Monday, September 29, 2008

Ab Dilli Door Nahi

Blogging is such sweet sorrow.... Shakespearebhai, do forgive me. To Blog or not to Blog, is the question. I read the Bloggers' Ten Commandments in some paper over the weekend, and felt a little sheepish. It said, 'Never on a Sunday'. I had all the time in the world ( well... not ALL... but). I nearly blogged... but remembered the golden rule . And refrained. Monday morning blogging is never the best plan. I feel rushed, stressed and more. Am making a stupid trip to Delhi, for something avoidable. But slyly combining it with some important work. I have less than 24 hours to achieve all this.... and make a speech, which should be reasonably coherent, if nothing more inspiring. I'll , of course, give it my very best shot. So, wish me luck.
But as of now, my mind is on getting to the airport on time. It is an absolute nightmare from where I live. Anything between 2 or 3 hours, depending on the traffic.
I have recovered from the hectic GQ launch party at the Four Season's. The party was fun enough. But Four Season's ?? Those guys need a crash course in desi hospitality and basic courtesy. At those insane prices.... one expects a modicum level of efficiency. Agreed, it was a huge party. With a cast of 500 very glam people. But hello! the hotel was aware of the numbers well in advance. Right? It was difficult to get any kind of service. Drinks? Forget it. Food?? Was it really there? Thank God for the music. A dj from Ibiza, Blues on another level. A free floating crowd (too many wannabes). Porsche - you are too posh a brand to get your reputation diminished as chief sponsor of this event. Ask for your money back. Four Season's - get your act together, buddies. Your time starts now!!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Wedding Belles

Last night I received the perfect gift.I'd staggered home after a long, demanding fashion shoot for a soon-to-be launched International Men's Magazine (what am I doing in it?? Never mind. Watch this space), and even though I adore the photographer R. Burman, and he had got me going by playing Santana (Black Magic Woman - perfect. Appropriate), I was still reeling. Add to my woes, there was an eager and earnest television crew from Belgium waiting in my living room. I wanted to yell, 'Go away,guys.... find someone else." But one does not treat mehmaan so shabbily. So... i went ahead and 'performed', while in my heart I was plotting their murders. That done, I rushed into the one room where i find my self, my peace. The bedroom.And voila! there it was. A book. Not just any book. But an exceedingly well timed one , given my present position as mother-of-the-bride. Wedding Belles has been published by Chikki Sarkar of Random House. And it is a life saver for people like me, who don't have family 'elders' to turn to, and are pretty out of the loop themselves when it comes to rituals and rivaaz. This book has been such a Godsend! Armed with it, I am readying myself for what lies ahead.Wish me luck.... and vast reserves of patience.
Here's a recommendation to anybody who lives in Bandra or beyond.I had dinner at a gorgeous restaurant located in the Taj Land's End, called PURE. Why PURE? The cuisine is organic - and therefore pure. Please note: Organic. Not strictly vegetarian. And definitely not to be confused with health food. Organic suggests a chemical free approach. The ingredients are organically grown and cooked. My five course meal, designed by the executive chef, Anirudhya Roy was perfectly paired with rare Single Malts (which I do not drink, but my husband is a connoisseur of), by Rishi Mehra, the restaurant manager. All of this was overseen by Rohit Khosla, who we used to know from his days at The President Hotel next door, and who now runs the Taj LAND'S END with his customary finesse. This amazing team made sure our table of ten had a memorable evening. Check this out :Seared Tamari shrimps and scallops on sugarcane skewers, Himalayan Trout in tangerine tomato broth, and a dessert that was created out of no less than 8 pure textures of chocolate (Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise 2003 complemented this heavenly treat to perfection).
Am off to Alibag to keep another dinner date with my husband. He has promised me shrimp curry. I can't wait. Salivate!!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I have been dying to say this for a long, long time - PETA exploits sexuality in the guise of animal activism! I am so glad women's organisations have finally woken up to the sly trick and have demanded action against some of the more offensive ads. Getting celebrities to strip for a 'good cause' (bah!), is the cheapest trick in the book. What is all that nonsense about models wearing cabbage leaves and not much else, or lying under a bed of red clad in palak patta loincloths ( (langots) and similar costumes, supposedly to draw attention to the pathetic plight of bakris, ghodas, kuttas, billies and other four- legged creatures. Now, don't get me wrong. I love animals. I love them more than I love most people. But I don't love the PETA ads, nor do I approve of their methods. Protests are one thing, but shoving opinions down people's throats ,quite another. I hate the way they behave like they alone are the true custodians of kindness, that they are the real bleeding hearts who care about dumb animals, that they are the sole saviours left on earth who can protect those helpless creatures.... come on.... there are ways and ways to raise consciousness\awareness.Ignorant folks can be sensitised in a manner that doesn't require nudity from the models, nor spray cans to ruin fur coats worn by celebs on the red carpet. PETA needs to rethink its strategy. Jesse Randhawa dressed as a slinky serpent is fun to ogle. But what precise purpose is she serving?? Jawab do...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

