Sunday, July 27, 2014

Diez Días En España: Ten Days In Spain

My small book on my recent Spain trip is now out on Kindle :)

I have covered Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Seville, Granada, Barcelona and Costa Brava, and also included a chapter on Lisbon. I have a bunch of my fav photos, some personal experiences, and a host of tricks and tips to help you make the most of your vacation, including a chapter on good-to-know Spanish.

Here's the link on the Kindle marketplace:

The Indian marketplace is:

A print version is on the way, and I must say, I am very happy - just something I always wanted to do, and I hope my readers enjoy it as much as I did writing it!

Movie Review: Lai Bhaari (Marathi)

When Chennai Express released, our challenge was to keep the buzz going in the second weekend, making sure CExp pulled in more crowds than Akshay's Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara. CExp succeeded, elbowing it out of many theatres, and pulling in more moolah than OUATIMD.

Interestingly, this weekend, Salman's much-awaited release Kick has had to fight hard for screens and
 audiences with another movie - and no, it does not have another Khan. It's Ritesh Deskmukh's Lai Bhaari, which is breaking pretty much all box office records for a Marathi movie.

Penned by Kick's director, Sajid Nadiadwaala, and featuring a cameo by none other than Sallu Bhai, Lai Bhaari is running to packed halls even a week after it's release.

Lai Bhaari has a predictable story, spiced with a couple of very sharp and interesting twists. A typical masala movie, including an 80s era Bollywood maa and some strong divine intervention (it's all about Lord Vitthal, remember!). However, for a Marathi movie, the treatment is pretty high standard - the camera work and cinematography, especially the coverage of the Wari yatra, is super. The songs are picturized well, with Ganesh Acharya bringing a distinct Bollywood flavor. A combination of Marathi, Hindi and English present an interesting bundle of croony numbers.

Ritesh is good - he looks good, dances smart, emotes well, and fights a sober version of Rohit Shetty's gravity defying action. The surprise packages are the two female characters - the pouty and hot Aditi Pohankar, and the very spunky Radhika Apte. And to add that little extra dash of spice, Genelia makes a tiny special appearance. Oh, did I mention a very cute 5 min cameo by Sallu Bhai?

Definitely an option this weekend!

ps: The English subtitles makes this movie very palatable, even if your knowledge of Marathi is like my Spanish!

Movie Review: Kick

100% Entertainment 100% Kick 100% Salman Khan.

What works: Kick is an out and out Salman movie - with his memorable one-liners, his cute expressions, dabangg action, and even a number crooned by the Bhai himself. The stunts are decent, a little over the top, but don't compare to the slickness of Don 2 or Dhoom 3. Poland looks great.

Jacqueline Fernandes is eye candy if you are not ogling the very fit Randeep Hooda, who plays a smart cop, Nargis does an item number too. The songs aren't great, but they do stay with you. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is a pretty decent villain, and almost steals the limelight from Sallu in a couple of scenes.

The story is not much to write about - but that doesn't really matter. It's entertainment all the way, anyway!

While Salman's Being Human initiative is very noble, the movie, like Jai Ho, tends to get on your nerves a little bit with its "in your face" attempt to tug at your heart. A more subtle messaging would real work better!

If you are a Salman fan, then you don't need a review! If you are not, then a word of advice - leave reason and questions aside, and just go enjoy this one.

Movie Review: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (3D)

The poster of the movie shows an angry ape riding a horse, a machine gun held aloft menacingly, a burning golden gate bridge in the background.

That was enough to get me into the theatre. That was the only thing I got from the theatre.

Yawn. Apes learn to talk, apes make love and have babies, apes fall sick, apes attack the few men still alive. The reasonable men and apes try and make peace, but it all falls apart. War erupts. Both sides take casualties. Both survive and retreat.

Make sure there is an opportunity to set them against each other in yawn, yet another sequel in the future.


Oh yes. The 3D. Yawn. Yawn.

Movie Review: The Fault In Our Stars

One of the best romance movies I have ever seen, TFIOS will make you cry and make you smile, it will touch you, it will inspire you, it will make you think days and months after you have seen it. It's one-liners will make you tweet, and update your status - but they will stay with you long after, in your heart, and continue to remind you that we only so much time, and it's up to us to make the most of it.

Hazel and Gus meet and fall in love at a cancer support group. Hazel has weak lungs, and needs to carry an oxygen tank at all times, while pushing her luck and her life under an experimental treatment regime, which seems to be holding up, for now, against her disease. Gus is a survivor, having lost a leg to cancer. Two teenagers who share humor, a love for life, and an undying fighting spirit. But life isn't all rosy. Things don't always get back to normal. It's not like it happens in the movies. Deal with it.

Shailene Woodley impressed me in The Spectacular Now. In TFIOS, you will fall in love with her. Brilliant performance. Ansel Elgort as Gus is impressive too. Willem Dafoe plays the eccentric Peter Van Houten, in a short but memorable role.

This is a movie not to be missed. Watch it with your friends and loved ones. And imbibe some life lessons. It can only enrich you.

Movie Review: Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya

1995 - DDLJ. My first movie date with my then-girlfriend now-wife. I can remember pretty much remember every scene, every dialogue. And even today, when the movie comes on TV, I can't change channels.

2014 - HSKD. Been less than 2 weeks since I saw it. I can't remember the story, forget the dialogues. I can't remember a single number. For a movie projected as the DDLJ of the new generation, I think that speaks volumes.

