Sunday, December 21, 2014

Movie Review: Interstellar

The world, as we know it, is coming to an end, and a team of brave space explorers need to race against time to find a new place quickly if humanity is to survive. Bring in time relativity, black holes and wormholes, and you have a complex Christopher Nolan epic that weaves some amazing visuals and SFX, with drama, adventure and love .

The scene between the main protagonist (Matthew McConaughey ) and his 10 year old daughter Murph (I loved Mackenzie Fox), as he leaves on his mission into space, is powerful and extremely touching, and will tug at your heart for a long time! The irresistible Anne Hatheway also adds tremendously to the visuals!

There is an obvious comparison to that other space movie, Gravity, which feels pretty one-dimensional compared to Interstellar. The only problem with Interstellar, is the 2 hr 49 min running time, which is really more than a tad too long for such an intense scifi movie.

By the way, do watch out for the scene at the very beginning - when they manage to catch an Indian Air Force drone, with the accompanying comment "it's very good". I guess when it's end of the world time, Chinese drones are way too unreliable! :)

Movie Review: Action Jackson

Have been thinking for a long time since I opened this blog post.. what can I even say about AJ?

Do I start with how it inspires so heavily from Kill Bill's style of graphic animations? Or the sinister laugh every time the vamp is on screen? The silly track about seeing a guy's balls for good luck? About the lack of something that goes by the name of editing? The senseless, eminently forgettable song and dance?

For an actor of Akhay's caliber and Sonakshi's promise (still wonder if Lootera will remain a one off!), AJ is a huge disappointment, to a point that mindless AK gigs like Entertainment, Garam Masala and Shaukeens feel worthy of the Oscars.

Puneri Paati


Prawns and clams for breakfast - having dinner at Gajalee in Pune definitely has benefits the next day too!

Movie Review: Boyhood

I don't think a movie like this has ever been attempted before!

Shot over a period of 11 years with the same cast, Boyhood delivers an unbelievable experience - the experience of literally seeing a child (Ellar Coltrane as Mason) literally growing up before our eyes. Not just him, even his parents, his sister and a bunch of other characters stay through us for years! There isn't a real story - just the story of our lives, something every single one of us will be able to relate to at a very intimate level. From family trips and dinners, birthday parties to the first kiss, Boyhood is a celebration of what life is all about as children.

And take a bow, director Richard Lintaker - such an inspiration in persevering with a dream and a vision, sticking to it for over a decade of painstaking effort, to put it all together in a tiny 2 hr 45 min package!

Movie Review: Happy Ending

A guy who cannot commit, a friend who is desperate to escape the clutches of his marriage, an over-possessive girl friend, and a pretty siren who's perfectly comfortable with the idea of a one night stand deliver a simple, happy, funny and enjoyable film that's easy on the eyes, ears and the heart. Saif, Ranveer Shourie, Kalki and Ileana are perfect in their roles, great on the screen, and share a sense of humor and timing that really makes HE a pretty decent watch. Not a must see, but not bad at all!

Movie Review: Happy Journey (Marathi)

Out of a slew of movies I have seen over the last few weeks, Happy Journey deserves a special mention. An offbeat Marathi movie, staring Atul Kulkarni as the Dubai-based brother of a sweet girl (the very pretty Priya Bapat), who dies of an illness without a last chance to see her brother, and the smart Pallavi Subhash as Atul's love interest.

Back home for his sister's funeral, Niranjan is shocked to find his sister (well, her ghost, actually) waiting for him to help her finish some tasks left unfinished. As Niranjan starts bonding with his sister, after promising to spend the next week or so with her to make up for all the years they missed while he made money in Dubai, he also rediscovers his old flame, the daughter of a local don, desperate to break out from the shackles of her protective dad.

The movie starts off beautifully in the first half, and Priya is as lovable a ghost as they come! Atul also puts in a great performance. Pallavi is the surprise package, and looks pretty good too. The movie actually has a perfect ending when the interval kicks in, beautifully poised. From there on, it starts meandering a bit, losing some of the steam.

Good to see Marathi cinema breaking the mould, and doing so well at it!

Catching Up

It's been a while since I posted - somehow, some recent happenings make me feel unexcited about posting and sharing my life online. The more I think about it, the more I want to get rid of my blog, my social network profiles, even my phone sometimes - and just go back to the old times when relationships meant writing letters, waiting for the postman to deliver a greeting card from that special someone just in time for your birthday. When meetings were planned days in advance, and meant eagerly reaching the rendezvous well in time, your eyes scanning for your partner. Yes, we didn't share what we had for breakfast, or posted selfies from the hair cutting salon, but what we shared stayed in our minds and hearts for years. Even today, when I go to bed, I generally have flashes of real conversations from over two decades back sometimes, burned as they are into my consciousness.

I have tried looking at the world through my own eyes, not those of my DSLR. I have stopped taking selfies with friends, families and celebrities, preferring instead to use that quality time to "be there in the moment" and soak every bit of it.