short and snappy

'Taarey Zameen Par' as India's entry to the Oscar's?? You've got to be kidding me! Good film. For India and Indians. More like an entertaining, educative documentary that throws light on learning disabilities and dyslexia. India needed to wake up and recognise the sad fact that countless young lives are destroyed by insensitive, ignorant handling of the condition, by adults who don't know better. But does that make it great cinema?? Does it even speak the language of cinema? Hardly. The performances are good, especially Darsheel's. Aamir can never be 'bad', but his entry as a clown was ludicrous. The story was pretty flawed and illogical.Besides, audiences internationally have seen far better films dealing with the same subject. 'Rain Man' tackled Autism with more depth, for example.
Left to me, I would have sent Vaalu or Thingya, both in Marathi, and strangely, both featuring a bull in rural Maharashtra. Rooted in our soil and culture, saying something far deeper than the surface truths, these movies would have provided a unique perspective on life in India, and yet remain universal in their appeal. Grounded and authentic, starless and stark, they are powerful examples of films that comprehend the milieu they tackle and do so with consummate style. Howcome we manage to get it wrong, year after year? What's the bet 'Taarey...' won't make the cut? I doubt it will even secure a nomination... forget about winning an Oscar. Unless of course Hollywood wants to further its business ties with Bollywood.... and it is one of 'those' decisions that's good for business... if not for cinema!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bangalore made me breathless!

Absolutely true! BREATHLESS! It began at the airport itself. A sexier airport I have yet to see in India (sorry, Hyderabad!). This one takes your breath away - that should explain my condition! It is a smashing airport, far, far better than a whole lot of international airports - and I have seen quite a few, trust me. Everything works in this space, which is entirely user friendly. Planners have anticipated the future, for a change, and one can see this airport functioning efficiently over the next decade or so. The distance from the city, be damned. Soon the city will crawl up to where the airport is.... these days I can actually see our urban sprawl'walking'. I had the most charming reception committee (armed with poems and flowers) to greet my flight, and I was delighted to note the high enthusiasm levels - this is the sort of energy I feed off. Young, bright, motivated students who are unafraid to speak up!Christ College, one of the top rated universities in India is understandably proud of the institution that has recently acquired University status. This means teachers will now be able to devise a curriculum that is more in tune with changing times and expectations. Like the Lit Fest I attended on the sprawling campus. Imagine listening to a Blues Band in a city that has recently banned bands!!! Can you believe that? Young people are prohibited from dancing in clubs, dj's can't mix music and live performances are forbidden! No place stays open after 11 30pm, and everybody is supposed to go home and ..... pray??? The new BJP government claims to be on a massive clean up drive, because some idiotic club owner was caught serving 'venom shots' to students. It's a wonder the student community is so passive and adheres to these ridiculous rules without protesting on the streets.
I was ready to lead the charge myself, but had to rush back..... and the swishy new airport requires an absurd 3 hours of lead time to get there. Oh... the Kanchipuram idlis were brilliant, and I appreciate the fact that someone in the organising committee had read my blog and taken the trouble to get me the delicious idlis during the lunch break. The other meal I had while there, was at my darling friends, the Bidapa's exquisite mansion at Yellanka, where I spent the night snuggling under blankets in a beautiful room decorated with button roses from their garden. Judith had produced Anglo Indian pork, Chettinad Chicken and steamed fish in green chutney.... with fluffy, perfectly fermented sana to mop up all the yummy gravies. It didn't end there.... she spoiled me silly by making crisp, fresh dosas for breakfast, with filter coffee to go... now that's what i call a darling friend! As for Prasad, a better wedding planner would be hard to find! He is my man as I feverishly plan my daughter Avantikka's December shaadi. Prasad knows it all - from getting the various menus to match.... to figuring out the bride's colour palette for each occasion. How dearly I love the Bidapas!!They are very special people.... and I am lucky to have them in my life.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bengalaru Beckons

