Archive for the 'Opinion' Category

Book Review: Delirious Delhi

I always love a book about Delhi – and the market is abuzz with them. I picked up Delirious Delhi solely because the author was co-blogger at a wonderful blog called Our Delhi Struggle. ‘Our Delhi Struggle’ was unique in the sense that it was collection of short, witty, first-hand experience of a couple who had moved from New York to Delhi. Their keenness to have ‘an authentic Dilli experience’ would often lead them to treasure troves and interesting revelations. For example, Dave and Jenny also found an old-style Hindi movie poster painter and had their own Bollywood poster painted that also adorns the book cover of Delirious Delhi. (The painter had his share of limelight in press thanks to Dave and Jenny.)

ImageDelirious Delhi can be easily called a tribute to Delhi, since it is obvious Dave and Jenny genuinely loved the city. The couple lived for two years in Delhi, after which they moved to Singapore.

And they did manage to have that ‘authentic’ experience. Dave, an advertising agency executive in Gurgaon lived in Hauz Khas. He did what millions of Delhites do everyday – travel to work. For more than a decade in Delhi, I too have travelled on an average 3-4 hours to and fro college or work. They zipped around the city in autos, learned various tricks/tips to bargain. Again, this is something I had to do every day (tough job at times) for 2 years when I worked in GK-2 – right in that square that has Nathu’s where Dave had his first meal in India.

The couple  went all round Delhi for the Indian food they would come to love – imagine my surprise when I read in the book ‘best South Indian food in Delhi can be eaten at Saravanna Bhawan’. I thought, how did he know! Since I keep finding people in north who are not so aware about it. Mystery soon unravelled – Dave and Jenny were part of Eating Out in Delhi group – and sample food from all over Delhi, including gastronomic delights of Old Delhi. I smiled when Dave was unimpressed with over-hyped Khan Market – I agreed.

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Book Review: Delhi: 14 Historic Walks

They say, you learn more about a city by walking around.  You walk around Florence, Paris, Munich, Edinburgh and even New York! Delhi, a city I call home and one that is 100 years old this year, is another such city that can be appreciated on walks. ‘Delhi – 14 historic walks’ is a delightful guide book that helps you to accomplish that.

ImageFrankly, this book does not need a book review to extol its virtues. Its back cover lists its merits in simple no-nonsense words in the back cover. However, to do the book and Blogadda’s book program justice, I will first air my views for the record.

I jumped to have this book since I have been on Delhi walks (and none by INTACH to which Swapna Liddle belongs to but that I will come to later). Delhi has a fantastic cultural heritage, but most of us even while living in the city sleep-walk through it. I did.

I think I re-visited even the popular monuments Red Fort, Qutab Minar when I was studying at a college in Delhi, at least a decade after when I first visited those in childhood. That too because I had to take an NRI friend of mine around the city. I haven’t forgotten my ignorance and the embarrassing fact that I was enormously proud that I have never cared enough for these ‘cliche’ places to visit myself. And even if we deign to visit these places, we hardly see/know things. We fail to appreciate the beauty and wonder of it.

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Book Review: The House of Silk, New Sherlock Holmes Novel

ImageThis is a book I would have never ever bought myself simply because I am cynic and did not really believe someone could pull off a Sherlock spinoff with same panache. I am only happy to admit that I was proven wrong.

Just under first 20 pages, I could sense Anthony Horowitz has stepped fairly well into Watson’s shoes. It begins, as did all Doyle stories, with Holmes making his remarks and surprising people with his deductions.

The House of Silk is an investigation conducted by Holmes that was believed to be too horrific in nature to be revealed at the time. Therefore, Watson records this investigation in the twilight years of his life, after the death of Sherlock Holmes, with instruction that it should be published a century after his death.

