasphemy... but over the next 2 hours, the Don catches hold of you, and doesn't let go, even for a second. The story is beautifully laid out, the pieces of a complex jigsaw that falls into place, then bursts apart just to come together in another superb mosaic. The twists throw you around, surprising you and thrilling you at every corner, and when you have think you have figured it all out, it twists some more! From Thailand to Malaysia, Zurich to Berlin, the screen enthralls you with stunning visuals, dramatic action sequences, and some of the best executed car chase sequences in movie history.

Shah Rukh's portrayal of Don is stunning... smart, arrogant, wild and always in cold control, always thinking ahead of his enemies, witty and humorous, as lovable as evil can ever be. He falls in love with Roma... or does he really? It's clear Roma cannot hold him off much longer! Is he just using her as part of his game plan? Hard to tell with Don, right? SRk also delivers some superb action - jumping off a skyscraper in a way only he can, playing demolition derby with Roma through the streets of Berlin, some super hand to hand combat. And the dialogues, the wit, the humour, the evil. Brilliant. Carried out in a way only the King could have.

And SRK looks stunning. From the Jack Sparrow look in the jungles of Thailand, the pony tailed prisoner in Malaysia, the suited and smart Don in Berlin, and finally, the biker at the end of the movie... SRK rules the screen like few other men have in movie history.

Priyanka is good too, looks hot, and pulls off some great action. But hey, who was really looking?

Some special moments to relish, over and over again...

SRK's entry in the boat
The prison break sequence
The car chase in Berlin
The moment of truth after the charity event
The jump from the skyscraper
The "Don" song sequence - watch the smoke dancing to his motions, the shadows, the dance moves
The standoff sequence with SRK, Roma, Vardhan and the other baddies
SRK on the bike at the end - simply drool
The seconds just before the credits roll at the end of the movie - don't misss it!

And every freaking frame with SRK on it!

Watched it with 23 other folks from office in a packed theatre at 400 pm... looking to catch it at least another half a dozen times!

When are you gonna catch it?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Masterchef

Been following Masterchef Australia and now Masterchef USA quite closely this season, and I have been truly amazed by the techniques, the ingredients, the presentation, the creativity displayed by the "amateurs" on the show. Completely changed the way I looked at food...

...and then I had the disappointment of watching Masterchef India. It's as if we can't think beyond chicken and parathas, beyond the same old spices, the same rice pulao and tikka. Presentation has no place in our food, and cooking techniques are limited to chopping vegetables and using the gas.

Really? Is Indian cooking that limited? :(

Movie Review: Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team is hot on the heels of an international terrorist trying to grab hold of Russia's nuclear arsenal, when the Kremlin is bombed in spectacular fashion, forcing the IMF to be shut down and all official support pulled out. On their own, chasing the bad guys to Dubai, and then to India, Ethan and his team race against time (and gravity) to save the world from a deadly nuclear attack.

Some of the stunts are spectacular (especially the Burj Dubai sequence) and Tom looks his part, but the movie is 30-45 min too long, and you might tend to doze off, especially in the afternoon shows.

Shot for a bit in Mumbai, with most of the shooting actually done in a "foren" location - vintage cars placed on the road, along with sarees and turbans, and a couple of scenes of people jaywalking and crossing the road, as a frustrated Ethan waits in his car to pass...

Disappointing to see Anil Kapoor allowing himself to be Hollywood's joker, prancing around as a leechy old man, acting the fool and getting slapped on his cheek. And if that was not bad enough, he walks around preening like a peacock, showing off his Hollywood achievements. Please, Anil, we loved you for what you were in Bollywood... let it stay at that.

Overall, not terrible, not great... and with Don 2 only releasing next Friday, you still have some time in case you really wanna catch it.

Movie Review: The Guard

A rude, lazy, take-it-easy Irish policeman (Brendan Gleeson) teams up with a no-nonsense FBI agent (Don Cheadle) to track a gang of international drug runners. The movie's OK.. if you wanna get a peek into the Irish way of life and Brendan's excellent portrayal of the policeman's role. Otherwise, avoidable.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Movie Review: Fright Night

Another vampire story. A funnily evil looking Colin Farell. A stunningly good looking and very interestingly named Imogen Poots. And a completely ridiculous, meaningless, pointless movie.

Avoid. Unless you really wanna watch it for Imogen.

Or, if you want to know 101 ways to handle vampires. For example, vampires cannot come inside your home unless you invite them in. But they can come in abandoned homes. Yes, really.

Movie Review: Catch .44

Bruce Willis is brilliant in his extremely short essay. Robert Whitakar reminds you of Criminal Minds - Suspect Behaviour. And the 3 girls are eye candy, and not bad, actually. The story is presented in an interesting fashion. But not really something you choose to watch if you have any other options...

What is it about? Doesn't matter...

Just Like Crab

A few months back, I had blogged about a really bad experience in one of Pune's better restaurants, which served us Just Like Crab in crab soup. Just for the uninitiated, Just Like Crab is actually made out of fish and artificial flavours, and made to taste like crab - but is not crab. It comes as fillets, multi layered and pinkish. And yes, it can fool most if finely chopped and used along with some egg drop. But not crab-crazy Goans like me!

Today, Aundh's Seasons hotel served me the same in their Oriental restaurant, and that was pretty sad, because it is one of my favourite local hangouts for dinner with pretty decent food and service. If that was not bad enough, they actually served those "ready to fry" crab claws! I mean, come on!

Really disappointing...

How do you find out if you are really being served crab or Just Like Crab? Look at the crab meat - after ignoring the very thin fabric-like egg drop. If it looks anything like "regular" shaped - straight cuts, thin strips - you have been had!

Donisms

With Don 2 around the corner (yayyy!!), Donisms have already started making their way around...

In the washroom: "Don kabhi koi saboot nahi chhodta. Please flush!"

Lol

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Don't Disturb Me, I'm Studying...

Exams fast approaching, so much to study!

Bad Times

Jagjit, Shammi, Dev Anand, Steve Jobs, Mario, Socrates, Bhupen... really a bad time to be a celebrity!

Movie Review: Last Night

Set in New York City, Last Night is the story of a married couple and the choices they face when they are apart for one fateful night. Joanna (the stunningly pretty Keira Knightley) and Michael (Sam Worthington) share a happy relationship, until one night at an office party, Joanna meets Laura (Eva Mendes), Michael's new office colleague, and senses an under current of attraction between them. When Michael leaves the next day with Laura on a business trip, Joanna runs into her old flame Alex (Guillaume Canet). As the night progresses, Lady Temptation is at her seductive best. Will they give in, or will they come back to each other? Ultimately, what is the right choice?

Great performances, the chemistry between Joanna-Michael, Joanna-Alex and Michael-Laura is so beautifully developed through the night...

Keira puts in one of her most brilliant performances - under stated, subtle, and bloody convincing! And way above the rest.

Movie Review: Columbiana

A young woman, after witnessing her parents' murder as a child in Bogota, grows up to be a stone-cold assassin, bent on taking revenge on her tormentors, no matter what the price. With her sexy looks and hard core action, Columbia-style, Zoe Saldana might just give Lara Croft tough competition!

Australia's Dog Fence

Do you know what is Australia's most dangerous animal? The dingo (a wild dog). So dangerous is it to livestock, that Australia built a fence around one quarter of the continent to keep them out! At 5600 km, it is the worlds's longest unbroken fence and is two and a half times the length of the Great Wall of China!


The fence was built in the early 1900s to keep wild dogs out of South-Eastern Australia, which has a lot of sheep. Cattle, which are less vulnerable to dogs, are reared mostly in the west.


If you think that's crazy, hear this: One of Australia's serving PMs, Harold Holt, died by drowning on a beach while swimming!

That continent never ceases to amaze me!

Patna's Singham

Shivdeep Waman Lande, ex SP (City), Patna - a 2006 batch IPS officer from Maharashtra, has earned the love and respect of Bihar during his short 10 month tenure in Patna, before his transfer to Araria, an 8 hour journey from Patna. Lovingly referred to as Patna's own Dabangg Chulbul Pandey at times and Singham at others, Shivdeep runs a charity foundation in Akola, and donates 60%-70% of his pay to the Sanghatan which organizes mass marriages for poor girls, and runs a hostel and coaching classes for the worst-off. In tight fitting khakis that show off his muscle, with glares perched on his eyes, Shivdeep was very popular with girls he protected from eve-teasers, personally taking pesky calls on their behalf, rounding up flashy bikes during festivals, and visiting colleges to make sure there was no hanky panky.



