Sunday, July 28, 2013

Feline Artist!

No pics or video to buttress this claim, but for now, just trust me!

So the other day, my daughter had been doing some pencil sketching, and went to bed with her sketch lying on the floor.

I was watching TV, when my cat along, and sat near the sketch, intently looking at it. Then, she did something that stunned me. She came to the corner of the sofa, and started putting her hand between the sofa and seatee, trying to pull out something.. guess what it was? A pencil! And then, if that wasn't enough, she attempted to desperately pull out an eraser, which was a little too far beyond the reach of her tiny paws.

Unbelievable! Believe it!

Too Sleepy To Finish My Bath!

Driving To Miramar


Don't you mess with by bike!

Wroom Wrooommm

Got my hands on my nephew's Bajaj Avenger the other day in Goa - with a light rain falling, the ride along Panaji's Marine Drive was absolutely exhilarating! Aaah, I miss biking in Pune...

Movie Review: The Call

A seasoned 911 operator, Jordan (Halle Berry), takes a distress call from a young girl (a pretty Abigail Breslin) who has just been abducted, and spends the next few hours desperately trying every trick in the book to help trace her before it is too late. When all her efforts prove futile, she also realizes with horror that the abductor is a killer she's come across before - a life-shattering incident in which she had heard her caller die while on the phone with her.

Will she be able to save this girl, or will the killer triumph in his evil design yet again?

Not an edge of the seat thriller, but it does have its moments - and isn't bad as a week night DVD.

Movie Review: Welcome To The Punch

When hardened criminal Jacob Sternwood returns to London to rescue his son, involved in a gang incident, his old nemesis, detective Max Lewinsky, has one last chance to catch the man he's always been after.

WTTP is a decent action thriller, but nothing that truly stands out. 

Mushrooms And Crabs...

Can it get better than this? Amazing natural-growing seasonal and very rare mushrooms, with some delicious crabs for lunch... both from Goa, needless to say!

When The Rains Come In!

Just a beautiful experience - watching and hearing and feeling the rains come in the aangan!

The well fills up, providing for the needs of not just our home, but all the neighbours around too!

Green Fields


If you haven't seen Goa in the rains, you haven't seen anything!

Enter The Gates Of Heaven...


The driveway leading to the gates of our lovely abode in Nerul

Nano Interceptor!

Speedsters, law-breakers, reckless drivers beware.. the Nano Interceptor of the Goa Police is gonna come and get you!

Shoelace Untying Service


Cute? Innocent? Homeless? Naughty?


Midnight Raid

Woke up the other night to a rumbling noise outside to see this surreal sight... a huge prefab cabin floating through the air, in the narrow lane between two buildings of the society!

Suspended precariously between two cranes, the cabin swung gently in the rain... but the cranes managed to safely carry them to the other side and deposit it on the construction site right behind.

Knock Knock, Are You Even Listening???


Bountiful Rivers and Lucky Drivers...

A scene repeated year after year in Pune.. (although it took a break last year!)

Once the dams fill up and water is released into the city's rivers, some car owners are invariably
caught napping.. and endure the horror of seeing their pretty wheels float away...

This is one lucky owner...


Kaatakirr is this amazing misal pav place off Karve Road that sees an absolutely crazy rush, mostly from college kids, but also the occasional family out for brunch. I was there yesterday, and had to wait for 15 mins to get a seat - with the table shared by other patrons, of course.

The menu includes only misal and mattha (lightly spiced butter milk). Not even tea or coffee. You are tempted to ask, can you really run a hotel like that? Is it even healthy?

You are even greeted by a notice board that says a misal cannot be shared by two people, else it will attract an additional charge of Rs 20. It also asks you to get your own tiffins if you need a parcel.

But look at the rush of patrons dying to get in, and you know, this is one business that needs no further tweaking!

Lavasa In The Rains

Absolute stunning drive to Lavasa and back yesterday.. while, Pune, just 30 km away has this pitter patter rain, Lavasa was shrouded in thick fog, and heavy rains, with gusty winds. Samara absolutely loved the drive, and I thoroughly enjoyed too! Here are some pics...