The case begins when the client walks into the now familiar house at 221B, Baker Street. The client is Edmund Carstairs, an art gallery co-owner. He has had a brief brush with a gang in past which once destroyed his paintings. He believes he is now being followed by the one of the gang members for vendetta. Mr. Holmes is intrigued but relaxed. Events take an unpredictable course when one of the street urchins – part of Wiggin’s army – assisting him is brutally murdered. Holmes, regretful for unknowingly putting an innocent urchin in the harm’s way, is determined to bring the killer to justice. This leads both Holmes and Watson on a journey where there are several traps, guns and pitfalls. Meanwhile, Edmund Carstairs’ family seems to be disintegrating. Holmes must not only find the killer but save his reputation by stopping what is assailing the Carstairs, who like everybody else seem to be losing their faith in him.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: The House of Silk, New Sherlock Holmes Novel’

5 Movies That I Have Loved

(This post is for my friend Meetu who runs a fantastic movie review blog WOGMA – for the uninitiated, USP of this blog  is that all movies are reviewed here Without Giving the Movies Away. This is part of a competition to celebrate WOGMA’s fifth birthday. :) )

Movies and books bring boundless pleasures in my life. I have already written in past about my movie quirks and movies I have loved.

This time I have spent last 2 days thinking which 3 movies to zero on as my favourites. Every movie in itself has served a purpose in my life. I distinctly remember laughing off all my work stress watching Bheja Fry – not a critically acclaimed movie this one – but it worked for me that day.  At different times, I have watched romantic flicks such as Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Pretty Women, When Harry Met Sally, Roman Holiday, Pearl Harbour, Before Sunset, Before Sunrise, Breakfast at Tiffany’s – and derived a girl’s happy pleasure out of it. :) Then there were movies such as Hotel Rwanda, Blood Diamond, Waltz with Bashir (fantastic animation) and more recently The Whistleblower – that opened my eyes to genocides, atrocities happening in the world. They struck a chord somewhere deep inside that I did not know existed. I still draw in my breath when I see that gas chamber scene where women suddenly find themselves in Schindler’s List – the relieved sigh is not far when I realise it was only a harmless shower. Adrian Brody’s lonely adventures in The Pianist and ill-fated friendship of two innocent kids – one German and Jew in The Boy in Stripped Pyjamas are etched in my otherwise forgettable memory.  No book on Holocaust (not even Diary of Anne Frank) could ever move me so deeply and eternally like these movies did.

Then there are those inspiring intriguing memoirs/biographies and true events that sometimes inspire/impact you more than written word – The Motorcycle Diaries, A Beautiful Mind, Pursuit of Happyness.  Then, there are hugely entertaining, classy mob movies – Goodfellas, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and mother of all – The Godfather, which must be my most-watched movie with my favourite acting men there!

Then there are Hindi movies I have loved and been proud of – Pyasa, Abhimaan, Maqbool, Satya, Rang De Basanti, Chak De India, Taare Zameen Pe, A Wednesday, Aamir, Ardhasatya…Yet it would be unfair if I pick any of these alone as my favourite movies. So I will pick 5 movies that I thought were unique for a reason – movies I would be proud to make if I could.

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No One Killed Jessica – Movie Review

(Honestly, it’s more of a commentary on movie and the real events as they took place. Watching this movie was a personal experience that I refused to dissociate with real-life events. You can choose to skip the blue, italicized parts in paragraphs – they are mostly comments about real-life events. Also, all names except Jessica and Sabrina, were changed in the movie, yet I have stuck to real-life names. Also, I chose not to mention Amit Trivedi’s music which made more sense to me when it blended with movie. )

The title ‘No One Killed Jessica’ (NOKJ) is taken from the screaming mocking newspaper headlines when Manu Sharma, the accused in Jessica Lal murder case was acquitted by the court. That judgement, in a case that was expected to be an open-and-shut considering the number of witnesses that were present when the accused Manu Sharma shot Jessica, awakened a nation from slumber of inaction.

1999, the year when this incident occurred, was an eventful year. Jessica was killed in April, Kargil war dominated the news next three months and in December, flight IC184 was hijacked where a passenger Rupin Katyal, returning from his honeymoon, was cruelly murdered by the hijackers. There was lot for nation to chew on.