Reel life isn't so unreal after all!

Return of the Annaconda

Anna and his team were back in Delhi today, speqing venom at the government and threatening a lot of things. While no one condones corruption, and even fewer love politicians, I feel sad that rather than "Support Anna", it's the Annaconda jokes making the rounds now.

A real opportunity squandered in petty ego trips and misguided actions.

Mario Miranda RIP

Goa's much loved cartoonist Mario Miranda passed away in his sleep in his native Loutolim, around 40 km from Panaji, today.



Known for his unique style of drawings, his amazing caricatures of "Goans", and his ability to pack so much action and adventure in every sketch, Mario's drawings were almost staple to us as kids, since they used to adorn all the Balbharati text books we had in school.

Architect Gerard da Cunha has put together a huge archive of Mario's work for a single book- 'Mario de Miranda', published by Architecture Autonomous and Art India. It has over 2000 images of Mario's work and is highly recommended to all.

Goa has lost one of its most loved sons. RIP.

Flipcart.com

Anyone seen that Flipkart.com ad with the 2 kids dressed and acting like adults? Amazing, amazing ad...

What you ordering now?
MP3 player
Aur kuch faulty nikla toh?
Flipcart.com pe, aaah haah, no chance! Aur agar hua bhi toh, replace kar denge
Awessome... what's going to be your first song?
Ringa  Ringa Roses
That's a classic!

Lol, truly well made!

Movie Review: Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl

Another of those one time watches... with it's pluses and many minuses.
Ricky is an accomplished con man who picks on vulnerable girls (his current score is 31) to loot them of their money (and even if they fall in love with him, he doesn't take advantage of them!) - posing as a guy with huge ancestral property and selling it off to the girl's builder father (victim #1, Parineeti Chopra as the quintessential Punjabi koodi Dimple from Delhi), promising to deliver high quality zari worked cloth (victim #2, Aditi Sharma as the shy and quiet Saira from Lucknow), and selling a fake Hussain to a large corporate (victim #3, Dipannita Sharma as the sauve Raina from Mumbai)...

When the three girls get together, they track him in Goa, and decide to hit back with a con of their own - using the very sexy and persuasive Ishika (Anushka Sharma), who poses as multi-millionnaire NRI's daughter Ishika Patel, looking to invest millions in a chain of restaurants. The plan is to hook him, seduce him to invest money in Ishika's "venture", and recover the money.

Things turn interesting when Ishika falls for him.. but is it yet another master con? Will Ishika's love turn him, or will Ishika and Ricky double con the 3 girls?

Ranveer Singh carries over from Band Baaja, and show a lot of abs, but I am not his biggest fan. Anushka is already getting typecast, but looks great, and has one of the boldest bikini scenes by any Bollywood A list actress, looking smouldering hot! Dipannita and Aditi are good, but the surprise package is Parineeti (heard she's Piggy Chop's cousin..). She has some of the best dialogues, and her Punjabi koodi act is very genuine and endearing.

Not a bad option for the weekend...

Movie Review: Desi Boyz

In recession-hit London, John and Akshay play the role of two friends, one a recently-fired MBA and the other a non-starter struggling with odd jobs, who take to being male escorts (through Sanjay Dutt's agency) to make ends meet. When John's fiancee (Deepika) finds his videos on YouTube, and walks off, John camps his silly trailer in her front garden and tries to win her back with the help of her father, Anupam, who loves sharing a beer with his future son in law. Akshay, meanwhile, needs to show the social services department that he is capable of earning money honorably in order to win back custody of his nephew, and goes back to finish his education (in 4 months), where he meets his college sweetheart (Chitrangda) who is now his Professor...

A weak storyline, poor execution and a lifeless soundtrack. Yet, for some light moments, and the pleasure of oggling at John, Akshay, Deepika and Chitrangda, depending on your preferences, Desi Boyz is not a bad one time watch. Sanjay Dutt is relegated to an extra, so is Anupam Kher, but Akshay puts in a much improved performance compared to some of his recent outings. And oh yes, Chitrangda scores easily over Deepika.. looking like smoking and smouldering lava. Unfortunately, she only makes an appearance in the second half.. talk about not exploiting your assets!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Hail The Nawab!

Virendra Sehwag. 219 off 149, 25 4s, 7 6s.
India reached 418, beating the Windies by 153 to take unassailable 3-1 lead in the the 5 match series.

As a consequence, Sachin has the very "poor" record of having scored the slowest 200 in one days :)

Shiamak Davar's Winter Funk

Attended Sanam's performance at Shiamak Davar's Winter Funk at the Ganesh Kala Krida Manch today - the annual "gathering" of the Shiamak Davar dance students (Pune centers).. a beautiful 3 hour program where dance brings everyone together, irrespective of social strata, religion, built and money! Amazing platform for every kid to perform in front of literally thousands of parents and friends. The SDIPA also gives an opportunity for the underpriviledged and the differently-abled to share the stage, which is a beautiful gesture. With a rich medley of Hindi and English songs, pop and film, lovely costumes, the instructors themselves participating with such passion and energy... Dance is such a wonderful way to channelize energies of the youth..

Very commendable! And highly recommended for all kids.. and adults, for that matter!

Will upload some pics as soon as I find the energy to get off my bum and download the videos from the camcorder...

Movie Review: Reunion

Three estranged brothers and their sister (Amy Smart in a role so tiny, you might miss it if you blink too much) meet after years at their dad's funeral. They have been left a huge inheritance - 3M USD apiece - but there's a catch. The three brothers first need to run a family business together for 2 years and be successful at it, in order to earn the paycheck.

Forced together, the three end up in Mexico on the trail of a kidnapped billionnaire, looking to find him and earn some much needed cash for their business venture... and get sucked up in a whirlpool of  gangland violence that can cost them their lives, true Western style!

Will the three be able to work together, will they be able to trust each other? Will they earn their millions?

A heart warming story, some of the scenes between the brothers are truly memorable. Do watch it...

Movie Review: The Lincoln Lawyer

In this excellent courtroom thriller, Matthew McConaughey stars as a smart defense lawyer Mike Haller, who makes his money defending the worst of the criminals by exploiting the loopholes in the law and pulling his connections and contacts. When he is hired to defend a rich spoilt brat (Ryan Phillippe) against charges of rape and attempted murder, he has no idea that the web of deceit and intrigue will quickly engulf him, and his family. His only chance is to think ahead of his opponent and lose to win!

Matt is fantastic, the screenplay and dialogues engrossing, the pace quick - all in all, a real entertainer.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Animal Criminal

Authorities in Pakistan's Punjab province have recently "arrested" a monkey for crossing the border with India. Instead of getting a number though, he has been named Bobby.
Last year, police in India detained a pigeon and kept it under armed guard after it was caught on an alleged spying mission for Pakistan.

Last heard, both the monkey and the pigeon were looking forward to join politics.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Movie Review: Breaking Dawn (Twilight 4)

20 mins of marriage, 40 mins of honeymoon, 40 mins of pregnancy, 20 mins of death, and then 30 seconds as a vampire. That's what happens to Bella, and that's all there is to it.

Twilight 1 was all wow, and Twilight 2 added some more wow, Twilight 3 got a little boring with the wow rubbing off.. but hey, at least you had enough wows when Bella came on screen, and she came often. Sadly, Twilight 4 is more yucks, eeks and yawn, and definitely no wow. Unless you count the couple of times you get to oggle at Bella in her Victoria's Secrets as she prances around begging to be made love to. Even more disastrously, no matter how much she tries to wow you in the first half, things get really ugly when she's pregnant in the second half, and that image of a dying, stricken, and very sick Bella is what you carry out of the theatre.

There is none of the beautiful dad-daughter relationship, none of the fights that made you stare wide eyed, none of the smiles and laughter and the cute romance.
Vampires were dangerous, but also a lot of fun. Now, Vampires are back to being disgusting blood drenched, blood sucking creatures. And Bella, it's tough thinking about her because her ghotly images scare the hell out of you.

