Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Foodie Innovation

At a South Indian eatery, upsouth, at the Phoenix Mall the other day, we saw this really nifty gadget used to notify the customer that his food is ready for pickup from the self-service counter. You give the order, carry the gadget with you, and when the order is ready, it starts vibrating with disco lights. Lol... sweet!



Saturday, January 25, 2014

Movie Review: Jai Ho

This is one Aam Aadmi that gets my vote! :)

Jai Ho is a treat for Sallu bhai fans, and as you will quickly find out, I am one of them - yes, I turned into one after watching him host Bigg Boss 7, not to mention the eminently likeable Wanted.

What I loved:

Sallu, Sallu, Sallu. He looks young, in great shape, and the hooting and screaming from the audience, mostly male, when he takes off his shirt, is testimony to the legions of his die-hard fans. He dances well too - well, within his constraints, of course! His dialogues are few, his comic timing less in play, but when he does use it, it's hilarious!

The action is top rated - with some never-before-seen action shots, extremely well executed. Hand to hand combat, gun fights, bike chases, and some excellent car crashes. The scene on the railway station is my favorite, but the hand to hand combats were also beautifully done, and the make up and sets absolutely spot on!

The cast is interesting - dozens of characters in small roles, but pretty enjoyable to see all of them - Tabu, Sana Khan, Ashmit Patel, Nauheed Cyrusi, Sunil Shetty, Danny, Tulip Joshi, Bruna Abdullah, Mahesh Manjrekar, Aditya Pancholi, Mohnish Behl, Genelia, even the sharaabi from Nukkad, the list goes on and on. The baal kalakars are great too, especially Sallu's nephew, who is impressive. The lead actress, Daisy Shah, looks good in most scenes and outfits, is confident, and dances well, but she desperately needed a better dress designer and make up team.

What was needed:

A better lead heroine, a better sound track with some good numbers. A story - well, with Salman, maybe you don't really need that. And maybe a little less of the "power of 3" dialogues - while they will inspire a few, it does get a little repetitive and predictable after some time.

Overall, a wholesome entertainer, a nice and simple social message, and some great action. This may not be his best by far, but it's definitely a must watch this weekend. For Sallu.

PS: As a huge SRK fan, I have to admit Sallu looks so much younger. But in sheer ability to touch hearts, and inspire, and awe, and romance, the Baadshah, the King Khan, is eons ahead of the pack!


Monday, January 20, 2014

It's Getting Scarier

CM AK is on a dharna today, defying Sec 144, exhorting the thousands of policemen deployed there to defy their bosses and join the agitation. Comimg from a person occupying a constitutional position, and the CM of the state of Delhi, how more dangerous can you be? Armed forces are meant to be the ultimate in discipline and respect of authority. What message are you passing on to them?

Is there really no end to this damn activism and vigilantism, this complete disregard for law and order and every constitutional authority? Do we really want the lawlessness of the central African states, the total anarchy that we see in unadministered Waziristan and Afghanistan, the civil wars that tear nations apart, in our own country, in the name of "aam aadmi rule"?

And all this for what? To force the Central government to suspend officers who refused to toe the Law Minister's line and enforce the writ of the "aam aadmi", subverting process and law?

Really?

Yes, we need a strong anti-corruption law, we need security and safety, we need honest policemen and efficient politicains. And we all sat up and applauded when the citizens of Delhi voted AK to power, delivering a strong message to the political parties that it was time for change.

But for god's sake, we DO NOT want a dictator who thinks he knows every thing, and every democratic institution, legal framework and constitutional authority in this country can go to the dogs!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hablo Espanol

Yes, I have been learning to speak Spanish for about 10 days now, and must say, it has been an extremely fun and exciting journey.

So why now, and why Spanish?

Interesting story, actually.

First of all, I have always been interested in learning a foreign language since the time, in my school days, when I saw my elderly uncle trying to learn German. I had been advised not to take French in school, and I always regretted it. When I started work for Bridgestone as one of my clients in Europe, we had a French class for my team, and stupidly, I skipped that.

I tried learning French a couple of times on my own, but never got beyond Bonjour and could never really wrap my tongue around the very different French pronunciations. A couple of weeks back, I found my French language guide, and tried to start again - and realized it was still just as difficult to get the pronunciations. And almost gave up.

Interestingly, just at that very moment, a friend of mine pointed me to www.duolingo.com, a beautifully gamified (free) site for learning languages, and to check out how it works (remember, gamification is my area of expertise and focus at work!), I took the first lesson in French. While I loved the way the site works, I still couldn't get the French flowing in my blood.