1999 was also the year I decided to stay in Delhi permanently, choosing over an option of studying abroad. I grew up with this Jessica story. The movie made me relive all of it, from when it started.

To its credit, it is true to facts, which is more than what can be said of best of true-story-turned-movies (such as ‘A Beautiful Mind’, ‘Papillion’, ‘Midnight Express’.). Though, while we are at it, I must point out NOKJ does *choose* to omit some facts such as dubious role of restaurant-owner Bina Ramani. But that is director,  Raj Kumar Gupta’s prerogative and I think he has largely made a good choice about which events to focus on.  I’ll come to that later.

Jessica Lal, an upcoming model was a celebrity bartender who had decided to help out her friend Malini Ramani’s mother at her restaurant ‘Tamarind Court’. (Since the restaurant , whose real name along with its owner is not mentioned in the movie, didn’t have liquor license yet in real life, they called it a private party. Hiding this fact, rather than help law to apprehend the killer would be initially more important to the restaurant owner Bina Ramani.) She was killed amongst her friends.

NOKJ begins with how Jessica’s sister Sabrina is woken up that fateful night and how she would discover that finding justice that was rightfully hers wasn’t easy in this country plagued with corruption.

Continue reading ‘No One Killed Jessica – Movie Review’

Makings of a Book Club

So, The Tossed Salad Book Club meet in Pune had a roaring start. More than 40 people turned up. Anyone in social networking knows, no matter how many RSVPs, but if even 15 turn up for an esoteric event like this, it is a success.

A large part of credit for the successful meet goes to the presence of Amish Tripathi, the author of the book ‘The Immortals of Meluha’, which we were meeting to discuss.

Sahil Khan, who runs an online lifestyle magazine called ‘The Tossed Salad’ took initiative and talked to a famous bookstore, Landmark for venue. Since group was big, a big venue was required. A list of 6 books covering different genres was drawn and one that won was ‘Immortals of Meluha’. Sahil then surprised us by inviting the author Amish Tripathi as the guest for the book club.

We began the first ever book club meet with just 12 people. I invited introductions of all members and asking what did they expect from the book club. Soon, more people walked in. There was a crowd of people at back who stood up for the entire time of the discussion.

It was an interesting discussion ranging on theories of reincarnation, mythology, Indus valley civilisation, divinity, philosophy. Lot of questions were put up to Amish, some of them ranging from his personal philosophical beliefs, historical references and his own motivation for writing the book way he did. And Amish answered each one of them with meticulous details. One and half hour flied very quickly and I could still see raised hands to ask more questions. I was reluctant to close it but Sahil stepped up. So, I quickly took charge and announced the book for next meet and an invitation to new ones to join the book club.

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Commonwealth Games 2010 – Indian Pride and Some Home Truths

So, CWG begins today, right now as I write it.

Today we welcome it with optimism and jubilant spirit with hope it is successful. We had to bridge sea waves of emotions of outrage, disappointment and anger to arrive at this placid, equable point of view.

What were we angry at? Because the games WERE mismanaged by the organisers, hated not only at home, but also worldwide. This made some of the most ‘patriot’ of us to quickly to run and defend it. After all, how can we let our country put down by others. Mind you, we are an emerging Superpower, just like China that was praised for wonderful organisation.

But, I hate to break it to you, supporting CWG now that games have begun is one thing but nothing could have been more misguided than to rake in patriotism to jump to defend it few days back. For a millisecond forget what media, essentially foreign media, says. Let’s take a hard look at facts at home – consider this a sum up of all that you read past few days.

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Book Review: Two States by Chetan Bhagat

Chetan Bhagat magnanimously dedicates this book to his in-laws. He admits that book is inspired by his own experiences and yet he requests the book be treated as fiction. Its hard to, considering every second couple in this country undergoes similar experiences. Not to mention, every Boolywood movie harps on same theme.

