Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013

Last day of the year MMXIII A.D. Time to bid goodbye to year gone by while ushering in the new. Also time to take stock and to move forward.

The year gone by began with lots of experiences to be soaked in. A play, a fashion show, a small boat trip, another in-stadium match, some travel. All in the first half of the year. Then came health issues, all minor but more of the irritating kind (guess the side-effects of being on the wrong side of 30). And most of the second half of the year was spent trying to find some time to relax. Work is interfering too much into actual life.

  • Highlights of the year - Has to be walking on the Misty roads of Mahabaleshwar; Also marking our first anniversary over an extended time. 
  • Travel Map - Misty Mahabaleshwar is the only new addition
  • Readings - Volumes have reduced dramatically 
  • Movies & Television - Cinema trips have declined dramatically while TV watching increased ever so slightly.
  • Lowlights of the year - Changes which did not come; heath irritants.
Given all that happened in the year gone by, here is my list of new year resolutions.
  • Find Time. There are lots of things to be done. But for any of my resolutions to succeed, time is the critical one. A little difficult but will be managed. After all, only I can bring in my own change.
  • Take more holidays. 
  • Explore more - New places, new books, new movies & documentaries, new experiences. And try not to wait but go for things as and when they come in
  • Stay healthier and fitter. Cut the laziness and waist.
  • And lastly, not lose a phone 
  • But most importantly keep the ones around me HAPPY
Wishing all readers a very happy, prosperous and healthy (this is what happens when you are on the wrong side of 30) new year 2014 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ten from Twenty13

Its that time of the year. December is in its "December"stage and time to review the year gone by. So here is a list of 10 very important (or most likely not) things/events/non-events to remember the year gone by. So here goes. 

1. Message of the Year - "Celebrate a life well lived"
"Do not mourn a death, but celebrate a life well lived". When Nelson Mandela passed away, one could have expected a nation in mourning (which was the case). There were the usual signs of mourning but what was not expected was the sight of people dancing on the streets, singing his songs and in general celebrating a life well lived. Thank You South Africa for teaching the world the best way to mark a legacy.

2. Rise of the Common Man
The Aam Aadmi Party performed beyond everyone's expectations (personally I expected them to win 0 seats in Delhi assembly elections). The people came out in large numbers to vote and voted for the person who claims to provide an alternative. The cynic in me now wants to believe that change is possible and can be brought upon by people power. But the cynic still wants me to wait and watch more. 

3. Picture of the Year - The Lightning Bolt
Madiba's funeral drew the whole world. In such a solemn occasion there was the selfie moment shared by the 3 different world leaders (US President Obama, British PM Cameron and Danish PM Thorning-Schmidt). But the picture of the year comes from the World Athletics Championships in Moscow. Usain Bolt ran across the track while a lightning bolt struck in the background.

4. Management Post of the Year - "Enthusiast"
If we believe the BCCI president N Srinivasan, his son-in-law, Gurunath Meyiappan had access to his IPL franchisee's dressing rooms, dug-out, after-game parties, player auction (and what not) in his capacity as a "cricket enthusiast".  I guess time for all organisations to have more such "enthusiastic" people in their ranks.

5. Orwellian Moment of the Year - Edward Snowden Revelations
It almost seemed straight out of the George Orwell novel 1984 but the state is really watching you. Or at least they are actually tracking every bit of your online activities. not exactly a pleasant thought but still that hasn't put any brakes on internet growth. In all Snowden's revelations about NSA's spying ruffled feathers worldwide mostly politically but also forced him to live a life in an airport terminal (albeit temporarily). An American forced to live in a Russian airport building as no one (well except USA) was willing to take him in, almost like the story of The Terminal in reverse.

6. The "Kitna Deti Hai?" Moment of the Year - Mangalyaan

India launched its indigenous developed mission to Mars, the Mangalyaan. While "intellectuals"debated whether India being a poor country should indulge in such whimsical fancies of going to space before they sort out their internal issues, some bright soul figured out the cost of the Mangalyaan.Apparently it worked out to be Rs 15/km the same as autos in Mumbai. Perfect figures for a country obsessed with mileage as one advertisement would have us believe.

7. The Armageddon Moment of the Year
Russia getting showered by a meteor. Fortunately no one was killed. There were lots of videos post the event but unfortunately no Harry Stamper and team to respond to such events.

8. Dance Step  of the Year
"Twerking" entered the popular lexicon thanks to the antics of Miley Cyrus during a live performance. This being a webpage for family audiences, nothing more is going to be mentioned here.

9. New Born of the Year 
The only birth mentioned (so far) for the year as per wikipedia. "His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge" certainly has a big name (of his own) to live up to.

10. Saga of the Year
It could be seen on buses and trains. People engrossed in their smartphones and tablets as they aligned sweets and tried to clear one level after another in the nearly ending Saga of the Candy  Crush. The world was almost neatly divided into people playing Candy crush and those who were not playing this worldwide phenomenon. (Me stuck at Level 197, at the time of posting)

So this was 2013. Or rather just some random tid-bits to remember the year going by. Its not a comprehensive list nor is it meant to be. After all everyone will have their own memories of the year  gone by. 

Wishing all readers a very happy new year 2014.

