Monday 7 December 2009

Rude Food. Literally.

Had to meet a friend from out of town. So we decided on a convenient place that we could meet and catch up for an hour or so. 10.30 was the appointed time. We reach (wife and I). Friend is running a bit late. So to while away time I order a Cappuccino of the Illy variety. They serve it with lots of foam (fine with that) and a sprinkle of cinnamon (uh huh). After a sip I discover that it's not even lukewarm under the protective frothy cover. So in no time I have gulped it down, and then I almost choke on a big Sweet Lime seed in my coffee.

The friend shows up around 11pm. Wife and the new guest order coffee too. The waiter has hovered around a couple of times and asked if we would order main course. We say no.
As soon as the two coffees arrive my friend orders a Tiramisu.
The manager arrives with it and say, "Will you be placing your order for main course? The kitchen will be closing in some time."
We say, no food thank you. Just the dessert will do.
Manager, "This is not a coffee shop and we don't encourage ordering just coffee and dessert."

While it may be true of any hotel or restaurant to encourage people to come and eat a full board, I have never heard of anyone actually say it in so many words. What was also amazing was that it was Saturday night. Juhu. The area packed to the gills, with Gills, Shahs and Senguptas. Parking was a fight. Almost. But this restaurant was half empty. It was also empty of kids, as per the management policy. Apparently kids are not allowed unless they are well behaved zombies who follow strict orders.
So we weren't unnecessarily occupying a table during peak time.

Think about the Baristas. Five star coffee shops. While they come, wish you the time of the day, place a menu in front of you, they don't ever insist that you order anything. Forget main course.

Our friend knows the restaurant owner well. That made us shut up and try ignore the manager's rude behaviour. Instead, we seethe between spoonfuls of the world's best Tiramisu. Do try it out. As also the other equally amazing things on the menu. It is authentic Italian food made under the personal supervision of a finicky septuagenarian Italian man.


Thank god, there aren't more fine dining restaurants of the Don Giovanni kind. Supposedly in the hospitality business ha ha.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Paa


I had read about the brilliant prosthetic make up, seen the pictures and also got a little freaked out at the sight of it in the promos. Well, that is me.

But as the film opened and Auro made his entry, the visual comfort increased till, later and towards the end, the bald head with blue veins didn't matter as much as what was happening in the story.

Like Cheeni Kum, Paa is also well written, funny in parts (where after the initial guffaws, the humour stays with you longer than the usual slapstick delivered say in a 'All the Best' or Govinda No. 1 movie) and the performances are outstanding.

Amitabh Bachchan is Auro the 12 year old kid with progeria, Vidya Balan is Vidya, a Cambridge returned Gynecologist and Abhishek Bachchan is Amol Arte the young and dynamic MP from Lucknow or thereabouts. Paresh Rawal has less histrionics this time and is pretty good with what he gets, but that is expected from an actor of his calibre and there is Auro's best friend from school, Vishnu, (played by Prateek) imp sized with round black spectacles, who brings out the loudest laughs and practically steals the show in a scene.

When you think about it, the little boy is acting with Amitabh Bachchan and that is enough to send shivers down the spines of experienced TV anchors, forget grown up actors. I guess the boy, not burdened by the thought of acting with the legend called Amitabh Bachchan, is a complete natural while interacting with the character called Auro. Huge credit to the team that made the look and the character so seamless and independent of the Amitabh persona. And ultimately that is what works so well, where like I mentioned earlier, I forgot about the bizarre look and focussed on the unfolding story.

To get back, the colours are a treat, Cambridge University looks amazing, so does the other visual treat, Vidya Balan. Amol and the camera are equally adept at romancing her.

Briefly the plot is thus (spoilers ahead): Amol and Vidya bump into each other and sparks fly. Soon, she discovers that she is pregnant. Amol asks her to abort as he suggests they focus on their studies and the eventual individual careers. They split. Cut to 12 years later in India. Amol is the dashing MP that everyone loves. He believes in engineering social change through transparent governance. There are political and social messages galore throughout the film, taking on political stereotypes, corruption, builders, media, the works. Meanwhile, Vidya has decided to keep the baby and is now a successful doctor in a local hospital, but the two have never met.

Then the Auro story really begins. Amol happens to judge a Vision of the Future/21st Century India (something like that) competition in the prestigious school in town. That's where Amol (Paa, in case you haven't figured it out by now) and we first encounter Auro, the funny, intelligent and aged student who sees life through his 72 year old eyes.

Amol the MP and Auro the big-little boy become friends. While he is battling his political nemesis, the busy MP finds time for the child he is growing fond of. Interacting with such a special case who is precocious, knowledge hungry and wizened at the same time can be exasperating and yet there is a certain cuteness too. Abhishek has struck the right note while portraying a busy MP giving his precious time to bond with Auro. Fondness and exasperation in fine balance.

