Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Last Saturday saw us gallivanting in Bangalore, like the good ol' days. First stop, as always was India Coffee House on M G Road. But before we could get there, we had to brave Bangalore's Saturday afternoon traffic rush. Fortunately, the Gods were kind to us and we spent only a little over an hour to reach M G Road from Whitefield, which, considering all things, wasn't too bad.
India Coffee house has been an absolute favourite right from my early days in Bangalore. Situated bang on M G Road, it still holds it's own admist the Barisstas and Cafe Coffee Days that have cropped up in the last few years. I still remember my firsr visit to ICH. It was a Saturday in the year 1998, and I was fast asleep in a tiny Cambridge Layout flat, when an incessant knocking at 8:30 AM woke me up with a jolt. With eyes still closed I opened the door to find Siddharth. Now don't get me wrong. Siddhu's a dear friend and I am always pleased to see him, but on a saturday at 8:30 AM..uh huh! To say I didn't welcome him would be putting it too mildly. Anyways, he said that we were all (I had 2 room mates then - Sandhya and Sonam) to go to a real good place for breakfast. I protested against the earliness of the hour and what followed next was paens about that special place where you get the world's best scrambled eggs. Thinking it would be easier to just go along with the plan, rather than argue, or worse, be left behind, I agreed. We left for M G Road in an auto. In those days, the ride would take about 5 to 10 minutes. As I entered the celebrated doors of ICH, two things caught my attention - the large mirrors on one side of the wall and really old posters campaigning for Indian Coffee. The place had an old world charm, meaning, it's furniture looked like it was from the 1950s. Siddhu placed the order, since he knew what was good there, and in time, I came to know that EVERYTHING was very yummy there. One bite into into the "scrambled egg on toast", and I was hooked for life.
Back to 2008, the scrambled eggs still taste divine. Also divine are the dosas, the chutney (we always ask for extra helpings of this special chutney which makes us go weak in the knees), the finger chips, the tomato minced omelette, the vegetable cutlet and last but surely not the least, the coffee. The only other coffee that comes close to the one served in ICH is the one my Dad makes.
After having satisfied our stomachs, we headed for the Premier bookshop. I took a short detour to Bombay Stores and our wallets turned predictable lighter. Next stop was the Strand bookshop, another old favourite. Some years back, there was a south Indian fast food joint just beside the Strand Book shop, called Kadambam. Sadly, it's no longer there. Strand looked like it hadn't changed much. After spending a good hour or so browsing through old favourites and a brief chat with Vidya Virkar, we set off for Commercial Street. Some shopping and loafing around followed. By then it was around 5:30 PM and it was the time when the cooks at K C Das start frying the yummy loochis. Needless to say, Ferose wouldn't have missed this chance for anything. His love for anything Bengali is legendery.
The last stop was Cambridge Layout. I was hankering after a particular road side stall that serves the softest idlis this side of town. It was not in it's usual place, but after searching for a while we found it, as usual, crowded with customers. Among the patrons were the usual suspects : auto drivers, a few office goers, a couple of college students and people like us, who will go to any lengths for that perfect idli! And all for Rs 7 a plate. Heaven indeed!!
Dusk was setting in, and the traffic was getting worse. It was time for the us to head to Madhu's place, where a party of old friends meeting us. I cannot think of a better ending of such a satisfying day in Bangalore.
Before I sign off, here's what I am listening to these days: Bryan Adams' latest alum "11", the soundtrack of "Tashan" and "Jannat", and "Journey" by Fuzon.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
I am sitting in the lobby of Taj Palace in Delhi. Ferose is attending the India Today Conclave 2008. I just tagged along for the pure excitement of getting out of home. The last 3 days have been terribly boring since I have been pretty much stuck at home (and that will be the status quo until I get my car). This conference that continues for another 2 days has lotsa biggies giving keynotes/sessions: Al Gore, Farouq Abdullah, Arun Poorie, Aamir Khan, Shekhar Kapoor, Preity Zinta (part of the youth forum), L K Advani, etc etc.....hmmm...so much gyan, and in so many forms. Ferose is one lucky guy.
I have about an hour to kill and fortunately for me, Ferose has left his laptop with me. The last couple of weeks saw me getting entertained in all possible modes. Last Wednesday, we watched the play "Bikhre Bimb", that was part of the Mahindra Theatre Festival. It was directed by Girish Karnad and had only one actor, Arundhati Nag. The play was in Hindi, and I marvelled at Nag's command over the language. Although Hindi is our national language, rarely do I use, or hear anybody else using words like "sahanshilata", "vivek", "akasmat". The play took me back to school days. Those were the days when the only lessons I enjoyed taking were languages. Luckily. most of my language teachers were really good. Reading prose, untangling poetry were such interesting ways to pass time. English text books were divided into prose, poetry and non-detail, the last one always had the most interesting stories. Hindi text books were divided into Parag (prose) and Swati (poetry). I prefered Hindi Poetry to English, because there were much more patriotic and india-based poems written in Hindi. My all time favourite one is "Jhansi Ki Rani" by Subhadrakumari Chauhan...khoob ladi mardani, woh toh jhansi wali rani thi. (I read somewhere that Sushmita Sen is making a film on Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi). The other one that I remember is "Satpuda ke ghane jungle" by Bhavani Prasad Sharma. Among English poems, I only remember a small poem, "Beauty" and I don't remember who wrote it...perhaps Robert Browning.