For me, the Twilight has passed into night.

That Was Yummy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wagging Of The Tail

1 - 0. Chasing a meagre 211, the Indian batting collapsed to 159/7 before Rohit Sharma steadied the ship in the company of Vinay Kumar. However, just when it looked like it would be all over, India lost both Rohit and Vinay in quick succession, and in came Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav, the newbie seamers. After playing 15 dot balls, and with almost a run a ball needed, with the last wicket left standing and a billion Indians without hope, first Varun, and then Umesh, pulled a rabbit each out of their hats - Varun going for the square cut, and then Umesh hitting one straight down the ground, for two of the most valuable boundaries :)
A boring match for most part, but hey, the end was fun! :)

Quote Of The Day

"If people won't come to see Test matches, then we will show Test matches when they come." A user on cricinfo.com (in reaction to the really slow 1st ODI)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Movie Review: Babel

Babel is a rivetting drama about how our lives are intertwined - how one event caused by the "careless" actions of two Moroccan boys leads to a serious of events spanning 4 continents, sparking a major diplomatic row, and shaking the world.

 Richard (Brad Pitt) and Susan (Cate Blanchett) are an American couple on a vacation to Morocco, after the death of one of their children. Their other two children are in the care of  their Mexican help Amelia (Adriana Barraza). Unable to find someone who can watch the kids, Amelia takes the children with her to her son's marriage across the border. Meanwhile, in Morocco, two kids are playing with a powerful rifle that's been sold to their father. When they take practice shots at an approaching bus far away in the distance, the bullet hits Susan and lodges in her neck, severely injuring her. The incident quickly snowballs into a major international issue, with the US calling it a terror attack on its citizens. In Japan, a teenage deaf and dumb Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi) tries to win friends and influence people by pulling off her underwear - trying to come to terms with her mother's suicide. What's the connection? The rifle used in the shooting - it used to belong to her dad, before he gifted it away in Morocco. While Richard desperately tries to save Susan's life in a small Moroccan village, he realises his real enemies are his own countrymen on the bus. Back in America, Amelia is struggling for survival in the desert with the kids, having been abandoned there by her nephew after a serious struggle with border control.

Fear, uncertainity, a sense of being completely lost. Different reasons, different places. All intertwined in some way or the other.

Serious movie, but a tad too long. And the Japanese angle spoils an otherwise extremely rivetting drama.

26/11

3 years, the memories still very fresh in mind...

Kasab still lives, having cost the exchequer 50 crores in security bills already. But we don't have much of a choice, do we? Well, maybe we do! Treat him like any other criminal on death row. Get moving on his legal options, close them and finish off the chapter. We have better things to do! And his usefulness as a star witness is over...

What A Match!

After conceding almost 600 runs in the first innings, and a 100 odd run lead, India demolished the WI today morning setting themselves a 250 run target.. and what a chase it was! When I started checking scores, they still needed 50 odd with 4 wickets in hand... then it was down to 4 with 2 wickets in the last over. And finally, needing 2 to win, when Ashwin was run out on the last ball going for the second, WI had snatched a draw with scores level (since India still had a wicket in hand, it wasn't a tie!). 2 - 0, India gets yet another series win, but one more run would have made it a very well deserved white wash!

All eyes now on the Australia tour!

Movie Review: Speedy Singhs

Nothing works for the movie - not the predictable, ghisi piti story, not the Sardars, not the ice hockey, not Akshay's item number, not the Punjabi songs.

Unfortunately, not even the super pretty Camille Belle.

Movie Review: The Presence

Location: An isolated island abode with a vampirish white ghostly apparition that stands and stares out of the window. When a lady makes it her home, the ghost isn't too pleased, but he doesn't do much beyond staring and lying in bed beside her. But when her boy friend joins her, things start getting a little wierd. She starts behaving strangely. Is she possessed? What do the spirits want?

By this time, if you are still watching, you definitely deserve to know. I wasn't that patient. I went off to bed.

Movie Review: Blood Diamond

Another stunningly made movie, Blood Diamond is focused on Africa and its diamonds, and the murky cartels and atrocities that hide behind the sparkles.

Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) smuggles blood diamonds from Sierra Leone which is embroilled in a bloody civil war. He partners with a very reluctant fisherman Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou), separated from his family in a viciously savage attack on his village by rebels, to retrieve a very rare and coveted pink diamond in an adventure that will test their strength, trust and resolve. When they meet up and enlist the help of an American journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), Archer falls in love. However, the journey will tear them apart, just as the civil war ravages the poor nation... will the diamond provide redemption, or will it claim yet another victim?

A stunning look inside Africa, and some brilliant performances, make this lenghty movie a great watch!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Slapgate

Sharad Pawar slapped by "crazed" Harvinder Singh for his failure to control price hikes.Anna Hazare reacts with "Ek hi maara?", before clarifying that he meant to ask in a show of concern, "Aur kuch nahini kiya?"
NCP workers come on the roads in Maharastra to protest the slap.
Thackeray says, "Politicians should be respected"
School kids celebrate the unplanned holiday the next day in response to "peaceful" bandh call
Sachin missed his 100th 100 by 6 runs - OK, maybe that was unrelated!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Movie Review: The Father of Invention

Billionaire Robert Axel's "fabrications" finally catch up with him when one of his products leads to many consumers losing their index fingers. After 8 years in jail, Axel is released and finds himself in a world where his estranged wife has spent his millions, hooked up with another guy, and even given away his beloved car. His daughter no longer believes in him, and is openly hostile on seeing him back. While he is still full of ideas, he is completely out of sync with the latest gadgets. Will Axel be able to bounce back, or will he join the 625 of convicted felons who go right back to joil?

The movie is extremely touching, and is a beautiful rendition of the father-daughter relationship. Axel also shares a wonderfully maturing relationship with his daughter's friends Phoebe and Donna, gently winning them over. It's a lesson in not giving up, a lesson in taking hurt graciously and learning to keep going at your dreams when the whole world is aligned against you. It's about winning hearts, winning support, and gradually turning things around.

The versatile Kevin Spacey, extremely cute Camille Belle, and the sexy Heather Graham make up the core star cast, and are fantastic as Robert Axel, his daughter Claire, and her roomie friend Phoebe. Anna Anissimova, as the third roomie Donna and Virginia Madsen as Claire's mom also add to the glamour.

A very good movie, really.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Movie Review: Captain America The First Avenger

On a day of super-heroes, here's yet another who looks pretty normal (but carries a shield emblazoned with a screaming American flag when all you need is stealth!) - a tiny, weak boy who desperately wants to serve America in the war against the Nazis, is refused entry 5 times due to his medical condition, and finally gets enlisted in a secret program to genetically modify and create an army of super human soldiers. The problem - he's the only such soldier created before the scientist is shot dead, with the formula gone to the grave with him. After spending weeks prancing on stage with scantily clad girls, punching "Hitler" in the face as "Captain America", raising funds for the war effort, he finally gets a chance to get into action, taking on the powerful organization Hydra and their evil boss, aiming to destroy the world's capitals and bring it to its knees, before installing him as the undisputed leader.

Some decent action, some humour, and a lot of Rajnikant, CA is a good action flick for the kids.

Movie Review: Lara Croft Tomb Raider

Every game enthusiast would know Lara Croft. So did I, even though I am not really a gamer. What I didn't know was that the movie came after the game, not the other way around.

Angelina Jolie is really the ultimate action super-hero, as she single-handedly takes on the Illuminati and their rogue leader from stealing The Triangle of Light, an ancient artifact which is activated when the planets align perfectly, once in 5000 years, allowing complete control over time, and saves the world from disaster. She doesn't do car chases, but she fights like hell, and is fearless (like Johnny English!). Looking good comes naturally to her, of course, and her tight black fighting suit with the guns strapped to her thighs.. aah, so much better than wearing underwear outside your pants :)

The action is fast paced and good, the graphics and SFX innovative and fun, and you can see why the game has such a cult following!

A good action flick!