Guys, I'm leaving for Bengalaru tomorrow. The trip sounds promising. I shall be chief guesting at a College where they have displayed imagination and a sense of adventure by interpreting literature through performances - music, dance, theatre, followed by a discussion. All good. As always, it is likely to be yet another frenetic trip. But I would rather risk that than stay home looking at the utterly depressing images of the so-called Couture Week. And I definitely won't subject myself to adumb foot massage at the Mumbai airport. Rs 450 for an inept 15 minute job of tickling my toes? Call that reflexology?? What a rip off!
Couture Week was an unmitigated disaster according to those foolish enough to make the trek and stand in a long line to use 3 improvised, temporary loos! Wonder where SRK and Gouri 'went'? Then comes the revelation that the organisers PAID designers to participate! Ooops! No wonder the shows were what they were. Karan Johar put it in perfect perspective: He claimed it took him the entire morning to figure out how to pronounce 'couture'. It may take our designers an entire lifetime to figure out what it means!
Now that fashion has been officially hijacked by Bollywood, perhaps it can be rechristened Bollywood Couture Week next year. Poor Priyanka Chopra looked like a ghost, a bhootni auditioning for Phoonk-2, or a cross dresser from Reay road - a tragic combo of Devdas and a Devdasi. Hideous. Ditto for my favourite ramp gal, Madhu Sapre. What's with turning lovely ladies into drag artists? And why do fashion mags insist on making movie stars resemble drab maids, minus make up and clad in muddy colours?? We need many bonfires for all those vanities on display.
I shall be back on this spot come sunday. Kanchipuram idlis, here I come!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Last Leer

Ok. I saw the film. I am neither jeering, nor leering. I love Rituparno's films (Antar Mahal, in particular), and this is clearly not his most inspired movie. But it could well turn out to be Bachchan's best performance... and for more reasons than just Bachchan's personal competence as an actor.The reason why Amitabh is exceeding his own high standards recently, has a lot to do with age and success. At 66, the man has seen it all and pretty much done it all, on and off the screen. Today, he is FREE!!To explore new genres, to do whatever the hell he wants. In The Last Lear, HE DELIVERS AN EXQUSITELY NUANCED PERFORMANCE. There is poignancy and pathos underlying every scene. He is wicked, childlike, acerbic. arrogant and defeated by turn. The role could possibly foretell Amitabh's own future... or reflect his past (remember , he nearly died performing a difficult stunt). The character and the actor seem welded seamlessly. Harry breaks your heart with his fierce sense of pride in his craft. But more than that, he also delivers a scathing commentary on the superficiality, even cruelty of the tinsel world, where the only God is the box office, and nobody gives a damn about anything else.There is supreme irony in some amazingly written scenes, which highlight the difference between a stage and screen performance. Rampal scores once more with an intelligent and understated performance. Not once is he intimidated in Bachchan's presence and holds his own with admirable finesse. Preity was pretty good as well in a role that does not demand very much but still contributes to the movie in its own way. Preity is outclassed by both Shefali Shah and Divya Dutta, who are convincing and credible. But the movie belongs entirely to the Big B.Who can forget his drunken scene when he forgets his Shakespearean persona, slides back into his Bengaliness, abandons his put- on Brit accent, and actually crawls to Arjun's feet, begging the young director to shoot the climax differently. Amitabh was supreme. For that one scene alone, he deserves every available award next year.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ahemdabad ki chakkar

