Bangalore Musings

Bangalore has been a blast. When I first heard that I would be interning in Bangalore for 8 weeks, I was not quite sure. After all Hyderabad – the other option on the table- was my comfort zone. Nevertheless, my doubts were laid to rest when I stepped out into the cool Bangalore breeze the very first day in the garden city. Everybody talks about Bangalore’s amazing weather, cool crowd and the unparalleled pub/bar culture, all of which are true. But, a city is defined by more mundane things as well such as the general vibe of the people, the roads, the houses, the food etc. So far I have had very little to complain on all those fronts because Bangalore feels like a slightly more modern and less lazier Hyderabad, which works for moi.

I had visited the city back in the mid 2000s with my parents on a typical touristy trip when we indulged in typical touristy stuff like visiting Lal Bagh, Bannerghatta national park, ISCKON temple (I have to mention here that I have lost count of the number of ISCKON temples I have visited) and the Visvesvaraya museum. We also made a really fun trip to Wonderla, an amusement park on the outskirts of the city. This time though the allures have been different, not surprisingly. Its been more about catching up with old friends from college and work what with Bangalore being the IT hub of the country. What that means is that, mandatory trips to breweries and Zomato researched restaurants are in order. Bangalore does stand out from other cities I have been to in terms of the sheer variety of options it offers. I love the concept of self-brewed beer which seems to be the rage in the city. I made a trip to “The Biere Club” and “Barleyz”; both neat places with a vibrant ambiance to boast of. I mention just the ambiance because I did not taste the beer; I take my friend’s word for it! So, weekends are never dull with the bars, pubs and restaurants at every nook and corner of the city or rather every nook and corner of certain parts of the city like Koramangala, Indranagar, MG Road etc. Talking of MG road, this place is the heart of the city I am told and given how crowded it is in the evening and weekends, I would not put that to debate. Funnily, I have lost count of the number of MG Roads I have visited as well; every city in India seems to have one. If you want to indulge in some street shopping, then venture out to Commercial street which is close by to MG Road. You will end up buying unessential but necessary things like junk jewellery (which you will wear probably twice in your lifetime) and those strawberry laden cute chappals (which will adorn your feet everyday till they eventually wear out). Also, please visit UB City – a manifestation of Mallyas’ ego trip, but a nice place nonetheless. And while you are at it, visit Sky Lounge there for a wonderful view of the city and ermm, the people.

One thing that doesn’t do the city any favors is its traffic; more a man made problem than the city’s fault, and a problem that is plaguing most growing cities in India. I spend about 2 hours in commute everyday – which I am told is not a big deal given that people drive for 3-4 hours (you could practically fly to Mumbai in that time, you know) and inhale all the hazardous vehicular smoke which is an added penalty. Another pain point – the overpriced movie tickets. You have to shell out Rs.250 per ticket on an average – an amount for which you could watch a movie in Fun Cinemas, Andheri and cover your auto charges, perhaps throw in a popcorn too! Yes folks, Fun Cinemas, Andheri is the new standard. I did watch a couple of movies, including a Telugu one, high prices notwithstanding. Another thing to do in Bangalore – visit one of the umpteen malls that occupy the city’s exorbitantly priced retail space (I know the latter part because the radio stations keep blasting terrible advertisements of the same). Bangalore was one of the first cities in India to adopt the mall culture, so don’t be surprised to see so many of them.

All my momo loving friends who detested Mumbai for not having stalls in every galli – Bangalore will please you. Although not as commonplace as in Delhi, Bangalore can serve up decent street food in the form of momos, thukpas and the likes. But, why would you want to eat that when you can eat fantastic South Indian tiffins. When in Rome, be Roman, right? Despite being a South Indian, I can never look past a nicely made dosa, so I leave Bangalore with a happy stomach. I have a couple of weeks left here and I intend to take in all the varied sights and sounds the city has to offer. (Err, not all. There is this stupid rooster near my residence which wakes up at 4 am in the morning to exercise its vocal chords. That guy I am not going to miss!)

Thank you Bangalore for being an awesome host.

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Say Cheers!

I used to be one of those people who never understood the fascination some people had with alcohol. Back in undergrad, I practically looked down upon people who drank – perhaps a reflection of both my naivety and limited world view. I often wondered, what drove people to drink alcohol – it is not tasty, makes you loopy, it makes you say, and in some unfortunate cases do, stupid things. Well, you may ask how do I know? Let me summarize my answer to that question by stating the obvious – I have had alcohol and it has been quite some time since that eventful day or rather night. I approached the whole occasion with anticipation and excitement hoping that there would be something about the damn thing that made so many of my friends fans for life. I am not quite sure what followed after my first drinking adventure – partly because I was too sloshed to remember and partly because I realized that I could never just drink drink. To elaborate, I am one of those persons who doesn’t do “enjoy a drink”. I need to get drunk and dance. Given the fact that I am a decent dancer, one would imagine my pub dancing would not be so bad, right? Wrong. Alcohol makes me a lousy dancer. In fact, my friends told me I was jumping like a possessed person and gone was all the Kuchipudi grace I proudly embodied whenever I shook a leg. Funnily enough, I would pay to watch that version of me. Not so funnily, my friends got a free viewing plus a lifetime of ammunition that they liberally use now and then.

