Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012

Last Day of the year MMXII A.D. And for me personally what a year it has been. It was the year of transformation and change. And I can always look back to 2012 as one of the best years of my life. After all, all the 3 basic ingredients for Happyness are now in place. Someone to love, Something to do & Something to Hope for.

Here is a little look back on the year gone by.
  • February 29 is the most special day in the calendar. And getting married on such a special day to a special person. Well as they say सोने पे सुहागा. Though there remains the issue of the date on which to mark the yearly anniversary.
  • Quite a lot of travel done including the first ever international destination added. Bali, Goa, Nalanda circuit, and rediscovering Mumbai as well. The journeys have become more pleasant due to the wonderful company.
  • Shifted houses. Now refer to Bombay as my home base rather than Navi Mumbai. And included many additions to the household.
  • Learning to drive. It was quite an experience. Sometimes fun, sometimes scary. 
  • Managed to lose another mobile phone, the same model as last year 
  • Lots of teething issues. Wisdom tooth pulled out, root canals done etc, etc. Bloody painful too.
  • Work continues as usual. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
  • The posts keep coming on to the blogs. And they are a little more noticed now.  Ventured into the podcast front as well with a couple of recordings
So 2012 you were nice to me. And provided such wonderful memories to be cherished for a lifetime.

Lets see what 2013 has in store for us.

Wishing all readers a very happy year and life ahead.

Ten From Twenty12

Twenty12 the year is coming to an end. And like every year this blog tries to make a list of 10 random things to remember the year gone by. (2011 compilation is here)

1. Hero of the Year
They named her Damini, Nirbhay, Braveheart & Amanat. She was most likely just one in a billion. But the brutalities committed against her shook an entire nation like never before. While she rests in peace, a change comes to the Indian society she left.

2. Non-event of the Year
December 21, 2012. The world was supposed to end as per some interpretations of the Mayan calendar. But on the chosen day, nothing happened. The world is still there, though you sometimes wish it had because humanity certainly ended long ago.


3. Fad of the Year
Online activism & Outraging. We have a lazy laidback attitude to our society. If we do not like something we outrage. And that too online. Assuming that we will somehow inspire someone else to be outraged enough about our outrage to do something.

4. Kolaveri Di of the Year
If 2011 was the year of Kolaveri Di, 2012 was the one of Gangnam Style. A Korean guy running around mimicing riding a horse while singing Korean words is now the biggest star on this planet. Unlike Kolaveri which launched millions of spoofs, Gangnam Style stayed true to the original and went on to become the first ever video to garner a billion (i.e.1000000000) views on youtube.


5. Storyteller of the Year 
Arvind Kejriwal. Once upon a time leader of the anti-corruption movement. And now a full time politician. Started telling interesting stories on corruption. There was a new big bang story every week and then it all disappeared. Am I supposed to believe that there are no more corruption stories or that the media has lost interest? Most probably the latter.

6. Jump of the year
A man went up 24 miles into space and then jumped on to Earth. Lots of distance covered, yet no displacement :P. Fantastic effort by Felix Baumgartner for making the biggest jump by a human ever. Red Bull certainly gave you wings.  But the jump of the year award goes to Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II for parachuting into the Olympic stadium to inaugurate the Games.

7. Fall of the Year
Lance Armstrong. Cancer survivor and 7 time winner of the Tour de France. He was a hero to all. But that was before the fall. Given cycling's reputation, the drug results did not actually come that much of a surprise. but what did surprise was the extent of organised doping and lies which had gone about in creating the Lance Armstrong myth. 


8. Shahid Afridi Stay forever young Award of the Year (sponsored by Santoor Soap)
And it goes to the-youth icon-who-must-not-be-named and refuses to grow up.

9. Rising statesman of the Year 
Very very difficult choice to make. It seems every time an Indian neta opened his mouth, his perceived IQ amongst the public fell down. And it was true for politicians cutting across all party lines. But finally at the end of the year with his "dented & painted" comment, the award goes to Avijit Mukherjee, MP. Although he must also be given the bravery award for offering himself before Arnab Goswami after making these remarks.