I have been watching an awful lot of television of late. I generally avoid daily soaps and stick to movies. But I have started watching a weekly soap on NDTV Imagine, called "Radha Ki Betiyan kuch kar dikhaengi". The reason I like it is because it is very similar to "Banegi Apni Baat", one of the earliest serials that was aired after the onslaught of Zee TV in India. I am talking early 90's. This one (also) has 3 sisters living life with a fair amount of struggle. There is one good guy, and one cocky one in the college. The eldest sister is on the lookout of a job. But the icing on the cake is Apoorva Agnihotri who plays a doctor and has an important part. I am a bit frustrated that the serial airs only once a week, so I am usually watching all the reruns until the next episode comes.
Movies: We watched a couple of films last week, but the most interesting one was "Black & White". Firstly I couldn't believe it was a Subhash Ghai film, what with Kisna and Yaadein having flopped big time. The story of "Black & White" revolves around a terrorist from Afganistan who comes to Delhi to blow up the red fort. The terrorist is played by newcomer Anubhav Sinha. He has a mind boggling screen presense, not to mention a voice to die for. So the Ranbirs and Neils better watch out. The music of the film deserves a special mention. Sukhwinder Singh's melodies gel well with the mood of the film. "Jogi Aaya" and "Mian Chala" are breezy tracks that enhance the film. I had also watched "Jodha Akbar" earlier and loved it. Hrithik was awesome and Aishwarya wasn't too bad either. Both looked great. A R Rahman's music was good, though I expected it to be great. "Khwaja Mera Khwaja" & "In Lamhon Ke Daman mein" are my favourites. BTW, did anyone notice that among the fakirs (or sufis) who sing the Khwaja number, there were triplets? I mean the bearded guy and the two clean-shaven guys behind him, looked the same. So either hey were triplets, or it was some SFX effects by Ashutosh Gowarikar!!
Books: I am re-reading Agatha Christie's "Partner in Crime". I also finished reading Khaled Housseini's "A Thousand Splendid Suns". That guy has almost made me cry each time I read his books. This book is based on two women caught in a god-forsaken situation and the unlikely bond that they form in the face of adversity. I would recommend this book to anyone who thinks he/she has had a raw deal in life. The story is depressing, but with a positive ending. It had me thanking my stars for every comfort that I have.
Aah, I have nothing more to say since my stomach has started to rumble....hope Ferose treats me to a good dinner after he is back.
P.S. He DID treat me to a good dinner at "Masala Art" in the Taj. It was sumptuous meal of Lasuni Palak and Garlic Naan.
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Hey Ram - A Review (Written on 20/04/2000)
Raghupati Raghava Rajaram, Patita Pavan Sitaram" are the starting verses of the title song of the latest venture by Kamal Haasan. "Hey Ram" also happen to be the last two words spoken by the Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, before his death. And if you are the kind who cannot sit in one place for more than 2 hours, then, Hey Ram!! This movie is definitely not for you!!! But if movies like "1947 Earth", "Bombay" or books like "Lajja" and "Train to Pakistan" get your adrenaline pumping , then this definitely is your cup of tea.
So here’s another story of a protagonist against the backdrop of partition and the ensuing communal holocaust. Saket Ram (played by Kamal Haasan) is a Tamilian archeologist in Calcutta and Aparna (Rani Mukherji) is his Bengali wife. Amjad Ali Khan (Shakrukh Khan) is his good friend who believes in a secular India. With communal riots in the background, Saket Ram's life comes to an abrupt stop when Aparna gets brutally raped and murdered by a gang of Muslims. As a repartee he kills the offenders, and others who come in his path of vengeance. But that does not drive away the haunting grief, and the guilt of having murdered another human being. Disgusted and depressed he returns to Madras where his folks promptly get him married to a girl of their choice.
Enter Mythili (played by Vasundhara), a coy, pretty, girl, whose lively exuberance and sensuality, succeed in entrapping Saket, but only for a while. A year after the tragedy, he revisits Calcutta, only to be tortured by the cries of his late wife and hallucinations of the people he had killed. Saket Ram realizes his calling is elsewhere and in true ascetic style takes "Sanyaas" from worldly pleasures. His mission in life remains to kill Gandhi (Naseeruddin Shah) whom he believes to be the worst offender and holds him responsible of all crimes taking place in the name of religion.
But as fate would have it, he again meets his friend Amjad Khan who, despite all the hatred around, still believes that religious harmony is possible. History says Nathuram Godse assassinated Gandhi. What happened in the interim, did Saket Ram have a change of heart? Did Amjad Khan help him see the truth that he was searching for so long? Did Gandhi, through the sheer strength of his persona, influence Saket to give up the fight and embrace non-violence? For all the answers, do watch "Hey Ram".
Even Though Rani Mukherji appears just for a few minutes in the film, one remembers her long after the film has ended as the pretty Aparna, clad in crisp, white, Bengal Cotton Sarees, sans the make up, quoting Bengali poetry! New comer Vasundhara doesn’t have much to do except look pretty and innocent and she looks the part. Shahrukh Khan has a sartorial role, and gives a fine performance. But an actor of his caliber could have been given much more footage to the advantage of the film. Naseeruddin Shah looks uncannily identical to Gandhi and even manages to talk and gesticulate exactly like him. But the spirit of the film lies in Kamal Haasan's character. While all the other characters keep flitting in and out of the story, Kamal's is the main role, and his performance deserves applause. Technically the film is brilliant and brings out the best of the 1940s era, including the costumes and settings. Music by Maestro Illayaraja is soothing and situational. In short, a film worth seeing and not to be missed.