P.S. Lists compiled in the years gone by are here: 201220112010

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Happy Diwali

"Wishing you & your family a very Happy Dipawali"
Its that time of the year, when this and other messages of similar nature will arrive in your multiple Inboxes (via sms, e-mail, whatsapp, other messaging services). Yes its Happy Diwali time - the most looked-forward festival of the year (at least for me). But like everything else, even Diwali has changed.

When I was younger, the thing to look forward to in Diwali was the chance to burst crackers. Other things like puja, decorative lighting, delicious food, new clothes were hardly noticed. The young me made a complete list of items which were required to celebrate Diwali - फुलझरी, रस्सी, घिरनी, गुरकुण (अनार), snake and a gun with rolls. Favorite one being the snake. You light the dark pellet and the way it would grow into a snake like form was the most fascinating to watch. Also it was the messiest when cleaning up a day later.  As the years passed, the slightly older me added a few more items to the list - मिर्ची बम , आलू बम , चटाई बम & rockets while the little gun was dispensed off. Post the list making was the purchase. Carrying a large packet of multiple kinds of firecrackers had its own joy. And a day before Diwali the major event was spreading out the packet in the sun to ensure no moisture remained. Each of these items had their own thrill. Waving the lit phuljhari gave the real diwali celebration feeling. It was also used for lighting up the other little crackers. And there was no better sight than a rocket lighting up the night sky. The gun would be the first item used and it would be the last to have its stocks depleted. Any crackers which were left over (highly unlikely event) were used 6 days later during chhath puja. There was also this continuous tussle going on inside to start bursting the crackers but ensuring that you don't deplete your stocks soon.

And then I guess I grew up. Having left home for higher studies and followed by a job, lost all interest in the crackers. Now the biggest question was if I would be at home for Diwali or not. And there was a no better feeling than  planning a home trip around this time. The biggest thrill of Diwali now became the journey home. Trying not to sleep the entire night before to ensure that I did not miss the train/flight home. Meanwhile the non-stop fireworks specially the sound and smoke ones began to seem more of nuisance than anything else.

The thrill may have moved from buying crackers to being home for Diwali what hasn't changed is the festive mood. There is something joyous about Diwali which no other festival has. The multitude of lights all around and the fireworks lighting up the night sky gives the whole place an ethereal glow. A glow which is a most uplifting one to the heart.

Also as a side benefit Diwali also gives the opportunity to update your phone contact list specially if your contact list has been lost for some reason or the other. There is an extra joy in getting season's greeting messages from a previously unsaved number.

And if you are reading this - Wishing you & your family a very Happy Dipawali"

P.S. - A request - Please ensure that Diwali remains a festival of lights and not the festival of sounds.

P.P.S - An old Diwali post (Here) from my initial days of blogging.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Elections are Coming

The Elections are Coming.

The biggest celebration of our "democracy" - Elections in 5 states later this year are just the trailer for the grand affair scheduled for first part of 2014.

Already the dirtiest sport of all - political mud-wrestling has started in its full glory. Charges, counter-charges, facts mixed with fiction, on hand some physics defying theories while vegetable prices defy gravity, bomb blasts in a rally of 1 Chief Minister, another injured in stone-pelting, a state getting divided... well its just the beginning of one of the dirtiest battles in Indian political history. Add a trigger-happy social media which knows no restraint. The perfect recipe for disaster. And this is just the beginning. Wonder what else is in store for us.

The following poem (Jungle Gaatha) by Ashok Chakradhar perfectly sums whats happening in the country right now. Certainly worth a listen.  India certainly is no better than any jungle.

पानी से निकलकर मगरमच्छ किनारे पर आया,
इशारे से बंदर को बुलाया.
बंदर गुर्राया- खों खों, क्यों,
तुम्हारी नजर में तो मेरा कलेजा है?
मगरमच्छ बोला-नहीं नहीं, तुम्हारी भाभी ने
खास तुम्हारे लिये सिंघाड़े का अचार भेजा है.
बंदर ने सोचा ये क्या घोटाला है,
लगता है जंगल में चुनाव आने वाला है.
लेकिन प्रकट में बोला- वाह!
अचार, वो भी सिंघाड़े का, यानि तालाब के कबाड़े का!
बड़ी ही दयावान तुम्हारी मादा है,
लगता है शेर के खिलाफ़ चुनाव लड़ने का इरादा है.
कैसे जाना, कैसे जाना? ऐसे जाना, ऐसे जाना
कि आजकल भ्रष्टाचार की नदी में
नहाने के बाद जिसकी भी छवि स्वच्छ है,
वही तो मगरमच्छ है.