I worry about a world that is so digital that we are reduced to being machines ourselves. When our angst and anger, our joys and experiences, our victories and learnings, are all reduced to just a bloody hashtag.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bigg Boss 8 Live

We got passes to the live weekend shoot of Bigg Boss 8, and while I am not a big fan of the current BB8 participants, I was very eager to see Salman shoot live. It was awesome - Salman shot non-stop, without a make up or refresh break for 3 hours! Without a cut. That guy is truly something!

Movie Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl is an excellent crime thriller for the first 100 mins, and then decends into complete chaos for the next 49 mins, leaving a very bad taste in the mouth by the time the end credits roll. I needed the mindless entertainment of Shaukeens to get out the after taste...

Movie Review: John Wick

John Wick is an ex-hitman who flips when someone kills his dog. Yes. A dog that's a farewell gift to him from his just-died girlfriend. Oh, and yes, they also steal his beloved Ford Mustang.

Reason enough for John to come out of hibernation and let mayhem reign over town, taking out half a million henchmen, while going for the dog killer. And his father. And a bunch of other assorted contract killers.

May be a decent watch for Keanu Reeves fans, but at 101 min, it was about 100 min too long for me.

Movie Review: The Shaukeens

Shaukeens is a remake of the 1982 film, the story of three men in their 60s who go to Mauritius to try and get some "action" in the sunset of their lives - KD (Annu Kapoor), Laali ( Anupam  Kher) and Pinky (Piyush Mishra). They rent the house of a very hot Aahana (Lisa Hayden), and lust for her, while she goes through a painful breakup on Facebook. Aahana, meanwhile, is more than happy to use them to meet her heartthrob Akshay Kumar, who plays himself in a lovely little cameo.

The music is forced, and while the movie has its moments, the only redeeming factor is the lovely Lisa and some moments of brilliance from a very good looking AK.


Colors of Holland

Here are a few pics from my recent trip to Holland... some more are being processed; will upload as I get time to do so. For better versions of the pics, please do visit my Flickr page.

Mesmerizing Amsterdam

A mirror reflects our canal boat

A houseboat in Amsterdam

At the beautiful village of Marken, an erstwhile island

At a clog factory in Volendam

The Poezenboot (cat shelter on a houseboat in the Singel canal) is a must visit in Amsterdam

Colors of winter!

The most amazing mini pancakes in all of Holland!


At Delft, the home of the iconic blue pottery in Holland

The parliament buildings at The Hague

The Dengue Chronicles

Mon evening: I leave early from office, feeling a little weak and feverish, typical symptoms of exhaustion and a burn out. A friend drops me home - 530 is unusually early, and my bai is very happy at getting an early time out. I catch a nap, getting up for dinner and Bigg Boss later in the evening. My daughter is also reporting body ache.

Tues morning: I decide to skip office for the day and work from home. Daughter has a holiday at school, wifey also decides to stay back for the day. It's an impromptu family day out, but we are too tired to venture out of the apartment.

Tues night: My daughter and I have a restful night, but wife reports extreme body ache from head to toe. The bones are hurting, and we get our first warning signs of dengue - it's called bone breaking fever for a reason!

Wed morning: While my daughter and I feel fairly OK, wifey isn't doing too well. We decide to wait no longer and go for a blood test. By early afternoon, the results are out. The lab technician asks me to write my full name and address - and that confirms it. The PMC needs records of all dengue cases. Are we positive, I ask. Yes, all 3, he smiles sympathetically. The NS1 test, which is a quick and dirty check for dengue is positive for all 3, although the dengue antibodies test is negative.

Wed afternoon: We met the doc and she asks us to carry on with the regime she had started in the morning. Dengue doesn't have any specific treatment - the treatment is only symptomatic - an antibiotic, something for the stomach, and vitamins. Most important, a tablet to keep the fever down. Interestingly, none of us have really had high fever.

Wed evening: The PMC heath department makes a visit. They ask lots of questions - where have you been in the last few days, when did the fever come, which school does your daughter go to, what are your office timings? They spray pest control all over the house - a colorless liquid they promise me will dry off and is harmless to humans. You don't have high fever; it's not dengue; they assure me. They also give us a lot of general knowledge - the dengue mosquito breeds in fresh water; not in the gutters. And it bites in the day time, not at night!

Wed - Fri: Rest at home, and Googling - each attempt only making it worse. While none of us are getting worse, the worrying element is the way dengue advances. Fever goes down after a couple of days, and along with it, the platelet counts go down. The normal is 150,000 to 450,000. At 50,000, you need to get hospitalized. At 20,000, you can start bleeding and go into shock. Fatalities are not unknown, though rare, and Pune itself has already seen a dozen this year. We start eating kiwis (we hate those fruits), which is reputed to be an excellent way to get platelet counts up.

Fri morning: The time of reckoning has come. We have a blood test. And it's bad. Our counts are down under 100,000. It's normal, smiles the gentle doctor. Nothing to worry  about, she assures us. You all look fine! Just carry on with the meds and take lots of fluids and rest, and you should be fine, she says. But we are not happy. Not at all.