" If you have two pennies, buy grain with one and a flower with the other. One will keep you alive and the other will give you the reason to be alive...." What a lovely image and thought. I have been preoccupied with life and death issues ever since the Delhi blasts. This old Chinese proverb put things in perspective ...a little. Why think of bullets when there are blossoms to gaze at? I was back in A'Bad after a few years... and I could not recognise the city, starting with the swanky airport.It is green, clean and ticking, now that Narendra Modi has successfully demonstrated his sharp administrative skills and got his State into shape. Nearly everybody I spoke to, from a businessman to a driver , talked about Mody in reverential terms. A beautiful and bright lady, who has an exciting World Peace project on the anvil (more on her and the project in another post), swore about the 'quality of life' in A'Bad... and I did a double take! Mody may have cleaned up his act, in terms of getting the garbage off the street, but Amdavadis rhapsodising over the 'quality of life?" That's too much!Especially since most locals are still enormously wary and guarded when it comes to celebrating Garba during Navratri. This year they will do so amidst crazy security at all the venues. How sad!!! We can't celebrate our festivals freely, we can't travel freely, or even talk to strangers freely ("what if...?") .
I was there at the invitation of the YPO's of Gujarat, to talk to them about the present scenario in India - politically, culturally , economically. It was a closed door meeting, so our exchanges took place in an environment of trust and confidence. One of the guys had organised an elaborate Maharahtrian feast in my honour, post-the event.I was really, really touched.... and overate, just to show my sincere appreciation. Puran Polis and Basundi?? Bliss! Masaley Bhaat, solachi kadi, Kolhapuri mutton, bhakris, varan... jhinga in coconut gravy, pandhara rasa chi komdi!What a treat. Earlier in the day, I had enjoyed a Gujju lunch at a friend's home, traditionally served in silver thalis. It was no small feat that I managed to make a pretty neat presentation after stuffing my face shamelessly! Mr. Mody has invited me back on the 30th for a full moon party in the desert , to celebrate the first day of Navratri. Alas, I have to be in Delhi... but I'm going to take him up on the invitation at a later date.
Ahemdabad is a transformed city. The State of Gujarat is booming. The mood is upbeat, as industrialists point out how there are no power cuts EVER! And that Mody's men are keen to attract even bigger investments despite the rather dismal economic story world wide. I mean.... who could have thought Lehman and Merryl Lynch would suffer such fates?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Blast from the past