That's when it hit me! Why not learn Spanish instead? And there were so many reasons - first, we are planning a trip to Spain in May - and that gave me a full 4 months to really pick up the language. Spanish is also such a beautiful language - spoken by all the stunningly sensuous women in Latin American, including the oh so awesome Salma Hayek! Imagine bumping into her on the train and being ableo to say Lo Siento, Senorita! Mucho Gusto! By the way, Spanish is the second most popularly spoken language in the world after Mandarin, and ahead of English, with over 350 Million in dozens of countries speaking it. It is also pretty easy to pick up (and the fact that I can understand approx 25% of any movie's Spanish subtitles, and the song La Bamba and the Spanish parts of Senorita in ZNMD, in less than 10 days is ample proof of that).

But most importantly, for me, it has been the channeling of my emotional energy that's worked wonders. The beginning of the year has been pretty stressful, and the Spanish lessons (especially on www.duolingo.com) have proved to be an excellent way to divert my mind, keep it focussed, and get something positive out of what could have been a terrible phase.

As they say, life is what you make of it.

Hasta Luego, Adios!

Vigilante Justice?

Yet another set of disturbing incidents in Delhi - ministers and their aam aadmi supporters administering on-the-spot vigilante justice, demanding the police break down doors, arrest foreigners and make women undergo medical examinations - all at night, under "suspicion" of illegal activities, without warrants or credible proof, but based on suspicions and allegations of the "aam aadmi".

And now, the CM threatening to sit on a dharna demanding the suspension of officers who refused to toe the minister's line.

Coming close on the heels of the law minister publicly rubbishing the decision of the CBI court which had admonished and reprimanded him for trying to influence a witness, in his immediate past life as a lawyer, I am extremely concerned at the total disregard Kejriwal and his aam aadmis seem to have for the law, and all formal institutions that have served this democracy and prevented us from degenerating into chaos like every neighbour that surrounds us.

Yes, I want a secular, peaceful, and corruption-free India - but the thought of a rag tag motley crew of self-serving "aam aadmis", with a sickening sense of self-righteousness and contempt for everyone and everything else, is truly disturbing.

I am gonna vote this time for sure, just because I am scared shit at what this might be leading us to.

Movie Review: American Hustle

Disclaimer: I love Jennifer Lawrence, so any movie with her has to be a MUST SEE :) You just cannot get better than her. Hot, beautiful, innocently stupid, that smile, those eyes, and that voice - Jennifer Lawrence puts in yet another beautiful performance that only she could have done justice to.

Add to that the delicious Bradley Cooper, the beautiful Amy Adams, and a stupendous performance by Christian Bale, a great story line, a totally engrossing script... the movie will simply suck you in, and never let go.

American Hustle is about a devious and smart conman Irving (Christian Bale) and his girlfriend and partner in crime Edith aka Sydney (Amy Adams), who are forcibly enlisted by an FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) into trapping corrupt politicians and gangs in New Jersey in the late 70s. "Some of this actually happened", says the opening frame of the movie. 

Their first target is the mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Carmine Polito, who looks like Elvis Presley, and sincerely loves his city and its people, and is willing to compromise the line to get jobs and wealth back to his state. Through a fake FBI Arab Sheik, the plan is to sting Carmine, and through him numerous senators and gang lords, using the Sheik's promise of millions of dollars in funding for Atlantic City in return for "favours".

The weak link in the plan - Irving's wife Rosalyn (the awwwesome Jeniffer Lawrence), whose deep anxiety about her husband and her innocence, can play the perfect spoilsport in what seems to be an otherwise flawless plan. Or is it really?

The performances are simply outstanding. Christian Bale as the out of shape and out of hair Irving Rosenfeld leads with his beautiful portrayal of the conman, with deep-rooted self confidence. Bradley Cooper as the hot-headed FBI agent, Jeremy Renner as Carmine and Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser and her alter-ego Lady Edith are engrossing. And Robert DeNiro puts in a beautiful cameo as ganglord Victor Tellagio.

But for me,  it is the irresistible Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn who is the absolute darling of the movie. She doesn't take too much of the screen time, but when she does, she absolutely dazzles in her portrayal of Irving's possessive and crazily unpredictability wife with a penchant for lighting fires in her kitchen and expecting her husband to thank her for it!

The script is wonderful, the humour subtle, and the movie exudes an intelligence and sensitivity that makes you fall in love with the 70s.