Sat afternoon: Huge relief. My sis and bro in law arrive from Goa. The change of scenery is fantastic. We finally have something else to talk about. Sister is also an excellent cook; our spirits rise. My sister also starts us on twice a day papaya leaf juice - it tastes horrible, but is reputed to do wonders to platelet counts. Two of my friends are generous enough to get us as many leaves as we will ever need!

Sat evening: Another visit by the PMC, this time with a fogging machine that blasts heavy, thick smoke throughout the house... along with foul diesel fumes. We have to get out, and take the chance to get out for a small drive.

Sunday: Things are looking up. While wifey is still weak, the two of us are feeling fine. We go out for some local shopping in the evening. Not as tiring as Sat, and we are all feeling very relieved. Our next blood test is scheduled for Monday morning, and we are confident as hell. Will we make it back into the high 200s?

Monday morning: We go for the blood test. We are feeling great, and are confident we have beaten the dengue. My bro in law and sister plan to leave for Goa in the afternoon, once the doc gives us the all clear.

Morning afternoon: The big shock. In spite of everything, all the terrible papaya leaf juice and the kiwis, our platelet counts have dropped further. While my daughter and I are around 75,000, my wifey is at 51,000, requiring hospitalization. We have a decision to make. I can still manage one hospitalization, but what if my counts drop too, the next morning? Then what?

Monday late afternoon: We make the decision. We will move to Goa, along with sister and bro in law. Doc gives wifey a steroid injection and blood pressure tablets to stabilize her. We 2 are better, although I am already starting to feel a little light headed. Don't know if it's just psychological, but there is no time to rest. We come home, and pack up. My cat looks forlornly at us - she simply hates when we are away, and she has just endured a long 8-10 day period of loneliness and terror during Diwali. My heart is breaking; and the cat is the least of my worries. By the time we are ready to leave, it's past 5 pm. We have a long drive ahead of us; and we have never done a night journey over such a long distance before. Will we make it safe? Will wifey be able to take the stress?

Mon evening: The journey isn't off to the best start. A drunk in a bike tries to take unnecessary panga; obstructing our free drive on the highway. Thankfully, a few kms down the road, we reach a tool booth, and talk to a cop. He graciously gives us his mobile number and asks us to call him if the man troubles us again. But that's the last we have seen of him.

Mon night: Things start to look better. We don't have much traffic, and make good time. We stop on the way for a quick soup from the thermos. We feel positive. I even take the wheel for around 90 mins. By 900, we are close to Kolhapur, a critical milestone. We stop at our usual truck stop, Hotel Sai International, for a light dinner - the hotel graciously allows us home food in the restaurant hall, and even provides us plates and spoons. We decide to press on, reaching Belgaum by 1030. By 1130, we have crossed the well-maintained but twisty and isolated Chorlem Ghat, and touch down into Goa. At 12:07, we are in Panaji. We get down. We are in Goa. The worst has to be over!

Tuesday morning. Things are looking up, better than ever before. The blood test is all important - the lab sends the technician home. By 12.30 - it's bingo! The platelet counts are going up. Wifey is close to 90,000, and the 2 of us are well into the 120s. We see the doc - nothing to worry about, he says. You are gonna be fine. It's been a worrying week, but Goa is working its charm. No diet restrictions, he assures us. For the first time in over a week, we eat well - delicious prawn curry rice and some fried fish.

Tues - Thurs: We relax in the lap of Goan hospitality. Great food, caring relatives, and the sounds and smells of the sea. Our snap decision to get to Goa has paid off handsomely.

Thurs morning: The final blood test. All good! We are back in the 200s. We have beaten the dreaded dengue.

Fri afternoon: With a heavy heart, yet, with relief that life is gonna be normal again, we catch an Air India flight to Pune. Goa looks beautiful from the sky, the light rain adding a surreal touch - and it's tough to let go. As we fly over Miramar, the clouds take over - blanking out the view, and 30 mins later, we descend over Pune. It's a perfect touchdown. We are home again.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Movie Review: Haider

Based on Hamlet and set in modern day Kashmir,  Haider is a hard hitting movie about a son's search for his father,  missing after the Indian Army picks him up during an anti terror operation. But it's not really about the army or the insurgents,  although that thread plays strongly in the background. It's about raw human emotions, about love and betrayal, misplaced sympathies, about our greed and our mistakes, and about redemption.

Shahid and Shraddha Kapoor put in strong performances,  ably supported by Tabu and Kaykay Menon. But the real star is the screenplay and the camera work,  which evokes the poignant beauty and loneliness of this paradise on Earth, torn between politicians and separatists and the army...

Surprising to see the Indian censor board allowing such a movie,  we are really coming of age in India,  I guess!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Movie Review: Bang Bang

Jimmy Shergill walks in looking absolutely dashing in the opening scene. Hrithik can safely claim the legacy of James Bond in India, with his blonde curls,  white blood stained shirts and air brushed and enhanced body shots. Katrina looks amazing even when she puts on weight,  speaks ridiculous dialogues,  and wears clothes that seem to have been stitched for Alia Bhatt. Prague and Greece,  and exotic desert and island locations transport you to a mesmerizing world. It's a treat for the eyes. So much, that you can safely shut off the dialogues, ignore the silly and predictable plot, the blatant copy of Knight and Day, and let your eyes soak in a Swacch Duniya.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Namoste America

A decade or so after having been denied a Visa, Modi is taking over America like no other leader has ever done in the past... here he is addressing a mammoth crowd at Central Park, a couple of hours after wowing the world with his statesman-like speech at the UN GA, in Hindi! Today, he will talk at a filled-to-capacity Madison Square Garden, with thousands more watching him live at Times Square.