The huge dam suddenly appears on your right, without warning... forcing you to take a break and admire it. And then you wonder, how's that water flowing out from the middle of the dam wall? Is it by design, is it a leak? Is it even safe to be standing on this side of the dam, or am I just going to see, for real, what happens when the dam gives in and bursts open?

Rain and fog combine to make it surreal

The steep climbs challenge even the most powerful of engines... add the hair pin bends to it, and it's just one of the most amazing, enjoyable drives, that too, so close to the bustling city!

Dozens of waterfalls along the way. There is one with crystal white water on the left, and muddy brown on the right... couldn't capture it though, because it was dangerous to stop on the bend, and raining too hard for me to venture out

Just a beautiful view of the lake, the quaint buildings and the majestic hills in the background, capped by fog. Sadly, the beauty hides the tragedy - almost all buildings are unoccupied, and the whole "city" is under danger of remaining a ghost town for ever.

What Do You See? - 2

Ok, now that you have got the hang of this, let's try once more!

OK, so did you try hard enough to look? Here, try again..

Isn't this simply stunning? There were these hundreds of pigeons, all sitting on the half a dozen cables strung across the eight lane road, sitting at an exact one feet distance from each other! Absolutely amazing...

What Do You See? - 1

Traffic? Auto? A building under construction?

Ok, see again, this time a little zoomed in...

Look closely, still see just the building? :)

I just loved the way these two doggies were looking out at traffic from their wonderful (although, a tad uncomfy for my taste!) vantage point!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Movie Review: Winter's Bone

A young girl must find her absconding father at all costs, to save her home, where she takes care of her two younger siblings and deranged mother, from being taken away.

An absolutely stunning performance by Jenniffer Lawrence... this girl really has to be one of the most competent actresses I have seen. Her dialogues, her demeanour, her accent, her eyes - simply mesmerizing.

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Every year, in the aftermath of a deadly civil war that destroyed most of North America, the evil administrators of Panem forces each of its twelve slave districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. Meant as a punishment for the uprising and an ongoing intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games is the mother of all reality shows, in which the 24 "Tributes" must fight with one another, and unseen and unexpected dangers thrown at them, until only one survivor remains.

Pitted against the trained-from-childhood Tributes from Districts 1 and 2, Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers herself as the Tribute from her district to protect her younger sister, will have to rely on her survival instincts and make difficult choices in her battle to win.

Watch the movie for the absolutely beautiful, and extremely competent Jeniffer Lawrence. The screen just lights up with her presence.... there's really nothing quite like her!

Ecosport Test Drive

Finally, I got my hands on the Ecosport, during my trip to Goa earlier this month. Ford's much-awaited compact SUV is sure to scorch the roads with its great looks, great fuel efficiency and absolutely spot on pricing!

Sadly, it doesn't feel like a Ford :(

In an effort to improve fuel efficiency, Ford has gone the Honda way - press the throttle, and the car takes off, but keep at it another 2 seconds, and the power is cut off, forcing you to change gears and level out. No more screeching tyres at traffic signals and watching the rest fall far behind...

But it feels great otherwise. It's comfortable, although a little cramped compared to the Fiesta, and visibility on the back seat isn't great.

Overall, I am a little disappointed with the driveability - but then, I have been spoilt on the Ikons, the Fiestas and the Endys. I guess it's not that bad a choice after all!

Humara Bajaj Humara BMW

Movie Review: Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

Milkha Singh wasn't exactly our childhood hero - his exploits were a little too early for us to appreciate, and he didn't play cricket! But we did know he was one of our early successful athletes.

BMB therefore was an enlightening experience - and I am sure most of the country now has a much better appreciation of his sacrifices and achievements. The problem with this biopic is that it is too long, and quickly becomes boring.

Over a terribly long 190 or so minutes, we follow Milkha's journey as a disturbed boy travelling to India during Partition after a terrible tragedy to his family, to his early years as a coal thief, followed by his stint in the Indian army from where he went on to become a hero for Indian sports. It highlights the need for perseverance, sacrifice and hard work, but it is terribly slow and indulging, punctured by needless songs.