10. Blogging Moment of the Year 
Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement from ODIs. And countless articles, editorials & blogs get published at that instant (including yours truly's). Some gave the impression that they had been in draft for ages and were constantly getting updated. Now waiting for the Test retirement so that more drafts can be written and published when the moment comes.

So that was 2012. Not a great year in general for the world. Lets see what 2013 has in store for us.
Wishing a very Happy 2013 to all 


Friday, December 21, 2012

The Mayan Misinterpretation

Its 21st December, 2012 - the day of a great apocalypse. The world is going to end. Thats what the Mayans said. Rather what the wise people studying the Mayans interpreted their "calendar" inscribed on a stone. Apparently the dates on the inscribed on the calendar stop on today's date. Hence all this apocalyptic predictions.

The root cause of all the nonsense
But for better or for worse, the world is still here, and going as usual. So why did the dates stop at this point. My possible interpretations to this Mayan conundrum
  1. the Mayan fellow given charge of inscibing the stone must have got bored of his job, OR 
  2. the time cut-off for the work would have reached, OR
  3. he would have run out of space, OR
  4. the calendar thing wasn't meant to prophesize anything at all, OR
  5. the date might have been inscribed correctly but has been misinterpreted as today's date. After all translation has always been a big challenge in communication. So the apocalyptic date could be totally something else, any time in the future. (Tomorrow, day after, month after, next year, next century, next millenium....)
P.S. Poor India TV, what would they do now? Which date to assign for apocalypse?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Rajgir - The Ancient Magadh Capital

As promised in the previous post, here is the picture blog of Ragjir - the ancient Magadh capital.

From my experience, I would say this is the place to be developed in Bihar as the alternate urban centre which will ease out the load on Patna. 

Highlights of Rajgir - Beautiful weather being surrounded by seven hills, the Buddhist temples, Jain temples, ancient ruins dating from Mahabharat times, the hot springs.

Here is a photo trip of the chief attraction - The Vishwa Shanti Stupa
The Ropeway
Aakashiya Rajju Path (आकाशीय रज्जु पथ ) - The ropeway leading to the Vishwa Shanti stupa. The ride was fun with the chair cars swaying along as it climbs the hill to the stupa.

The Vishwa Shanti Stupa

Lord Buddha

Another view of the Stupa

View from the Stupa
The Japanese Temple

Son Bhandaar
Its claimed that this hill hides a huge treasure. So far attempts have failed to locate the same. Only a cave exists as on date.
Gardens in Venu Vana - a modern day monastery
The setting sun over the Jal mandir
The Jal Mandir, Pawapuri- A jain temple located in the middle of a beautiful pond. The entire pond is covered with Lotuses 

It was great to find so many interesting & fascinating places near my home place. There were quite a few other places which couldn't be visited due to time constraints. Hope to visit again.

So till next time in the TravelNotes.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Visit to the Nalanda University Ruins

Personally, 2012 among other things has been a year of adding new travel destinations. (An entire 2012 wrap-up blog post will be coming up later).

After the previous one to Goa, here is a little photoblog of a visit to the Nalanda University ruins, some 90 kms from Patna, the capital of Bihar The ancient unviersity was established in the 5th or 6th century A.D. and was a renowned seat of learning with scholars coming from far an wide. The Budhhist university fell into ruins once it was ransacked by Bakhtiyar Khilji, a Turkish attacker. So all that is standing now are the ruins which are still being excavated. 

Having my roots in the present day Nalanda district, I have been quite ashamed at not having visited the place even once. Although my parents claim that I had but was too small to remember. So as I had no memories of the same, this was my first trip to the place. Here are some picture of the once-great-university. The destruction of the Nalanda university certainly took away lots of our intellectual & cultural heritage. Hopefully the Nalanda Open University being built not too far from the site would be better able to preserve the intellectual wealth.

A beginning can be made by preserving this sign first

Dormitories for the students

Another view of the hostels

The Great Library

Inside the corridors of "learning"

Another view of the Library

A headless statue of Buddha

The Great Bell of Peace with inscriptions in many languages

Overall, a nicely maintained place
The place was nice and relatively quite clean, lots of greenery around. Already amajor truist attraction, it certainly has potential to become even more attractive. All that is required is a little more marketing. But before that infrastructure should be built to be able to handle the large amounts of tourists coming in.