There are some beautiful lines in the film.... the one I loved - "People believe what they want to believe. This is the way the world works. No black and white, always grey." 

Go watch American Hustle. Nothing grey about that!

Movie Review: Carrie

Carrie is a shy, homely, and protected young girl (the very sweet and sensuous Chloe Moretz), with a fiercely religious mom (Julianna Moore) who believes that God will punish everyone for the sins of Adam and Eve. Suffering endless bullying from her peers, she discovers she has unique telekinetic powers. Struggling hard to live a normal life, everything seems to be falling nicely in place when the most desirable guy in her class invites her to prom. However, it is just the calm before the storm... pushed to the edge by a cruel trick, she unleashes her deadly self, destroying everything in her wake.

Nothing special about the movie (and it is NOT a horror movie really), but Chloe sizzles the screen with her innocent sensuality, and is the only reason you might be able to sit through it.

Movie Review: Nosotros Los Nobles (Spanish)

NLN (We are Nobles) is a funny movie about three spoilt rich kids who, their dad realizes, need to get a lesson about surviving in the real world, and are tricked into believing they have lost their fortune, and forced to fend for themselves and their dad... taking odd jobs like serving in a restaurant and driving a tourist bus.

No reason why you should watch it, unless you want to learn Spanish.

Movie Review: Runner Runner

A student at Princeton, Richie, discovers the exciting world of online gambling, and the unspoken rule that "the house always win" - but when he realizes he has been taken for a ride with the odds stacked unfairly against him, he travels to Costa Rica to confront the brain behind the operation, Ivan. Ivan succeeds in winning him over, putting him in command of the business. However, as he gets involved deeper and deeper,  in the business and in his boss's hot girlfriend, Richie knows he has to do something drastic to survive.

Pretty bland, the only reason I watched it was to practice my Spanish with the subtitles.

Movie Review: The Spectacular Now

TSN is a coming of age story of a young man, Sutter Keeley (Miles Tuller) an effortless charmer whose dreamy world consists of frat parties, alcohol and  hot girls, whose break up with his current girl friend kicks off a very unlikely relationship with the "good girl" Aimee (the very pretty Shailene Woodley) and a journey of self-discovery and the importance of being "in the moment".

Compared to all the other movies in its genre, TSN delivers power packed performances that you will instantly relate to - and remain with you long after you have watched the end credits roll. One of the best teen growing up movies you will see in a long time...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tribute To Mumbai

Got this on Whatsapp... thought it was worth sharing!

Mumbai is rich, Mumbai is poor.
Mumbai is fast, Mumbai is slow.
Little bit sweet, and little bit sour,
Sometimes it's hot but not too more'.

Mornings are energetic and evenings are electric.
Noons are lazy but Nights are crazy..
And any one you ask, he always say "M busy"
Dude, life in Mumbai'' Is not so easy...!

There is lot of Masti with
little bit of Maska...
Welcome to the city that can't live, without Bollywood Chaska...!

From cooker whistles to the traffic jam horns,
From steaming tea kettles to breaking nut-bettles,
From telephone rings and doorbell brings.
There are people connecting through Blackberry pings...!

Where there's little time to spare for kids,
People here spend their lives on bids,
Here you actually pay your travel fare by meter,
But milkman mixing water is not a cheater...!

Sev puri and bhel puri are all Mumbai chaat..
Relishing it with spicy chutney is no easy art..
From popcorn to ice-cream, all sold on cart,
Mumbai o Mumbai, you're always close to my heart..!

Where local trains usually run on time,
And violently rushing for a seat is not a crime...
Here 3 PM for lunch and 12 AM to dine,
People face hardships, but still say "it's fine"..!

From Mt. Mary in Bandra to Mumba Devi in Town,
And ISKCON in Juhu to Haji Ali in Mumbai's Crown,
Faith runs deep as the Arabian Sea
But people don't hesitate to pay early darshan fees...!

Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati and Bengali,
Everyone together celebrate Id and Diwali,
Holi is colorful and Christmas is cheerful,
Spend some time here and your life will be unforgetful...!

Billionaire to beggars, all found in this city,
Be careful dude, this place is a bit witty..,
Overall this dream-world is huge but pretty,
Mumbai o Mumbai, you're wonderful city.


Because... she is like mother to millions.

After all a mother is called,

MUM in English,
BA in Gujarati &
AI in Marathi.

That's MUMBAI...