But I digress, as always. Coming back to alcohol – these few tasting experiences have had some positives. Firstly, I know what I don’t like and what I don’t like at all. I hate the way beer tastes. I have not yet cultivated the taste for red wine but my hubby tells me I will eventually, if I keep at it. I do not mind vodka. It is such a fun drink to have in my opinion.  Hits you quite easily too. Secondly, I know that I hate the feeling you wake up with the morning after. Although I have never completely embodied the spirit of being hung over (because I have never drank that much), the fact that you do not know the connection between all the dots makes me anxious. I am one of those people who likes to have fun, but also wants to remember how exactly it played out. So, what I am getting at is that me and alcohol are yet to figure out our relationship status. For now it stands at “It’s complicated”.

Of course my opinion about drinking and people who drink has changed from when I was a teenager. I think it is perfectly okay to drink as long as you know how much and how well you can deal with it :). As for me, I would rather sip on some Cranberry Sangria.

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Shaadi ke side effects

I always wondered what it would be like to get married. To be committed to one person for the rest of your life, and love unconditionally. You see, life is not accompanied by soulful guitar riffs whenever you sneak a glance at the person you like. So, damn you Bollywood for spoiling us with these absurd romantic notions. My idea of being married was to share my life with my best friend – someone who accepts you for all your idiosyncrasies, listens to Justin Timberlake songs purely because you force them to, buys you an extra pair of shoes even though you keep saying you are done with shopping and most importantly does not judge you. And when this idea became a reality, I realized that being married is normal – a new normal. It does not change who you are as a person overnight. You embrace a new family and forge new relationships but, you essentially are the same. I believed in this philosophy when I was getting married smack in the middle of my MBA. People asked me, “why now”? I honestly do not know why. It just felt right and the general happiness among my family members and friends helped me overcome even the slightest of doubt that I might have had. Then why am I writing this post? Because I now think that my philosophy was incorrect, albeit partially. Marriage might not change you but it changes the way people around you look at you, talk to you and treat you. I cannot fathom the reason for this, but speaking from personal experience, as a society we all need to grow up and be more sensitive. I am not asking people to stop having fun. I am asking people to stop having fun at others’ expense. All the time. Especially when it is not even funny.

When someone assumes that I will be less ambitious both in my career and in my personal pursuits because I am married, I find it downright regressive. Would a guy stop working hard just because he is married? Often rebukes such as “Tu kyun padh rahi hai, teri to shaadi ho gayi hai na” or “Tera husband to itne achi job me hai, tujhe kya tension hai ” and my personal favorite “Shaadi ke baad bhi tu MBA karegi kya?” leave me speechless. Sometimes I play along just to stop myself from smacking some sense into these people. These statements reflect something wrong in the way our society, including me, thinks. I am sure a majority of readers will stop at this point and say, “Don’t take these things too seriously. The people who make these statements don’t mean any harm. They are just joking”. I find this line of argument replete with double standards, an easy way out. Girls study as hard, if not harder than men these days. They work in the same companies earning salaries on par. Would you as a guy feel okay if someone asked you to stop working hard and aim less because your wife was doing well? Heck, would you even marry a woman who was in a better position than you? Perhaps not. I rest my case.

This narrow minded thinking is not restricted to people from a particular demographic. Even highly educated people, who have worked in huge corporations, interacted with people from various backgrounds and have done or are doing MBAs think that a married woman is a “lost opportunity”, for lack of a better word. I would like to reiterate again, jokes on being married are common and to a large extent inescapable. I do not mind them quite frankly. We all joke about secret crushes, failed relationships et all. What I have a problem is with me, or in general, married women, being defined by that one fact – their marital status. Unfortunately, this mentality extends itself to more mundane everyday things as well. So, if I watch what I eat, the remark usually is “Why are you dieting. You are married!” which basically implies, once married you ought to become fat or to put it more gently; there is no need for you to be cautious about your figure or weight. “What’s the point”, they say because if you are married, looking good has no speck of importance in your existence. This is based on the fundamentally flawed and chauvinistic theory that women like to take care of their looks only because men will be attracted to them. Honestly, I could go on for hours about how this is wrong. But, it isn’t, at least not in the context and environment in which I am speaking. So, to sum it all up, being married means striving less, lowering expectations and turning into a second best version of you.

What has kept my sanity through all this is the fact that there are a few good men out there. My husband, who basically tells me to ignore all the noise, has been extremely supportive of our long distance marriage because he wants me to pursue my education which he values. What’s one year in the long scheme of things, he says. Some of my friends have also been cool about having a married girl in their group. They still pull my leg, over issues such as my unwavering loyalty to Roger Federer or my taste in movies like they used to earlier. I like hanging out with them because I can be myself without having to worry about the topic of marriage coming up. When it does come up, it is because I bring it up or when we have a more nuanced discussion about it. It never becomes a fodder for humour.

I wish more people realized that marriage does not mean the end of your fun days. It is an important event in a series of events in your life. Because when all is said and done, almost everyone will get married at some point of time. If you marry the right person for the right reasons then marriage is the best thing that could happen to you. Do not let anyone make you feel otherwise. As for all the cynics around me, I have five words for you – What goes around comes around!