Coming up next - A visit to Rajgir, the ancient Magadh capital.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

PMji Samjhoji

Following is an open letter written to the Prime Minister as part of the PMji Samjhoji campaign conducted by the online journal The Viewspaper. Originally published here. It felt good to be part of an organised initiative to collect ideas to be presented to the Prime Minister. A little change will also help in a great way.

Dear PMji

I am writing this little note to present a little idea on how to improve India.

Gandhiji had said, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. But what we see in modern day India is lots and lots of filth. Roads, Railway stations, bus stops, rivers, there is no spot which seems to have been spared. What worsens the situation is the fact that we Indians have got so used to living in such dirty conditions that the sight of garbage lying around makes no impact on us. We simply ignore and move on.

But how do we attempt to create a cleaner India? I would like to share a few thoughts on the subject. If implemented properly, I for one certainly believe that this little initiative will create a cleaner India.

How do we go about it? Just place dustbins at easily accessible locations. You will notice that people will start using the garbage collection bins and not throwing stuff around. There may still be a few who would be spreading rubbish but a majority will use the bins. Also it will reduce the workload of the municipal authorities. Garbage lying in the open only encourages people to throw more garbage at that spot.

Let me share a personal experience. I had gone to the “Gateway of India”. It was a perfect setting with a slight drizzle and a cool breeze blowing. Also the perfect setting to have a “bhutta” (corn) from a local vendor. After eating I couldn’t locate a single bin where I could throw the cob. Finally had to throw it in a pile of other cobs in one corner. If there had been an easy to locate garbage bin around, I for one would certainly have walked over to use the dustbin. And I am quite sure there would have been many others who would have done the same.

So a humble request is to ensure the availability of dust bins at all public places. And this project need not be begun at a large scale. Start with monuments of national, local, historical, religious, cultural significance and then extend to the next road and the next and so on. And slowly you will have a cleaner India.

Results will only come once there is a basic civic sense in the citizens. But we need to make a start somewhere. After all a little spark is all that is need to start a fire. Hopefully this will be the little spark.

Yours sincerely
Nishant Kumar

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Nishantzworld - 200 Not Out...

200. 
That is the number of posts that have been written for Nishantzworld. And writing this little post to celebrate the landmark.

More than 6 years ago, an idea of writing a blog came to me. And I took my first tentative step. It was a confused beginning with me having no idea of what I was getting into. After that first step, posts started coming in as and when I felt like writing something. Posts would be on campus life and some other world events which I thought strongly enough at the moment to express my thoughts upon. Apart from my life, there  would be the occasional movie review and the more regular cricket related ones. There were also a few random ones whose content had zero originality.

Had an idea of closing the blog after moving out of campus but was dissuaded by a couple of readers (whom I am very grateful to). Post campus life, the posts became more world oriented. The frequency of posts went down. However there was something which kept me going. Slowly the writing style also underwent little changes. Cricket has been shifted to an altogether different platform called Slipstream Cricket (which reached its double century in double quick time but has slowed down off late. There have been the occasional writer's block but have still gamely carried on. Some cosmetic changes have taken place to keep up with the time. Now I have a dedicated MovieNotes section where I review the recent movies seen. (debuting today to mark the 200th post). Hopefully sometime soon there will be enough posts to start a dedicated travel section too.

What keeps the blog going on? The occasional comment which comes in. More than that the satisfaction on seeing my own thoughts getting published and being able to share them to the world. There is never any dearth of ideas. It also feels great to be occasionally published on other forums.

Special thanks to the 22 people who publicly follow this blog. 

And lastly the Fab 5, my favorite blog posts from post 101-199 (something which I had done for my 100th post as well). In chronological order here they are.
  • The Fast & the Corrupt. Where I wrote about Anna's movement
  • Jhansi Ki Rani. The Don Bradman of my posts. For some weird reason the most visited blog post so far.
  • The Inhuman Humans. An account of a painful encounter with the Dentist
  • Bombay. Expressing my inability to call Mumbai my home.
  • Driving Lessons. A set of 3 posts chronicling my efforts to learn driving. Made some progress in there.  A blog is a good way to note your progress. And I need to post the 4th one in the series.
Hopefully more and better ones will follow.

