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


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.