The story telling also needed a lot of cleaning up and sincerity, rather than adopt flimsy explanations for Milkha's failures. In the film's opening scene at the 1960 Rome Olympics, Milkha loses the race when he looks back, apparently because he is haunted by an image from his troubled past. In another scene, where Milkha wins an important race despite being badly injured in an attack by his competitor, we see the bandages covering his wounds dramatically come off as he runs towards the finish line. Many such scenes rob the movie of its genuineness, and ends up making the audience feel manipulated.

Farhan's performance is the film's biggest strength. From his dialogue delivery to the impressive physical turnaround, he is stunning. Sonam Kapoor is pretty, but has a very insignificant role, and doesn't really need to act. His Australian girlfriend, in a tiny role, is very pretty, and impresses in the short time she's on screen.

Watch it for Farhan, and hopefully, get inspired to join the Mumbai Marathon next year!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Movie Review: Trance

Simon (James McAvoy), an auctioneer, steals a multi-million dollar Goya painting, but after suffering a blow to the head during the robbery, he realizes he has no memory of where he hid the painting. When torture fails to get him any answers, the gang's leader Frank (Vincent Cassel) enlists the help of a hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson with lots of explicit nudity) to burrow into Simon's mind for answers. As the sessions progress, the lines between what is the truth, what is Elizabeth's hyponotism-induced fanatasy, and deceit begin to blur.

The movie really takes off in the final 15-20 mins, but seems to stretch endlessly for a long time before it gets there. If you can endure that, and Dawson, it might be worth the wait.

Movie Review: D-Day

Yes, our families are our weakness. But we have three other weaknesses - honour, duty and country. Take off your rose colored glasses and take a look at the new India. Bang.

A stunning end to a stunning movie. Nikhil Advani pulls off a daring raid into every Indian heart with a movie that will keep you thinking and your blood boiling.

Four RAW agents plan the unthinkable - bringing India's most wanted criminal, Iqbal Seth (no prizes for guessing who that is!), to justice. Alive, to stand trial. What starts off as a perfectly planned kidnapping during his daughter's marriage, though, quickly goes wrong - horribly wrong - due to a unfortunate series of events beyond their control. Fighting the ISI and their cronies on one hand, and the official Indian denial on the other, they need to quickly improvise and execute plan B before it is too late.

The action is top notch - no Rajnikanth and Rohit Shetty at play here! There is no Indian army marching in with tanks blazing. No air force. It's just the foursome - with some clandestine help from across the border. The background score adds tremendously to the rhythm, which is racy and keeps you engrossed and thirsty for more. The story telling is simple, yet encompasses so many complications and details.

The cast is super. Irrfan as the sleeper cell, living the life of a Pakistani barber for almost a decade, Arjun Rampal as the cold killer with an unknown past, and Huma Qureshi as the beautiful but deadly bomb expert are just perfect in their roles and execution. Rishi Kapoor as Iqbal is also amazing, showing so many shades effortlessly. Shruti Haasan also has a brief but memorable cameo as the hot and hurt prostitute and Arjun's love interest.

The only weakness of the movie - a couple of songs that wouldn't have found place in a Hollywood movie, especially a particularly gruesome and bloody collage of Arjun reliving the murder of his love. But then this is Bollywood, and on second thoughts, it's not that bad after all!

Here's a hard hitting, well crafed and beautifully executed movie that will entertain, and engulf, for a long time. Don't miss it for anything!

(And DO NOT miss the Endeavours!)

Conquering Fears at Imagica

Last Wednesday, we hired a bus and set off for Imagica at Khopoli, just off the Pune-Mumbai Expressway, for a team outing. 33 of us.

The weather was wonderful - a light drizzle, a cool breeze - when we left from Pune. But by the time we had settled in at Imagica, the heavens opened up in a way it only does in the Konkan! Not the perfect weather for an outing, but at Imagica, it didn't really matter too much. The giant umbrellas provided by the park management every where meant moving between the rides wasn't too bad - although on some of the external rides, you had no option but to get soaking wet!