Thanks once again to all who have have read this post. Your comments are most welcome. 

Monday, December 03, 2012

MovieNotes: Ted

Movie: Ted
*ing - A Teddy Bear, Mark Whalberg, Mila Kunis
Language - English

How to describe a movie for adults in which a cute (only in looks) teddy bear is the main star? Hollywood does come up with interesting concepts at times. 

Synopsis - A loner boy (John) makes a Christmas wish which makes his newly gifted teddy bear come to life. And so begins an unlikely life-long friendship between a boy and a teddy bear. They grow up. Complications arrive in form of the John's girlfriend. John now needs to make a choice between the girlfriend and his best friend. In the end issues get resolved and they "live happily ever after".

USP of the movie - A "living" teddy bear, who becomes an instant celebrity just because of the fact that he exists. And has the usual celebrity lifestyle issues (drugs, women, indecency in public, rash driving etc.). Nice little comment on America's celebrity culture there.

Word of caution - The central character may be a "cute" teddy bear but his crude language, wild living, drinking, drugs ensure that the movie is not meant for younger audiences. Although that is also the reason why the audience would go watch the movie in the first place.

Special Mention - The "thunder buddy" song which Ted & John recite whenever they hear thunderstorms.

"An adult fairy tale" - that is how I would describe Ted. Made for people who have grown up but on occasion would want to go back to being little.

Rating - 7/10 (A fun one-time watch, though some of Ted's more crude scenes have loads of repeat value)

Previously on MovieNotes - Life of Pi

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

MovieNotes: Life of Pi

Movie - Life of Pi
*ing - Suraj Sharma, A Royal Bengal Tiger, Irfan Khan, Tabu, Adil Husain
Language - English

Watching "Life of Pi" is akin to reading a graphic novel rather than a simple novel. The movie is more a visual narration rather than a story. A story of how a young boy survives a shipwreck in the Pacific in the company of a Royal Bengal tiger. Its a survival tale with the boy learning how to make best use of the resources available to him to be able to reach land.

The film is a visual treat. The opening scene of the various zoo animals, the wide ocean - sometime calm, sometimes terrifying and sometimes simply magical - are a treat to watch. Its a feast for the eyes to use a cliche. 3D technology has been used to full effect in this film.

Apart from the visual effects, what stands out is the questions which the story raises. Interesting queries on one's beliefs and faith, relationship between God & religion are all posed. The questions have no direct answer. They are all open to one's  interpretation. Like the events of the story. There could be be another version of the events which Pi has narrated.

As for the actors, Suraj Sharma makes an interesting debut. Irfan Khan, I believe appears in every foreign film which requires an Indian cast member. And Adil Hussain has also started appearing everywhere I look, movies, ads, playing the same husband role.

"Life of Pi" is a movie based on a novel which I had heard of but never managed to read. Having watched the movie now, it seems like a good idea to read Yann Martel's work.

Overall Rating - 8/10 - And this one is going to the Academy Awards. Come the award season, expecting lots of media hoopla.

Previously on MovieNotes - Skyfall

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ajmal Kasab: Rot in Hell

Today, November 21, 2012 - Ajmal Kasab was hanged in Yerwada Jail in Pune. With this comes to end the last of the foot soldiers of the November 2008 terrorist squad which attacked Mumbai killing almost 200 people.

Waking up to hear this news gave a certain sense of happiness. I know it was a little sadistic pleasure in seeing a terrorist hanged. But in my mind this was the minimum punishment Kasab deserved. I remember the days 4 years back when the city was engulfed in terror. More than the number of casualties it was the sense of helplessness which overcame the city that hurt more. There was a feeling of shock, pain and anger but the overwhelming one was of helplessness and the inability to prevent such attacks. You wondered about your safety if a city like Mumbai could be held hostage by a bunch of terrorists for almost 3 days.

People's anger turned on to Kasab the only terrorist who was caught alive. The slow (albeit rightful) judicial process finally took its due course and Kasab was hanged.

I only hope that it is recognised that Kasab was only a foot soldier. The real masterminds were elsewhere. They are the ones who need to be hunted down. Find them, track them and kill them, using whatever means available. Only then can we have a little peace.