Horrible headline!! But achingly, uncannily true, as it turns out! On the 10th day of Ganpati, when Ganeshji goes home after the visarjan, what thought is He leaving with about this crazy duniya of ours? Delhi gets ripped apart with the ease of a knife cutting smootly through butter. We in Mumbai, look on impassively, helplessly, as does the rest of India. This time the emails talk of Babri Masjid. Last time the reference was to Godhra. There is vengeance and hatred in every sentence. 'An eye for an eye..." how sad and pathetic it all sounds. Innocent lives taken by Dustbin bombs. Can we sink lower into the moral gutter.... or create a bigger stench through our wicked deeds? This is called the 21st century verion of garbage. Except that this garbage blows up harmless people. Hey Ganeshaa, Hey Allah... dekh teri duniya ki haalat...
The mood is sombre and dark. Like the weather. There appears to be a cyclonic storm brewing outside. There are a myriad storms raging within people's hearts. My fingers are crossed that no harm comes to any of the Ganesh moortis as they wind their way to the sea. No security force in the world can catch or prevent suicide bombings. A person who is willing to die for a cause is successful even before it becomes a fait accompli. Most human beings fear death. A terrorist courts it. Intelligence agencies be damned. A brain -washed individual is the most lethal force on Planet Earth.
I wish I had not seen Righteous Kill... it compounded the depression. But it's a film that MUST be watched. After all, when again will two of the greatest living actors be seen together in a movie that gives both stars equal footage, and fans can feast on some great scenes which once again remind viewers what powerful cinema is all about?
Must end on a foodie note. Today is my son Aditya's birthday. My youngest child, Anandita is baking the world's best cake for him. She wants to open a Patisserie some day... and we are her obliging guinea pigs! She delighted us with orange rind pancakes for breakfast this morning. I shall give you a full report on her cake soon. Kiara has been sampling it at every stage ... and clearly approves!
I was MIA since I had a dinner date to keep with my husband in Alibag. I leave for Ahemedabad tomorrow. So, adios till tuesday... tough times need tough people. Are you one of them??
P.S. Blogdosts, do you remember my prediction about Salman Khan landing himself in a soup after that high profile display of Ganpati devotion? Well.... guess what? A fatwa has been issued asking for a ban on Salman and his entire family.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Shanti.... Shanti

"If your heart is a volcano, how shall you expect flowers to bloom in your hands?" asked Kahlil Gibran. I don't see too many flowers in this city of ours. But I can sense several volcanoes - some dormant (dangerous!), others spewing lava and destroying all in the path. I find volcanic eruptions most fascinating. I remember standing on the edge of a dormant volcano in Indonesia and being mesmerised by its terrible beauty. A still, acid green lake at its evil heart completely captivated my attention, and reminded me of the dead eyes of a few nasty people I have known in my life.
Tonite, I shall keep my date with the Lalbaug Ka Raja. Inshallah. The cops have warned me it is daunting indeed to get anywhere close to the Moorti. Well. I don't get easily daunted. Wish me luck, blogdosts!
I caught the promos of Fashion. They looked verry Bhandarkar. But if I want to watch clips of fashion shows, I can as well follow Fashion Week on tv. Perhaps Bhandarkar does not want to reveal too much (pun intended), but the promos gave nothing away. They were like the promos of ftv.Priyanka looks like a million bucks when she declares she is getting into modelling to become a supermodel - not just a model.Kangana ?? Who dat?? The girl is unrecognisable these days. She seems to have had virtuually every body part replaced or fixed. She has become another human being altogether.Suman Jr. must really love the plastic lass.
I have been dying to eat 'ookdi chhey modak'. No luck so far. Have promised myself a treat if I manage a darshan.The inauspicious Shraddh period starts on the 16th. I am a total sucker for such things.
The good news about Kiara is that she is doing just fine and being thoroughly pampered. Chicken Liver pate on toast. And shark soup. No wonder they say it's a dog's life! Some life...some dog!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Jaya.... zara bachke rehna.