For me, it was the second time - and in addition to a couple of newly opened rides, I also had the opportunity to conquer my fears - on the roller coasters.

The Golden Rush is amazing - it's the medium sized coaster (the largest one is yet to open...), and has some amazing horizontal loops, and one deep dive straight into the earth and back out through a tiny tunnel - truly spectacular!

Once you conquer that, try Deep Space. You get into a "launch vehicle" seating 12 that slowly moves into the launch tube - a dark tunnel with pulsating lights, and then suddenly accelerates, pushing you back into your seats with tremendous force, and then zooms off into "dark outer space", and in the few seconds that follow, hurtles you into 360 degree vertical loops and twists and turns before spitting you out safely back onto Earth... Oh wow!

The Curse of Salimgarh is a horror ride... but it's the beginning and the very end that's truly enjoyable. Do go for it!

As always, the Rajasaurus was also thrilling, the jump out of the cave into open space and water always spectacular... and being a weekday, we were able to go back for repeats. And as always, the park attendants are awesome - they truly seem to enjoy seeing you enjoy!

Another experience I had missed last time was I for India, where you get strapped into a seat that rises up in front of a huge screen that gives you a bird's eye view of some of India's most amazing places... from the glaciers of Uttarakhand to the sunny beaches of Goa, from the pulsating beats of Ganapati visarjan in Mumbai to the solemn prayers at the Jama Masjid in Delhi. So beautiful to fly over the Valley of Flowers, and caress the Ta Mahal from the skies...

Overall, Imagica continues to enthrall - and is a must-do for Puneties and Mumbaities, or anyone lucky to be in the vicinity of these beautiful twin cities!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Movie Review: White House Down

Yet again, the White House is attacked, and the POTUS is taken hostage. The world is on the brink of an all out nuclear war. And even with the might of the US Army and Air Force lined up outside, only one man, a wannabe secret service agent on a tour of the White House with his not-yet-teen daughter, can save us. With some timely help from his brave daughter, of course!

And this time, the terrorists aren't Arabs or North Koreans. They aren't even Al Qaeda. They are Americans. And some pretty senior authority figures at that!

Doesn't matter that the movie is a tad too long, with an ending that seems to be right around the corner, only to move further away. Doesn't matter that the script is pretty silly at times.

It's a good action movie, with decent thrills, and some nice humour that keeps you engrossed when the action falters. And some beautiful moments between dad and daughter that will bring that little tear drop to the corner of your eyes... and goose bumps on your neck.

And thankfully, it wasn't in 3D!


I wanted a cup of coffee at Phoenix today, and the McD was the only option close by - so I thought I would order some fries and piripiri while I was at it. The helpful girl at the counter suggested I go for a happy meal instead - which meant, I would get an additional burger AND, the total would actually come to lesser than if I went ahead with just fries and coffee :)

The only thing to note: the fries would be little lesser in quantity in the happy meal, than if I ordered them separately.

I didn't really need the burger, but what the hell! Interesting sales strategy - I guess it's all about how many burgers get out of the door!

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Check this pic of a handsome uniformed law enforcement officer.. now guess where he is from?

Europe? America?

Nopes, this is an Indian police officer at Bodh Gaya in Bihar.. might be central or special forces (although, looking at the Police on his uniform, more likely local), but pretty impressive, no? :)

Antelope Escapes 2 Cheetahs

Check this amazing footage of an antelope jumping into a passing by Prado at a South African Park to escape two chasing Cheetahs...

She escaped unhurt, and the Cheetahs were reportedly still searching for the Prado driver!

Goa Central Library

Visited the newly inaugurated Goa Central Library at Pato in Panaji yesterday... very impressive! Very spaced out, and well designed, the library is airy and bright, unlike the dingy, smelly Central Library of our childhood memories. The children's section has lots of toys and play station terminals, and is a wonderful way to spend the evening. Internet browsing stations allow excellent avenues for research for school children and adults alike. Pretty sculptures adorn the halls and nooks and corners all over, giving a unique character to the building.

And the membership fee? 250 per book, lifelong!

Moira Church

Saw this amazingly beautiful church at Moira, near Mapuca, yesterday... located beautifully adjacent to a small lake and vast, rolling green fields...