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My favorite Telugu movies

Long before blowing up of white ambassador cars became just another day on the sets of a Telugu movie shoot, and Mirchis and Thupakis inundated our cinema viewing experiences, there were some movies that genuinely acknowledged the intelligence of the viewer. Actresses or female actors rather, were not merely props or aims for some delusional hero’s fruit throwing( yes, I am talking about you Mr. Raghavendra Rao). I do not know when and how nonsensical bloodshed and violence became such an integral part of the fabric of storytelling in Telugu cinema. Normal people or at least most of the people I know do not pick up a sickle, roll up their lungis and set off in their cars to kill people. Agreed that movies can sometimes be not normal and a certain amount of suspension of belief is acceptable, but unfortunately this has become the norm and not an exception. Yet, there is a silver lining. The comedy in Telugu movies is in my humble opinion, the best in Indian cinema at least. I am sure one Brahmanandam can take on anyone and turn them into Jaffas :). Perhaps, the talent of these actors who excel in comedy is what is keeping my faith in Telugu movies alive. And dear Hindi movie viewers whose only knowledge of Telugu cinema is through these intolerable ‘remakes’ and terribly dubbed Set Max movies, please do not blame the ‘south Indian’ film industry for ruining Bollywood. As someone who sees both Telugu and Hindi movies, I can vouch for the fact that these remakes do not do justice to the originals. Hindi cinema does not have the actors who can pull of comedy of that caliber. The reason why a Ready or a Kick were so successful in Telugu was because the sense of humor and sensibilities are very different for a regional audience vis-a-vis a multiplex audience. Unfortunately, these differences are not being thought through well enough when remakes are being doled out by the dozen.

There used to be so much more to Telugu cinema in the 80s and to some extent the 90s. Even well established commercial superstars like Nagarjuna, Venkatesh, Chiranjeevi took risks and made movies that had a purpose and were entertaining. They captured the essence and culture of Andhra Pradesh without unnecessary gimmicks. The movies and characters, irrespective of the story line, were relatable. The music, thanks mostly to Mr. Illayaraja, was exceptional. Do not even get me started on the lyrics. Even as someone who does not understand the vernacular of true Telugu that well, I can still appreciate the thought put into the songs of a Shankarabharnam or Sagara Sangamam. Going by the abysmally low standards of lyrics today, even a 5th grader with a flair for throwing in phrases such as ‘come on baby’ and ‘yeah yeah’ can become a song writer.

There are some directors who are trying to make different cinema even today, but they are a minority whose voices are being crushed by the massive ego tussles of the male stars who want to make a ‘masala’ movie. What the heck is a masala movie? Two chase sequences, one song specially designed to showcase the actor’s dancing skills, a comedy track (even if it does seem relevant to the plot)? I would rather watch one of the movies from the list below than subject myself to these movies. They were masala enough for me!

1. Mayabazar (1957): One of those classics that will remain a perennial household favorite. I actually did not see the complete movie till I was a teenager, but when I did, I thoroughly loved it. This multi-starrer ( NTR, ANR, SV Ranga Rao and Savitri), mythological tale is based on Sasirekha Parinayam – an offshoot story from the Mahabharata. Arjuna’s wife and son – Subhadra and Abhimanyu, go to live in Dwaraka(which happens to be Subhadra’s maternal home) for a while as the Pandavas have been exiled. Balaram’s (Krishna’s brother) daughter Sasirekha, and Abhimanyu are in love with each other and want to get married but, because the Pandava’s do not possess any wealth, Sasirekha’s mother is against the alliance. What follows is a quest by the two lovers to convince everyone and get married. They are helped in this endeavour by Ghatotkacha (played magnificently by SV Ranga Rao), who takes Sasirekha’s form and goes to Dwaraka. There he plays magic tricks on numerous people (creation of a Mayabazar), tries to scare away a potential suitor and eventually helps the young couple to get their happily ever after.

The make up, costumes and visual affects were a massive accomplishment in those days and the movie went on to become a huge success. Ably supported by the stellar cast and a wonderful musical score, I would recommend every Telugu understanding person to watch this movie. Even to this day, I find the innocence and playfulness with which the movie has been directed a breath of fresh air. The song below is a testimony to the late Savitri’s greatness. One of the most beautiful and talented actors to ever grace the screen.

2. Sagara Sangamam (1983) – This one movie never ceases to amaze me. I have seen it dozens of times and I discover something new in every viewing. That is the greatness of its director K. Viswanath and its delightful actors, Kamal Hassan and Jayapradha. Although the broad theme of the movie is based on dance and the way the protagonist reacts whenever life throws him a curve ball, the symbolism used in the movie – especially when Jayapradha realizes that she is falling in love with Kamal Hassan is a testimony to the inimitable vision of the movie’s creator. I cannot imagine anyone else playing the role of Balu. I don’t think this movie can ever be remade simply because no one can match Kamal Hassan in this role. Be it his dancing or his reaction when he loses his mother moments before he is set to travel to Delhi to perform, he captures every emotion beautifully. I literally get goosebumps when I see this movie. Jayapradha epitomizes beauty and grace. She never overacts or underplays her character. She is pitch perfect just like the rest of the movie. Even the light hearted moments in the movie are beautifully woven into the story line without interrupting the proceedings in any way. The ‘bhangima’ joke scene still remains a wonderful piece of comedy. There is no point in giving away the plot of this movie because this movie has to be seen to realize its true impact. Perhaps, one of the greatest movies ever made in any language. The song below will go down in Telugu cinema history as the best ever in terms of composition, choreography and picturization.

3. Chantabbai (1986) – The name Jandhyala is not strange to any Telugu household. Considered a pioneering force in the Telugu movie industry, especially when it came to the way comedy was dealt with, this movie directed by him is in my humble opinion one of Chiranjeevi’s best performances. Playing a character similar in lines to Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther series (although perhaps not as exaggerated and dumb), Chiranjeevi helps the movie’s female lead – Jwala, played by Suhasini turn around a wrongful accusation. Subsequently, he is hired to investigate a case of a missing son and this forms the rest of the movie. The movie’s standout – the brilliant Srilakshmi who till date remains one of the best female comedians in Telugu cinema. The brilliant writing by Jandhyala that enhanced the appeal of the situation based comedy is a learning lesson for every budding writer.