Thoughts with the families who suffered at the hands of these terrorists. Wonder how they must be feeling today. Also a great work done by the government agencies in hiding it from the "Breaking News"media and keeping the execution a secret.

P.S - Hopefully Kasab will rot in hell where 72 gay, male virgins await him.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

MovieNotes: Skyfall

Movie - Skyfall (or James Bond 23)
*ing - Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem & new Q, New M, new Moneypenny
Language - Her Majesty's English

Skyfall marks the 50th anniversary of the James Bond movie series. It is about James Bond going back to basics. We see details into the Bond back story which hadn't come to light earlier especially in the movies. More information on Bond's background is revealed (e.g. parents, Scottish descent etc.)

There are the customary Bond moments - a thrilling pre-opening-credit scene, the confrontations with M, the menacing villain who ideally shouldn't fit into this world, the Aston Martin, the gadgets (nothing too show-off this time), the Bond girls, they are all there. But the real feel of a Bond movie has gone amiss.

Skyfall represents a complete cut-off from the Pierce Brosnon era and tries to establish Daniel Craig as the James Bond. We get to see a new Q, the arrival of Moneypenny and even a new M. So as the makers wanted, the transition is now complete. All this would have been fine. Quite a few superhero movies get a re-boot (e.g. Batman, Spiderman etc). But Daniel Craig just doesn't seem to fit in the James Bond persona (rather the conventional Bond mould).

Another thought which came to mind were the many parallels Skyfall had with Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Never thought of it earlier but James Bond & Bruce Wayne both had similar backgrounds. Rich parents who died very early, left with a manor house which they don't like (and helped destroy) and a butler who acted as a surrogate father (Alfred/Kincaid). Also the villain in chief wants to create anarchy (Joker/Silva). Both even stage their own capture in order to fufill their villainous ambitions.  Even the background score seemed similar in places. In fact Sam Mendes is quoted to have been inspired by the Dark Knight. So the parallels were deliberate.

A word about Javier Bardem's performance  He adds the right amount of menace to the character who is driven by revenge but likes to wreck anarchy on the world. In a performance as a super-villain I would rank him above Christopher Waltz's Hans Landa but just below the Heath Ledger's Joker.

And lastly, never thought I would hear Tennyson being quoted in a Bond movie. 

Overall Rating - 7/10

Liked the end credits - which announced that James Bond will be back 

Previously on MovieNotes - English Vinglish

Friday, October 19, 2012

Go Goa

Another post from the travel front. This time on India's most popular holiday destination. Goa.

Goa. The first thought which comes to mind is Holiday on the Beach. Had been thinking about making the trip from Mumbai for long, but hadn't been able to. Also had always wondered where exactly people went when they went to Goa. A little "desktop research" and the options presented itself. Transport was through overnight buses to and from Mumbai. And stay was booked in government guesthouse. For a first time visitor the GTDC website would be a good place to get lots of useful information.

Some trivia before the pictures
  • Goa is roughly divided into 2 halves - North & South. South being the relatively quieter one.
  • South part has the famous churches.
  • Fenny - the drink made from cashewnuts is a must try.
  • Water Sports are not permitted during monsoons
  • Hotel rates differ wildly based on the date of stay. Same booking can have different rates if the stay overlaps the seasons.
  • Bargain a lot if you are looking for cheap, touristy stuff
  • The entire state is 110 kms long. Easily covered in a couple of days.
Enough of trivia. Now for the pictures
Coconut trees, Beach - The Perfect Goa Picture
The view I got from my hotel room.

The Guardians in Gold

Aguada Fort & Lighthouse - Made famous by the Movie Dil Chahta Hai

A sea of Green

A Temple by the River Bank

Casino Royale - a floating Casino

Soap Bubbles

Bridge on the River Mandavi

Traditional Goan Coconut Dance on the river cruise

Overall, a nice short trip to a place where another one can be planned soon enough. Hopefully


Monday, October 08, 2012

MovieNotes - English Vinglish

Movie - English Vinglish
*ing - Sridevi, Laddoos, A French Actor & Others
Language - Hindi & Crash course English

Key Features

USP - Sridevi's comeback after a long hiatus

What is it about? - A Hindi schooled housewife's attempts to tackle her poor English language skills

Highlights
A very normal family - Working Husband, School going kids, quite apart in age, and an "entrepreneur" housewife. Basically characters you see around you, could be your next door neighbours.
Conversations done in Hindi & French where the characters' lack of other's language doesn't prevent them understanding each other.
Keeping the melodrama to the minimum.
The music stays in the background and carries the story forward.