What a sight to behold, irrespective of one's political inclinations!

Syrian Cats

Continuing with my efforts at posting some happy and heart warming news form the world....

Breaking Bad: Beetle Mania!

Look closely! This isn't the Amazonia - this cluster of beetles were hatching on the papered wall of our living room...!

By the way, while my attempts at marco photography with my Canon and an array of macro lenses are yet to be analyzed, this particular pic was clicked on my Samsung S5

Movie Review: 3 A.M.

For the uninitiated, the movie (the Hindi flick which borrows its name from the 2001 Hollywood gig) starts off with an explanation: 3 pm was when Jesus came to Earth, so the evil spirits mockingly use 3 am to unleash their worst behavior.

MTV Roadies heart throb Rannvijay plays an avatar of himself in the movie - a reality show anchor who embarks on a new show around the paranormal after his girlfriend is found mysteriously hanging in the abandoned Rudra Mills, while researching on its haunted character. And no surprises, he decides to start right from where it all started for him - the same Rudra Mills. We are not here to trouble you, he announces, imploring the spirits of the workers who were killed in a major mill fire years ago to show themselves. But has he accounted for the dreaded Rudra, the last owner of the mill, who continues to terrorize his workers?

A good horror movie relies on atmospherics, and that's where 3 AM fails. Incessant loud chatter and (intentional?) comic situations never allow the audience to really start feeling the chill. While a couple of scenes are effective, there are too many false starts, too many acoustic pointers, and some pretty amateurish SFX. There is an element of a surprise twist towards the end, but if you are a real fan of suspense horror movies, you will guess it right from the first scene!

The female lead Anindita Nayar looks interesting, while Rannvijay continues to woo with his good looks. Salil Acharya and Kevin Dave round up the cast.

If you really had nothing to do, this is a good one to curl up with your girl friend, given how empty the theatres are likely to be!

Movie Review: Khoobsoorat

A successful physiotherapist is roped in to help a Rajasthan royal in modern day India, but her young and bubbly personality clashes with the strict disciplinary rules of the royal household. Predictably, she not only manages to cure her non-cooperative patient, but wins the love of the handsome prince and brings smiles and joy back into the palace.

A typical Disney film that leaves you with a warm & fuzzy feeling. Sonam Kapoor looks ravishing, and has a great sense of humor, and will win your heart. The Pakistani actor, Fawad Khan, will leave his fans swooning over him for a long time. Kirron Kher, Aamir Raza Hussain and Ratna Pathak Shah round up the cast, which is pretty perfect.

The songs are passable, and eminently forgettable. But the beauty of Rajasthani heritage, the royal palace and its grounds, and Sonam's wardrobe (which almost always leaves her pretty long legs out) is a treat to the eyes.

A good family gig for the weeekend.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Three Days From History

India's maiden mission to Mars, the Mangalyaan, is three days from creating history. On the 24th, when ISRO scientists fire off her engines to coax her into Mars' orbit, scientists will be hoping to succeed in the first attempt, something no other country has achieved earlier.

Just so you know,  the spacecraft is currently around 225 million km away from Earth. And at 70 million,  it cost around 1/10th of other similar spacecrafts from America.

Movie Review: Daawat-E-Ishq

A pretty, educated Hyderabadi girl and her honest father endure the humiliation of being rejected by prospective grooms repeatedly over dowry, until the girl decides to take matters in her own hands. Along with her unwilling father, she cooks up a plan to ensnare a rich, dowry-seeking groom under India's anti-dowry harassment laws, blackmailing him into parting with enough money to take care of her dreams of studying abroad.

They arrive in Lucknow as super rich Dubai-based NRIs, checking into a royal suite, and "interviewing" (with a hidden cam) prospective grooms. By a twist of fate though, she selects the heir of a rich Lucknowi kebab establishment, who wants not a single penny from her.

Will she still go ahead with her plan? Or will she simply fall in love?

DEI is a simple, honest movie about a topic that even today, results in a woman dying every 5 minutes in India. Parineeti is absolutely believable and lovable in her portrayal of the educated, helpless Gulrez Kadir, who hatches a ridiculously simple plan, and almost pulls it off. Anupam Kher, as her father, is subtle and amazing, as always. Aditya Roy Kapoor puts in a genuine attempt, and is pretty likeable too, showing a lot more spunk than I saw in his earlier movies.

While a little predictable and slow/stretched at the end, the movie totally deserves a dekko! All in all, it's a nice entertainer, with a lasting social message.