Jaya should NOT apologise. Period. There is no end to this meaningless 'apology' nonsense. Look at M.F. Husain. He refused to apologise and now his stand has been vindicated by the highest court in the land. Jaya is an impulsive person, what we call 'mooh phat' in Mumbai. She speaks before she thinks. Given these touchy times, she need not have opened her mouth to 'justify' speaking in Hindi, making matters worse by pointing out that she was a 'U.P. walli'. Had she just gone ahead and spoken in Hindi, without that preamble, nobody would have noticed or cared. To make matters worse, she asked for 'maafi'. Now.... only a person who has committed a 'galti' (and is aware of it) asks for a 'maafi'. By doing that, she did herself in and gave a handle to Raj and friends to react. It was a provocative taunt, and Jaya should have known better. But was it malicious or mischievous?? Definitely not. As a woman in public life, and an M.P.Jaya has to be doubly careful of her utterances. Unfortunately, the present climate is such.... Raj insists her comments were far from 'innocent'. Why would Jaya want to invite trouble?? Raj has ungallantly referred to her as the Guddi who is a Buddhi!! Hitting below the belt, Raj. Tch. Tch.
I dragged my protesting husband to watch, "A Wednesday." How i wish I had spared him the effort. Forget the melodramatic twist in the tale (only an actor of Naseeruddin Shah's stature could provide some dignity to that), the rest of the movie was embarrassingly amateurish with jarring sound effects and a screechy background score that alerted viewers well in advance to some 'dramatic' development in the offing. Childish!! Patchy camerawork added to the misery. Jimmy's jaws must have hurt with all that determined chewing of gum.Deepal looked more like a bar girl on her day off than a serious tv reporter.Anupam was fine, but one dimensional as Mumbai's top cop. The man playing the CM looked looked like he had strolled out of an Ekta Kapoor serial after playing someone's father-in-law. The script was ridden with the worst cliches - A Muslim ATS guy sent to total FOUR Muslim terrorists, who are being tricked by another Muslim 'Common man' (Naseer). Come on.... is there no room for subtlety? Naseer's final bhashan is more appropriate in a documentary. The 'message' is delivered as a 'message', which is not what GOOD cinema is about.This is called propaganda and appealing to the masses in the old Films' Division mode. Heavy handed and lacking in sophistication of thought.Noble, it may be in intention. But cinema is about art and the power to move AUDIENCES without hammering the message home (ditto, for the 'Rang De, Basanti' ending). Should civilians take the law into their own hands and kill people they believe are 'bad' for society?? If every 'common man' decides that is the only way forward, we will get anarchy, not peace. Civil resolutions do not lie in violence-for-violence. That was my biggest shikayat against this film, which once again has been praised to the skies by maha critics!!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Oh Kolkata!!

Remember the contoversial musical that was called 'Oh Calcutta" and featured frontal nudity for the first time at the hallowed Westend ? Well.... each time I visit my sasural I'm reminded of that electrifying theatre experience, which was considered soooo avant garde and shocking when it debuted a few decades ago. Today, nobody blinks at a show of ANYTHING! But Kolkata itself remains strangely caught in a coy and languid time warp, which could be termed charming were it not as frustrating.
I plan to see lots of movies this week, including Rituparno's 'The Last Lear.' I told Ritu when I met him on the set of his talk show 'Ghosh & Company' last week that the posters of 'Lear..'were up and I thought he had cast Muzzaffir Ali in the title role.Ritu giggled naughtily and said, "Oh my God! saw the resemblance!" Apparently, Ritu had sent a reference pic of Muzzaffir Ali to Amitabh Bachchan , for the Big B to get an idea of the character, especially the long hair Ritu wanted for the role. Mr. B had the wig styled exactly as per the photograph of Muzzaffir - and voila! the character of the Shakespearean thespian was born.
I also want to see 'A Wednesday', since it features two of our most competent character actors, Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher. Next on the list is 'Mamma Mia' for the second time. The first was far too lonely an experience in distant Stuttgart, minus my beloved bachchas. This time I plan to take the lot along. It also happens to be Aditya's birthday eve, and how better to usher it in than with a delightful, heart warming, entirely enchanting, exceedingly sentimental movie like this one?? I remember watching the musical on Broadway with my sister Mandakini who lives in New York. Both of us were crying, laughing, hugging and singing along... bonding wonderfully and feeling so connected. Perhaps for the last time...I really miss her and those rare moments we shared. The terrific meals we savoured. My first taste of a Cosmo was thanks to her, and that was much, much before it became the 'It' cocktail for worldly women. This was in the lobby bar of the Plaza on Fifth Avenue,before Donald Trump acquired the historic hotel and it still retained its slightly tattered old world glory. What a great time we'd had that night recalling forgotten family jokes with fondness and nostalgia. I was pretty tipsy as we jumped into a cab, three Cosmos later. She tucked me into a comfy bed in her apartment... and made fragrant tea (Darjeeling) for me the next morning. We chatted as only sisters do... or can. What a distant memory.... but still so poignant, precious and sweet. May Ganpati bless Mandakini. That is my fervent and sincers wish.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ganpati Bappa Moryaa...!