India's Pride, Mumbai's T2

India's jewel in the crown, and Mumbai's new international terminal T2, was inaugurated this week - although it will be another couple of weeks before it starts operations. We have all seen and admired those amazing airports and buildings all over the world, but for a moment now, step back and immerse yourself in this splendid creation.



With a 3 km long art gallery, this building probably has the largest collection of public art any where in the world. With a six lane elevated bridge connecting the Western Express highway to the terminal, journey time to and from the airport is expected to be reduced from 30 min to 3 min.

And remember, all this in the hustle and bustle of Mumbai - it's not a greenfield airport! The promoters, GVK (an Indian company, by the way), deserve a big round of standing applause!

ps: Also do check out my earlier post on the Kashmir Railway... similarly WOW.

Movie Review: The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

Amazing movies these days - after the scintillating performances from Leo and gang in Wolf Of Wall Street, here is another movie that will blow you away with fascinating locales, and an inspiring story.

Walter Mitty is a 40-something man, working in the "negative assets" department of LIFE magazine. He leads a boring life, handling photograph negatives, in the cellars of his office building, and spends the rest of his life day dreaming and "zoning out" about adventures and the new girl in his office that he has fallen for.

But as his life comes crashing down beside him, when his magazine is shut down, he finds a purpose - locating the missing negative for the cover for the magazine's last issue. A journey that takes him to windy and isolated Greenland, to the volcanoes to Iceland, and ultimately, the untamed hills of Afghanistan.

It's a story of hope, of adventure, of making the most of life, of meeting new people, and going where you never knew your spirit could take you.

The photography is beautiful, the experience unforgettable.

And yes, watch it with your family - it's a beautiful way to spend the weekend!

Movie Review: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

A crazy ol grandpa zips across the country with his 8 year old grandson, to drop him off at this dad's, taking the audience along on an outrageous spy cam road trip involving private parts getting stuck in vending machines, male strippers, biker gangs, and the kid soliciting unsuspecting women passing by. Reportedly banned in the US, this is another of that genre that you check out just to see how far you can go without being shocked to hell. 

Oh yes, and if you didn't get the "spy cam" reference earlier - a quick note. Most of the movie is shot through hidden cameras. While the "lead actors" know what they are doing, everyone else is clueless - a la candid camera.

Actually, compared to some of the stuff I have come across in the recent past, Bad Grandpa is not so bad after all - and on a tired evening, with the brain thrashing out, it might actually be fair game!

Scary Beginning - What Does It Mean for LS 2014?

The chinks are beginning to show - and not too small at that! The promises are beginning to sound like deceptions - and I start to wonder, are we also going to be used in a manner similar to how Anna was, before being discarded, once the motive is accomplished?

The photo op of travelling in metros and autos done, it's back to government vehicles for commute. Nothing wrong in that at all - just that it's not what was so grandly promised and demonstrated on day one. 2 five bedroom bungalows isn't exactly "aam aadmi accommodation" - again, nothing wrong in it, that's what ministers need. But then you promised not to go for it, right?

The policies seem even more worrying - waiving off power bills since March? At whose cost? And why?  Is this how you govern? By promoting anarchy?

Setting up a junta darbar on the road, needing to bring in the SSB to control the stampede, and then running away and taking cover behind the safe confines of the Secretariat - it would have been funny if it wasn't so depressingly immature. You really didn't expect this to happen? For someone who has the reins of the capital city, and aspires to lead the nation, this is the kind of vision, understanding, planning and maturity you exhibit?

But my real worry is regarding the core promise - action against corruption. Asking every citizen to be a "stinger" - what about the rule of law? Tomorrow, will we also have people's courts? Post the video on YouTube and Facebook, count the number of likes, and summarily sentence the "offender" via polls? Isn't that almost what the maoists do? Isn't this the kind of anarchy that's sweeping countries like Egypt, where it's all about "rule of the aam aadmi", haven't we seen where this leads the country to?

And by joining hands with the same "monster", have you compromised on your own morality and ethics? It's been a decent time now to kick off an investigation into CWG, and book Sheila Dikshit, right? But last I read in the papers, the ball had been firmly thrown in the BJP's court, suggesting that they should provide all the evidence against Sheila Dikshit before Arvind could act against her!

Meanwhile, the government goes after the aam aadmi himself, the small fry - some peon and clerk in the water department, some hawaldar in the police force! Really? And for that, we needed a countrywide movement? 

We really have high hopes from Anna and the anti-corruption movement. Sadly, in a very, very short time, the disappointment is setting in - and more worryingly, it's actually starting to look really very scary!