Movie Review: Johnny English

When the Crown Jewels are stolen, Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson), the MI-7 agent who knows no danger, knows no fear, knows nothing, uncovers a sinister plot by the French businessman Sauvage (John Malkovich) to become King of Britain and convert the country into the world's largest prison, for a price, of course! Pairing up with his sidekick Bough (Ben Miller), and the very attractive Interpol office Lorna (a very smart and sexy Natalie Imbruglia), English climbs up poo pipes, swings over the wanna-be-King's coronation ceremony and even ends up being crowned King of Britain, while on the way to saving the world from Sauvage's dangerous plans.

However, this is an example of the sequel  (Johnny English Reborn) being better than the orginal. Rowan is good, but a far cry from the absolutely hilarious reborn English.

Quote of the Day: May all your daughters be born with three bottoms. Johnny English (trying to speak in Japanese)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Movie Review: The Devil's Double

TDD is a chilling look into a lawless and opulent life full of drugs, women and horrifying rage-induced atrocities committed by Uday, the crazy son of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, as seen through the eyes of Latif Yahia, his body double. TDD is executed superbly with a fast-paced storyline, shot in Iraq's stunning locales, with a brilliant performance by Dominic Cooper as the crazy Uday and the reluctant and outraged Latif. Ludivine Sagnier as Uday's lover and Latif's love is good, but she's looked better in other, earlier movies.
I had blogged about the African aid workers yesterday, their sacrifices, their struggles to help save human lives. And then you have people like Uday Hussein...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Aid Workers

The Constant Gardener made me think about all those aid workers in Africa... perfectly "sane" men and women who give up their wonderful lives in the "civilized world" and adopt one of pain and dust and misery and deprivation... just to serve mankind. What does it take to have that kind of a mindset, the drive, the passion to give up so much for someone else who is really, nothing to you? Truly amazing...

Think about it.

Movie Review: The Constant Gardener

A hard hitting movie, TCG focuses attention on the deadly clinical trials of half-baked drugs in Africa, and the evil axis of drug manufacturers, medical care providers and governments in the multi-billion dollar pharma business. Shot in stunning locations in Africa, TCG brings the dust, the garbage, the happy but very deprived children, the squalor, the beauty of the continent right into your living room, leaving you spell bound with experiences of a world so far removed from our own reality...

When Tessa, a rebellious aid worker, is brutally murdered in the midst of her investigations into the pharma cartels, her death is blamed on her friend and partner, a black doctor, as a crime of passion. But as her husband Justin, a British diplomat, tries to unravel the truth behind her death, he is also sucked into a whirlpool from where escape is impossible. Will Tessa and Justin be able to make their deaths count?

Rachel Weisz as Tessa looks fiesty and stunning, and Ralph Fiennes provides the perfect foil as her soft-spoken, gentle husband.

A serious movie, and it will leave you touched.

Movie Review: The Adventures of Tintin (3D)

One of the most endearing characters from my childhood, now on screen. Expected a lot, but came back a little disappointed. Somehow, with the motion capture animation techniques (where real human characters are fitted with sensors and their every motion and expression captured and mapped to the cartoon figures giving life like movements, gestures and expressions), the cartoon characters became too human to be endearing. With glassy eyes and plastic skin, the characters float in the space between humans and robots, almost like sinister humanoids... (here's an article that talks about The Uncanny Valley, an interesting problem in animation)
Some of the scenes rock - the detailing, the lighting, the technical brilliance behind the animation never ceases to wow me, now that I have myself been dabbling in it at work.The 3D is an unnecessary burden to the eyes, the glasses sit uncomfortably on the nose, the bright cartoons from Herge darken into not-so-exciting hues - wonder if this is the future of cinema - oh god, please give me back my 2D! And when most of the 3D is in-screen, it doesn't really make much sense.

After Avataar, one does expect a lot. In delivering that, Tintin fails. But on its own, not a bad watch - especially if you can catch the 2D version.

Simple Things

Went for the buffet spread at the Spice Kitchen at the Pune Mariott today - and of all the delicious things they have on offer, what was really amazing, as usual, was the curd rice with aloo and chana chaat. Isn't it amazing how sometimes the best things in life are the simplest?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Quote For The Day

On the road from nowhere to somewhere lies everywhere. Siddhesh Bhobe.

Whatsapp

Discovered Whatsapp on recommendation of a friend - pretty cool, actually... works like IM and SMS, all the good points, minus the cost. Works beautifully as an offline messaging tool, and equally well as a chat client. Works on data connection, so very cheap when compared to sending SMSes, especially when you are roaming. And best of all, since it is tied to a cell phone, the identity of the person and the security/privacy is much tighter than with a typical chat client.

Pretty good stuff, and available on most platforms - try it out!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Movie Review: 127 Hours

Had heard a lot about this Danny Boyle movie - and had missed it in the theatres, so got a BluRay last night.

127 Hours is the story of an adventurous Aron Ralston (James Franco) who has a bad fall into a crevice, finds his hand crushed behind a fallen boulder, trapping him inside the crevice for 127 hours. It's a story of how he uses his spirit and humour, the strength of memories and dreams, to survive, and finally, gathers the strength to cut his own arm and escape certain death.

The movie has potential with some great visuals, and an interesting sound track by our own AR Rahman, but when more than an hour goes by with no action and a lot of dreaming and hallucination, you tend to get bored... the movie then suddenly turns really gory with the arm cutting scene, and is not for the weak hearted.

Apparently a real story.

Not too bad, but not what I expected it to be.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Vintage Love


Starring yours truly!

Puneville

Met Mark Skaggs, creator of Farmville and Cityville, at the NASSCOM Gaming Developers Conference in Pune this week, and were thrilled to hear him speak about his experiences and learnings in his unbelievable journey.

Here is a picture of him being welcomed by Rajesh Rao of Dhruva Interactive and Rajiv Vaishnav from NASSCOM, before his keynote address.

Preview: Don 2

Don 2 promos looking really good... SRK looks smashing in black, and his jail avataar is even more sexy, the action fast paced, the car chases edge of the seat... the kind of movie that brings out the showman in the King to the fullest.. really looking forward to it!

International Sunrises

Came across this amazing programme "Sunrise Earth International" on Discovery HD last night - a 30 min immersive experience of the sunrise at some wonderful yet perfectly "normal" location in the world. Last night, it was a village in Turkey. Just cameras placed at different locations and live sound capturing the 30 mins of life coming to earth as the sun rises beyond the hills. It was mesmerizing, took me right back to childhood, to those wonderful picnics to wonderful locations in the lap of nature, to those early mornings in villages where the cock announces the sunrise, where tweets do not mean 140 characters... the muezzin announcing prayers somewhere in the background... a lone shepherd taking her cow for grassing... an old man picking up oranges....

Truly stunning...

Quote For The Day

If you want to make enemies, try and change something

Movie Review: Rockstar

Lesson No 1: To create music, you need to have a tragedy touch your heart. To be a rockstar, you need to wear pyjama pants, have unkempt hair and a sullen look and make a lot of noise while jumping up and down.
Lesson No 2: If you love someone, you need to kiss every time you see each other. Whether you like it or not.

That's all I can help you with. If you still want to go ahead and waste a beautiful weekend, go watch Rockstar.

A good entertainer needs a great cast, a good story, some action, beautiful music, some comedy, great locales, emotions, feelings.. or SRK. Unfortunately, Rockstar has little of it, and fails to capitalize on what it does have - the beautiful Nargis Fakhri.

Ranbir is disappointing, too much of his sullen and unkept look, an idiot act that starts irritating you very quickly, stupid jokes that are forced into the script (he calls the Czech city Parag, and asks questions like "tumhare blood ki factory kharab hai kya?") and a character that faisl to evoke any sympathy or empathy. Nargis is beautiful, but needed the camera to love her, and it doesn't always flatter her. She also needed a dress designer who would bring out the amazing woman she is, not make her look like an old lady past her prime. When she does go western, she sizzles the screen - some of her initial shots in college, the dance in the black dress, the short dress where they have the long kiss dialog.. if she dresses like that, she will give all B town leading ladies sleepless nights. She loses out on acting though, and has a long way to go. To start with, she could try keeping the dialogue delivery a little less animated.

Kashmir and Prague as locales are as beautiful as they come... but just like Nargis, are under-utilized, which is such a shame.