एक नन्हा मेमना और उसकी माँ बकरी,
जा रहे थे जंगल में राह थी संकरी।
अचानक सामने से आ गया एक शेर,
लेकिन अब तो हो चुकी थी बहुत देर।
भागने का नहीं था कोई भी रास्ता,
बकरी और मेमने की हालत खस्ता।
उधर शेर के कदम धरती नापें, इधर ये दोनों थर-थर कापें।
अब तो शेर आ गया एकदम सामने,
बकरी लगी जैसे-जैसे बच्चे को थामने।
छिटककर बोला बकरी का बच्चा- शेर अंकल!
क्या तुम हमें खा जाओगे एकदम कच्चा?शेर मुस्कुराया,
उसने अपना भारी पंजा मेमने के सिर पर फिराया।
बोला-हे बकरी - कुल गौरव, आयुष्मान भव! दीर्घायु भव!
चिरायु भव! कर कलरव! हो उत्सव! साबुत रहें तेरे सब अवयव।
आशीष देता ये पशु-पुंगव-शेर, कि अब नहीं होगा कोई अंधेरा
उछलो, कूदो, नाचो और जियो हँसते-हँसते
अच्छा बकरी मैया नमस्ते!
इतना कहकर शेर कर गया प्रस्थान,
बकरी हैरान-बेटा ताज्जुब है, भला ये शेर किसी पर रहम खानेवाला है,
लगता है जंगल में चुनाव आनेवाला है।

Don't think there is any more apt description of our politicians than this.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

MovieNotes: The Lunchbox

Movie - The Lunchbox
*ing - Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddique
Director - Ritesh Batra
Language - Hindi with smattering of English
Genre - Daily Life

Basic Premise
A case of mistaken delivery by dabbawalas leading to an exchange of notes from the "dabba" maker to its unintended recipient. And how a curious friendship/bonding develops between the two characters who are getting to know each other through these notes.

  • The first thing you notice is the realistic way of capturing the everyday life of Mumbai. Travelling in trains, buses, occasionally taking the auto or taxi while trying to get everyday work finished up while travelling. 
  • The next thing which strikes is the almost complete lack of background music. There are background noises of course. And music is not completely absent. Songs do come in through different medium like radio or cassette players or children singing.
  • What makes the movie great? The brilliant starcast  (if you can them stars). And its not just the visible ones. There are invisible characters whom you don't see, just hear or the ones who are talked about but neither heard nor seen.
  • The story moves at its own pace over the course of a month, neither waiting nor jumping along. However there is gentle progression in the way the characters behave over the course of the story.
  • There are random life observations thrown in. Observations which can only come through experience but they are not the of the preachy kind. Just the ones which when you hear, you tend to nod your head along.
  • And finally the ending. What happened next? What did the characters do? All of it is left open. The story is not closed. Like life itself, there is no logical conclusion. Given that the movie depicts just a little passage of life, not coming to any logical conclusion was probably the best part.

Trivial Note - Since when did the famed Dabbawalas make a mistake? What happened to their 6 sigma acclaim? At least the mistake was not a one-off occurence but a recurring one,otherwise they couldn't have come up with a beautiful story.

Rating - 9/10

Closing Note - The hoopla of the film not being nominated as India's entry for next year's Oscars. Not having seen "The Good Road", I am in no position to comment on the merits and demerits of the case. But such controversies are either (a) needless distrations from the film, or (b) publicity gimmicks. And if its (b) then it is insulting to a truly well-made film.

Previously on MovieNotes - Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

P.S. - Some weird reason, I also got reminded of Stanley Ka Dabba while watching this film

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Misty Mahabaleshwar

Mahabaleshwar - A charming little weekend getaway from the madness of Mumbai. Situated some 250 kms from Mumbai, its a beautiful hill station located in the Western Ghats.

During the monsoons, it gives a feeling of being literally walking in the clouds. There is an all prevalent mist which breaks up only when it rains. The driving conditions are not great and its best to use a local tourist taxi for the local visits. All charges are fixed by local authorities

Places to visit - Not too many. A couple of local temples, multiple vantage points providing their own breath-taking view of the same valley (But a spectacular view, one must say), an old Maratha fort in Pratapgarh, multiple waterfalls along the roadside.

The area is known for its Strawberry farms (though not in season during the monsoons).

Must-have - Strawberry lassi served in clay containers.

Advise - Pack enough warm clothes. It gets really cold there.

In short a perfect place to relax and getaway from the hustle-bustle of daily life

Here is a little photo-log of Misty Mahabaleshwar. 
And the Mist Lifts - to reveal this breath-taking view

A family portrait- of our ancestors

The beginnings of many a river

The Misty Lanes - Perfect settings for a horror movie

Strawberry Lassi - A must have drink served in clay glasses

Shivaji's Statue (Pratapgarh Fort) - The mist makes it singularly impressive

A waterfall along the road side - One of the plenty

Can there be an excess of greenery ever?

Misty Mahabaleshwar - I liked you.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

India @ 66

Eve of 15th August. India's Independence Day. In 1947, Pt. Nehru chose this day to make a historical speech (tryst with destiny). To celebrate that speech, Nishantzworld chooses to mark this occasion with an annual rundown of the nation as I see it. (Click here for the 2012 edition).

Like our population, the number of our states has increased with the proposed division of Andhra Pradesh. So instead of one there will be now 2 states with potentially a Union Territory (Hyderabad being joint capital) also thrown in. Meaning new sarkaari jobs (double State government and the associated paraphernalia). Meaning more looters looking for a share of the loot. 

Meanwhile the Rupee is breaking newer and newer grounds alongwith petrol and diesel. A race is on to see who will get to the century first. While the poverty line is shifting lower and lower (at least in $ terms). Amidst all this the Government is hell bent on still being in the planning stage while all action is focused on the coming general elections.