I don't want to let on to more of the story. Suffice to say that it is definitely worth a watch. Everyone has done a great job, the cast, the technical crew, special mention of the art direction, the music is soulful and syncs with the film brilliantly. If at all I have to nitpick, a couple of small blemishes. The Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi, has a bedside telephone with Sahara Star labelled on it. Vidya's 2008 Honda Accord morphs into the 2004 Accord in between. Auro the twelve year old child's finger has something that suspiciously looks like a voting mark. I may be wrong.
But all this is really trivial compared to emotional roller-coaster that the film is. Hugely enjoyable.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

What Security?



I was participating in a Canon photo competition last Sunday for a lark, and of course for the all-expenses-paid trip to Japan which they had dangled enticingly.

We got an hour and a half per topic to run from Atria Mall to click pictures and get back to upload them at the Canon Center. The three briefs were - Stand Out, On The Job and Freedom. While roaming around Peddar Road, Babulnath Temple, Mahalaxmi Race Course and Worli Sea Face, I used to park my car somewhere and walk a bit around on foot trying to capture a picture that fit the brief. They had given us Canon T-shirts to wear and a huge badge to identify us as participants.

Almost everywhere, the security guards let me wander around and even saluted me!
Made me think about them, the fear that they have about anything and anyone looking even slightly officious. I don't think they could read Canon, but I suspect they could visually identify the Canon logo and let me through. I even drove to the stables at Mahalaxmi without any hitch, saluted by 2 guards on the way. At Gold's Gym opposite Haji Ali, it was the same case.

Scary that anyone can take advantage of these poor guys fear and desire not to upset a potentially powerful person just to safeguard their jobs!

Friday 23 October 2009

Hippo Vs Aliva Vs Cracker Classic Lite Vs 5 Grain


A comparison between some new snack foods that have cropped up, all in the baked, not fried category and a few old favorites.
All of them flag off the Zero Cholesterol and Zero Trans Fat prominently. Some say made with wheat and dal instead of flour (maida). Some have 5 grains in them. Some have minuscule amounts of honey and other good things that they are irrelevant in the health claim.

So, do the just-launched snacks Hippo (Parle Agro) and Aliva (Frito Lay) score over a comparatively new 5 Grain Nutri Choice (Britannia) or the Cream Cracker (now known as Cracker Classic Lite Nutri Choice) (Britannia) or are they all just marketing hype? To me any thing that is packaged and has flavouring and emulsifying agents and a load of maida has to be unhealthy. Nothing can beat food made at home. So while I buy all of the above brands and more, the final nutri choice is up to us whether we choose to become hippos or stay alive in a cracking healthy way.
              
NOTES:
The 4 packs were of different sizes. So I have reduced the nutritional information to a common 10 gms. Also Hippo is a toasted bread snack and not a biscuit as the others clearly are. 1 kcal is just one Calorie. But the reason for all of them being here is because we are being sold these as a healthy alternative in our busy life.
While I was looking for pictures to add, I stumbled upon Nita's site. If you have read so far, I assume you care about what you eat, so please check out what she has to say about these claims.

Click on the image below, it's a hand-drawn table with the nutritional information compiled from the above packs.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Displaced... And Dazed

I was born in Bombay. My first few nappy changes brought along a heady rush of smells, sights and sounds as my parents took connecting trains and planes, shifting across the length and breadth of India bag, baggage, two bawling kids and 42 wooden boxes in tow.
 

Pathankot, Chandigarh, Kanpur, Silchar (in Assam), Poona, New Delhi, Bareilly, Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi, Pune and so on. 29 houses in 31 years to be precise. And a bunch of muddled and not so muddled memories.
 

Of numerous housekeepers. One really nice gardener. One nutty nanny in Silchar who insisted on feeding us milk and rice with sugar on top. Moving from large bungalows with picturesque gardens to shared accommodation in Air Force transit camps. From cramped whitewashed flats to large apartments overlooking the Arabian Sea. Memories of gardens winning first prize every year to Assamese Bashas made out of bamboo and nothing else. Ones that gave up their roofs to the gale-force winds in the North Eastern monsoons. And if not the roof blowing off, springing leaks that only large plastic sheets stretched under them could aim the leakage towards strategically placed buckets and pans.


There was a time I remember, when the monthly ration the peak-capped boffins in New Delhi sent, was a planeload of tinned biscuits and that is all the whole Air Force station had to eat that week.

Our extensive Poona garden with numerous fruit trees to swing and climb, from Mango and Guava, to Banana and Sugarcane. And the shock to discover that our happy playground was home to a huge brown snake. The long cycle rides in the cantonment roads chasing each other, playing catch and cook. The chance encounter with a girl after school, while waiting for our dads to pick us up, who was the only one ever to have made me go weak in the knees, all at the rather young age of ten. And later, becoming friends with her, knowing fully well it was never meant to be. Picking 'Ber' and dipping them in little packets of salt, carried just for such encounters on our secret short cuts in the Aravali hills. Roller skating from Subroto Park to Dhaula Kuan and back, racing trucks on the national highway. Hurried Table Tennis in the lunch break. Playing cricket every day, even during exam time and paying the penalty for it. The rod, I remember, was not spared.