The music doesn't rock, it sucks. Unless you count head banging to "Sadda Haqq" as uber cool rock. The lyricist obviously didn't report for work.  And AR Rahman is probably suffering burn out.

And the story. Sorry, but between the 213 shots of Ranbir mouthing Sadda Haqq in his pyjamas, mostly repeated, I seem to have missed it. Something about staking a girl, forcing a few kisses in the name of love, becoming a devdas after her marriage, tracking her and stalking her again, becoming an overnight media sensation after getting deported for house break, losing it, helping her get her bone marrow back, head banging, getting a reputation... and I am not even sure about the ending... do they live happily every after, or does she die? I really did not get that part... there was too much head banging going on. It's one thing to take some cinematic liberties, it's another to rely on them alone!

And yes, I have a personal issue with movies which promote peer-pressure drinking, showing the middle finger, and stalking for kisses as a way to express your love.

I didn't enjoy the movie. If you do watch it, do let me know how you found it! Maybe I was just having a bad day!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Movie Review: Immortals

Unsufferables.

If the 3D goggles and dark artificial lighting throughout doesn't get you, the blood and gore will.

Bad movie, but a good cure for insomnia.

Movie Review: Catch Up

A harried married man with 3 kids (including new born twins), and a stressful job. A happy go lucky jobless playboy. When a piss in the fountain and a wish to live each other's life comes true, all hell breaks lose.

Another of those "watch only if you like gross adult jokes which don't make you laugh much really" genre.

Avoidable.

Movie Review: Flypaper

Just as Tripp (the handsome Patrick Dempsey) walks into a bank and starts flirting with the pretty teller, Kaitlin (Ashley Judd), it comes under attack from two different gangs, both trying to rob it at a rare moment of security systems shutdown. One gang is a pair of buffoons trying to blow open the ATMs with weapons grade explosives, the other a trio of hard core professionals going after the vault with their computers and gadgets. Add an eclectic mix of bank staff and customers as hostages, and what you have is a hilarious comedy as Tripp and Kaitlin try to save the day... until things start looking very sinister.

What is really going on? As more and more people are found dead, the plot get murkier and deadlier...

Pat and Ashley make a great pair, the movie is an enjoyable watch! 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Carbon Footprint on eMee

Do you know how your life style choices impact the environment? Do you know what your carboon foot print is, and what you can do to neutralize it? Play the carbon footprint game on eMee's FB page, and find out!

http://www.facebook.com/Cafe.eMee?sk=app_4949752878

Movie Review: The Kingdom

When an American compound in the Saudi kingdom is hit in a devastating terror attack by a terror cell, an elite team of 4 FBI special agents led by Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) arrive with the permission of a reluctant Saudi government to try and crack open the case and find the mastermind, believed to be the "ghost" Abu Hamza. With just 5 days at their disposal, and a very unfriendly Saudi general leading the investigation, things look bleak until they uncover a vital clue, and win the support of a brave Saudi police officer, Col Faris Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhoum) ...

With some breathtaking action, from car chases to hand combat, bombings and shootings, an excellent screen play and edge of the seat story telling, amazing locales, and a cast that does complete justice to the roles, the movie is an absolute must-see.

And the ending.. two scenes... Fleury's promise to his team at the beginning of the investigation... and Abu Hamza's dying words to his grand son... "We will kill them all". Sums up everything that's happening today, doesn't it?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Bangalore Vistas

Day 2 (yesterday) in Bangalore was a lot more interesting... the NASSCOM Product LaunchPad in the morning (we missed NDTV coverage - they ran off to cover BSY's walk out from jail at the precise moment we were to take stage) and after seducing the press, took a relaxed jaunt in UB City, Bangalore's ultra-chic luxury mall, with mobile phones worth 4.5 lakh, jackets worth 65,000, denims worth 25,000 and undies worth 3,000! No, we didn't shop much :) Chilled out in the beautiful food court, and later, we went to the garment wholesale market, to meet a friend, and finally, caught the Volvo to the airport, making it well in time for some last minute shopping before catching the Jet flight to Pune. Here are some pictures, in random order, of the day that was...


Peter Yorke opens the NASSCOM Product LaunchPad

Brigade road - Bangalore's Shopping Hub at 3.00 pm

Namma Metro! Just missed the coaches zooming past..

And to the left, on MG Road, the Metro Station

The luxurious UB City

UB City Business Tower... no, this isn't Manhattan

The very beautiful UB City Food Plaza

Tick what you want to eat...

Truly amazing Wasabi Prawns with finely chooped pineapple, simply delicious flavours

Another view of the UB City Food Plaza

The pretty roof of the UB City foyer

This too, is Bangalore

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Bangalore

Kinda disappointing first impression... dusty, polluted and very dead at 10 pm. Nice elevated expressway from the airport planned, but most of it is still under construction. Meru Taxi was decent, but the driver almost managed to get us killed. The suite is ok, but gave us a common room when they had confirmed two. No restaurant close by, but at least we were able to order some home delivery!  Overall, not too impressed :(

Monday, November 07, 2011

Off To Bangalore

Off to Bangalore tonight for the NASSCOM LaunchPAD event tomorrow at the Taj Gateway, where we will be launching eMee - one of the 10 products selected for this prestigious event out of 60+ aspirants! Watch out for updates....

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Movie Review: Ti Ratr (Marathi)

An interrupted honeymoon and her husband Rajan's (Santosh Juvekar) possessiveness suddenly takes a sinister turn for Rajani (Aditi Sarangdhar) when strange, unexplained things start happening at home. As the tension builds up, a sales man (Subodh Bhave) turns up at the door for a "demo" while her husband is away. And when the tomato sauce spilled by him on the floor turns out to be the blood of her beloved lovebirds, it's time to panic! Rajan returns home, finds his wife bound and gagged, and is attacked and slashed in the throat by the salesman, and taken upstairs where he is kept hostage while he hypnotizes Rajani and continues to extract some hard truths from her past...

When Rajani wakes up, Rajan is hale and hearty, and convinces her it's just been a terrible dream.

Everything is fine, until one day, when cleaning the fish tank, Rajani finds the salesman's ring!

A good psycho-thriller, except for the predictable and lame end. Some explanations are best left not given!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Movie Review: In Time

Time is the new currency. People are genetically engineered to live and age till 25, at which time they get a bonus of one extra year. After that, you can either earn more time, or get timed out. The world is divided into Zones... at one end, the ghettos where people have less than 30 days of time left, and New Greenwich at the other, the few immortals with eons on their clocks.

In such a world, Will (Justin Timberlake) gets a rare gift - a century worth of time. With Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of one of New Greenwich's rich immortals, by his side, Wills sets out to rob time from the rich and give to the poor. Will he succeed or will he end up upsetting the balance in a world where many must die so that a few can be immortal?

Notwithstanding the sci-fi nature of the plot, the movie makes perfect sense, and makes you think about that non-replenishable stock of time you have been given... are you using it wisely? What would you do if you had those green digits on your hand, continuously reminding you of how much time you have left? Would you still live the same way?

A must watch!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Corruption

Kani was denied bail today by the court, which sought to make an example of her and the others accused and in jail for the 2G trial, in a ruling that has been hotly debated for its implications. The court made it clear that whether or not the CBI opposed the bail pleas or not (it had opposed the bail plea of the others, but chose not to oppose Kani's plea), the court would make its own decision based on the merits of the case.

Kalmadi, Kani, Raja, Koda, Hasan Ali, Amar Singh... the list keeps growing. Who said crime and corruption doesn't get punished in India?

Anna or otherwise, whether or not Lokpal Bill is passed in one form or the other, I am optimistic that corruption is firmly in the crosshairs!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Empty Roads

Drove a lot around the city today - interestingly, after 10 days in Goa, the roads felt empty! Yes - in Goa, the traffic was bumper to bumper, long snaking lines all over from Baga, to Calangute, to Panaji! Every alternate car was from Pune or Kolhapur, some from Belgaum, a few from Mumbai and Gujarat.

At Wadeshwar on FC in the evening, there were actually more than half a dozen parking slots free! Where're all the MH 12 cars? Parked near Brittos in Baga?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Can I Stretch It A Little More?