Low Point - Cliched characters in "English speaking" class - Pakistani cab driver, Mexican nanny, Chinese hairdresser etc. But they add to the fun, specially the Pakistani.

Acting - First rate. Minor characters playing their roles to perfection.

Special Mention - Amitabh Bachchan's cameo.

Overall Rating - 9/10

Previously on MovieNotes - Barfi

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Bali - The Arts & Crafts of Tourism

Continuing with the previous post on Bali.

Apart from its natural beauty & resources, Bali is also home to some stunning handicrafts. Beautiful stonework, woodwork, silver-work, paintings was found across the island. And to ensure that tourists carry back the memories and word-of-mouth publicity photography was allowed everywhere. Even inside the workshops of the artisans. Something which Indian Tourism Industry needs to seriously look into. Prohibiting photography doesn't help tourist growth. Anyways I digressed. Here is a pictorial collection of some of the beautiful Balinese work.

Stone Statues were a common sight on the roadside

The mask of the Gods

The intricately carved dressing table

Made from a single piece of wood

Work in progress

Balinese beauty captured in stone

Ram & Sita carved in wood

Divine Love
So this was it - a pictorial trip to Bali

Monday, September 24, 2012

Driving Lessons - III

As promised (rather hoped for) in the previous post, the 3rd edition in this series comes with experiences from behind the wheel. Yes, I have had my first real hands-on driving lessons. Here are some of the learnings made from the driver's seat.
  • #1 - Having a experienced and professional driving instructor helps - a LOT. He knows exactly what kind of mistakes first time driver would make, what kind of roads to take to begin handling the car etc. I received an informative ten minute talk on the basic driving equipment and their usage. And then only was I allowed to start.
  • #2 - The key to a driving is good handling of the clutch combined with the accelarator. I wasn't driving at a very great speed, but hardly needed to use the brake. Having good control of the clutch is an essential pre-requisite for a good driver. (Proud moment - Not once did the car stall while starting due to  sudden clutch release)
  • #3 - While changing gears, you don't really need to look at the gear handle. Its better to keep your eyes on the road and the mirrors.
  • #4 - Use the horn a lot. At turnings, at turns, at busy parts of the road. Better to warn the person ahead, that an inexperienced fellow is driving the car instead of putting them at risk. Also gives sufficient warning to others.
  • #5 - Practise and practice more. I actually jumped at a chance to get an extra session on the 1st day itself. It makes you more comfortable and eases out the nerves as well.
  • #6 - Keep your speed low. It enables better control always. Lower the speed, lower the severity of any incident.
  • #7 - Align the steering wheel to the road ahead. But this is easier said than done. Quite likely to overdo this simple thing.
  • #7 - Learn about your car. Keep reading the manual whenever you get a chance. Even a simple thing like opening and closing the bonnet over the engine becomes complex. For opening, there is button near the front door on the driver's side which release the bonnet. Then you go and unlatch it manually. For closing the bonnet needs to be dropped from a certain height. It just does not latch up if pressed down.
Have to say, it was an exhilirating feeling to be driving a vehicle for the first time ever. The thrill of feeling the car move with me at controls is bit undescribale. Have to say this, learning to drive a car seems to be a simpler task than learning to drive a 2-wheeler. (Guess the brain feels safer being inside a stabler vehicle).

Some of the highlights -
  • able to get the car moving at the first attempt itself
  • not stalling the car during driving
  • making a U-turn at the lights (Yes I did that)
  • reverse driving (with the aid of the the instructor)
  • taking an uphill blind turn
More driving sessions coming up and am certainly looking forward to them.