Twitter Horror

Terrifying horror stories wrapped up in two sentences or less:
I woke up to hear knocking on glass. At first, I thought it was the window until I heard it come from the mirror again.

The last thing I saw was my alarm clock flashing 12:07 before she pushed her long rotting nails through my chest, her other hand muffling my screams. I sat bolt upright, relieved it was only a dream, but as I saw my alarm clock read 12:06, I heard my closet door creak open.

In all of the time that I've lived alone in this house, I swear to God I've closed more doors than I've opened.

A girl heard her mom yell her name from downstairs, so she got up and started to head down. As she got to the stairs, her mom pulled her into her room and said "I heard that, too."

My wife woke me up last night to tell me there was an intruder in our house. She was murdered by an intruder 2 years ago.

I always thought my cat had a staring problem - she always seemed fixated on my face. Until one day, when I realized that she was always looking just behind me.

There's nothing like the laughter of a baby. Unless it's 1 a.m. and you're home alone.

I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, "Daddy, check for monsters under my bed." I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, "Daddy, there's somebody on my bed."

You get home, tired after a long day's work and ready for a relaxing night alone. You reach for the light switch, but another hand is already there.

There was a picture in my phone of me sleeping.
I live alone.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Movie Review: The Maze Runner

It has shades of the hunger games. A bunch of young guys,  stranded in the middle of a strange,  dangerous and massive maze from where there seems no way out. They have spent three years there,  mapping out the maze,  but no closer to getting out. Until,  one day,  a new boy arrives,  and questions their rules. Can he lead them out,  or is he going to invite terrible consequences unto themselves?

What starts with some great promise,  soon gets stretched,  without the action really taking off. The promise is left unrealized.

And of course,  there is no Katniss to light up the dull greys.

Watchable, but not a must see!

Heavenly Sunset

From a friend's apartment...  Just so beautiful!

Friday, September 19, 2014

College Of Engineering, Pune

Had the chance to visit COEP yesterday to meet and interact with Mansoor Khan,  on his book, The Third Curve,  which completely changed my outlook about the way we define growth,  and the effect on consumption on resources of the earth. I heavily recommend you to read it.
By the way,  in case you didn't connect it,  Mansoor Khan is the same gentleman who directed blockbusters like QSQT and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander.
He spends most of his time now at his beautiful farmhouse in Coonoor, making cheese and tending to Mother Earth. Amazing story.
But coming to what I actually started this post with,  check out this absolutely beautiful building,  wonderfully restored to a glorious edifice. It was so heartening to see, and such a perfect venue for the talk.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


So this Teacher's Day was very different,  right? Our very own PM hooked up with millions of kids all over the country,  sharing anecdotes and advice,  answering question and having a great time.

A lot was made out of it,  and dozens of invited experts sliced and diced it on those "intelligent" debates at prime time. The questions were planted,  they smirked. He is ignoring the plight of teachers,  others complained. The spokesman of a national party was even ignorant enough to attribute an oft-quoted saying about teaching to him.

But next day,  when I went to Crossword,  and saw half a dozen kids, including mine, with their parents,  searching for autobiographies to read, because Modi Sir had asked them to,  did the impact of this exceptional leader become crystal clear to me.

For those who missed the speech, do check it out in YT. I am sure its there. And pick up some messages we all need to pass on to ourselves,  and then our children...

Love the environment.
Help your parents save on electricity bills.
Stay clean,  don't just throw around your school bag.
See the sunrise and the moonlight.
Get sweaty at least four times a day.
Do your bit for the country by being good students.
Be naughty,  don't lose the child in you.
Read.  Read.  Read. Anything.

Hats off to you,  Modi sir!

Movie Review: Life Of Crime

Two common criminals in search of some quick money get more than they bargained for after kidnapping the wife of a rich, corrupt businessman, who has no interest in paying the million dollar ransom.

The movie is one of those types that you really need a lot of patience to enjoy.

Unless of course,  you are a fan of the eternally pretty Jennifer Aniston and my fav,  Isla Fischer.

Movie Review: Raja Natwarlal

Inspired by the legendary con artist who once sold the Taj Mahal,  RN features Emraan Hashmi, his Pakistani co-actor Humaima and the indefatigable Paresh Rawal,  pulling off a hard-to-believe con on their nemesis played by Kay Kay Menon.

Any reason you should watch it? Nopes.

Movie Review: Palo Alto

If you saw Kids in the 90s, this could very well be the story of those children just half a decade years later. While the shy striker of the college team,  April, negotiates the taboo of an affair with her single-dad football coach, who she frequently babysits for, her classmates are struggling with their own battles with alcohol, drugs and sex, quickly spiralling out of their control.

This is an R rated movie, but if you are an Emma Roberts fan,  you don't want to miss this!

Movie Review: Bad Words

If you want to get an interesting look behind the scenes of the spelling bees that're such a  rage among the Indian community in the US,  this one is for you. Nothing special,  but watchable.

Movie Review: Mary Kom

"Inspired by real life incidents" from the life of India's lady Mohammad Ali,  Mary Kom,  the movie falls below the benchmark set by Farhan's Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Though I am not a fan of that movie, either, it did feel a lot more intense. MK,  in comparison,  is a predictable, feel good caper,  only held up by the attractive Priyanka Chopra. 