4. Swarnakamalam (1988) – Another gem of a movie directed by K. Viswanath, this movie traces the struggles and ambitions of a young Kuchipudi dancer as she first fails to see any possible growth in a career as a classical dancer but later sees the merit in pursuing it and becomes devoted to her art. Played wonderfully by Bhanupriya who dances like a dream, this movie holds a special place in my heart because I myself learnt Kuchipudi dance and always wrestled with the fact that it was not considered popular or cool enough to perform vis-a-vis the usual movie dance numbers. The thinking of a modern day woman who is culturally inclined to learn the dance but yet is unsure about what she wants to do with her life is a theme that is relevant on so many levels even today but has never been captured as beautifully as in this movie. Helping the protagonist out in this journey is a young painter played brilliantly again by Venkatesh who not only supports her dreams but also makes her realize her true potential and the value in being devoted to one’s craft.

5. Siva (1989) – – A movie that several current directors cite as one of their favorites and a trendsetting one when it first released, Siva captured the essence of college politics better than any other movie. A tricky topic, especially in the 80s, the movie directed by Ram Gopal Varma and starring Nagarjuna, Amala and Chakravarthy went on to become a massive hit. But more than the box office numbers, the movie established RGV and Nagarjuna as forces to reckon with in the Telugu film industry. Written by Telugu cinema legend, Tanikella Bharani, the movie is set around Siva, who is shows as reticent and shy in the beginning when he joins college. JD played by Chakravarthy is a student leader in the college who has links with goons on the outside and with their support he practically threatens everyone on campus and gets away with it. On one particular ocassion, Siva happens to retaliate to JD’s behavior, chasing him around the campus with a bicycle chain in what proves to be the defining moment in the movie. This scene is often considered a classic symbolism of the common man finally reacting to injustice. Siva’s friends urge him to stand for student president in the upcoming election but Siva hesitates, instead asking his more upright friend to do so. What follows next is a riveting tale of political maneuvering. The understated performance by Nagarjuna coupled with the brilliant performances from the support cast made this movie a massive success across three languages – Telugu, Hindi and Tamil. Special mention also to the soundtrack by Illayaraja. I love the song below.

6. Aditya 369 (1991) – One of my fondest memories of watching a Telugu movie during my childhood can be credited to this wonderful science fiction movie about time travel(yes, you read it right, we made science fiction films). Although the theme may not sound very innovative, for an Indian audience this movie was a big shift from the usual family dramas. Starring Balakrishna, a young Tarun and Tinu Anand who turns in a delightful performance as the absent minded scientist who designs a machine than can take men back and forth in time, this movie was a huge success when it first released. Accidentally, the male and female protagonists get transported back into the era of Sri Krishna Deva Raya and how they navigate themselves through those times makes for fascinating viewing. Amidst all this is the main story – keeping a precious diamond away from the evil designs of Raja Verma played by Amrish Puri. From the constumes to the sets, everything was ahead of its time and we are talking about 1991 here when computer graphics were in the nascent stages. Directed deftly by Singeetham Srinivas Rao and ably supported by music from Illayaraja, Aditya 369 remains one of my most favorite Telugu movies.

7. Kshana Kshanam (1991) – Long before Ram Gopal Varma turned into a weird camera angle/deafening background music lover, he used to be a brilliant director. Be it Shiva, Gaayam or even Govinda Govinda – he knew how to make off beat films without compromising on the commercial aspects. My favorite of his lot of work from Telugu cinema though is Kshana Kshanam. Starring Venkatesh and then reigning superstar Sridevi, this movie has everything – great performances, music, comedy, action, suspense and none of it is forcibly inserted for the heck of it. The story is one of co-incidences and mistaken identities. Sridevi innocently comes in the possession of some money that has been robbed and belongs to a goon played brilliantly by Paresh Rawal. There is also an accidental murder that takes place in her house that ultimately causes her to panic and run.Caught in the line of fire between the mobs and the police, she is accompanies by a good natured small time crook played by Venkatesh. What follows is a series of adventures between the various stakeholders that has been treated with technical brilliance by the director. The highlight of the movie – Sridevi’s performance and Paresh Rawal’s characterization. Although I am not a Sridevi fan, even I had to give it to her for playing her part so well. It is a timeless movie. The theme and style are unique even 20 years after it was first made – a rare quality for any movie.


8. Nuvvu Naku Nachav (2001) – If I were marooned on an island and had the option to take just one movie with me, it would definitely be Nuvvu Naku Nachav. One of the most funniest movies I have ever seen, this delightful rom-com, if I had to slot it into a genre, does not fail to make me smile even after having seen it tens of time already. The real hero of this movie is the dialogue written by Trivikram Srinivas. The back and forth banter between the characters played by Venkatesh and Prakash Raj and the subtle humor are a refreshing change from the over-the-top/slapstick humor that is shoved down our throats thanks to people like Sajid Khan and Rohit Shetty. The story is quite simple. Venkatesh plays Venky, a slacker from a small town who on his father’s behest ends up in Prakash Raj’s house. There he runs into his two daughters – he falls in love with one and forms a friendship with the younger one. Unfortunately, Aarti Agarwal who plays the female lead is already engaged and Venky feels like it would be unfair on his part to betray the trust shown by Prakash Raj and instead urges his ladylove to forget about him. Nothing path breaking here one might say, but what a difference smart writing can make. The interactions between all the characters play out brilliantly and although the second half of the movie is a tad bit more serious than the first, the breezy tone of the movie is not lost thanks to Brahmanadam and Venkatesh. There are so many epic scenes in this movie but let me be more cliched here and share one of my most favorite scenes EVER.