Wah! Wah! Salman Khan haat jodo-ing in front of Ganeshji was a great photo op... and a strong, positive image to send out in these ridiculous times when other Muslim Bollywood types are shouting themselves hoarse about being discriminated against in Mumbai. Mumbai!!!Salman's mother Salma, says a news report, is a Saraswat Brahmin. Okay. So am I. And I don't keep a Ganpati at my home!That the Khans celebrate the festival with so much gusto, sends out the best signal. I mean, let's face it, there must be several people out there who might phone and 'advise' Salman not to be so visible during the aarti, or not to participate as enthusiastically during the visarjan. But it is to Salman's credit that he chooses to follow his heart and ignore such warnings.That's the way it should be for all of us. There was a time in Mumbai when each and every festival got its due and people participated without self consciousness or fear. I was a regular visitor at Bhendi Bazaar during Ramazan. Eating malpuas after feasting on kebabs and biryani with several Muslim friends. It has been years since I went back to my favourite streetside restaurant. But this time, I am determined to do just that.Iftaar at Bhendi Bazaar ranks high on my list as a unique and wonderful Mumbai experience.
My Date with the Lalbaug Chha Raja is also fixed, thanks to an obliging top cop - Javed Ahmed, without whose kind intervention, I'd be stuck for hours in the dhakka bukki that inevitably occurs when there are thousands of over enthusiastic worshippers pushing and shoving to catch a glimpse of the majestic moorti - now in its 75th year. I remember watching its slow and stately progress down a narrow road in Girgaum, well past midnight, and being moved to tears by the sheer fervour of devotees thronging the procession. Some would hold up new born infants for the Lord's blessings, while others would prostrate themselves on the road, uncaring of the dirt.Unlike other Sarvajanik Ganpatis, this one would roll past in dignified silence, minus a clash of symbols or any other noisy accompaniment. Believers would stare.... awestruck and speechless. The journey from Lalbaug to Chowpatty would take 7 or 8 hours. But such was the draw of Lalbaug Chha Raja, that nobody minded the roads being blocked to enable Him to reach the sea.
Then came the Ganpati Raves - also fun. The grooviest Ganpati procession in town featuring dj's and hip Goa groupies grooving to fantastic music near Babulnath Temple. How I love the Trance Gannu. He is just so today! And in tune with changing times. Anybody and everybody is welcome to join in and dance.
Now for Navratri and beyond. Eid is but a few weeks away. How I admire people who can fast. Like Herman Hesse's Siddhartha says simply, " I can think, I can fast, and I can wait..." Profound and beautiful, inspiring and uplifting. I am reminded of my own medocrity each time i recall that line.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Rock on... and on....and on...and on...

My first cousin Usha is married to Nandu Bhende - a middle -aged rocker. I know this world a little. And the good news is that 'Rock on..." is spot on!! It has the stealth approach of the best docu -dramas, that track lives over a span of years. But , let's face it... it is no ''Dil Chahata Hai.." The biggest failure is the music. And that can be a fatal flaw in a movie about music!! There is also a great deal of self- indulgence, especially in the overstretched finale with three mediocre tracks played back -to -back.The good part is the script. And the characterisation. But the real ahaaa moment of the movie , for me,was Purab Kohli's campy version of 'I will Survive..." worth the price of the ticket and more. Prachi was sickeningly sweet, understanding and loving - I'm sure she makes it to the top of the heap as every man's fantasy wife - cute, well mannered, sensitive, adoring, uncomplaining.We know she has a great smile, but it never leaves her face! Farhan Akhtar is looking and sounding more and more like his father (several subtle tributes to the old boy scattered throughout the film). The guy has the hottest bod in Bollywood (move over John),and looked incredibly attractive under the shower.... followed by the black towel scene (move over Nangu Kapoor). Farhan can act, but can he sing? So... a special award for courage. Will he get himself a parallel career as a movie star? Doubtful. But I would rather watch him than those losers who are being thrust on us (Shekhar Sumam's son , for example).
I've saved the best for last - Arjun Rampal. Brooding, defeated, restrained.... and utterly beautiful! I can well understand what SRK sees in him.Arjun broke my heart in a role that does not give him dramatic lines but exploits his vulnerability to the hilt.I wanted to instantly adopt him. The girl playing Debbie, his nag of a wife was excellently cast , as well. Yup. 'Rock on..." makes the cut. But a cult film, it ain't .Don't pitch your expectations too high, and you won't be disappointed.Yenjoy!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Singur shenanigans

