Sunday, April 27, 2014


Captured this molehill near Range Hills in Pune. What was interesting was what happened just a few minutes before - a middle aged man stopped his bike, walked up to the molehill, and fed the ants with a bag full of sugar!

Colors Of Summer

At the war cemetery in Khadki, Pune


Mom, Baby and Egg!

Ek baby hua nahi, doorsa batch shuru!

Majestic Blue


Awesome Foursome

Naughty Innocence

Pu La Deshpande Garden, Pune

We finally got the opportunity to visit the Pu La Deshpande Garden in Pune yesterday. Inspired by the Okayama Garden in Japan, this beautiful open space in Pune spread over 10 hectares was green and beautiful even on a scorching summer evening, on a day when the max temp crossed 40 degrees C! As you walk around the well-maintained paths, along lush green rolling landscape, water bodies crossed by wooden bridges, and beautiful flowering plants frequented by birds, you are suddenly aware of the changing scenery - and it's quite interesting to see how completely different the view is from different parts of the garden.

Keping off the Parvati slums on one side, a massive electricity distribution center on the other flank and a bustling arterial road on the third, this garden truly is a sanctuary.

And, in the rains, this really must be heavenly.

The PMC has done a credible job of maintaining this so well, and so clean, and ensuring that the teeming crowds stay away from the lawns and onto the paths. Benches at regular intervals provide ample space for old and young alike, to have some intimate conversations.

The only inexplicable restriction, which I found unnecessary and silly, was on photography and video shooting without priori permission. And to get permission, you got to go all the way to Sambhaji Garden on JM Road, 30 mins away. Come to think of it, though, they do allow mobile photography, so it doesn't really inconvenience the public at large, and the municipality probably makes good money from giving out permissions for larger shoots. So, yes, I guess it's fine :)

Here are some "mobile" pics from our walk in the park yesterday...

Movie Review: Brick Mansions

Detroit is crumbling, and the city has walled off a huge area of the city (the brick mansions), teeming with gangsters and the scum of the city, a place where law and police officers dread to step in. But when a nuclear device is hijacked into the brick mansions, undercover cop Damien (Walker) joins forces with ex-convict Lino (David Belle), whose girlfriend has been kidnapped by the area's drug kingpin, to stop a sinister plot to devastate the entire city.

This is Paul Walker's last "completed" movie before his shocking death, and that is probably a very good reason to catch it in the theatres. Another treat is the parkour action by its founder and chief proponent, David Belle (although YouTube will provide you a lot more excitement in that area).

Movie Review: Samrat And Co.

SAC starts with a tribute to Sherlock Holmes - its main protagonist, Samrat (Rajeev Khandelwal) is a true follower of the great detective (and especially the reel version, where even the opening scenes are uncannily similar - the boxing match), relying on his powers of observation and deduction (which he takes a lot of pain to explain in detail to whoever is ready to listen) to crack complex cases. Except that he has no challenging cases worth his talent. Until a pretty girl arrives at this apartment to call him to Shimla, where spooky and unexplained events are troubling her aged father. Samrat accepts the case, and things quickly turn deadly when bodies start piling up.

The story starts building up well, but the movie loses the plot quickly. An amateurish support cast including the very irritating "Dr Watson" of this desi Sherlock, "mystery codes" of the level we actually played with in our early school years, and run of the mill dialogues drag the film down, until it descends into absolute chaos towards the end.

Can be given a miss, although the guys might provide some good eye fodder for the female fans - especially in one decently choreographed fight sequence towards the end.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Movie Review: 2 States

Not a big fan of Chetan Bhagat, and I hated 3 Idiots, but 2 States gets 4 stars from me.

2 States is the story of typical Delhite Krish Malhotra and Ananya Swaminathan, from a conservative Chennai family. They meet at IIMA and fall in love. But marriage is a whole new ball game, and a la SRK in DDLJ, they take a conscious decision not to get married until their parents happily agree. But culture clashes and egos rule the roost, and things look bleaker by the day. Will Krish and Ananya's love win over the differences? Will they manage to convince their parents? Or will they lose themselves, while trying to bring their families together?

Beautiful casting, and excellent performances all around. Alia continues her terrific job from highway - although, there is no way she resembles anyone remotely Tamilian! She is cute, she dresses well, and has some pretty good lines that has the audience laughing heartily. Arjun Kapoor is one of my favs from the current lot, and does extremely well as the boy next door that we all can easily identify with. Not the typical hero, except when he puts on his dance shoes. Just the nice guy pursuing his MBA, and falling madly in love, sporting a stubble and specs. The supporting cast is even better. Ronit Roy is awesome as Arjun's angry dad, pairing Amrita Singh, who delivers a gem of a performance, while Revathi plays Alia's mom. Shivkumar, as Alia's conservative dad, is terrific.