This list is by no means exhaustive or comprehensive. Given the rich heritage of Telugu cinema there surely must be several other gems that I might have missed out on. Especially from the more recent decades. But, these movies to me remain the most definitive ones. They have a unique quality to them that differentiates them from the numerous others. They were original, creative and honest works. Three qualities we desperately need in today’s cinema!

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The year end post : 2012

I have developed a bit of a tradition over the past few years of writing an year end post(The previous posts can be found here: 2011 and 2010). 2012 was a very interesting year for me, perhaps also one of the most happy ones. I went back to college to pursue an MBA, fell in love, got married ( in no particular order 😉 ), traveled abroad for the first time, made some new friendships and rediscovered my mojo for writing. When I look back at the last 12 months, I am surprised that so many things happened and before I could even register the memories, poof, it all went flashing by. Damn you time, slower than dial-up internet during the difficult times and faster than the rate at which Justin Bieber clocks up views on youtube when all we want you to be is still!

In terms of everything else, I really did not like many movies this year. Liverpool gave very little to cheer. I could not care less about the Indian cricket team and although our government did show some spine, one look at the parliament proceedings is enough to make you not want to bother. In the spirit of tradition though, here goes the list

Best movies of 2012:

The Avengers
End of Watch
Safety not Guaranteed
The Dark Knight Rises
Jeff, who lives at home
(Can’t wait to see Les Miserables, Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook)

Vicky Donor
Student of the year
Talaash ( the first half)
Gangs of Wasseypur
English Vinglish

Best Songs of 2012:

Climax – Usher
Somebody that I used to know – Gotye
Where have you been – Rihanna
Locked out of heaven – Bruno Mars
We are never ever ever getting back together – Taylor Swift
Stronger – Kelly Clarkson
Mercy – Kanye West
Gangnam Style – PSY
One more night – Maroon 5
Lights – Ellie Goulding

Soundtrack of Student of the year
Muskaanein Jhoothi Hai – Talaash
Challa – Jab Tak Hai Jaan
Soundtrack of Barfi
Soundtrack of Gangs of Wasseypur
Pungi – Agent Vinod
Soundtrack of Vicky Donor
Soundtrack of Ishaqzaade

WTF events:

The Delhi gang rape and so many others that go unreported.
SRK and his entourage of controversies (from his run in with the MCA to Shirish Kunder).
The death of so many eminent personalities;from movie legends to music maestros.
Illogical acts of violence around the world, from the Connecticut school shootings to the Assam killings in July.

Yay moments:

Roger Federer winning a record 16th grand slam and getting to number 1 in the rankings.
Getting to combine my love for sports and writing through an internship at Sportskeeda.
India’s much improved performance at the Olympics.
And lest I forget, I found someone who loves me despite all my flaws :). Touchwood!

So here’s wishing all of you a very happy and sober New Year. Ah well, chuck the sober part out of the way. Don’t forget to send messages to your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, your aunt’s cousin etc. Raising a toast to a more eventful and happy 2013!

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Movie Review: ‘Jab tak hai Jaan’


I am a die-hard SRK fan. No matter how ridiculous his antics or disheveled his hair, I will always admire him. It is getting tougher though to defend his choices, both on screen and otherwise. Ra.One was a disaster of epic proportions and Don 2 was a script that Farhan Akhtar wrote in his sleep. Add to that his desire to perform cartwheels and pick up fights, and you find yourself losing your faith in perhaps the biggest self-made superstar this country has seen. Yet, there is one undeniable truth – no one can romance like he does or at least I thought so till I saw this three hour truck load of unadulterated crap called Jab Tak Hai Jaan (JTHJ).

Neither the promos nor the fact that this was the late Yash Chopra’s last film were incentive enough for me to watch this movie in the first week – a ritual I have maintained for most SRK releases. But, as fate would have it, I eventually ended up watching the movie. My expectations were pretty mediocre and I was still disappointed. It beats me how the movie has managed to collect the supposed 100+ crores that it has because there is no concept of logic in this movie. Just when you think a scene is ridiculous, you are treated to something more harebrained.

The basic premise is as simple as it is stupid. SRK is a man of many talents. He can sing mellifluously, navigate through a busy marketplace with utmost ease, wait tables, clean up snow and lest I forget, also has a heart of gold. Then you have Katrina Kaif, playing a London born Indian who is ‘apparently’ a university topper but believes in things like leaving things to get things, getting things to leave them, crossing lines, forgetting about those lines and other such nonsensical stuff. Inevitably, their paths cross and they fall in love but not before some Ishq Shavaing and uncomfortable kissing. An accident that leaves SRK bloody leads to Katrina breaking up the relationship. A pissed SRK(to be honest, Katrina’s entire line of reasoning to stay away from SRK would piss off anybody) moves back to India, joins the army and becomes a bomb-detonation expert. He broods, defuses bombs with no security, broods, drives around on his bike, broods…you get the drill.