Movie Review: Gurupournima (Marathi)

There is one undeniable reason you need to watch this one. My niece Samah in a seven second appearance as the beautiful child avatar of the lead actress :)

GP is the very relatable story of what happens to a marriage and a woman's career when she gives birth to a child. The movie is predictable,  and at times,  especially at the start,  is a little amateurish in treatment. But it picks up well 20-25 mins into the story,  and is held up extremely well by the lead,  Sai Tamhankar,  in a very commendable double role,  as the stubborn,  impulsive mother Pournima,  and her bubbly,  sensitive daughter, Akanksha. The scene in which she confronts her daughter,  played by herself, will bring a tear to your eyes.

The LKP waterfront disc in Nerul, my village in Goa,  is also featured in a song sequence and appears absolutely beautiful and surreal.

Produced by friends from Goa,  the movie also features a bunch of folks I am personally acquainted with,  which makes the experience a lot more interesting to me!

Should you watch it? Yes, please :)

Movie Review: Finding Fanny (English)

One of the most talked about movies before its release, with multiple private screenings and an interesting social media strategy (although they should have worked with me for best impact :)) does Homi Adajania's Finding Fanny live up to its hype?

I wasn't much excited about it after seeing the promos,  but the lure of Goa ensured I went to catch it at Inox this Friday.

I admit,  I came back thrilled.

The story is simple...  An old man in search of his childhood crush,  to find out,  would she have accepted him had he proposed to her. He is accompanied by an oddball set of characters,  each really on a journey in search of love in their own crazy way.

What makes the movie stand out is the offbeat treatment -  a blend of shock and poignancy,  beauty and the romanticism of a Goa hidden behind the curtains of time. The unique language,  the live sounds of a Goan village,  the atmospherics. The beautiful photography that captures Goa at its monsoon best. Deepika's absolutely stunning village girl avatar. Naseeruddin Shah, Pankaj Kapur and Dimple Kapadia in some really stand out roles which will be remembered for a long time. The cat.

Bollywood redefined. Don't miss it.

Niagara Falls

A friend sent me this pretty pic of one of the most famous and romantic falls in the world.. Niagara

Cat & Polar Bear

Another from my "feeling good about the world" series...

The Longest Word?

Can you guess what the longest word in English is? I have no idea, but I guess the following should come up very close to the top of the list!


Floccinaucinihilipilification means rare, the estimation of something as valueless. By the way, the picture is a grab from the movie Bad Words, highly recommended!

While writing this blogpost, I was intrigued by the topic, and so I did a little digging around. Here are some amazing things I uncovered. Well, didn't take all that long - with Google :)

The longest word beats floccinaucinihilipilification by 189,790 letters, and it is the chemical name for titin, the largest protein. Obviously, you won't see this in any dictionary, and hence is disputed as a word. I won't even bother trying to write it here, because I am very particular about spellings, and don't want to get it wrong LOL

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is the longest word to appear in a dictionary, at 45 letters, and it seems to be some kind of lung disease.
Honorificabilitudinitatibus is the longest to appear in Shakespeare's works, and interestingly, has alternating vowels and consonants.

And just for the record, if you ever reach Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, remember, you have reached a Welsh village in Britain.

For more details and digging around, check or try your luck on Google.

Proud Maharastra

A friend sent me this picture she took to represent Maharashtra - and I find it so mesmerizing and powerful, such an apt way to represent this beautiful land of the Marathas!

An Inchresting Building

Saw this inchresting building in Goa - the water works department, I believe.

Yes, that's the "right pronunciation", by the way - and this is the effect of trying to work on some British English accent training :) More on it later sometime, but it's amazing how little we are taught in "language class" in school - and how much there is to learn out there! All you need is a broadband connection, and the URL!

Rains in Nerul

Panaji Church

Four In One

If they can learn to live in harmony, why can't we?

It's A Dog's Life

Clicks from a friend...

Mumbai Vista

Captured this view of my fav city from a TV program - and only one of the people I showed it to could guess that this was Mumbai, and not some exotic European location :)

Like most things in life, I guess you just need to have the right perspective!

Sunrise Over Pune

A friend clicked this mesmerizing picture of the sun rising over a surreal view of the city...


Try Uber, if you haven't.

Booking through their app is breezy, you can see your cab on your map as it arrives (no surprises  or delays), you know the photo and number of your driver (safe!), you get printed bills mailed to you along with the route of the journey you took (can't be cheated into a longer route), and all billing is directly on your card (no hassles of change and cash!). Cabs are clean, and if you are lucky, you might even get a BMW coming to pick you up.

What's very interesting is their model. You will never see Uber branded cars - they never own any, they only work with vendors and partners who provide the cars under their "technology platform".

The only disadvantage to their model - you cannot be assured you will get your cab to drop you to the airport for that early morning flight. What if all the Ubers are busy?