When two boxes full of books collected, no treasured, over the years, had no place in a small house in Bangalore and were sent for storage in HAL. And after a year when we moved to our official house, to discover all that was left of them were little bits of paper chewed up by rats in a hungry frenzy. Or sheer frustration.

Or later in college, experiencing a culture shock of civilian kids and their completely different lifestyles and upbringing. The biggest being the perceived lax morals, having grown up in the city versus being closeted in insulated cantonments far away. An example of that being when I got my driving license, the regular way, paying the 45 rupee fee, while my classmates boasted how they didn’t even have to make a trip to the RTO office. They got theirs in hand by paying a princely sum of Rs. 300 to a tout.

The irritating times trying to convince traffic cops that the reason my scooter, car and bike had alien license plates was because my father had a transferable job and CHU 4844 was a 25-year-old Chandigarh legacy my father refused to give up, even when the papers were lost. Or hiding the fact that CKA 2432 was deregistered in Bangalore and then never re-registered, ever again. And UTF 9 was an IPS officer's car and getting salutes from cops was an embarrassment to be savored in secretive glee behind its dark tinted windows.
 

When I joined advertising in 1996, the mad world actually helped stabilize my life. In fact, Mumbai has now been my home for the longest period of time. After moving three more times, I moved to a place right across the road from the hospital I was born in (Dr. Pai's, Matunga) almost like a fitting end to the journey so far. And a poetic way to begin at the beginning.
 

To put things in perspective, I have one friend from school, a handful from college, no neighbours or neighbourhood friends and a whole lot of agency friends. Or rather, friends who happen to be in advertising.
 

I am glad with what I have.

- This started off life as a small rejoinder to a friend's article that was published in http://dsplaced.com/?p=324. It just became so humongous that I had to cut-paste it here and just leave a link there :)

Thursday 8 October 2009

Vuclip: More News

Vuclip’s redesigned web and wapsites make it easier than ever for users to search for and watch any Internet video on their mobile phones by adding social networking and other functionality to drive the discovery of new video content. In addition to having any video delivered to their phones whenever they want, users can now create playlists, receive alerts about new videos and share their favorite videos with friends.

“Users want to consume everything from first-run branded content to user-generated content but the mobile video viewing experience has been far too frustrating for it to become an everyday consumer activity,” said Nickhil Jakatdar, CEO of Vuclip. “Vuclip solves this problem by delivering video to mobile phones the way people want it, when they want it, wherever they are.”

The current growth and adoption rates for mobile video usage have been hampered by technological fragmentation in the marketplace as well as limited available content. Handsets have different screen sizes, media players and browsers. Network Infrastructure varies among carriers. The availability of mobile video content is often limited by pre-encoding and storage issues.

Vuclip addresses these fragmentation and content issues by allowing users to search for any Internet video, transcoding that video on the fly and optimizing it for each handset to ensure the best video viewing experience possible – all in real time. Vuclip works on more than 2000 handsets in 130 countries around the globe.

IT Calling

Got a letter from the IT Department, Government of India. My returns had been randomly selected by the computer for scrutiny under the CAAS system.

The Parel, Mumbai office of the IT Commissioner was a godown. The 3rd floor, where I was to meet the case officer was a mess. Piled with personal and corporate income tax returns on the floor, on racks nine feet high, on desks, on every available space, a hundred bound together with white strings. All dusty and dirty.

The Income Tax Officers and lesser mortals sweating it out in that dust-mote paradise with ancient fans whirring overhead. They don't even have a desktop yet. It is one of the 'demands' made by the labour union on a large, red lettered poster stuck in the landing.

The commissioner, there were many for each ward/zone, had a cabin with a comfortable air-conditioner and the works. But still it was a dumpy office. Certainly can imagine the vengeance they must be generating in their minds to go after cases of the rich and untaxed just by walking into that hell-hole everyday.

The above was the government not providing them facilites like air-conditioning, computers and filing systems and furniture.

But what about cleaning, dusting and sweeping the premises? The inside of the office had large pillars, and on each of them, four feet high, were countless blood-red pan and gutka stains spat out with gay abandon. Wall corners inside the office were doubling up as spittoons. The toilet was stinking. Plastic chairs for visitors dirty and broken. The water cooler was so dirty that touching it was a risk.

Do these people hate what they do so much that they couldn't care?

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Typhoon Journeys 8000 Miles Non-Stop



The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has deployed four Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 combat aircraft to the Falkland Islands/Malvinas for air defence duties.
The aircraft, which departed from their homebase at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire on 12 September, were accompanied by aerial refuelling tanker aircraft for their 8,000-mile journey to the South Atlantic island chain.
The Typhoons will spend a period of time conducting joint operations with the incumbent Panavia Tornado F.3s to ensure a smooth transition from one type to the other. The F.3s will return to the UK aboard chartered Antonov An-124 transport aircraft.
The Typhoons, drawn from 3 Squadron (which provides the southern portion of the UK's Quick Reaction Alert [QRA] cover) will be assigned to 1435 Flight at Mount Pleasant airfield for the purpose of deterring any incursions from Argentina, which lays claim to the islands.
- Jane's

Tuesday 29 September 2009

When Will You Have Money?