This story of love,passion,sacrifice brings Akira, an aspiring documentary maker(with very little emotion otherwise) to tears and she decides to tell SRK’s story to the world. In perhaps one of the movie’s more stupid scenes, Akira is shooting a bomb defusing exercise with her ipod on and accidentally steps onto the trigger, only to be saved in time by SRK. Oh wait, did I mention she wears really short shorts and tank tops throughout her journey with the army men, camps with them, becomes their backslapping buddies and the works. I am no expert on how the Indian Army works, but I am pretty sure that they do not allow civilians, irrespective of how hot they are, on field trips like this. It is difficult to get involved with the proceedings when there are distractions and illogical scenes like these in the movie.

Akira’s movie is liked by her bosses in London and they agree to air it on the condition that SRK flies down to London to corroborate some facts. With Katrina in the same city and so much dumbness attached to it, SRK obviously doesn’t agree initially but eventually surprises Akira by travelling to London. As fate would have it, he again ends up saving Akira but gets injured himself again. For someone named ‘the man who cannot die’, SRK sure does get involved in a lot of accidents!

SRK is diagnosed with retrograde amnesia – simply put, his yaadash is all screwed up and his memories since the first accident are erased. To make his recovery more swift and smooth, the doctor advises Akira to help put up an act where life is all good, SRK is married to Katrina and is a successful businessman. Unable to keep up the lying and the shenanigans after a point, Katrina decides to tell the truth, but then that wouldn’t be too dramatic now, would it? So instead, we have SRK thrown into a situation where there is a bomb to be defused. With robotic like precision that unfortunately reminded me of SRK in Ra.One, SRK’s expertise forces his memories to come flashing back. Overcome with a sense of betrayal, he refuses to stay in London and comes back to India to do what he does best – brood. Since the movie is already tediously long by this point, it is a great relief for the audience to see enlightenment dawn on Katrina who realizes she needs to be with SRK and we all get the happy ending we wanted, albeit an hour late.

There are a few redeeming qualities to the movie though. SRK, although wrinkled and aged, is still charming but, the flashing of his dimpled smile can no longer make girls swoon. Katrina is beautiful as usual. She is also emotionless as usual. Anushka strives hard to be bubbly and feisty, but in my opinion, she was borderline annoying. The music, except the song Chhala, is not too memorable either. With a story so flawed and a running time of almost three hours, JTHJ is a test of your patience. With due respect to Mr. Yash Chopra, this is perhaps his worst movie and this coming from a fan of his movies. It’s sad that a romantic movie from the Chopra stable with SRK and music by A R Rahman fails so miserably at conveying romance. Or anything for that matter!

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Roman Holiday

Release Date: 2nd September,1953
Director:William Wyler
Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert

Personal rating : 8/10

People generally look down on the ‘romantic comedy’ genre as insipid stuff. Most find it uninspiring, repetitive and in some cases too good to be true. After all, there is only so much you can do to reinvent a boy loves girl story. There are a few movies that stand out though. When Harry Met Sally, Before Sunrise-Before Sunset, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Casablanca are a few. My all time favorite rom-com though is ‘Roman Holiday’. Its greatness lies in its simplicity. There is nothing incredibly unique about the story or the characters. It is a story of friendship and fun more than anything else. What it has though is a lot of charming dialogue, the great city of Rome as a backdrop and wonderful acting by the lead pair of Hepburn and Peck.

The movie starts off in Rome, where Princess Ann (played by Hepburn) is going through the motions of being royalty. She is visibly disinterested and wants to experience the city without the shackles of propriety and good conduct. After taking in a little too much of a drug, in an inebriated state, she escapes from the palace and ends up on the streets of Rome. Joe Bradley (played by Gregory Peck) is a journalist working with the Daily American, and reporting on the Princess’ trip to Rome. He finds Ann on a bench and offers to help her get a taxi. She refuses and instead ends up at Bradley’s apartment where he finds her behavior less than amusing. It is only when he goes back to meet the editor of his paper the next morning, that he realizes that the girl back in his apartment is the Princess.

Sensing a golden opportunity to get close and personal with the Princess herself, Bradley rushes back to his apartment and offers to show her the city. She refuses and instead goes on a tour herself, reveling in her new found freedom, getting a pixie haircut and enjoying an ice cream. Bradley ‘accidentally’ meets her on the Spanish Steps and tags along with her for company. Bradley’s friend (and photographer) Irving Radovich (played brilliantly by Eddie Albert) also accompanies them on their adventure taking pictures and being a source of great humor in general. The ‘mouth of truth’ scene and the ‘scooter ride’ scene have now become iconic and show the innocence of Hepburn’s character and her longing for such simple joys. As the movie progresses, Anya shares her truth with Bradley and they fall in love. The secret service though, eventually finds the Princess and escorts her away. Although 50s Hollywood was into ‘dream-selling’ kind of stories, this movie handled the romance between a Princess and commoner with lot of practicality and grace. Realizing that there is no future for their relationship, neither Anya nor Bradley pursue it further, they do not get overly melodramatic, nor do they take drastic steps. Anya returns back to her royal life while Bradley returns to his job.

In a heartwarming climax, Princess Anya addresses the media, a part of which are both Bradley and Irving. She indirectly thanks Bradley for the entire adventure without giving away anything to anyone, except a lot of love for him. Irving gives her the pictures he took of her during their Roman Holiday the previous day and the movie ends on a contemplative note.