India is really looking forward - to growth, to resurgence in manufacturing and economic activity, to taking its place at the head of the table of world leaders. Modi may have his flaws, and the Congress may be corrupt. But let us not forget, they have the experience, the vision and the capabilities. I do not think a mass movement of disgruntled aam aadmis with a broom can really deliver this country of 1.2 billion people what it deserves and needs at this time!

Sunday, January 05, 2014

AAM CM

The wonder continues... after stunning everyone at the polls, Arvind Kejriwal took over the mantle of the CM last week, marking a new chapter in the wonderful rewrite of India's history and politics.

Suddenly, Modi has been relegated to the inner pages, with AAP and AK taking over the headlines, and every slot on prime time TV. While the BJP and the Congress deny the AK factor will play any role in LS2014, the writing on the wall couldn't be clearer. India is in the firm grip of a revolution, and detractors of this Aam Aadmi would do well to hold their guns...

Yes, there are some concerns... after the initial photo-ops in autos and metros, the ministers are safely ensconced in govt cars, and Arvind almost moved into a double duplex of around 6000 sq ft before protests and criticisms from within and outside his party made him reconsider. There is nothing wrong in using the govt facilities and security.. after all, he is no longer really an aam aadmi, he has a state to care for now - but when you promise something and come to power on those promises, you need to show you meant it!

Giving free water to those few with water meters and cutting power bills are gonna be welcomed by the people - but again the question is, when all you are doing is taking money from one pocket and putting it in the other, will this Robinhoodgiri really bode well for the future of the country?

Arvind was voted in on the basis of one and only one agenda - corruption. And he needs to deliver on that. He has started with the right notes - strengthening the ACB with upright officers, hand chosen after what seems like a good deal of background research. One thing is sure - they may ridicule him for being a novice, but every politician and babu will be having sleepless nights, worried about the sweep of the broom that is sure to begin very soon!

Will AAP deliver on its real promise? Will this be a watershed moment for India, will this bring in decades of clean politics and Ram rajya? Time will tell. India is at a point of inflexion, and one can only hope and pray, for the sake of all, that this is all not just a flash in the pan.

Movie Review: The Wolf Of Wall Street

After movies like Goodfellas, Hugo and Shutter Island, you expect no less from Martin Scorsese.

The Wolf of Wall Street is a three hour orgy of financial carnage, fuelled by drugs and sex. With sensational performances by the entire cast, led by the absolutely stunning Leonardo DiCaprio, and a wonderful script peppered by witty dialogues, TWOWS will keep you engrossed and interested, and even after the 180 minutes of running time is exhausted, you will keep wanting more.

TWOWS is about the life of a Wall Street broker and his "company", which sells penny stocks to gullible investors, first the poor and then the filthy rich, raking in millions in commissions through shady, illegal deals, finally inviting the close scrutiny of the SEC and the FBI. As the millions pour in at the cost of others, life is one endless party, one that cannot stop, hurtling the party-goers towards the inevitable.

Leonardo Di Caprio puts in a stunning performance, one that is sure to make him a frontrunner for the Ocsars this year. The rest of the cast - his first boss, his hot second wife, his equally crazy friends, the FBI agent, the Swiss banker, his rich British aunt - everyone just wows with their performances. Watch out for some exceedingly engrossing scenes and dialogues - Leo's first chat with his first boss over lunch, his tentative dialogue and bribe offer to the FBI agent on his yatch, his interaction with his aunt on the park bench, the fight with his wife early in the morning, and his "about to leave" speech to his company. You will want to watch these over and over again...

A must watch this weekend - although, not for elder kids at any cost! For that, check out Walter Mitty, that is also a must see this weekend!

Babies Coming Up!

E7 is expecting a couple of pigeon babies soon... right now, they are hatching, lulled by the purr and the warmth of the dryer! Watched ever so closely by the cat!




INS Vikramaditya Reaches The Arabian Sea

India's mighty new aircraft carrier has finally entered the Arabian Sea after a long. non-stop journey of over 8000 nautical miles from Russia, and will be reaching it's home base near Karwar early next week.

In this pic from the Times of India, you can see the mighty carrier on the extreme left escorted by India's other carrier, the INS Viraat in the foreground, stealth frigate INS Teg in the background, and destroyer INS Mumbai on the right.


Mighty impressive, huh? At a price tag of 2.33B USD, which goes up to 5B USD considering the price of the on-board aircrafts and the berth at Karwar, this is India's biggest military platform till date. And something to be very proud of!

Enemies, beware!