Interestingly, this church was featured in a story in Tinkle almost two decades back about a smart thief who fools the residents of Moira into laying blankets in front of the church, and then stealing them while the poor folks push the church from behind to move it, then convincing them that the chursh had indeed moved over the blankets! The story was aptly titled "The Fools of Moira" and went by local lore...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Goan Monsoons

Reached Goa early in the morning today - for a short weekend trip. Woke up at 6:45 just inside the border, to glorious views of flooded green fields, and a dark and overcast sky. Goa is absolutely magical in the rains - everything is carpeted by a thick green cover, the air is heavy with humidity in the high nineties, and the sun simply gives up trying to make any impression. Moss-covered compound walls, puddled roads, and the soaking wet earth. Looking forward to the weekend...

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Forever Together - In Life And Gravy

Corn Club

If you are ever in Pune, make it a point to drop in at one of the many Corn Club outlets in the city - there is one on FC Road which should be easy to locate for most visitors. Focusing exclusively on corn, the menu consists of literally dozens of tasty, healthy and unique snack preparations from the obvious corn on cob and sweet corn soup, to really amazing stuff like patties, samosas, baby corn fingers, biryani, frankies, corn bhel (another must do), corn coleslaw salad and so on and so forth. And to wash it down, try the kokam and other exciting options..

Can't Get Enough Of Her

Finding Ourselves

India recently launched the IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System) 1A, the first of seven such satellites that will be launched over the next 3 years, to give us our very own global positioning and mapping capabilities, much like the US's GPS. The satellite was put in orbit by our own PSLV rocket, the same vehicle that launched Chandrayaan-1 to the moon.

In addition to giving us an alternate option when we are lost in the urban jungles and our hills and valleys, this step gives India a huge boost in military independence and capabilities in times of war and strife, with the system being a great redundancy option for our missiles, and fighting machines.


Movie Review: Lootera

I am smitten. By everything about Lootera. Here is a movie I will remember forever. And watch over and over again. Here is a movie I don't really want to blog about - because somehow, no matter what I write and how I write it, I just can't seem to do any justice to it.

Lootera is set in the early days of India's independence in beautiful West Bengal and Dalhousie. A young archaelogist falls in love with the beautiful Pakhi, daughter of an old zamindar, while searching his vast land for signs of a lost civilization. But everything isn't as it seems... They meet again, months later, in freezing Dalhousie, in very different circumstances. Will their love triumph? Will the last leaf destroy them, or bring them together?

Every frame is like a picture postcard. Breathtakingly beautiful. The camera work is simply stunning. The compositions are true masterpieces - for example, the lake in the back ground with the car, and the easel, and the tree. The temple ruins. And the tiny lanes of Dalhousie. I am totally and completely in love with the world of Lootera.

Another star of the movie is the background score - full bodied and rich, the melody simply envelops you and surrounds you so beautifully. The songs, the lyrics will stay you long after the final notes fade away... Sawaar Loon is an absolute beauty, sing by Monali Thakur and composed by Amit Trivedi, with lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya.

And the use of silence. The sound of breathing. The whispers. The chirp of birds, the howling of wind, the roar of thunder. Oh wow, simply out of the world.

And the cast.

Ranveer looks sauve, handsome, and puts in a very creditable performance. His bullet scene is top notch, as is his confrontation with Pakhi in Dalhousie. Genuine.

But Sonakshi - absolutely wonderful, a performance that should win her every frigging award out there. She outshines everyone in the industry. By far. She speaks so much with her eyes, her expressions. Her voice, her smile. You will fall in love with Pakhi, you will worry about her health, you will root for her love. And she looks so amazingly pretty and svelte, a beautiful example of what a saree can do for you!

Their chemistry is sizzling, and they pull off some amazing scenes. The tussle at the Dalhousie bungalow when he forces her to take the injection - and note the live sound during that scene. The lake scene, when they whisper. Check her eyes then. And when she has her asthma attack in the car, when he holds her, and she snuggles against his neck. When she realizes he cannot paint. And finally, when she sees her permanent last leaf.