Elections - They can't come sooner. And hopefully regardless of the results, the politicization of social media will be less. I am as tired of the inept UPA government failures as the Narendra Modi fanboyism on the social networks. Once upon a time social media was funny, informative and social. Now its just become a medium of outraging. Agreed there is a lot to outrage about. But venting it out on facebook/twitter is going to be of no avail (Nor will this blog help :P)

Rampant corruption, regular border troubles, Naxal violence, rapes & acid attacks, economy moving towards deep trouble - yet all our so called "leaders" are interested in is trying to preserve their "kursi". A game of oneupmanship is all that is being played between UPA, NDA, and the opportunists of the so-called 3rd Front. We have a Prime minister who says keeping quiet is the best policy (hazaaron jawaabon se acchji khamoshi meri) and an Opposition which believes that a functioning Parliament is not essential for governance.

The Uttarakhand floods showed what happens when nature plays with us. Humans might think that they are the superior beings on this planet. But Nature always has a way of taking control again. Always.

Now to the other national passion - Cricket. Spot-fixing scandal emerged but there was no sense of disbelief, just plain anger at the revelations. Worse was the politicization of team selection. But there was a saving grace. A new hero always emerges. Thank You Shikhar Dhawan.

As for the other sports,  the Indian Olympic Council celebrated a highly successful (by our standards) Olympic performance by getting banned. Enough said.

And finally to the 3rd front of India - Movies. Bollywood has started making biopics & sports films and making good experiments apart from the regular masala fare. But one genre is still untouched. Given how successful Hollywood comic books characters have been on screen, when will we see a movie based on our home-grown superheroes like Super Commando Dhruv.

In all, another terrible year gone by. And nothing much to really look forward to in the year ahead. But after all this, I will still say - Mera Bhaarat Mahaan. Because there is some part of me which still believes in the idea of India.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rains: Before & After

Previously on NishantzWorld - Rains: Likes & Dislikes

The rains are here in full force. Seems like its been raining cats and dogs since as far as I can recall (Or as we say in Hindi - मूसलाधार कुत्ता बिल्ली  बारीश ). Time to a do a quick before & after check

Its the blistering, sweltering heat of summers. You pray for rains for relief.. The first sign of dark clouds in the horizon and your heart starts to sing.

The first drops of rain.
Slight freshness in the air (even in this polluted metropolis). The smell of wet earth.
"Its raining #cityname - announces the social media (Twitter & Facebook).
All signs that the monsoons have arrived.

Another song starts as you don't want the rains to end...

Unfortunately your wish for non-stop rains actually gets fulfilled. And...

A couple of months of this kutta-billi baarish. Office commute time has tripled due to craters having taken over in place of roads. 
Common sight everywhere
The chief prevailing smell is that of damp clothes which have been trying to dry for a week or so.
TV signals disappear during critical points in a live telecast.
"Stuck in traffic jam. I hate rains" - blares out the same social media.

And the song for this moment. The opening lines of this Anu Malik "masterpiece".

And while you wonder if these were the rains you had been waiting for, the cycle repeats year after year.

Friday, July 26, 2013

MovieNotes: Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

Movie - Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
*ing - Farhan Akhtar, Yograj Singh, Pawan Malhotra, Divya Dutta and others
Director - Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Language - Hindi with sprinkling of Punjabi
Genre - Sports, Biopic

Bollywood is making biopics - Good
Bollywood is making sports film - Better
Bollywood is making biopics on sportspersons - Great

Basic Premise
Story of India's greatest male athelete, Milkha Singh.

The Highs
  • Farhan Akhtar - the actor. Also good performances by Japtej Singh as the young Milkha and Divya Dutta.
  • Music - Zinda is going to be the new training background song.
  • The army drill scenes.
  • The little bits of trivia thrown in - e.g. Ayub Khan giving Milkha Singh the nickname of Flying Sikh, the mug of milk being the chief motivation for Milkha to run.
The Not So Highs
  • The romantic tracks. Mostly unnecessary and could have been easily edited out and made the film shorter by half an hour.
  • The lack of perfect ending. A missed Olympic medal is not a great story finisher. So the makers turned it into a tale of Milkha conquering his own personal demons.
Random Notes
  • Some shades of Paan Singh Tomar also in the movie. After all both were national champion atheletes from the army background. But post-athletics career took different turns.One turned into a dacoit, other into a living legend. Interestingly, both were teammates in the 1962 Jakarta Asiad.
  • Hunger is the biggest motivation to run. Certified in both Paan Singh Tomar & Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.
  • If we believe the film, Ms Stella cost us an Olympic medal?
  • Divya Dutta & Vidya Balan - Two very good actors who can easily pass off for each other.
  • As a nation, we have been so starved of Olympic glory that we have our near-misses (Milkha Singh, PT Usha) are more celebrated than some of our recent medal winners.
9/10 - A well made and acted movie with great music. But could have been a little more ruthless in editing.

Closing Note - Bollywood is making biopic on sports and actually doing a good job of it.