Back in office today, but not really back at work... can I stretch the vacation a wee bit more? :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The End... For Now

Almost at the end of the vacation – 10 awesome days in Goa. Tomorrow, we will be back in Pune, to life as we know it. It’s been an amazing vacation. No work, very little email, no meetings, no calls. Not much TV, just a local newspaper in the morning. Lots of fish, lots of sleep. Hours spent lazing around, day time Siestas for hours, deep REM sleep. Hours at the spa, getting everything mentionable on this blog pressed, rubbed and scrubbed, while the mind and eyes get into a trance, woken only by two phrases – Sir, is this pressure enough? and Sir, your treatment is over, can I get you some lemon tea? The longest and most relaxing vacation as far as I can remember, ever since vacations stopped being synonymous with going from one standard to another, gulping Rasna after hours of cricket in the sun, and getting sand into every crevice of the body on Nerul beach and being hosed down with a pipe before being allowed inside the house.

But it was also a vacation of misses or almost misses. I didn’t do any off-roading with Samara, even though the weather was perfect with lots of bright sun interspersed with some heavy showers. Almost didn’t make it to the beach – just managing to slip in one visit today morning. Almost missed the chaat at Miramar. Didn’t visit Naik Villa. And managed just one trip to Baga at night, although Tito’s was missed completely.

The vacation was too long.

Isn’t that how most of us live life? We know we have a lot of time on our hands, so we sleep. We take it easy, we keep procrastinating. We know we can do it later, so we push it. Until suddenly, the vacation is over. And sadly, in life, there’s no next time!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Aniceta


Meet Aniceta, earlier called Lisa, my first love, my first car... now my neighbour's love and my envy, just as pretty, just as beautiful! After having heard rumours earlier of her being in a bad accident, it was so heart warming to see her fit and fine, and extremely well taken care of. It was a strange feeling being with her, almost like a childhood flame you haven't seen in a while, but with a very special bond that only you share!

Curiosity


Natural In Nerul!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

More Rajnikant

Happy Rajnikant and best wishes to you and your family!

From Diwali and her family.

Ra.One Collection.One

Ra.One could create a record at the box-office, with first-day collections predicted to touch Rs 22 crore, with 20 crores coming from Hindi version and 1 crore each from Tamil and Telugu. The Rs 145-crore film was released on Wednesday in 3,200 screens across India. Coming at a time when there are 4 consecutive holidays may work both for and against it. Although the evening shows on Diwali day were expected to be low on attendance due to Laxmi Puja, it was expected to run to packed houses in the night shows.

The current record is held by Salman's Bodyguard, which was released in 2700 screens and had collected 21 crores.

A Sweet Thrashing

And while we are at it, I should also mention that India finished a brownwash of England, handing a comprehensive 5-0 thrashing in sweet revenge of a very forgettable summer, giving India a perfect Diwali eve gift. Chasing India's below par score of 270 something at Eden Gardens (strengthened by a late in in the innings blitz by Dhoni who slammed 4 sixes and stayed unbeaten throughout the series), England were 129-0 and on the way to some redeemed pride, when Varun Aaron struck, leading to a complete capitulation by the English within the next 60 runs or so.

Wonder where Kapil paaji is these days... must be pretty disappointed!

Goa

Half way through my extended Goa vacation - been a good one so far! Lots of fish, lots of sun (not been to the beach yet, though!). Watched Ra.One. A good night out in an open jeep for Narkasur night. Diwali the next day. Sanam's 10th birthday - a beautiful party (will post pics soon). Finally caught up with a very dear friend more than a decade since our last meeting. And lots of lots of lazying around.

The only regret - missing Pune and a special someone near and dear back there!

Crazy About Coconuts

Got this nice picture forwarded from a friend... I am sure she doesn't have the copyright to this one, hence posting without her permission :)

Movie Review: Ra.One

Ra.One had started getting pretty mixed reviews from the Internet blogosphere when we caught up with him and G.One at the Inox last night. Die-hard SRK fans that we are, nothing would keep us from enjoying the superhero magnum opus! Turns out, we did have a smashing time… but in all truth, it could have been better. The movie thrilled us with the action, stunned us with the graphics and SFX, made us groove to the Akon numbers, but it failed miserably in doing something the King has never failed to do to viewers.. make them cry. Neither in sadness, nor in joy. And for me, that is where Ra.One loses out on being SRK’s magnum opus.

Shekhar Subramaniam is a game designer with one of the most advanced gaming companies in the UK, with silly curly hair and a lot of inspiration from Mr. Bean, all the way down to nudging other cars from their parking slots. He speaks with a South Indian accent, eats noodles mixed with curds with his hands, and basically does his best to make us laugh with his idiot act. And succeeds to some extent, especially when he tries to be a Michael Jackson with his “bad” dance moves. Trying desperately to impress his son Prateek (who spends all his time gaming and trying to look like his daughter, and succeeds at both!), and with his invaluable inputs on what makes a good game, Shekhar creates a game which has an indestructible villain Ra.One (Random Access Version One – until someone realizes, hey, that’s a cool name for a villain!), and his counterpart G.One, the good one, with just a 0.01% chance of winning. Stuffed with Artificial Intelligence and the most advanced technologies fathomable to this generation, Ra.One is guaranteed to be almost unbeatable, learning on its own, and able to come up with new stunts and moves every time you play!

Trouble begins when Ra.One gets a mind of its own, breathes life into its prototype, traverses the thin line between real and virtual, and goes out searching for the last online avatar to have played the game with him – Lucifer, intending to kill him and finish the suspended game. Needless to say, Lucifer is the on-screen persona used by Prateek, whose life is now in danger from the out of control Ra.One. When both the game designers, including Shekhar, are eliminated by Ra.One, it’s left to G.One to be the savior. But is he strong enough to stop Ra.One?

SRK is funny in both his Avatars, pulls off some really good action (although most of it is SFX) and has some beautiful dance steps to go with Akon’s Chammak Challo and Criminal numbers. Where he misses out this time is in bringing out the tears, and for the King of Hearts, that is a big setback. As I said earlier, the movie is devoid of emotions. You don’t really feel the terror of Ra.One, you don’t really celebrate the success of G.One. You don’t feel sad when Shekhar is killed, his death almost like another small setback in a video game you know you can always restart.  In being a virtual game character, SRK loses his passion, his vein-straining dialogues, his skyward gaze with outstretched arms, his romanticism – essentially everything that makes his what he is best at. Funnily, in being virtual, he is more life-like and less of the larger than life SRK we all love!

Another negative – too many references to condoms, breasts, bums, and the pelvis – given that SRK movies pull in fans of all ages, this is definitely something that could have been toned down. Most of it is in good humour, but parents might want to keep some explanations ready.

Kareena looks sizzling hot, her scissor-cut gowns little longer than her belt, leaving nothing to imagination, although she has very little to do than act confused.  Arjun Rampal is just one of the human forms taken by Ra.One and doesn’t make an appearance until well after half time. Looks great, but with most of him covered in a hooded robe most of the time, girls will not have enough of him. Priyanka and Sanjay Dutt make a forgettable cameo appearance in a video-game dream sequence at the beginning, inspired by Crouching Tiger Flying Dragon. Amitabh’s voice over is lost amidst the electronic bass makeover  given to Ra.One. Chitti Robot also makes a brief appearance when G.One and his damsel and child in distress land in India, an interesting (and ridiculous at the same time) tribute to Yenna Rascala.

The Akon numbers are great, the dances accompanying them are stunning in their simplicity. Dildara has some beautiful music and will keep growing on you with every hearing, the fusion of Hindi and English simply breathtaking. Some of the other numbers aren’t too inspiring on the music CD, but fit in beautifully in the storyline, and will definitely come to you from a different perspective when you hear the music after the movie.

The story is decently paced, the build-up to Ra.One’s birth a tad slow and mired in too many technical details, but picks up pretty well from there on, till the end game, which is tiring and exhausting, and fails to excite, and, coming as it does at the end, will leave audiences with a not-so-exciting lingering taste of spoilt tiramisu after a great meal. The car chase sequence is Bourne-like stunning, the train sequence has a lot of Chittinspiration, with a “Speed”y ending! There are shades of Hulk, Spiderman, Superman, Matrix – and they all work pretty well, actually!