In the twenties, you either couldn't care, or didn't have enough. Investment. Savings. Putting something aside. All these were for someone else. Definitely someone older. The reasons being:
1. Not now.
2. I'll start saving/investing later.
3. I don't have money now.
4. You earn so much more than me, that's why you can think about all this.
5. Some other stuff that you thought of, because the above were all my excuses.

As I came into the thirties, I realised that, oh yeah, I wasn't going to get any pension. Therefore I had to provide for myself, by making money work for me, and not work for money.

So what about savings? Being brand conscious meant that savings were barely matching the minimum required to keep my savings bank account active. And keeping up with the Joshis meant that I had to have all that and more.

The PF contribution from my salary, for the first few years didn't amount to much as the base salary was so low.

It is only recently that I have realised that the oft repeated mantra - start early - is so important.
And what does it take? Rs 2000 for a simple SIP with a mutual fund. 6 years will give you a savings of at least Rs 144000, or more, assuming the fund performs.

Or a few thousand rupees in shares. All it takes is a an investment every month on a few shares and then forgetting about it as you keep on building your portfolio. No one keeps track of the daily ups and downs of the sensex as one might think. It doesn't make sense either. Every six months or a quarter is all that is required. But study the market you must.

And what do you invest in? Initially, till you have extra money to play with, and till your confidence grows, start with defensive stocks. And later, when you can, cyclical stocks. Defensive stocks won't be star performers on the bourses, but they won't play roller coaster with your heart beat. They will give steady dividends and grow steadily too. Cyclical stocks will be the stars who add to your profit booking.

And should you have a heart attack because you invested your life's saving in the markets and saw the market plunge? No. Go out and buy the A-list stocks for cheap.
The market plunges for a day, a month, or a few months, but sooner or later the markets are sure to bounce back and grow. After all, the richest man in the world is not an entrepreneur, dotcom owner or a member of the European royalty. Just someone who started early, in his teens, and invested wisely, and rode all the ups and downs of the markets with aplomb.

This part of your investments should be about 5% of your wealth. And of the 5%, you can split it into safe stocks and slightly risky stocks. So by an off chance, something seriously goes wrong, you still have your 95% safe.

I suppose everything going bust is a rare event. Like in 2008. Property valuations bottoming out are hard to digest if you are a speculator in the market, but if you are worried that the house that you are currently occupying has halved in value, forget it. It is notional value anyway. That value is of no use to you. So is the wealth on paper with your shares. Till you decide to sell it, the shares are just something to objectively look at and for your chartered accountant to remind you of at the end of the year tax returns.

So what next?

Pay off all your loans, ideally by the time you are 55. Hopefully you have invested in property, gold, PPF, Bonds, Fixed Deposits and 6 month's expenses worth of savings in your account. Calculate the number of years till you reach 55. Figure out your 5% that you can spare in a year to be invested in shares and mutual funds. Read up on the best performing funds and the SENSEX / NIFTY 50 and A-List stocks that you can invest in. Ignore all thoughts of becoming suddenly, stupendously rich on a penny stock that someone gave you a hot tip about.

Open a Demat account and a trading account linked to your savings bank account. And start today.

With Rs 2000 to 5000 as a monthly investment in shares, it is not longer about 'I will do it when I have money', but rather, 'I will invest now SO THAT I have money' at a later date.
 

Friday 25 September 2009

HDFC Securities - Shares As An SIP

HDFC Securities has launched something called Do It Yourself SIP. The difference being that instead of buying mutual funds in a systematic investment plan, you can buy shares on the 7th of the month worth a minimum of Rs 5,000, as an SIP.
The second good thing is that instead of buying shares via mutual funds and earning dividend through them, where they get to keep some of the earnings, you buy shares directly on your own name. And keep the dividend earned, which is tax free.
Now, there isn't an entry load on buying mutual funds, but there is an exit load. Here with HDFC Securities you buy shares, and there isn't any load, except a small yearly charge.
Plus, you can choose which shares to buy, or use the advice from HDFC Securities to decide.
The only clarity I haven't got is, after you sign some papers with HDFC Securities, is there a possibility to not buy anything in a month, say when the Sensex or Nifty are breaching dizzying heights?

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Personal Finance Ideas


It is a good thing if you can distribute your investments among the various asset classes. Liquid Cash, Equity, Land and Property, Gold, Debt and so on. In your 20s and 30s, you can put aside up to 50% of your money to invest in property, as it appreciates over the long term. Up to 30% in equities and mutual funds, to reap the high returns they promise over the long term. 10% in long-term bonds and debentures will yield a fixed return over a period of time. Liquidity is as important, so about 5% in gold, fixed deposits and 5% in cash. And as you grow older, the ratio of long term investments should come down and liquid instruments and channels should go up.

It is necessary to plan your life and safeguard against risks too. So therefore you have to take care of pure risks through insurance as well as use insurance to generate wealth.