Audrey Hepburn won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of a disenchanted Princess and universal acclaim from critics as well. It is impossible not to love her style, joie de vivre and grace in this movie. Although Peck complements her beautifully, I always felt he looked too old beside her. That is something that always threw me off about their romance. Although, the open ended climax, leads me to believe that, maybe what they had was not love but a great genuine friendship. And maybe, they realized that sooner than the audience.

To anyone who likes old Hollywood movies, the clean humor, the sharp dialogue, this movie is a delight to watch. It is important not to forget that this movie is almost 60 years old and has inspired scores of movies. So, yes, the novelty might not be there. And yet, it remains one of my most favorite movies 🙂

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The first leg!

Midst the erratic sleeping patterns (and no I am not considering sleeping in class here, it is pretty mainstream now :P), home-food deprivation, midnight deadlines, 11pm curfews and an unproven theory about a cat caused epidemic, today was the completion of one baby step in the mba journey. Cheers to that!

I had an idea about how hectic life at a B-school would be. But, you never really know till you are in one. Its been a pretty interesting few weeks though. I would like to believe I have learnt a few things – both academic and non-academic. B-school experience is so different from the undergrad one. People are a lot more sure about themselves, a lot more focused if you like. So, any comparisons to the good old college days should ideally be chucked out. B-school is a whole new experience in itself. Can’t say if its better or worse, just different. Did I just make a politically correct statement. I really am in a b-school now ;).

What I like is the confluence of cultures and backgrounds in a b-school. The diversity is challenging in terms of dealing with different people and viewpoints, but is also helpful in terms of broadening your horizon of thinking. Almost everyone who makes it here is talented in some way or the other. So, there is always something to learn. Whether I have done that or not is not really that important or relevant to this post. What I have definitely learnt though is that, never judge a person from their FB profile. I am sure my SP batch mates know what I am talking about!

On a personal level though, I feel like time has just flashed past me. I don’t think any of us has had the time to stop and stare. Maybe some have done the staring part :P. I am lucky though because I get to come home, where things are normal and move at a non-mba pace. It helps keep things in perspective. Although my mum is quite sure that my only motivation to come home is to get my clothes laundered! That is such a false accusation I tell you.

All in all, it has been an eventful few days. I have met some really cool people. This includes Liverpool and Roger Federer supporters :P. I have met some interesting characters too. Unique people, hardworking people, not so hardworking people, eager to impress people, amusingly confused people, funny people, trying to be funny people and so on so forth. But, I think it is too early to conclude how it is going to be moving ahead. I am sure it will be crammed and tiring. I am also sure that it will be great fun. Because you can never really say for sure in a b-school. It depends. It always depends !!

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Mum and the internet

Staying at home, for as long as I have, can have some side effects. Most of these are undesirable. Weight gain, laziness, watching Star Plus shows and ending up following a few, online shopping, tolerance towards Sidhu’s commentary (in my defense there really was nothing else to watch) are a few such. Another problematic area is your parent’s disbelief at the amount of hours you spend in front of the computer. What they do not realize is that college and subsequently staying on one’s own really drives one to become very dependent on the internet and computers.

One fine or rather not so fine day, my mum decided that she had had enough. She was angry at me for constantly being hooked to my computer and asked me what was so important that I could not do something else. Impulsively and rather foolishly, I replied that she would not understand because she does not use the computer herself. Now let me state this very clearly. Never ever make the mistake I made. Its absolutely cool and in your good interest to not bring up the ‘parents don’t use internet’ argument. Because if you do, you have fallen into their trap of forcing you to actually teach them how to use the internet.

I thought to myself, it couldn’t be that bad. I had heard a few horror stories from friends and cousins about the tribulations they had to face when faced with a similar challenge, but teaching mum to use the internet would not only get her off my case but also be a good way for me to spend some time. So, began our journey towards quelling internet illiteracy. Over the course of the next few days, I stumbled upon, rather uncomfortably and surprisingly, quite a few realizations myself.

1. For many people, the Internet Explorer is the internet. Even people who don’t use computers, have heard of it and know about it. So, if you tell them to use any other browser, they will get confused and there will be resistance. Be brave and don’t succumb to the pressure :).

2. I eventually made my mum shift to Chrome. Unfortunately due to slow connectivity, the site wasn’t loading quick enough. Bam! My mum says, IE is faster then Chrome. I laughed non stop for about 5 minutes on hearing that line :).

3. Most of us take typing with two hands for granted. For beginners, it isn’t that easy. I would ask my mum to not forget typing with her other hand to increase her speed every now and then, but she prefers typing with one finger. Yes, you heard it right. One finger :).

4. The enthusiasm on mum’s face when she was filling up her facebook profile and searching for old friends was a delight to watch :). It made me realize that fb can be used for actually ‘connecting’ than for merely playing angry birds :P.

5. For the first few days be prepared for your inbox to be filled with emails from your parent(s). Mum was trying out all the features, attaching files, images, sending links etc. It was funny how we were staying at the same address but communicating through emails :).

6. Patience is the key. For our elders internet is not the first priority, so they will forget things you have told them the previous day including important stuff like their passwords 🙂 which they have written down in some notebook too :P. In fact the whole process of making them pick a password is an exercise that is guaranteed to generate some laughs!

7. Aah, the video chatting :). Mum spoke to a few relatives who live stateside and she was super impressed with Skype. So impressed that she actually googled for it and read more about it :). That’s a winner you know :P.