Friday, September 21, 2012

MovieNotes - Barfi

Movie - Barfi
*ing - Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Ileana D'Cruz, Saurabh Shukla and others
Language - Hindi & Mime & Music

How to describe Barfi? Its a movie about specially abled people, but  it doesn't focus on the disabilities of the lead characters. (barring a couple of scenes). In fact tries to show them living a life as normal as they can.
With the chief character being mute & deaf, music takes over the narrative. The background music is lively and fun. And when there are transitions in scenes to be shown, three musician characters playing different instruments appear on the scene from nowhere.  And as a special highlight, an accordion makes an appearance after many many years.
Now for the actors
Ranbir Kapoor delivers an almost Charlie Chaplinesque performance as the lead character Barfi. His actions speak louder and more clearly than any words can. 
Priyanka Chopra gives a good performance as an autistic woman, while newcomer Ileana D'Cruz doesn't have much to do really. Its Saurabh Shukla and the other smaller side characters which add to the fun aspect of the film.
The story jumping back and forth between different eras (1972, 1978 & modern day) and changing locations (Darjeeling & Calcutta) does tend to confuse slightly.

Overall rating - 9/10

P.S. What is with Calcutta & the Bengali connect with the better made movies of 2012 - Kahani, Vicky Donor and now Barfi

P.P.S Blog Update - After seeing this compilation here - all I can say is Barfi is a very "well compiled" film. And its not just a film, its a whole film festival.

Previously on MovieNotes - The Exepndables 2

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bali - The Land of Green & Blue

Been itching to write this pictorial blog for a long time. Finally getting into the groove to do it. Earlier this year had gone on my first ever foreign trip. And it couldn't have been to a more beauteous location. Mere words won't be able to convey the beauty of the place. So thought about doing a picture blog series on the Bali trip.

Some trivia to begin with
  • The island of Bali has a population which is 95% Hindu. Means that Indian tourists are quite welcome here.
  • The Indonesian currency is heavily undervalued. The minimum currency note is of 1000 rupiah denomination (1USD~9000 rupaiah). And lots of headache occurs in trying to figure out the number of zeroes during the conversion process.
  • If you are travelling from Mumbai, you will be treated like royalty. Reason - you are coming from the city of Shahrukh Khan. Yes, Balinese are crazy about Bollywood films with Shahrukh being the favorite actor by a huge margin. Hrithik Roshan also comes up high in the popularity stakes.
  • Chhaiya Chhaiya is the most popular Hindi song in Bali. One of the hotel drivers sang it for us on learning we that we had come from India. Also managed to catch on the local TV a live performance what seemed to be a remix version (called Cinta Cinta)
  • Cuisine is mostly non-vegetarian. But people go out of the way to prepare vegetarian food.
Enough trivia for now. Now for the pictures. It was a pretty difficult choice to make. But have tried to pick the few most representative of the land.

Denpasar  Airport - View form inside the plane

Denpasar, the capital of Bali, is the airport with the runway jutting into the sea. The first feeling one gets is that we are going to land into the sea.

The traditional prayer offering

The ubiquitous prayer offering which was found in front of all homes, shops etc. Changed every morning.


The Kris & Barong dance depicting stories based on Mahabharat characters


Kintamani Volcano

Had a magnificent buffet lunch with this view. Kintamani is an active volcano. The smoke could be seen rising from the crater. The black lava flows with a volcano lake alongside, the misty weather all together made for a perfect scene of bliss.

Luwak 

Kopi Luwak, the most expensive coffee in the world cant be made without key contribution from the animal in the picture above.


Lady roasting coffee beans
















A house in the plantation



Now for the blue part


Discovery mall - The only airconditioned mall in Bali opens directly to the sea


A marble statue depicting the Mahabharat war

The place was full of signs, symbols from the Indian epics.


Balinese House
 All Balinese houses have to follow the traditional building design norms


Massive Roots - people can get lost in them

4 days of bliss. More pictures maybe coming.
But it wasn't just the place which made the trip memorable. It was the people and their amazing hospitality. 
Couldn't have seen and enjoyed so much without the excellent planning done by the tour agency. Pickups, drops, guide, hotel booking, ticket bookings all done in a very efficient manner. 

Bali - the island of Gods as the locals say. It certainly is.