Mamata Bannerji has her loyal supporters amongst Kolkata's bhadralok after all! This was the big surprise on the short trip to the City of Joy. At an impromptu dinner with old friends at the newly opened Thai restaurant (Benjuraang), I was puzzled by the very vocal support extended to the hysterical woman who is holding the mighty TATA EMPIRE TO RANSOM! Most agreed her tactics may be crude and shabby, but what she is fighting for is completely kosher. I am not at all sure... but Mamata is gaining ground by the day in a city where every second Bong you meet is a closet revolutionary. I tried to focus on the delicious soft shell crabs and tamarind prawns, while the others debated, raved and ranted.... but it was impossible to do so. Finally when the steamed fish on a fragrant bed of lemon grass arrived on the table, it was time to change tracks and ooh and aah over the superlative cuisine. Sure made up for the Morimoto night.... and the entire meal for six worked out to less than the 6000 per head we'd shelled out at Wasabi. Oh... I'd forgotten to mention the rather odd cocktails - teriyaki martini, anyone???
Opinions on Singur vary - there are those who are violently opposed to the Tata project on the grounds that small, ignorant farmers with no voice were not given fair compensation. True or false?? Depends which side you are batting for.The example being trotted out is Jindal's and Anil Aggarwal's. They came, they saw, they asked the going rate for the land they wished to acquire, and they paid up. No haggling, no questions asked. Farmers happy, Industrialists happy. What if the Tatas do pull out and the Nano is delivered late? Loss of face and more trouble ahead.Meanwhile, Mamata can screech away and summon journos with a loud and rude, "Hey you BBC... come here." One lone politician.... and see the trouble being caused. Maan gaye, Mamataji... if you could annoy Ratan Tata into uncharacteristically letting his irritation be known, you must be one huge thorn in his side!
About Ajay Devgan... come on, chaps. He is a good actor in certain roles that suit his personality and body type. 'Omkara' was a terrific film. But Saif Ali outshone Ajay as Langda in it. And the more recent one in which Ajay plays a reigning superstar?? Does he LOOK like a star.... forget superstar?? It stretched audience credibility to the absolute limit. The scenes that established the character were better suited to a David Beckham. Kahan woh.... kahan apun ka Ajju???

Monday, September 1, 2008

Morimoto letdown.

Very quickly. Taada taadi, as the Bongs would say, the dinner last night was a bit of a disaster ... Though Chef Morimoto is a photegenic hottie, with a hot temper to match those amazing looks. He is not averse to adding garam masala to Japenese dishes, he said, since he does not believe in following 'rules'. Always a great sign. Inspired chefs are inventive, innovative and create asthey go along. Alas, his Omakase menu at 6000 bucks per head (minus taxes), was not inspired enough. Or I was in a bad mood ( but if two glasses of vintage Dom can't do the trick...?).Eight tiny portions were sampled... and I barely liked two. I am not a big fan of anything TARTARE ( raw meats), so perhaps i shouldn't be commenting. But even the Wagyu disappointed. BADE MIYAN'S KEBABS ARE TASTIER. Enough said.
I must run. Rituparno awaits me in Kolkata. I love his films. And am looking forward to being on his show. It's a Dusshera Special. He is one director to have extracted the best performances from our ice maiden Aishwarya Rai. Even in a mediocre film like Raincoat, with that overrated and most unattractive actor, Ajay Devgan.