Now-a-days, the top Mutual Funds list out their portfolio - stocks that the funds themselves have invested in. It could be a great indicator of what top fund managers prefer to put all our money into, including a peek at the total holding, percentage across sectors, returns from each sector and so on.

And if we compare 3-4 consistently performing 5 star rated funds with their overall returns (45% - 50%) over five years, it is easy to see which Equity stocks have commonly contributed to the returns.

Though this is no way saying that you should replace your Mutual Fund investments with Equity, as we are not professionals, the list of stocks that the MFs hold is a great answer to the eternal question: "What should I buy, without taking a big risk." Here apart from the Nifty 50s and the BSE Sensex stocks, you are sure to find a few surprises.

Piqued by F1 'Decisions'

Somebody tell me the logic why F1 drivers are let off every time, as if they are not privy to the goings on in a small, highly charged group like an F1 team in the race paddocks.

Michael Schumacher (as much as I love that man), did everything to win his 7 World Championships, including deliberately crashing his machine and got off with barely a frown. We have the 2007 Mercedes Vs Ferrari spying scandal. Here purportedly, only the race engineers were involved. Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso happily cooperated and were absolved of any knowledge. And Mercedes was fined $100 million.

And now this.

Renault's Flavio Briatore and his Director of Engineering Pat Symonds co-opt (if that is the term) Nelson Piquet Jr. the son of a former F1 champion by the same name. The rookie is not performing too well, as the second to double World Champion Fernando Alonso.

Supposedly under pressure that he might lose his seat, he agrees to the devious plan. He crashes his Renault F1 machine on turn 13 of lap 17, a pre-decided location, his foot on the accelerator, as opposed to the high performance carbon fibre brakes. What that does is, after the horrific crash, young Nelson runs across the track, rather dangerously, as the safety car gets out, towards the pits, having perfectly executed the plan.



Smartly enough, the location chosen to crash the car did not have access to tractors and hydraulics to pull the crashed machine out of the race track quickly enough. This allowed Fernando Alonso to pull into the pits for a quick stop to refuel, et al. With this 'revised' one stop strategy, he goes on to win the 2008 Singapore GP.

So Nelson waited for ten months for his conscience to gnaw at his good heart? Or was the reality that without having scored a point in 2009, his seat was in serious jeopardy, yet again. So he, with his father's nod, and back end support with friend Bernie and Max, spilled the beans. If by chance, he had done decently enough as a second to Fernando Alonso, we would never have known.


As lead driver, and double World Champion, Fernando didn't know the race strategy? As a race driver, wasn't he as desperate to win as his manager and team principal? Or was he fed a race strategy right from qualifying to race day that had him carry low fuel, right tires, just enough to last till the crash was scheduled, and never questioned how a 2 or 3 stop strategy was going to help him win the race?

I guess, in the economic times of today, FIA can't afford to fine Renault a similar or more fine, and watch another constructor team walk away from the championship.

How many more scandals are never going to see the light of day? As many as the number of competing teams, I suppose.

Sunday 13 September 2009

Matryoshka Gets A Makeover

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of Vogue Russia, Aliona Doletskaya decided to honor the famous Russian Matryoshka. They took the traditional wooden doll shape and turned it into a carved female body.

Standing 50cm tall, these beauties doesn’t confirm to the perfect 90×60x90 model proportions.

Commissioned to some of the world’s greatest designers to create tailor-made and exclusive outfits, the best Russian craftmen have hand-painted and dressed the dolls according to the designers sketches. Installation, sculpture, object of art, you can call it however you wish.

If you have 5000 Euros…you’ll have the opportunity to buy one of these babies for your living room.

The article and the rest of the 30 are here: http://www.gugazine.com/2009/08/31-stylized-matryoshka-dolls-by-vogue/

Hail Obama!

U.S. National Debt: From 1789 through 2008 = $10.7 trillion. Obama's plan adds $9.3 trillion more!

22.08.09: Oops! They just found another $2 trillion of red ink! This means that Obama will generate more U.S. debt in 10 years than the other 43 presidents did in 220 years!

U.S. 2009 GDP = $14.2 Trillion
Obama's 1st Budget = $3.55 Trillion ( 25% of GDP)

US 2010 Proposed Budget: Requests $100 million in budget cuts and proposes to spend $3.69 trillion!

Courtesy: www.commonsensejunction.com and www.factreal.wordpress.com

Friday 11 September 2009

Ukraine's (Definitely) Got Talent

Kseniya Simonova makes sand-doodling an eye-popping art form.
Here she tells the story of the Jewish holocaust, the 1945 liberation and how 2 lovers are finally reunited. All with a backlit screen, a bit of sand and her fingers.

http://ping.fm/VDnnq

Thursday 10 September 2009

Iraq Withdrawal




The US is to move 31 million items from Iraq as the 2011 deadline nears. In the inventory are 100,000 vehicles, some bound for Afghanistan.

BUFF

The venerable B-52 Stratofortress, or Big Ugly Fat Fella (BUFF), with 55 years of operational service, has 30 years of airframe life left!

A few movies with the big daddy of bombers:
Bombers B-52 (1957),
A Gathering of Eagles (1963),
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
(1964),
and By Dawn's Early Light (1990).