The story is straightforward, the camera work is decent, but the dialogues and the execution are excellent. Specially in the first half. The second half starts dragging a little bit, and the family tensions start pulling the movie down. What is handled beautifully is the growth of their relationship -  uncomplicated, natural and contemporary.

Some of the songs are great, and the background score is pretty cool too! Some of the Tamil songs used are fantastic, and the Tamil-Hindi medley sung by Revathi's character is beautiful and very memorable!

If I was an IIMA alumni, though, or one of the employees of Yes Bank, I am not sure I would be too thrilled at the image of my organization as portrayed in the movie. Minor point, but that's one of the reasons I hated Chetan Bhagat's Four Point Someone - it just didn't do justice to the IITs!

Should you watch the movie? Absolutely! One of the best in recent times!

Corn Club

Question: How many different ways can you cook corn?

Answer: Around 3 dozen

Here are a few of them, at my favorite corny place, Corn Club on FC Road, Pune!!

If you go there, do try out the biryani, the corn manchow soup, the fingers, the patties, the hoorda (bhel).. maybe even the coleslaw salad and the cutlets. If you are in the mood, you might like the chat too. Sandwiches, samosas. Well, check it out for yourself!

Movie Review: Transcendence

The reviews haven't been kind to Transcendence, and I guess if you don't really dig sci-fi including nanotechnology and AI and the Internet, the two hours might seen very long indeed. But, if you are crazy about Johnny Depp (and you get so little of him, you got to be crazy to go for this one just for him), and like the idea of tech-induced apocalypse, the movie does a pretty good job of tickling your spine. Add to that, some excellent camera work, and an innovative story line, and Transcendence is actually not as bad as the reviews make it out to be.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Movie Review: Lone Survivor

A team of 4 American soldiers on a recon mission are ambushed by the Taliban and fight for their lives...

LS has some of the best action I have seen recently, and you will find it very difficult to winch and feel the pain as they battle all odds to try and fight their way out.

Awesome movie....

Movie Review: Gravity (3D)

Somehow the idea of staring into space for 90 mins, with those heavy 3D goggles, while Sandra Bullock and George Clooney drift into nothingness, didn't seem too appealing to me - and hence, against all advice, I missed the movie when it came to the theatres.

Thankfully, sometimes I change my mind - and I picked it up from the DVD library the other day.

What a beautiful movie. Especially with 3D Blu Ray on a 56 inch TV with Bose sound, the experience is mesmerizing. Awesome photography, amazing SFX, and a touching story, all make Gravity a can't-miss affair!

And when Sandra Bullock finally drops back to Earth, after a harrowing brush with near death in space, and stands on terra firma, water dripping from her body, you can't help but look around you and thank god for this beautiful world we live in!

And In The Spirit of Ragini MMS 2....

Some terrifying horror stories wrapped up in two sentences or less... perfect to send your girl friend just after you say good night...

I woke up to hear knocking on glass. At first, I thought it was the window until I heard it come from the mirror again.

The last thing I saw was my alarm clock flashing 12:07 before she pushed her long rotting nails through my chest, her other hand muffling my screams. I sat bolt upright, relieved it was only a dream, but as I saw my alarm clock read 12:06, I heard my closet door creak open.

In all of the time that I've lived alone in this house, I swear to God I've closed more doors than I've opened.

A girl heard her mom yell her name from downstairs, so she got up and started to head down. As she got to the stairs, her mom pulled her into her room and said "I heard that, too."

My wife woke me up last night to tell me there was an intruder in our house. She was murdered by an intruder 2 years ago.

I always thought my cat had a staring problem - she always seemed fixated on my face. Until one day, when I realized that she was always looking just behind me.

There's nothing like the laughter of a baby. Unless it's 1 a.m. and you're home alone.

I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, "Daddy, check for monsters under my bed." I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, "Daddy, there's somebody on my bed."

You get home, tired after a long day's work and ready for a relaxing night alone. You reach for the light switch, but another hand is already there.

There was a picture in my phone of me sleeping. I live alone

Movie Review: Ragini MMS 2

Horrex is what they have started calling this genre in India - a potent mix of horror and sex, and Ragini MMS 2 actually does a pretty good job of immersing you in both. Sunny Leone is not bad at all - and frankly, apart from looking pretty stunning in many scenes, even when she doesn't bare much, she is not that bad in the acting department, either. Yes, well, she won't bag a national award for this, but she does the job. And the Baby Doll song, well, it is already a winner!

Ragini MMS 1 still gets my vote though, for the stunning Kainaz Motivala (now Doctor), and a super performance by Rajkumar Rao.