Previously on MovieNotes - Man of Steel

Saturday, July 06, 2013

The Wimbledon Magic

There is a certain charm about Wimbledon that no other annual sporting event has. You can't exactly pin-point it to any one particular reason.
  • The adherence to the traditions,
  • the all-white dress code
  • Taking the middle Sunday off (not caring for TRPs)
  • the Royal touch with players bowing towards Her Majesty's representatives in the Royal Box
  • addressing the players as Mister or Miss rather than just their surnames
  • the wait for a British champion
  • Unllike the other Grand Slams it does not need its country's name just the locality name
Most likely all of the above. For me personally its the the fact that my first tennis watching memories are associated with Wimbledon.
The Year - 1989. 
Both Singles finals played on Sunday and the winners - the German duo of Steffi Graf & Boris Becker. Instantaneously making a 6 year old me their fans for life.

There are other tennis tournaments, 3 other Grand Slams, the year-end Masters, the Davis Cup. but none of them quite come near to matching the charm that Wimbledon has. Only French Open with its distinctive red courts & use of French terms in the scores comes close.

I write this on the eve of the finals of the 2013 Championships. And recollect the Champions in the past 20 odd years gone by - Becker, Edberg, Sampras, Federer, Hewitt, Nadal, Graf, Navratilova, Hingis, Davenport, the Williams - Wimbledon champions all of them. My favorite Wimbledon champions.
Goran Ivanisevic in 2001 - Ranked outside top 100, Wild Card entrant, 3 time former runner-up. As fairy tales go, it rarely gets better
Jana Novotna in 1998 - Famous for choking in 1994 final & crying on Duchess of Kent's shoulders, losing in another final and then finally winning on the 3rd attmpt. That's what I call redemption.

And now we are in 2013. Whom would I love to see holding the winner's trophies. Lisicki (A German victory - my old favorite Tennis playing country) & Murray (the lad deserves to get this Brit-not-having-won-since-World-War-II monkey off his back).

But whoever wins - the Wimbledon Magic will continue on and on.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

MovieNotes - Man of Steel

Movie - Man of Steel
*ing - Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russel Crowe, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane & Others
Director - Zack Snyder
Language - English

Confession - Haven't watched any of the Superman movies before. And not a big comic book fan either.
However the interest level in watching the resurrection of the Superman series was quite high. Mainly due to Christopher Nolan being attached to it. The trailers looked promising. Nolan's touch along with Hans Zimmer's music prophesised a Superman struggling with his own identity, a darker villain and a good background story with big name actors playing the minor characters.

Basic Premise
Superman and his Kryptonian origins are explained. He is yet to become the hero known world over but taking his baby steps towards becoming one. Also a titanic clash to save the world and establish his superhero credentials (for the forthcoming movies).

The High Notes
  • Best Scene - When Superman goes on his first flight. Full-on Goosebumps
  • Performance of the film - by the two fathers of Superman - Crowe & Costner, incidentally both also known for playing Robin Hood.
  • A villain whose intentions are not necessarily wrong. General Zod was trying to save his race.
  • The back-story of Krypton. Probably won't be mentioned ever again.
  • The climax battle between Superman & Zod.
  • The Easter Eggs hinting at Lexcorp & Wayne Enterprises for forthcoming movies.
The Not High Notes
  • The conclusion of the climax battle. If it was this simple, why was hell wrecked on Metropolis. Probably a million died in this battle to "save" Earth.
  • The portrayal of Lois Lane.
  • The Superman Character Destruction - The S does not stand for Superman; he doesn't wear his underwear outside any more; Lois Lane knows Superman's real identity before he joins Daily Planet. The true comic book fans must be seething on seeing all this.
  • Superman finding a ready-made suit for his world-saving role.
  • There is nothing worth remembering in the movie. No memorable dialogues, action sequence etc.
The Random Notes

  • The Superman Pose - After you become "Super", you need to stand straight, hold your arms into your body and then (most important) look towards your side with the head slightly bent and wearing a serene smile
  • Henry Cavill finally breaks his unlucky jinx and gets to play a major role.
  • The term "Superman" is hardly used throughout the film.
Rating - 7/10; Overall the movie left me a bit underwhelmed. Mainly due to the higher (almost unrealistic) expectations set by the The Dark Knight Tilogy.

Previously on MovieNotes - Zalzala

Friday, June 14, 2013

Deja Vu - Issued In Public Interest

It felt like the opening scene from Hangover II. It had happened again. The questions were why me? And again?

Losing a mobile is not a nice experience. Losing repeatedly is even worse. Feels like I have been "marked" as a serial victim.

Now to the event itself. Got onto a BEST bus as per my daily schedule. After some time, say 15 minutes, decided to check the phone. And the phone had disappeared. As simple as that. Heart sank with the feeling of deja vu.

Asked the neighbouring passenger to dial my number. As expected, phone was switched off. The thieves are quick, both at nicking the phone, and manually removing the battery.  Tried to recollect the incidence of the theft.  This is probably how it had happened.

A large sized fellow was the first to get onto the bus. Near the top step, lots of coins "slipped" out of his hand which he stopped to collect blocking the way. Meanwhile I was directly behind him on the next step, with both hands on the bus handles for balance. Felt a sudden surge behind me due to others trying to get on. Probably this was the moment when the phone was nicked. Also noticed that the big fellow who had dropped the coins got down after a couple of stops. Pretty sure this was an organised operation. One person creates a distraction while blocking up the path and someone else uses this precise moment to pick the pocket.