Monday 17 August 2009

Hulla

Two levels humour. Seven floors. Fourteen society members. And one nutty watchman. A film that is as refreshingly candid as well as courageous to take on a subject many would deem trivial.

With a cast full of familiar faces from Indian television as well as Bollywood, except the unknown mad-as-a-hatter night watchman (who changes his age as conveniently as he changes his tune to get some sympathy), perform their parts to perfection in a film that explores the travails of a tired, misunderstood and sleepless man because of a shrill whistle that is supposed to scare away thieves, only manages to make his sleep disappear, night after night.

Raj (Sushant Singh), a stock broker by day and his wife Abha (Kartika) move to a new place (from the looks of it, seemed like Oshiwara, but I'm digressing) and apart from handling the barbs from his ever-unsatisfied, acerbic father-in-law at their weekly dinner-dos ever so politely, life couldn't be better. He is a star at his broking firm. The wife is successful too. DINKS with a Santro to boot. Actually without a boot. Couldn't resist that.

Hell begins as soon as night falls. Shrill whistles, a scared-as-a-cat Watchman and an uncompromising building Secretary, Mr Janardhan (Rajat Kapoor) ensure that night after night Raj can't get a wink logged on to his name. And every day, when logging on to his stock terminal, he starts feeling the effects of the forced insomnia.

Soon enough, Raj goes from bleary eyed to teary eyed.

His wife refuses to believe that a whistle or a stick could be keeping him away, after all, she is not a light sleeper. And to add to that are the sharply created characters staying in the building who add to the Hulla. Their home decor, mannerisms, accents and dialogues written to perfection. Haven't we met them all, sometime, somewhere?

The day is full of barbs, PJs and funny repartees, guaranteed to evince a guffaw from everyone. The night time is full of underplayed dark humour. Guaranteed to evince a wry smile at the frustrating situation that Raj finds himself in.

I saw this on DVD, unfortunately, when it could have been more enjoyable in a theater. But so it is.

Friday 14 August 2009

TED India



Mysore, India, 4-7 November 2009. Even if they deigned to let me in, unfortunately, all sold out.

23.09.09: Oh well, there are a few places, but where do I get the dough?

Les Paul R.I.P.



Lester William Polsfuss, was born on June 9, 1915, in Waukesha, Wisconsin, USA. In the 1930s he began experimenting with guitar amplification, and by 1941 he had built what was probably the first solid-body electric guitar.


More info here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/14/arts/music/14paul.html?em

Human Resources

When it is called 'Human Resources' why shouldn't I be suspicious? If we call it something else, would it be any different?
It's like Ministry of War called Ministry of Defence after the World War. Same thing, but with less aggressive posturing.
What would be a better name that stands up to the intentions, or is all the posturing that they are actually about caring for the people who work in an organization a front for the obvious?
Is the HR department caught in a bind, since they are employed by the employer to make the organization's resource happy?
So can the HR function be outsourced to make it truly impartial and be a balance between the employer and the employee? Is that a business opportunity?

Thursday 13 August 2009

Vuclip


If YouTube is for your desktop, vuclip (www.vuclip.com) is for your phone! Watch and share videos on your phone. With Vuclip.com you can search for, play, and share user-generated video from popular Internet sites on your mobile phone.

And as Naiyer says: "Interestingly enough, one can register and set one’s preference on news and entertainment videos and sms alerts.If set to on, VUClip sends SMS to your phone daily or weekly whenever the new videos from your preferred news sites comes live. Further,the video search has been pretty simplified and improved. Now you can search videos from a particular website and watch or stream it directly via VUClip. Pretty neat and concise, particularly on mobile. And yes, as you might already know, it supports the major video formats with no device-based bias to resolution."

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

TED Talks rocks. Specially 'Do Schools Kill Creativity'

Bob Geldof

www.viddler.com/explore/petterjensen/videos/1/

Thursday 6 August 2009

Vote For...

Instead of a political party or an ideology, why can't we vote for the person best for the job? Where have I heard it before?

Monday 3 August 2009

Public Shyness

Why are people shy of publicizing their blogs? Isn't it an oxymoron so to speak? You write in a public space, and then you really don't want to go hammer and tongs after letting all and sundry know that you do.
I confess, I am one of them.