Lisa is up for sale, seen here parked beside Shweta's EcoSport - makes me want to get her back, but what's the point just leaving her to rust, parked in the garage in Nerul? :(

Movie Review: Need For Speed (3D)

If Fast and Furious is your benchmark, NFS will be a welcome jump forward. With beautiful action, amazing camera angles, awesome machines, great sound, and the best use of 3D I have ever experienced, NFS is an enriching, pulse pounding, heart throbbing 132 min drive you will remember for a long time.

Yes, the cast is nothing like the star studded line up of F&F franchise, but Imogen Poots does make some amends with her super pout :)

Don't miss this one, and hopefully, you have already caught this on the big screen!

Movie Review: Cold Comes The Night

A ruthless criminal takes a single mother and her kid hostage, to retrieve his money from a corrupt cop. The "suspense" lasts 91 minutes. And then almost immediately, the movie fades from your memory. Yet another of those millions of films in its genre - with nothing going for, or against.

Unless you watch it with Spanish subtitles :)

Movie Review: Captain America - The Winter Soldier (3D)

Positives: Some very innovative action scenes, Scarlett Johansson

Negatives: the 3D (very heavy on the eyes), very long running time (well, you do get the chance to catch up some sleep), and an endless story that refuses to stay simple

You can avoid it!

Movie Review: Dot The I

A beautiful girl, just before her marriage to a very rich man, falls madly in love with a jobless Brazilian actor. As their romance blossoms, the girl is torn between her husband and her passionate lover. But what seems a crazy love triangle, suddenly takes a shocking turn...

Watch the movie for the very pretty Natalia Verbeke, and a good dose of suspense, with (some predictable) twists and turns!

Movie Review: Oculus

A young man and his sister fight an evil force residing in an antique mirror, the same evil that resulted in the death of their parents almost a decade ago. But does it really live inside the mirror, or is it just their mind playing tricks, an in-built mechanism to help them handle the shock of the circumstances of their parents tragic death?

Oculus is different from many of the other films in the genre - there are no banging doors, no laughing children, no loud thuds. And yet, it keeps you on the edge of your seat. For most of the time.

Not bad at all!

Movie Review: Main Tera Hero

Don't expect too much, and you won't be disappointed. Add to that two sizzling ladies, some good music, and smart one-liners, and what you have is pretty decent entertainment in Main Tera Hero.

I am not a big Varoon Dhawan fan, but to be frank, I quite enjoyed his performance in MTH... great sense of humor and timing, some good fight sequences, and pretty decent dance moves. With Ileana and Nargis Fakhri sizzling the screen in almost every shot, your eyes will get lots of pleasant exercise, while the jokes and spoofs allow some hearty laughs. You can also groove to Saari Raat Besharmi Ki Height, and a couple of other decent numbers.

Overall, MTH is a great option for a family weekend!

Indian Democracy - Another Amazing Chapter Unfolds

Pune voted today along with a large part of Maharashtra, Karnataka and many other regions, as part of the amazing month long process of elections for the 2014 Lok Sabha.

And for the first time, I did too - as a voter in Pune, having got myself registered here earlier this year.

And, like I have been for the last few weeks, I want you to take a moment to think of what goes behind this amazing exercise, and feel proud that we are all part of this amazing phenomenon called Indian Democracy.

With a population of over 125 Crores, over 500 seats across 30 odd states, and with many constituencies larger than many countries of the world, it is no mean feat. Yes, parties still use religion and caste to divide voters, and money and liquor still flows, but nothing should take away our pride and wonder. Think of the fear the election commission instills in every politician, the absolute power it wields during the elections. It's absolutely no nonsense. Gone are the days when parties flouted rules, pasted posters over every wall and pole, blared slogans through loudspeakers all day and night. This time, police even searched cars on the roads for cash, video cameras in hand. Every night, parties had to file expense reports, ensuring the power of money was less of an enabling factor in the elections. Technology is playing a bigger and bigger role.. with EVMs, counting is now complete in just a matter of hours. Every voter can check his/her enrolment online, and at the voting centers, helpdesks empowered with laptops and Internet connections quickly checked your names from the election commission websites.

Social media also played a huge role in ensuring huge turnouts. Goa, for example, had almost 80% turnout, the highest in history, I would guess. While most FB and Whatspp posts and DPs showed the inked finger, the youth proudly went out to vote, making each one's priceless vote count. When I reached the booth today, it was so heartening to see young and old, rich and poor, everyone patiently lining up to partake in the amazing process of voting in the new government. Housing societies had special voter enrolment drives, and businesses offered discounts and incentives to customers who showed the inked finger.

After more than 60 years, with all our diversity and problems, being able to manage election after election, without violence, without retribution, and ensuring smooth transfer of power, in a country of our size....

Indians, take a bow!

And the rest of the world, take a lesson from the world's most amazing democracy!