Another bitter lesson learnt. Do Not get distracted in crowded, public places even when the distraction is right in front of your eye. "Constant vigilance" is the only way to keep your belongings safe.

Losing a phone is major nuisance. The worst bit is that the cost of the phone itself is the least concern. The value of the personalization and memories attached with the phone is much greater than just the phone cost. Contacts, messages, pictures, your personal high scores in various games are intangibles which have no use to the thieves but cant be replaced.

And a suggestion - Always keep the phone locked with a pin/password. You might never see your lost phone again. But at least your "personal" data will not be accessible to anyone else.

Sharing this, so that others maybe alert in such scenario.

P.S. Hoping & Praying that this tragically epic trilogy of losing phones has reached its conclusion.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Rains - Likes & Dislikes

Has there been any weather phenomenon more romanticized than the rains? More paeans have been written about, more songs composed in the praise of and in the wait of rains than for any other natural occurrence. And as with every other feature of life, it comes with both positives & negatives. 

After about two and a half days of the monsoons, I have already begun liking & disliking the rains in about equal measure. 
  • Like - The first pit-pat-patter of the rain drops, the smell of the wet earth, escape from the summer heat. WOW
  • Dislike - Getting stuck in the office commute
  • Like - On an early morning drive with just a slight drizzle.
  • Dislike - The dish signals disappearing during live sports programming. Already affected - Champions Trophy cricket, French Open finals & ironically a rain-hit F1 Grand prix.
  • Like - Sipping tea while watching the falling rain outside.
  • Dislike - The almost non-stop drizzle forcing a stay-at-home Sunday.
As the season progresses, the list can go on and on. Already beginning to dread the to and fro office commute from tomorrow.

P.S. A little rainy day song compilation from some three years back.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Truth - The Versioned Tale

Was reading Pritish Nandy's latest article on media's obsessive coverage of the IPL sopt-fixing/betting saga. Mr. Nandy comments on how the media is obsessed with the murky dealings in the IPL while ignoring other more serious issues. Well I agree that our media does tend to go over-the-top in its coverage. But that is only till the moment the next issue arrives. And then the focus moves on to the new show in town. Never does it take any issue to its closure. And the "truth" rarely come out

Our over-the-top breaking news media follows up "stories" trying to uncover the "truth".  The "Nation demands to know" - thunders the news anchor. But what exactly is the truth we are talking about.

To me, any event which has happened has four different versions (at least)
  • A's version
  • B's version
  • What I want to believe.
  • And finally, what actually happened
And because of the first three, the fourth one generally goes missing.

So, to the so-called seekers of the "truth", this is what I would have to say
"You want the truth. You can't handle the truth" - Jack Nicholson,as Col. Nathan R Jessup, A Few Good Men.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

MovieNotes: Zalzala (1988)

Movie - Zalzala (1988)
*ing - Dharmendra, Shatrughan Sinha, Rajiv Kapoor, Danny Dengzongpa, Anita Raj, Kimi Katkar, Vijeta Pandit, Gulshan Grover & Others
Language - Hindi

(a) I am hibernating on Sundays.
(b) I am boycotting watching IPL since the spot-fixing scandal emerged.
Given above conditions, landed on Shara One (yes I shocked myself) while channel-surfing. And found a movie just starting which I ended up watching from beginning to end.

Basic Premise
A secret and ancient Shiv temple made entirely of gold and whose path is known to only one person. And there are many villains after the treasures. And there are good guys after the bad guys. All these combining to form a recipe for a typical 80s Bollywood masala pot-boiler.

Movie Notes
  • The story has surprising twists and turns - mainly on account of all characters having some inter-connect with each other.
  • The Shiv temple element had the promise of an Indiana Jones but the premise wasn't even explored
  • Police directly hand over large sums of reward money to bounty hunters.
  • Mediums of transport are three - Police jeep, Police Van and horseback
  • Dialogue of the movie: Question - "नाम क्या है तुम्हारा?"; Reply - "गाँव का मुखिया"
  • Character of the movie: A horse who likes to drink hard liquor.
  • Lots of shooting and killings
  • A song can apppear any time. e.g. The good guys performing puja while the bad side loots the temple.
  • A 34 year old Tiku Talsania plays the role of 50-year old Jagdeep's father. Guess the casting agents mixed up the roles.
Rating - 5/10, Avoid watching unless you have nothing better to do.

Previously on MovieNotes - Jolly LLB

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Journeying all year-long

Everyone is on a journey, and its going on and on since birth. Every birthday marks the completion of one and start of the next one. The journey around the Sun.  

And its not a short trip by any standards. The approximate distance travelled during one complete revolution around the Sun is 940 Million km. A number which is entirely unfathomable by human travel standards. Add to this the daily rotation of the Earth. For someone living in Mumbai (latitude ~19 degN) that would be around 37,850 km/day which makes it nearly 14 Million kms per year. So in all, roughly something like 950 million km/year.  Not a small number by any measure. And in comparison to these numbers the "actual" travel is totally insignificant.

We do not even realise how much we have travelled. And yet we constantly complain about the daily commute to work (some 25 km round trip for me), the ever growing distances, living further apart from the near & dear ones. Guess everything is just relative and has to be seen in its own perspective.