Emergency Landing

In all my years of flying all over the world, rarely have I had an exciting an experience as we did coming back from Ahmedabad to Pune last month (a very turbulent landing at Cincinnati which resulted in a passenger passing out, and an aborted landing in Paris, I think it was, are the other candidates).

We took off from Ahmedabad on an Indigo flight at around 600, more than an hour late since the incoming flight had got delayed. By 645, we were hovering around Pune, but bad visibility conditions due to heavy rain meant that we weren't in a position to land. We kept circling for well over 45 min, with lots of turbulence, when the pilot announced that we were running out of fuel, and hence would need to make an emergency landing in Mumbai.

We landed in Mumbai peacefully at 800. However, it was a long wait at the tarmac, and even though we don't need a visa to see Mumbai, we couldn't even leave the plane. The airhostesses, one of whom was Goan, were darlings, and even though the flight wasn't supposed to serve hot beverages (being a short flight), one of them graciously made tea for me. They did their best to take care of the passengers, serving whatever food and drinks were available, although the four screaming infants on board did nothing to calm the agitated passengers.

Finally, at around 930, we took off for Pune again, and landed safely, just before another major cloudburst stopped airport operations for the night.

Ahmedabad Impressions

Last month, I had the opportunity to deliver a talk at IIM Ahmedabad, and I was pretty excited for obvious reasons. Not just because of a chance to be speaking at the august institution, but also because this was my first visit to Modiland!

IIMA beckons

Here are my top x observations from the 2 days I spent there...

Ahmedabad is a pretty clean and green city, the drive from the airport takes you through flat, tree-lined neighborhoods and military bases. However, the airport is still a small-city pad, unlike the spanking new Hyderabad, Bangalore or Mumbai airports, and doesn't even have the recently-refurbished feel of Pune or Goa airports. What is worse, though, is the absolutely disgusting spectacle of paan spit covered flower beds right outside. The entire beds are red, and for a second, you almost marvel at these unique plants, until you realize with horror and disgust what it really is! The garbage bins and the pillars are no better. Mercifully, the airport seems to be the glaring example - the rest of the city seemed to have been spared the horror.

Coming from Pune, traffic discipline should be the least of my worries - but Ahmedabad traffic has two clear characteristics. People drive too close, and people have no qualms coming full speed up the wrong side of the road. Traffic circles are meant to be cut through in the opposite direction too, and cops actively seem to encourage it. That said, traffic is very light - again, feels like any of the thousands of small towns in India, not a big city at all.

"Cross roads" are a commonly found way of identifying locations - and you will hear a lot of it. Typically Ahmedabad. It's a pretty flat city too - and you rarely see building more than a couple of floors in height, although some parts of the city, like Ellis Bridge, are now bustling with modern looking glassy corporate buildings and malls.

No description of Ahmedabad can be complete without specifically writing about two of its stars - the BRTS and the Sabarmati river.

The BRTS is well designed, and integrates beautifully with the rest of the road layouts, never seeming to obstruct traffic. And with many beautiful old trees and a quaint village-like atmosphere (including peacefully resting cows) in many parts of the route, it's actually pretty unlike the eye sore the BRTS is in Pune! Stations are well maintained, air conditioned, and easily accessible. And most importantly, in the two days I spent, I saw not a SINGLE violation of the sanctity of the BRTS lane by other vehicles - which was very  surprising indeed! One complaint I heard from locals though, is that a short spell of rain tends to flood the routes because of the "barricades".

A BRTS stop in the heart of the city

The Sabarmati river has been converted into a beautiful water body, so unlike many of the gutters that snake through many of our other cities. Locals hang around happily, enjoying chat and other local delicacies in the beautiful parks lining the river front.

Another very interesting sight, unlike in most South Indian cities, and even in Maharashtra, there is no compulsion to have Gujarati signboards, English is perfectly acceptable.

Local shopping streets are a riot of color

 When it comes to the tourist experience, though, it's sad that most of the city's rich heritage and buildings of historical and archaeological significance are buried behind modern structures and crowded lanes, completely neglected and ignored.

Completely neglected, the Delhi Darwaja is barely recognizable

We set out to see the historic Teen Darwaja, which was inaccessible unless we had the patience to make our way through a crowded, bustling, local market. The wonderful "Shaking Minarets" have apparently been closed down now, damaged beyond hope. We did see a beautiful modern Jain temple, though, where we also met a guy I could have sworn was Modi's long lost brother.

A pretty Jain temple

Next up was Haridada ni vav, a beautiful multi-storied well in dire need of come TLC. It was very sad to see, again, how neglected these really beautiful monuments are. There's another similar, and slightly bigger well, at Adalaj, a few minutes drive outside the city, which thankfully, is slightly better off, and attracts some tourists. We also passed an interesting Vaishnodevi temple, shaped and built like a mountain. Worth a visit.

The stunning multi-storey Haridada ni vav (well)

The religious structure behind the well

And sadly, this is what passes off as the entrance to this historic and beautiful structure

The slightly better off well at Adalaj

And finally, cannot help but make a mention of the Courtyard Marriott, where we stayed. A simple property, with no fuss, but the service and the food - simply phenomenal!