Saturday 1 August 2009

Love Aaj Kal

As you settle down in your seat you get this unsettling feeling: is your money going down the drain, yet again? Well let's just say that the 1st 10-15 mins are spent showing Meera (Deepika) and Jai (Saif) smile hug smile hug poke touch dance kiss kiss hug make out in rapid succession - all this in lieu of showing a meaningful relationship. Point made that Love Aaj is vacuous.
Cut to a moment of realization that they are now 'boyfriend and girlfriend'.
Enters Sardar paaji cafe-deli owner with a heart as large as he is. A man and restaurateur of fine taste who drives a Jaguar but has this habit of prying and sorting out modern loveless relationships of convenience - the 'friends with benefits' types.
Saif plays the younger Sardarji too back in the 60s through multiple narrative flasbacks. We figure that the two men are quite similar and the older one tries to then teach the younger one that love is life. And that Love Kal was cleaner, simpler and truer.
Meera leaves for Delhi to follow her career path and so does Jai after amicably and logically breaking up over a Break Up Party.
A year and respective new partners later Jai and Meera meet again only to realize how much ever they may deny it, they still miss each other. What follows is the Bollywood drama that manages to tie up loose ends and shrug off inconvenient girlfriends and the only-in-Bollywood sane, understanding and all-sacrificing husbands very conveniently removed as the 14-16 reels spool to a close.
Well, at least for me, Rishi Kapoor and his story made it bearable, played well by Saif. The sweet girl Harleen Kaur (played by unnamed, secret girl) does her coy, shy and wide-eyed simpering really well. The art direction in the flashbacks, showing Kolkata (Calcutta?) and Delhi is really well done. And of course, Deepika Padukone, who makes watching inane, hashed plots somewhat worthwhile.

Monday 15 June 2009

Star Trek - Redux

Ah, loved it. Boldly went with only 18 people in Regal, Colaba one Sunday afternoon and came back very happy:)
Snazzy effects. Nice ships and a decent enough story. A few worm holes in the space-time continuum but I'm not complaining much.
It takes us back in time to when Capt James T Kirk is really young, rebellious and hot headed, and then fate, ego and a cute girl make a man out of him, as well as the captain of the most advanced spaceship earth has launched. He meets the young Spock, who is fighting and escaping his own devils. And the two don't really hit it off as we have come to know. The starkly different personalities giving way to each other out of mutual respect is the part of the story that will follow. Right now in this time, they are at loggerheads and through a time continuum twist and a crazy Romulan warlord the old Spock (Leonard Nimoy) makes an appearance to sort things out.
So that the USS Enterprise can boldly go where no one has gone before.

Mirror, mirror...

What do you do when the baggage handlers decide to slack off? We were stuck at International arrivals for 2 and a half hours hoping to see a glimpse of the people we were waiting for.
A steady trickle of people only makes you observe them closely, there is nothing else to do. Losing the match was bad enough, so was the sweaty, muggy weather.
Indians of all shapes and sizes are coming out pushing heavy carts with extra large suitcases. The accents were foreign, the body types still very much Indian and the fashion obsessively and compulsively, the latest.
Clingy tops paired with reed thin jeans, no care whatsoever about big bums and now-revealed bow legs. Striped collared T-shirts hiding rotund paunches with medium-long shorts showing off skinny legs. Why? Aren't there mirrors around when they shop?

Friday 22 May 2009

Spammmmm

If I had a split personality, this would be perfect!
Got spam from 'me' inviting me to dinner.

Thursday 7 May 2009

Nitrogen



Got tires filled with Nitrogen. It's living up to its promise of better ride and lower heat build-up.
There goes free air. Marketing geniuses have found a way to earn money on 'gas'. Rs 100 for 3 months checking of air/nitrogen.

Further to more than 2 months of Nitrogen checking, I searched online for reactions and experiences and encountered this interesting report:
http://blogs.consumerreports.org/cars/2007/10/nitrogen-tires-.html

Time Sheets

Can anyone publish the CM's weekly timesheets?
I want them in my Monday morning newspaper.

Monday 16 February 2009

Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!

Kamao to zero. Churao to hero. Abhay Deol belts out an easy, restrained performance as Lucky, a teenage rebellious sardar who grows up, inexplicably, into a clean shaven young man with a languid smile and an easy-going demeanor, with an ever-increasing penchant for thievery.

As the film progresses, the small time stuff, ok he starts with a Mercedes, no two of them; becomes an addiction to con, flick, steal his way to becoming infamous and talked about, as the mystery thief who flits from city to city across India, making away with booty of all kinds. 2 dogs, hundreds of music systems, DVDs, TVs, cash, jewellery and a musical greeting card later, he is caught, only to escape again.

Paresh Rawal plays a triple role. Neetu Chandra is the fiesty girlfriend who has moral issues but eventually falls for his charming ways and accepts him as a benefactor/boyfriend/husband(?). Kind of like Charles Sobhraj, legendary smooth operator I thought. And Lucky has a side-kick who is in and out conveniently. Archana Puran Singh is superb in her brief time on screen.

The flow of the film is almost like A Few Years In The Life Of Lucky kind of movie. Very real dialogues. Subtle, suppressed and layered humour. Almost a 'Delhi peoples' Bunty and Babloo, what with the male sidekick. Watch it. It's different.

Monday 9 February 2009

Bitings Anyone?

Drove up to Daman last weekend. It seems that the snakes jokes have had an effect on the Gujarati populace. At all the restaurants, the hotel that we were staying in and even a beer bar that we stopped at for a break, no not for beer, thank you, were all asking us one thing - bitings sir? French fries, Peanuts masala, Cheese-pineapple, Boiled Chana and so on, now all qualify as Bitings.
Bram Stoker's creation must be out of a job by now.