Just some things to ponder upon.

P.S. For some other fun and nerdy details refer this wiki page on Earth's Orbit.
P.P.S The numbers are not exact and have been put for a sense of perspective.

Monday, April 22, 2013

MovieNotes: Jolly LLB

Movie - Jolly LLB
*ing - Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani, Saurabh Shukla, Amrita Rao
Language - Hindi

Basic Premise
How a small time lawyer tries to become big through a PIL and then gets sucked into a fight with the big and powerful.

The all-round acting. And its not just the leads, its the support cast which makes the film work. You get lots of memorable characters, the judge, the canteen owner, the bodyguard constable, the "auctioneering" hawaldar.

Jolly LLB tries to avoid going into the typical filmy court-room battle and presents a more realistic description of the court proceedings

A practical ending where further proceedings are to take place but are not shown. Could be an opening for a sequel.

What could have been dropped from the film? The heroine and the needless romantic songs.

You wonder just how much corruption is there in our system. Even the main characters have to resort to bribery to get the evidence out.
The legal system seems to have an in-built delay mechanism leading to the justice getting lost in the red tape and paperwork.
Well I can outrage on and on about all this but thats the perview of another blog post.

All films related to the law tend to be benchmarked against "A Few Good Men". Does it go to the level of A Few Good Men? No, but it does attempt and does a good job of trying.

Rating - 7/10, Good overall watch

Previously on MovieNotes - Kai Po Che

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Indian Zombies

An animated corpse resurrected by mystical means such as witchcraft
This is how wikipedia describes a zombie. Like vampires and werewolves, they are a fairly common subject in the movie and gaming world. And unlike other such creatures they are never ever shown in positive light. 

Zombies have generally not been depicted in the Indian context. But all of a sudden there is a spate of zombie related Hindi movies coming up. In fact, in the trailer of "Go Goa Gone", when one character asks  how did zombies come into India, globalization is the answer he gets.

Now the question on why aren't there such "undead" creatures in Indian folklore? Ghosts, spirits, djinns, apparitions, witches, magicians are fairly common in Indian folklore but there is hardly any mention of things which are undead. Maybe because of Indian tradition of cremation of dead bodies rather than burials.As the dead bodies tended to be completely destroyed, hence the likelihood of a corpse being resurrected becomes  very rare. Hence no such things as zombies as part of Indian folklore.

This is just my theory. Any other takes?

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Two Thumbs Up, Sir

Its not often that you write a blog about a person whose existence you came to know only through the news of his death. 

Yesterday came in the sad news of the death of Roger Ebert, the greatest film critic. And there I was mostly oblivious about his existence. But then I started reading about him. And slowly got more and more hooked. Here was a man whose work I was aware of, had actually read his reviews, but never bothered reading the name on top of the article.

Certainly I do not claim any qualifications to review his work or life. But there was a lot I can take up as inspiration. And the more I read I about him the more inspiring his story was.
  • Writing film reviews for 46 years, that takes dedication. Sitting through film after film, however bad the narration may have been and then telling your take to the world. That is some dedication. 
  • Making film-criticism as a journalistic niche means Ebert took his own craft to such a level that others had to make a separate category for it. A Pulitzer for film criticism and a Star on the Hollywood walk of fame are just rewards for the sheer brilliance of his writing.
  • And lastly for not giving up even in face of bad health. Ebert simply took on to the online medium when his voice was gone. Thats the true fighting spirit which is rarely seen. He took a "Leave of Presence" from his fans just a couple of days before his death. And that was to be his last blog post . Certainly the best article I have read in recent times. 

"I was born in the movie of my life" - the opening sentence of Life Itself (his autobiography) is now into my favorite quotes collection. 

Two Thumbs Up, Sir for a life well lived and being a inspiration to many.

P.S. Now you have added a new item to my bucket-list. Watch every single movie from your "Best of the Year" Collection.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Elephanta Island - Caves & Rock Carvings. How to narrate the experience. So here goes a little account of the trip.

First - A 35 km taxi ride ending in verbal fight with the taxi driver. Reached Gateway of India
Second - An hour long steamer ride in the middle of the day. View of the  Mumbai coastline and oil tankers. Reached the island.
Third - A 5 minute ride on the toy train. Reached the steps of the cave.
Fourth - A 15 minute climb up the hill. The path shaded by various curio-shops and monkeys all around. Temperatures in the late 30's (degree C).
And finally reaching the cave and geting to see...

All the journey hardships forgotten. It had been worth everything. Some more pictures of the place.
The Shivlinga

The Natraja Form carved into the wall
Entrance to one of the caves carved out of rock

And as a bonus on the way back as the sun went down, managing to click the Mumbai picture

Gateway of India & The Taj Hotel
Elephanta - a little removed from the world but certainly worth spending a day.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

MovieNotes: Kai Po Che

Movie: Kai Po Che
*ing: Sushant Rajput, Amit Sadh, Rajkumar Yadav, Amrita Puri (An all-new star-cast)
Language: Hindi, interspersed with Gujrati
Director: Abhishek Kapoor

I had my apprehensions before watching the film. After all, having already read "3 Mistakes of My Life" - the Chetan Bhagat novel on which this movie was based on, the doubts about watching the film were quite high. I generally enjoy Chetan Bhagat's works, but 3 Mistakes... was not a great effort by him. But good social media reviews provided the necessary motivation.