The book is all about an  IIMA couple’s  struggle to marry over the cultural differences. Krish is north Indian Punjabi boy in love with Tamilian Brahmin girl Ananya. (Chetan Bhagat too is Punjabi and his wife is a South Indian.) The only catch is, Krish and Ananya don’t want to elope or be estranged to their families, therefore, they choose to convince their parents for the marriage.

two_states

Both Ananya and Krish take turns to win over each other’s families and then they try to make both the families like each other. After all in India, you don’t marry the guy (or girl for that matter), you have to marry the family. In fact, Krish does get 4 gold rings made to propose girl’s entire family! :-/ Sounds cheesy? Well, irrespective of my shortened plot summary, you must concede it is a mammoth project to accomplish anywhere, in real life.

Of course, it goes without saying that even though both Krish and Ananya are exceptions to their North Indian and South Indian clan; this book is perfect opportunity to dwell into age-old ‘North India versus South India divide’.
Krish maybe Punjabi boy, but he is blissfully unaware how in his community greedily and offensively ‘boy’s’ side can come on the ‘girl’s’ side during a Punjabi wedding. Similarly, Ananya, the Tamilian girl is completely unlike other Tamil girls: For one she is not as dark as southern girls ( a fact she will be reminded over and over again by Krish’s Punjabi clan) and unlike her staunch family, she both drinks and eats meat. (May be we should thank IIM for breaking the latter stereotype ;) )

Though the premise is most realistic, it draws your attention to cultural differences in diverse India. Some of them are as simple as boisterous, loud Punjabi music versus quiet, mellifluous Tamilian Carnatic music. However, the difference in sensibilities is predictable. I familiarized myself once again with all the clichés.

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Movie Review: Wake Up Sid

Irrespective of the title not really a review, reflections :)

There are some movies, that by looking at its stills you can tell with certainty that you are going to watch it.  It is distinctly a whimsy feeling considering you watch all other movies after carefully vetting the reviews. :) Wake Up Sid was one such movie for me. I knew I had to watch it.

wake-up-sid-movie-poster

God knows how many times I have given in to such feelings and been mortified at my own judgment. I still have a stark memory of buying advance tickets of a Hrithik Movie Yaadein. (After the first hit, Hrithik’s this second movie had so many takers in advance bookings.) I stood for more than two hours (there was a lunch break in between) in an agonizingly long queue for the tickets at Delhi’s Chanakya theater (It has been closed down now) with my friends. Needless to say, once inside in the theater during the screening of Yaadein, my friends cursed me for that excruciating effort we made to buy the tickets for them.

My reviews aren’t meant to be professional, I mean to ramble and reflect. The experience. And Wake Up Sid gave me a wonderful experience.

This is the first time I am going to rave about a movie that has hardly a plot to talk about. Plot is always important to me when it concerns a book or a movie. And Wake Up Sid has none.

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The Romantic Case Study

Warning: This post is long, rambling commentary of how romantic books are packaged, old and modern. If reading about this genre is beneath you, feel free to skip it. ;)

I have watched hundreds of movies in past few months. Yes hundred, it’s not an exaggeration. I have read several books as well. But I read and watch more than I write. And I feel I must remedy that. In coming days, I will do my best to write about what I am reading and writing.

I was reading The Blind Assassin and The Clockwork Orange, both somewhat profound books. But the books didn’t seem to suit my tired state of mind, so I began looking for a fast read thriller, mystery or romance instead of a literary classic.I remembered A Reader’s Digest list had recommended Nora Roberts’ Chesapeake Bay – Quinn Brother series. I remember I had searched and downloaded the books from Internet. (Yeah, I am biggest beneficiary of pirated ebooks. I don’t ever download anything else from Internet. Just ebooks.) And then had promptly forgotten about Nora Roberts. (You see I am big on hoarding books/ebooks than reading them. )

Until now. I have never read a Nora Roberts, though am aware she is a prolific romantic book author. I started reading the books.  I can’t say I was tremendously pleased with the book, but it didn’t disappoint me. It had its downsides, but it was right fodder for my frazzled brain.

The First MB I read at age of 14

The First MB I read at age of 14

Continue reading ‘The Romantic Case Study’


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