What Ra.One excels at, and leaves other Bollywood movies far, far behind is in the SFX and graphics. Pure, unadulterated excellence. Whether it is the pixelated build-up of Ra.One and G.One, or the horrifyingly realistic destruction of CST, the effect is top-notch and what makes the movie such a visual treat.

At the end of the 3 hours, audiences will come out thrilled at the action, stunned by the visuals, and grooved by the numbers, but with not a tear shed. For me, that is the victory and loss of SRK in Ra.One. He was good as a robot, but he wasn’t our SRK.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Avenged

3-0, another clinical performance by the Indians, Ajinkya Rahane top scoring with 91 in India's run chase, Dhoni guiding the team to win with yet another captain's knock. 2 more games to go, but with the series pocketed, India have given it back to England a little bit.

Of course, we still need to avenge the Test losses!

Coal Conspiracy?

Read an interesting view point the other day on the power crisis that's hit the country these days. While the official version is that unseasonal heavy rains and the Telangana stir have resulted in coal shortages at main power plants in the country, there was speculation that this was in fact a government ploy to build public support for nuclear power.

Outlandish? Or possible?

Movie Review: What's Your Number

Anna Faris plays Ally, a young pretty girl in Boston, who reads in an issue of Marie Claire that the number of men she has slept with – 20 – is twice the national average, and that the higher a woman's number is, the less likely she is to get married. Focused on ensuring she doesn't increase that number, Ally, with the help from the playboy-next-door Chris Evans (in return for letting him use her apartment to escape from his ladies), tracks down all her old boyfriends, to see if any one of them could be ideal husband material. Yes, you can predict the ending...

However, this rom com comes to life through Faris and the extremely good looking Chris. The script is fantastic, the jokes crisp and original, the adult humour extreme but enjoyable, the pace quick, and the leads great eye candy.

Watch it, ideally a late night show!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Movie Review: Wrecked

Not yet in Indian theatres I believe, saw it on DVD. Better that way, because at least I could shut it off and sleep early.

So this guy wakes up and finds himself in a bad car wreck, in the bottom of a ravine, with two dead bodies, a gun and a trunk full of cash. A girl who mysteriously appears, talks to him, and poof, goes off like a ghost. A dog. A tiger also makes a brief appearance. Some flashing lights, some other apparitions - probably all in his mind. But who knows. Words as rare as the Kohinoor - he's alone in the jungle remember? He spends the first 10 mins trying to focus his eyes (which means you have to see a camera going in and out of focus), then the next 20 trying to get out of the car (over 2-3 days), and then the next 45 mins trying to crawl out of the jungle, only to find himself right back where he started.

Sorry, I really don't know how it ends - I fell asleep. Anyone's who sat through it - please update me.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Youngistan 2 Englishtan 0

Kohli's 112* and Gambhir's 84* powered India to their second victory over England in the revenge series, with 13.2 overs to spare and 8 wickets in hand. Glad to see Team India back on track! Yes, one might argue we lost to England in England and are champions only at home, but hey, doesn't that hold for England too? :)

Movie Review: The Lovely Bones

Old movie, saw it on DVD the other night because I love Saoirse Ronan, the Hanna girl, who played the 14 year old in The Lovely Bones. After she is murdered by a child predator when coming home from school one day, she tries to help her dad find her murderer before moving on from Earth.

A very beautiful movie, and if you have a daughter, it will touch you like few others can. The scene when she sees her dad searching desperately for her, and screams out to him, and realises he cannot hear her any more - because she is just a spirit now - and then, when he turns around in her direction, feeling her calling out to him... that scene is simply too much to sit through.

The movie ends beautifully though... leaving you happy and content to go to bed, hugging your daughter tight!

Movie Review: Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge

The title of Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge is the only bad thing about this movie, a funny, cheesy, corny rom-com which thankfully tries to be neither philosophical nor educational about love on the Internet.

Vishal has the hots for the sexy Malvika, and chats up with her using his cool dude rock star friend Rahul's FB profile. What he doesn't know, is that Preity, who herself has fallen for Rahul's cute looks, is responding on Malvika's behalf! The thing is, Vishal and Preity can't stand each other in real life, but online, with all inhibitions off, they hit off like a dream! Will Vishal hook up with Malvika, will Preity get Rahul, or is it all going to be one big mess? The end is predictable, but well executed!

The big plus point about the movie is the fast pace, and short duration, a little less than 2 hours. The story develops and moves quickly, none of the sub-plots taking too long. There is no emotional BS. The songs are light and peppy, the breakups and makeups quick. The script is young, and smart. Saqib Saleem puts in a feisty performance as Vishal, and Saba Azad as Preity is very different, very likeable, and actually pretty good! They get along beautifully, and share some really good scenes. Tara looks hot and beautiful as Malvika, and Nishant Dahiya is a total cool dude, although he has very little to do.

Overall, a very enjoyable entertaining film that will keep you smiling. Don't miss it!

Movie Review: Ticha Baap Tyacha Baap (Marathi)

What happens when a strict disciplinarian Deshmukh and his family from Mumbai comes over to Goa, to the house of the fun loving, naughty and young at heart Faterfekar family, to discuss the love marriage of their daughter? Laughter, suspicions, misunderstandings, and then a happy ending.

The movie could have been a lot more fun for Goans like me, but the poor Konkani renditions, a bad mix of Marathi, Konkani and Malvani resulting in a concoction never heard any where in Konkan, and some over-the-top antics from completely unnecessary sidekicks, and very poorly executed dance numbers makes the movie a dud.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Revenge

After a terrible series down in England, India gave it right back in the first one dayer - thrashing England by 126 runs after setting a target of 301 in their allotted 50. Dhoni led from the front smashing an unbeaten 87 off 70 balls. Ravinda Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin grabbed three wickets each and Umesh Yadav claimed two, ensuring England collapsed from a comfortable 111/2.

India were without Sachin and six other regulars, due to injury or poor form.

Just the beginning, but as they say, sometimes, all it takes is an opening..

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Nokia Customer NoCare

A couple of months back, I had finally rescued my molested and scarred-for-life Nokia E75 back from a 3 month ordeal at Nokia customer service. Yet another example this week - my friend had given her cell for service, and couldn't find the receipt. When she went to collect her phone, she was first asked to get an affidavit from the court! The next day, when she tried again, she was told that only the Election ID card would be accepted as valid proof of her ID - no passport, no driving license. And that's not all - the guy categorically stated that he would keep the original with him, in return for the cell! Thankfully, she finally found the receipt, got her cell back, and swore never to go back there.
Now, come on, really? Or were you just happy harassing her?

Movie Review: Doraemon in Nobita and the Steel Troops: New Age

As long as the name suggests, even the shouting and screaming excited kids fell asleep by the time Doraemon, Nobita and all the other Hindi-speaking Japanese kids fight the alien intruders and save planet Earth.

Watch it only if your kid forces you to.

And when it's all over, you can say, I told you so.

Movie Review: Thor

Three inter-galactical civilizations, the Humans, the mighty Asgardians and the evil Frost Giants of Jotunheim, clash in this epic adventure that thrills with some spectacular 3D FX and a good background score.
The mighty, arrogant warrior Thor is about to inherit the throne of Asgardia from the old king Odin, when a suprise attack by the Frost Giants of Jotunheim disrupts the ceremony. Thor recklessly attacks Jotunheim, threatening the peace in the universe, and earning the wrath of the King, who takes his powers from him and banishes him to Earth, leaving Thor’s half-brother Loki in line to be king. Will Thor be able to fight the Destroyer and prove himself worthy of again wielding his magical hammer Mjolnir?

For me the highlight was the 3D FX, and Natalie Portman. Not a must see, but not bad either.

Movie Review: Horrible Bosses

Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) need to get rid of their horrible bosses (Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston). With some expensive ill-advice from a drunk "fixer" (Jamie Foxx), the three devise the perfect plan to get rid of them... permanently. Will they be able to pull it off?

With humour cruder than in Hangover, the situations almost as bizarre, a lot of jokes around the bowel and urinary habits, and some action thrown in, Horrible Bosses requires an ID proof!

But yes, I totally got it... :) Chances are, you will too!