Basic Premise
Following the lives of three friends and how their friendship is affected by the goings-on in the world around them.

The movie is better than the novel, much better. The deviations from the novel have helped the story quite a bit.

An all-new star cast is used. And it does the job commendably. Even established "stars" wouldn't have made the film any better. All credit to the actors and the director for making a good film.

Great music and hummable songs. And I really like it when songs stay in the background and not the characters lip-syncing to them. Liked the use of the Sunita Rao number "Pari hoon main".

Trying to pull in all details of a 200 odd page novel in 2 hours makes one forego some of the background story and character developments.

Random Notes
Cricket binds India like no other factor. And watching the VVS-Dravid partnership even in a cinema still gives the goosebumps. Probably the most important day in Indian cricketing history. The day which made one believe in miracles.

Coverage of the Gujarat riots has been a sensitive issue. This one just skimmed on the news aspect without going through any of the gory details and the aftermath.

Rating - 8/10

P.S.  Watched the film in the historic Regal cinema hall. Winding staircases, Balcony, Dress Circle, the bell ringing to announce the start - single-screen theatre certainly have their own charm.

Previously on MovieNotes - Special 26

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

MovieNotes: Special 26

Movie: Special 26
*ing - Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher, Jimmy Shergill, Manoj Bajpayee, Kajal Aggarwal
Director - Neeraj Pandey
Language - Hindi

Basic Premise 
A gang of people who imitate real "law enforcement agencies" to carry out loot missions. Apparently based on a real life incident of a noted jewellers being fooled by such a group in the late 80's

Movie Notes
The Positives - An outrageous idea but it works quite well. Believable acting, a very realistic 80's setting make the film work.  The story manages to hold the suspense till the very end. The climax has the feel of Oceans's series films.

The Negatives - The film could have been easily made more crisper by taking out the needless romantic angle. Also there is too much focus on the logistics bit. The players "power walking" from one place to another, people carrying the raid collection, signing papers, vehicles moving from one part to another. The whole logistics bit seems to have been a little over-done.

Overall Feel -  The film works. Neeraj Pandey has delivered another good film after "A Wednesday"

Random Thoughts
Why should Akshay Kumar do weird roles when he can do roles such as this?
And the Manoj Bajpayee laughter in the climax totally reminds me of the movie - The Prestige.
The 1980s seem to be a totally different era altogether.

Rating - 8/10

Previously on MovieNotes - OMG! Oh My God

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

MovieNotes: Oh My God

Movie - OMG - Oh My God!
*ing - Paresh Rawal, Akshay Kumar
Language - Hindi

This was one movie that I had wanted to watch when it released but for some reason wasn't able to. Finally managed to catch it while channel surfing looking for something to watch. And of all channels it was on DD National where I found something worth watching (The Irony!)

Movie Review
Basic Premise - A non-believer suing God

Thoroughly enjoyed - both the acting as well as the message coming out of the story. The concept of God and religion as depicted in the film was what I could personally relate to and more in line with my beliefs. And good acting by Paresh Rawal and others made this fantasy plot quite believable.

The film is also a nice commentary on the business of religion.

Best Line - Paresh Rawal & Akshay Kumar had lots of great punch lines but the line of the movie (IMO) was delivered by Mithun Chakraborty's character - "People here are not God-loving, they are God-fearing"

Rating - 9/10. For being a clean entertainer with a message.

P.S. 2012 was quite a good year for Hindi cinema with lots of repeat-watch movies coming in the year - Vicky Donor, Barfi, English Vinglish, Kahaani, OMG, Gangs of Wasseypur etc. not to mention the likes of Dabangg 2 & Singham

P.P.S - Want to watch the play Kishen vs Kanhaiya on which the movie is based.

P.P.P.S - I hope no one's religious sentiments got hurt on reading this post.

Previously on MovieNotes - Dabangg 2

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

MovieNotes: Dabangg 2

Movie: Dabangg 2
*ing: Salman Khan as Chulbul Pandey and lots of extras including Favicol, Munni, Sonakhsi Sinha, Arbaaz Khan, Vinod Khanna
Language: Hindi

Confession - I haven't seen Dabangg at one stretch. Have seen bits and pieces on occasions.

Now over to Dabangg2.
One word descriprion of the movie - ENTERTAINING. Nothing else needs to be said.

The trailers suggested that it might have been made from the edited out scenes from Dabangg. Reality is not much different. Although it must be said that with Salman Khan as star, all you need is his screen presence to make the film a hit. So previously edited out footage would also have been good enough to do the job.

Highlights of Dabangg2
  • The conversations between Pandeyji and his platoon of constables.
  • The outrageous action sequences.
  • Light-hearted conversations within the family. Between brothers, father & son, husband & wife. The things which make it a family entertainer.
  • Lots of product placements e.g. Zears cellphones while FAVICOL is the new Zandu Balm.
Rating - 8/10. Entirely for entertainment value

So, a big bang start to entertainment year 2013.

Wishing all readers a very Happy New Year.

Previously on MovieNotes - Ted