What a treat for the senses! The sound, the visuals. It's such a beautiful world!

Director Vikramaditya Motwane, take a bow.

Watch Lootera. Even if it's the only movie you will see.

Movie Review: Policegiri

Singham on overdose... jeeps blast into space, bodies fly defying every law of physics, the earth ripples with every footstep, and the soundtrack bangs your eardrums into submission. At the end, the ruthless goonda with the funny streak meets a gory end, and the junta is rid of the scum.

The problem with Policegiri is that is tries too hard. Too loudly. Too overtly. And

Sunju Baba looks his age, with a paunch, romancing a tired and jaded Prachi, looking more like his fed up daughter. You miss the lovable Singham and the oh so pretty Kavya. Prakash Raj has his moments, which taste like Singham left overs, but is a far cry from the amazing Jaykant in Singham. And none of the support cast add any value. There is no Shiva Nayak. Instead, we have a very wasted Rajpal Yadav, and his now-a-must super obese side kick mouthing kachwa jokes. And some very forgettable songs simply add to the already long 150 mins of mayhem.

Avoidable. Unless you are a Sunju Baba fan...

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Movie Review: Phantom

A Soviet nuclear sub sets off into the frigid waters, its commander (Ed Harris) given the honor of captaining it on its last voyage. However, he and his crew quickly learn that they are pawns in a deadly game that puts the world on the brink of a nuclear disaster. Led by a rogue KGB agent (David Duchovny), the plan is to deploy the phantom - a top secret project that allows the sub to mask its own acoustic signature and project itself as another ship - and draw America into an all out nuclear war with the Chinese.

Shot almost completely in the cramped confines of the sub, the movie is fast paced and keeps you hooked till the end, primarily because of the top notch performances of the cast.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Warkaris and Palkhis

Yesterday, Pune welcomed the lakhs of devotees of the Tukaram and Dyaneshwar palkhis and warkaris, on their way from Denu and Alandi to Pandharpur, almost 250 km away! Truly an amazing spectacle of faith, joy and devotion - fuelled this year by a good start to the monsoon. Yes, the city was pretty much grid locked in the evening, with arterial roads blocked for traffic, but I did get home safe and sound, albeit 30 mins later than usual.. but hey, come to think of it, it wasn't a big deal, and a small price to pay for all the hope and peace it brings to all.

Linking To Kashmir

A few days back, India's ancient and amazing railway system got linked to the rest of Kashmir, with the opening of the 11.2 km Banihal tunnel, India's longest rail tunnel. Apart from being an engineering feat, with over 800 bridges, the rail line is also testimony to the eco-friendliness, sensitivity and innovativeness of the Indian Railway team, much like what was witnessed during building of the Konkan Railway, another huge feat of engineering and project management.

While the government poured money without inhibition, the engineers ensured that local sensitivities were respected and taken care of. For example, the bridge over the Jhelum has an extra long span, specially fabricated so that the bridge's pylons wouldn't damage a small cemetery revered by the locals. The track embankments have beautiful wild flowers, instead of the usual stones and gravel. The stations are clean and modern, but reflect local architecture and are a proud testament to local culture and values. For example, the waiting room of the Srinagar station has a triple ceiling, and all the walls are covered with intricately carved woodwork called khatambandh, a speciality of the area.

Most interesting though is the innovation. For example, when the sleek coaches of the railway had to be brought in, the Jawahar Road Tunnel proved to be too low to accomodate the coaches on trailers. So, first, the coach bases were taken off and moved to the other side. Even then, the coaches proved to be just a few centimeters too high! Neither could the tunnel height be increased, nor could the steel frames of the coaches reduced. S0 guess what they did?

Think a little bit.

Apparently, they deflated the tires of the trailers... all 32 of them, and drove to the other side! It meant that by the time the trailer reached the end of the tunnel, all the tires had been almost shredded to bits, and had to be changed to new ones. But hey, it was a small price to pay!

I haven't been to Kashmir myself, but I want to. Just don't know if I will ever summon the guts to do so. With the railway line, I now have another strong motivation to get off my ass and get there.