Saturday 7 February 2009

RaveD er DevD

The film is in four parts. There's a Pre, Paro, Chanda and then, of course, Dev D.
All's well till the Pre and Paro. During Chanda, I looked around to see if anyone was really into this. And then, what was the need to put in the MMS scandal and the BMW hit and run case?
In the wild rave of a fantasy ride version of good ol' Devdas, with sex, drugs, booze and a bit of faux Elvis Rock and Roll thrown in for good measure, where did these two things come in?
All in all, a commendable effort to dream of and put together a film like this. The five stars and 4 stars are a bit too much. Maybe all the aiyyashi left the reviewers with a long-lasting heady feeling. Like a few of us were left with a headache.
But for a few who have taken these comments to figure that I disliked it, well I feel it is a must-watch because of the way it is made. It just might be that it joins the list of films that have become milestones in Indian movie making and we just might see other filmakers let loose with their own wild ones.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

This One Takes The Cake

When professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong.

http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/

Monday 2 February 2009

More iWoes

Just gave the iPhone for a look-over. Vodafone tells me there is no one in Mumbai to do that. It will have to be sent to Bengaluru. 15 days.
- Well, the screen goes blank (imagine that on a full touch screen!).
- It hangs randomly.
- The battery of course is not happening. To change the battery you change the phone. The Happy to Help guys had no clue that there is an additional battery pack available on the Apple Store
Wondering what to do - use it, sell it or crack it and use it.

11.02.2009
Got the iPhone back. Replaced and shiny and brand new!
The sarson ka saga continues...

03.08.2009
Called up Vodafone helpline.
I say, 'I pay Rs.35,500 for a 16Gb handset ($699 +). Plus I commit a minimum of Rs.9,600 a year for the iData Plan. How come I get the Edge/GPRS service for just half the time? Do I get money back for the deficient service?'
Sir, we are happy to help, but last week there was an outage, so now it is working fine.
I say, 'I am not talking about last week, but since August 2008.'
Sir, thanks for the patience for keeping you on hold for a long time, but my service engineer says just reset Network Settings on your phone an it will work fine.
I say, 'Thanks.'

Saturday 31 January 2009

Luck By Chance

An insider's view of the industry. Helped doubly by the fact that both Zoya and Farhan have observed the 'fictional' characters of the cast play out their parts for so many years, live. The casting is impeccable, well, because the stars are either playing themselves or clones of real life colleagues, or have been casted to fit the existing perception of their personas and confirm a few legends. So the multi star cast can't really go wrong nor can they let themselves down in the histrionics department. I liked the film. The way it stayed focused to the core story of the struggle to make it. What I was wondering for the brief few minutes when I thought the film loses its grip and lets your mind wander is that is this movie a fusion between commercial cinema and a well made Bollywood docu-drama?
Farhan is cool, Konkona is her usual efficient self. The non-star friends have done a good job too. The industry, I call it that because there are so many stars in important, brief, guest, smile and wave, special appearances that the 'special thanks to' practically covers everyone and then some, has played its part well.

Thursday 29 January 2009

Karachi to Jai Shri Krishna

This was in the news. All signs were being made to change to reflect 'Indianness'. So poor Karachi Sweets was threatened and the owner decided to call it Jai Shri Krishna Sweets. By that logic, you can't have any Sindhi friends. And while you are at it, never ever eat again at the various Taj Group, ITC hotel restaurants called Peshawari, Baluchi or the Bukhara. Change New Delhi's Lahori Gate to Laxman Gate or something. Of course, no Multani mitti for the Shive Sainik's wife. No Peshawari or Afghani Kebabs. Sikandari Raan. Qandahari whatever. Utter nonsense.

Wednesday 28 January 2009

The Right Address

Mastercard address: Global Corporate Headquarters, 2000 Purchase Street, Purchase, NY 10577 USA. Fitting.

Slumdog

Nice, fun movie. Haven't read the book and most probably, will keep it that way.
I'm sure an Indian director will never capture the raw, seamy Mumbai like Danny Boyle has. At the most we have Bollywood movies showing a few chases across shanties and some dark gullies and then it is back to the lavish mansion of the arch villain or the middle class house of the hero.

What's with the hoo ha about showing poverty and the reality? About 52% of Mumbaikars live like that. A handful of areas can count themselves slum free. And they don't have to go very far. Chances are, there will be a convenient slum tucked away nearby, which is a great source for all the 'help' that helps maintain these very same highrises.

Why would the western world be interested in seeing our duplicate Palm Beach roads, designer flea markets like the one on Colaba Causeway, glass buildings and flyovers anyway?

Like I was seeing a bunch of photographs of a tourist on Facebook, and it showed a seriously dirty vegetable market with the typical stale and rotting leftovers all around, a dustbin with more things around it than in it, dogs, chicken pecking at unmentionable things, people buying unmindful of the filth all around, we all know it well, and her comment was, "who wants to see a clean tidy market, this one has so much character."

No way am I defending squalor, but to have people disgusted by what has been shown is almost like hating what the mirror reveals. Wake up and smell the stink.