Natalie Portman

Guess who I saw at the Pune Mariott yesterday? Yes, the super gorgeous Natalie Portman looking absolutely ravishing in a simple white tshirt and tiny brown shorts.

Maybe, just maybe, she was someone else... but how does it matter? :)

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Tablet for 1250?

The Indian Govt recently announced the launch of Aakash, the 2500 Rs tablet that will be made available for students at half that price. Sounds too good to be true... but what are the implications?

Will students use it for studies, or will they watch porn on it?

Will students in the villages and small towns be able to get connectivity? Electricity?

It's a fantastic product, I am sure, I just hope it's not too good to be true!

Anna vs Congress?

It's open now - it's no longer Anna vs Corruption, it's Anna vs the Congress. He admitted recently that neither he nor the PM was kept properly informed during the fast, and that ego got in the way of sensible negotiations and dialogue with his team. Will he also admit soon that he allowed his anti-corruption agenda to be hijacked?

Movie Review: Love, Breakups, Zindagi

LBZ is predictable from the first 2 mins, it doesn't have a big star cast, it doesn't have item songs, it doesn't have anything that sets it apart from dozens of other similar movies where the boy and girl realise their current choice of partners isn't right, sparks fly between them at a marriage fucntion, there's a brief separation, and then it all comes together in the end.

However, the dialogues are fun, the humour subtle, the performances natural, the casting perfect, and the movie, although at a slow and relaxed pace, does grow on you.

Dia looks beautiful, a dainty daisy. I have always liked Zayed, he looks good, and puts a convincing performance. Tisca carries on her performance from DTBHJ, Boman makes a quick cameo, Ritesh also drops by, SRK enthralls in a short, sweet role as himself, Satyadeep and Auritra Ghosh make an interesting and pretty couple, and Umang Jain is cute as Dia's friend and roomie.

Slow, but worth a dekko.

iMovation

The Sunday Economic Times has an interesting article today about Imovation - the process of imitating innovation and being successful at it. Do you know that Apple has not presented a single original product to the market? The computer was invented by IBM, Sanyo created the first MP3 player, Blackberry the first smartphone, and Microsoft invented the Tablet. Yet, none of these created as much hype and excitement until Apple added the "i" to them! Jobs wasn't the only one to be imovative. Walmart made discount stores famous, but the idea first came from a little-heard company called Korvette. A burger today means MacD, but it was first presented by White Castle. Similarly, Amex made credit cards a household name, but not before Diner's Club had come to market with it. And we all know about IPL vs ICL here in India.

Imovators have one major advantage - they already have the benefit of the R&D, market research, and all the hard work the innovator has put in. All you got to do now is improve on it!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Movie Review: Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster

Some films work because of their stars, some films are all about the suspense or the story line, some films are about an item song!

Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster is a must watch for many reasons - first and foremost, the journey into the world of royal scions and bloodlines, politics and gangsters, sepia-toned walls, antiques and stained windows, royal palaces, once glorious and majestic, now abused by time and neglect. Even though he's penniless and lives on the alms insultingly offered by his rich stepmother, the Saheb (Jimmy) hasn't lost any of his arrogance, ruthlessly deploying his own version of justice and law to grab government contracts and attempt to come to power in the forthcoming elections. His mentally imbalanced wife (Mahie) is royalty personified, although she has very little to look forward to in her lonely life, until their new "driver" (Randeep) shows up. As the web of intrigue, deceit and double-cross gets thicker in a deadly game of one-up-manship and envelopes the mansion and it's occupants, the movie hurtles towards a gripping climax.

The performances are top-notch. Jimmy Sheirgill, Mahie Gill and Randeep Hooda are stunning in their volatility and unpredictability, their characters beautifully developed. Jimmy is superb as the Saheb, his calm and composed demeanour hiding the deadly venom inside him. Mahie is pretty and sexy, scary in her vulnerability, shocking in her ability to strike with deadly effect. And Randeep Hooda, as always, is the best - absolutely beautiful as the small town lad desperate to get his "class", no matter what it takes, a complete "maukaterian". Deepal Shaw is cute, and adds to the movie in her own small way. The rest of the characters - Jimmy's trusted Kanhaiyya, his mistress - always aware of his dependencies on her, the minister - ready to play any game with anyone to save his khursi, deliver the perfect punch to an already wonderful cast.

SBAG is a wonderful action thriller woven around a gripping character drama. It's not your typical Karan Johar served dish of colorful fresh cut fruits with a glass of orange juice,  it's a fantastic dark concoction that will drug you, and leave you begging for more.

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Saturday, October 01, 2011

Movie Review: Force

It's the Narcotics Control Bureau against the drug lords. John plays an honest, fearless NCB officer relentless in his mission to rid Mumbai of drugs, whose weakness is exposed when he falls in love with the kiddish, cute Genelia.

The action is good, a lot of hand to hand combat, but gets unnecessarily gruesome and bloody at the end.

The sound track is forgettable.

John looks good, like he always does, except when he comes up with Rohit Shettyesque tattoos in the begginning of the movie - and thankfully loses them after some time. If only he could bring some more expressions on his stubble... Genelia is a little artificial and uncomfortable at times, but in most scenes, she's graceful, pretty, super cute and will endear herself to you. The new boy, Vidjut, as the villain, didn't impress me much. Anaitha Nair is completely wasted, Sandhya Mridul has few decent moments.

Unlike Singham which left your thrilled, happy and wanting more, Force drains you with the deaths, the blood, the helplessness of it all.

Expected better from Nishikant Kamat after the fabulous Mumbai Meri Jaan!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

National Anthem in Theatres

For many years now, Indian theatres play the national anthem before the start of every movie show. And for me, this has been one of the best parts of going to the theatres... standing up with the crowd, singing it together, watching the flag fluttering proudly on the screen. E-Square has this wonderful instrumental anthem picturized on our brave soldiers in the Siachen Glacier, and seeing them hoisting the flag on the towering pole in the midst of the swirling icy winds with the chopper flying overhead always tingles my spine.

Yesterday, for the first time in hundreds of shows I have gone to, we encountered a guy who sat through the anthem, inspite of being requested by me, and others, to stand up. His girl friend stood up on request, but the asshole (sorry, but that's what he was) refused. Jerks like him will always exist, I guess, but what was heart-warming and assuring was the support I got from dozens of teenagers, both guys and girls, in the theatre - it's beautiful that so many young Indians truly love and respect the flag, the country, the sentiments associated with the anthem. They didn't have a who cares attitude, they voiced their anger and indignation... and made sure the guy had no place to hide his face in shame.

Movie Review: Johnny English Reborn

Mr Bean meets James Bond. And what you get is some hilarious moments, fast action, super gadgets and loads of laugh-filled entertainment. Called back from his Tibetan monastery to help MI7 (yes, 7) foil a plot to assassinate the Chinese PM, will Johnny English be able to put his hard-learnt lessons from Tibet to use against the determined international assassins?

A must-watch this weekend... Rowan Atkinson at his very best!

Movie Review: Mausam

Shahid is a happy-go-lucky Punjabi lad in a small village Mallukot, waiting for his acceptance into the Indian Air Force. Sonam is a displaced Kashmiri girl, naughty and shy, who lands up in Mallukot with her bua. And there starts a decade long saga of war, communal tensions and riots, each conspiring to keep the shy lovers away from each other. Across cities, countries and continents, and years, love survives, but will it be too much to cope with in the end?

The first half is beautiful, the cinematography and camera work brings the Punjabi countryside and village life beautifully into the theatres.. the dialogues, the jokes, the ganne-ke-khet, the dusty bylanes of Mallukot, the rain-drenched terraces... simply mesmerizing. Shahid looks great, and Sonal, as always is prettiness defined.

In the second half, though, Pankaj Kapoor completely loses it. The lovers' misses start becoming contrived, the reasons illogical. The change of scenery becomes too fast, too quick. And the last 30 mins goes way into the B grade movies of yesteryears... Shahid rescuing a crying kid beside her dead mother from the top of a stuck ferris wheel with his one paralyzed hand, while riots rage below... a completely irrlevant and ridiculous rescue of a white horse...

Cut 45 min, cut the ending, and Mausam would have been a beautiful movie! What do I suggest? Go watch it till half time - and then you are free to leave.