Indigo in-flight experience is colorful! The air hostesses were super too!

Good bye Ahmedabad!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Passport Seva Kendras - The Power of IT Outsourcing

If anyone needs any convincing about how IT can bring about a revolution, all you need is a visit to the Passport Seva Kendras run by TCS for the Govt of India.

A few weeks back, while applying for a Nederlands visa for an upcoming trip, we realized my daughter's passport needs to be renewed. Our hearts sank, because we knew it would involve endless trips, paperwork and contacts to get the job done.

But we decided to go for it, take the risk, and hope we are blessed with some good luck.

This was Sunday evening.

A little Google search revealed that we now had to apply online - and literally 15 mins later, we were done. However, the appointment slots for the day were gone, and the website asked us to get a slot when the new quota was released the next day, at 12:00 pm.

Monday, 12:15, I had the appointment dates - Wed at 2:00 pm.

We reached the Passport Seva Kendra at 1:20, and had a nice, quick lunch at a nearby restaurant. At 1:55, the security guard let us in, and at 2:40, we were out, done with the document verification, biometrics, and fees!

Friday afternoon, at 3:30, we had a spanking new passport in hand!

No bribes, no "connections", no fuss. The center itself was very clean, air-conditioned, the staff was smiling and very cooperative and helpful, the entire workflow computerized, with timers measuring the performance of the staff every step of the way! No way for a "passport agent" to get in, no role for "underhand dealings". Even the name - Passport Seva Kendra - is just so right!

Stunning what a professional IT outsourcing model can do to governance, and with Modi at the helm (and the extremely corrupt RTOs already next in line of fire), one can safely dream of an efficient, citizen-friendly India very soon!

The Stunning Mumbai International Airport

On Independence Day...

Black & White Beauties

Mumbai - Honest City!

In an experiment last year, Mumbai came across as the world's second most honest city. A simple, abandoned wallet was left on the road, and the study recorded how many people stumbling on it returned it to its owner. An average Mumbaikar returned 9 out of 12 wallets he or she found lying on the road, each carrying Rs 3,000 (or equivalent). Each of the wallets also contained a cell phone number, business cards and a family photo. The experiment was carried out in 16 cities across four continents with 192 lost wallets, dropped in crowded places like shopping malls, sidewalks and parks in cities as diverse as New York and Zurich.

For the record, Helsinki topped the list of honest cities returning 11 of the 12 wallets.
I got a first hand experience of Mumbai's generosity and honesty last month, when I left my expensive, brand new, Samsung Galaxy S5 phone in an auto rickshaw. By the time I realized my phone was not with me, a cool 15-20 mins had passed by. Not only did the auto driver pick up my desperately hopeful call, he immediately came back from wherever he had reached, completely aware of the phone sitting on the back seat in his auto until I called. With a big smile, he stopped his auto across the road, and ran through the traffic to me, handing over the phone like he had just delivered his most precious "amanat" back to me.

And while I did tip him generously, I really need to add - not for a second did he try to linger on after handing over my phone, with absolutely no expectation for a reward!

My only regret - I should have taken his number, and found a way to repay his generosity some day! Maybe I was feeling too small in front of him, and it was easier to just give him some baksheesh and get the hell out of there!

Dog Tales

Am not much of a dog lover, but here are two stories that warmed my heart... and I am sure it will do so to you too!

I wish they had featured the puppy here! Isn't it just so awesome to have your puppy with you, when you are alone and lost, assured he isn't leaving your side, and then being able to return home to the warm embrace of the rescuers and your family? I also wonder what was going through the puppy's mind!

Here's a story I find very hard to believe - except that it came in the TOI, and it wasn't April 1 when it was featured. Is this photo even real? Training dogs is understandable, of course - but hey, look at this classroom! And then expecting Delhi's strays to wear the cops uniform? Wow.. would be so cool if it were indeed true!

Baby Liz

Movie Review: Entertainment

A bloke realizes he has become the rich heir of a 3000 crore fortune - but there is just one major hurdle. His estranged father has willed all the fortune to his dog named Entertainment. So he sets off on a mission to get rid of the dog..

Of course, there are other claimants to the throne, a few side kicks, there is a girl he is in love with, and her greedy father, and so on and so forth.

Doesn't really matter.

But Entertainment isn't really bad. Watch it for the dog. Watch it for some good humor, especially the weaving for Bollywood movie titles in everyday speech. And for the very hot Tamannah Bhatia, who lights up the screen even when she is out of it. And of course, there is Sonu Sood, Prakash Raj, Mithunda and Johnny Lever.

Yes, keep the brains at home.

Movie Review: Into The Storm

A small US town bears the brunt of an unprecedented ganging up of super tornadoes, and you find yourself right in the thick of the action, experiencing it through the eyes of a band of storm chasers. While the story is nothing to write home about, and the action is pretty predictable, the movie is watchable for some very good SFX. Of course, only if you catch it in a good theatre.

Macro Photography

Did some macro photography recently, with screw on macro lenses I got for my Canon. Fascinating to see nature at close range!