In the end the whole experience was actually fun. I got to pull my mum’s leg a bit. It was sweet revenge for all the lectures I have had to endure courtesy my adventures in the kitchen! More than anything I am glad that she persisted with wanting to learn something and is now aware of the powers of google :). She is currently obsessed with reading recipes online (something I don’t really mind since I get to taste new stuff every other day).

What made me write this post is that just a few days back, me and mum had an argument because she was spending too much time on the internet :D.

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Shawshank Redemption

Release Date: 14 October, 1994
Director: Frank Darabont
Notable Cast: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman

Personal rating: 10/10

I remember trying to watch Shawshank Redemption in college several times and failing to finish it. At that time, my cinematic experiences and knowledge were limited to Hindi,Telugu movies and the typical Hollywood blockbuster movie like a Titanic. I found Shawshank slow, boring and very verbose. I remember reading about it on the internet and was amazed at the unanimous acclaim and respect it had garnered over the years. That was probably the major reason why I persevered with my repeated viewings of the movie at regular intervals, hoping that one day I would get to the end credits and realize what the fuss was all about.

Luckily, movies were an integral part of my college curriculum, or rather I made them one. So as I watched more and more English language movies, the more comfortable I became with the themes, techniques, accents and acting. So, I eventually saw Shawshank and it turned out to be an amazing cinematic experience. It is by far my most favorite film. Movies at the end of the day are about telling stories and Shawshank does a bloody fine job of it.

The movie begins with a trial where a man is found guilty of murdering his wife and her boyfriend. The man , named Andy Dufresne maintains his innocence during the trial but is sentenced to two life terms in prison. The story now shifts to the Shawshank Prison or correctional facility which is run by a self proclaimed disciplinarian and Christian warden who goes by the name of Norton. Andy initially keeps to himself, is tortured by a gang of inmates who are called the ‘Girls’ and slowly strikes a friendship with another fellow inmate Red who manages to provide him with posters of Hollywood’s ever changing pin up girls. The movie offers an insight into prison life, the monotony of it all, the regrets some of the prisoners feel, the hardships, their attitudes towards each other and towards life in general. Although all of them maintain they are ‘innocent’ in what becomes a running joke throughout the movie, you actually do not care. They seem like normal human beings who have been thrust into a situation where there is no such thing as free will. Andy who is an educated banker slowly begins to gain the trust of the guards and the warden and is assigned to do more intelligent and less physically challenging jobs around the prison. In this process not only does he manage to bring about changes in the prison but also in a few prisoners. Yet, it is very difficult to read Andy’s face or thoughts just as it is evident to read Red’s. Red, also serving a life term faces parole rejections repeatedly and although he handles it with his trademark humor and nonchalance, his longing for freedom is very evident.

When a new prisoner enters Shawshank and becomes a part of Andy’s and Red’s group, Andy starts teaching him to help him get his High School degree. In this process, a revelation is made that shatters the entire dynamic of the movie. By this time so much has happened and so much time has passed that the relevance of the disclosure and its impact on Andy took me by surprise. I just assumed, he gave up or got used to the idea of staying in a prison. But, contrary to Red who considers hope a ‘dangerous thing’, Andy believes in it ever so strongly. He is baffled and angered by the lack of support and humanity he receives from the warden for whom he has done a great deal of work – both legal and illegal. This is where, the movie picks up its pace and there is a sense of urgency about the proceedings. You know something big is going to happen but you just cannot predict what or how. Without giving anything away, all I can say is that the last 30 minutes of the movie are delightfully entertaining and surprisingly profound at the same time. You feel the happiness, sadness, sense of relief,sense of victory and the freedom of the characters.

Tim Robbins plays Andy, theoretically the protagonist of the movie. Although Andy is a shy, quiet character, I never quite liked Tim Robbins’ portrayal of him. I never felt his pain nor anguish. On the other hand Red, played by Morgan Freeman is a character you feel for and root for. The credit for that has to go to Morgan Freeman, who has a gifted voice and a subtlety and dignity about him. His acting is effortlessly natural and his emotions very real. The rest of the cast consists of no big names but they fit their characters perfectly and act well. The first time I saw the movie completely, I was just blown away by the sheer ambition and scale of the story. The second time I noticed smaller things, like the background music, the metaphors, the settings, the lights, the camera angles, everything. All of it adds up to make this movie as close to cinematic perfection as possible.

The movie was nominated for 7 Academy awards, but unfortunately did not win any. I am certain though that none of the other movies released in 1994 or even after that have the recall value that this movie has. This movie is timeless, its theme is neither culturally bound nor era-bound. Very few movies have this quality. Shawshank does not hurry. Neither does it force your attention by gimmicks or unnecessary drama. It is to the director, Frank Darabont’s credit that he tells the story with honesty and stays true to its essence. I think the following words by the great movie critic Roger Ebert sum up what I feel about the movie.

“Polls and rentals reflect popularity but don’t explain why people value “Shawshank” so fervently. Maybe it plays more like a spiritual experience than a movie. It does have entertaining payoff moments (as when the guards from another prison, wearing their baseball uniforms, line up to have Andy do their taxes). But much of the movie involves quiet, solitude, and philosophical discussions about life. The moments of violence (as when Andy is sexually assaulted) are seen objectively, not exploited.

The movie avoids lingering on Andy’s suffering; after beatings, he’s seen in medium and long shot, tactfully. The camera doesn’t focus on Andy’s wounds or bruises, but, like his fellow prisoners, gives him his space.”

PS: You can read Roger Ebert’s original movie review here : Roger Ebert’s Review of ‘Shawshank Redemption’

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