SRK vs Varun. Kajol vs Alia. Amrish Puri vs Ashutosh Rana. Europe vs Delhi.

I think it is sacrilege to even hint of comparisons.

That said, it's not a bad movie. Not at all. For Varun's jokes and Alia's spunk, go ahead and enjoy!

Mumbai Metro

Last week, it was our turn on the Mumbai Metro. Just like the Monorail, here is another example that even in our crowded and poor cities, world class, affordable infrastructure can work! Clean, efficient, and comfortable - if such transport facilities can come up across our large cities, it will really take cars off the road, and encourage professionals and students to use more and more public transport...

An escalator at the metro station

Plenty of security

Interesting signages bring a smile to the face

Clean, comfortable, air-conditioned cabins with lots of standing space and a few seats

In addition to showing stations, the signage also shows which side the platform coming up is! A throwback to the flip flop sides on suburban train lines!

Free wifi in the trains and stations  from YOU Braodband. Wow.

A metro pulls into the station

Passing over the WEH

The turnstiles work off plastic tokens

Parking Technology Overkill?

At the Infiniti Mall in Malad, Mumbai, these sensors track individual parking slots. A very expensive method - but is it really needed? Definitely an overkill, unless you want to direct drivers to specific slots...

On the other hand, Phoenix in Pune uses a much simpler but much more cost effective method - it simply counts cars going in and going out! :)

Hey Bhagwaan

Bird Habitat in Mumbai

In the middle of a concrete jungle, this forlorn tree, dry and leafless in the Mumbai monsoon, provides a haven for the many crows in the city..

Magic in Greece

Got these pics on Whatsapp - can't verify authenticity, but this is supposed to be somewhere in Greece. The clear water makes the boats look like they are floating in the air. If this place is for real, it's where I want to be!

Mumbai Sea Link Magic

Two amazing pics of my most favorite structure in the world - the Mumbai Sea Link. Thanks to my friends for sharing these amazing photos.

The Mumbai Monorail

Way back in June, I had the opportunity to catch a ride on the Mumbai Monorail, almost 5 months after it was thrown open to the public. The only other time I had experienced a monorail was in Seattle, almost a decade back.

Just one word sums the experience: wow.

Yes, we are a poor country. Yes, we are over-populated. And yes, looking out through the monorail, you do see shanties and slums.

But the monorail and the stations were squeaking clean - I tried hard to find a scrap of paper, and believe me, I couldn't. Not one. No spit on the walls. No foul smells from urinating passengers in the nooks and corners. Security was tight - just like at the airports. Paper tickets replaced by reusable tokens operating the turnstiles. Air conditioned comfort, station indications, great signages, working lifts and escalators. Everything you would expect in a world class city. And more.

Here are some pics...

The monorail station - clean and airy

Electronic signboards with the ever-present and smart Mumbai Monorail logo

Emergency communication ports

The travel token

A blue monorail pulls into the station - the sister train is pink

Clean, air-conditioned and breezy coaches have a sophisticated look

Useful signages within the coach too

The monorail track looks out over the equally impressive Eastern Freeway

View of the driver's controls - it's amazing looking out over his shoulder at the incoming track

Automated ticket vending machines at the station


Heard a beautiful story the other day from my friend... and I am still mesmerized by the concept. I don't want to write the story here... because, who knows, one day we might end up making a movie out of it!

We live our lives thinking we are the center of the world.. everything around us, revolves around us. It's always about is.

What if we realize one day, we are just a character in someone else's dream? And what if "our host" is just about to wake up?

Planet Cricket

Created this wonderful "planet" from the simple picture below. Softwares like Tiny Planet FX Pro on Android can easily create these gems. The best candidate photos are those with around 30% plain at the bottom, minimal features in the middle and some good detailing against a plain sky in the top 30%. City skylines are absolutely wonderful candidates.


We were laughing our heads off watching this dog scratch his back using the rope tied around the petrol pump... He went from one end to the other, getting a wonderful high!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Movie Review: Ek Villain

Positives: Ritesh Deshmukh acts well in a role very different from what he is used to. Sidharth and Shraddha look great. Some of the songs are very catchy, especially Galiyaan, which is hauntingly beautiful. And Goa looks beautiful, as always!

Negatives: A predictable story that could have been really taken to the next level. Remo Fernandes as the don is poor.

Definitely worth a watch!

Movie Review: Humshakals

The movie has been ripped apart by critics and reviewers, and I guess it does deserve some of the criticism for the mindless and juvenile attempt it is at comedy. At the same time, while it is a poor movie, it is not a -3 stars as many would lead us to believe. Maybe 1 star :)

Should you watch it? Absolutely, especially if you have nothing to do.

Movie Review: Transformers: Age Of Extinction (3D)

The Autobots are now personas non grata, hunted down by the CIA, backed by a decision from the upper echelons of power that humans do not need aliens for protection. When a broke inventor in the American countryside runs into the "hibernating" Optimus Prime, the CIA and the bounty hunter Decepticons gun for them. The clash between the machines and the humans, with an underlying sinister plot to "mine" the autobots for their valuable metals, finally reaches its explosive climax in the gorgeous canyons and dingy apartments of Hong Kong.

On the positive side, the 3D is pretty good, and some of the locations and the photography is beautiful. On the flip side, the movie stretches far too long, the obsession over the transforming Autobots and Decepticons gets far too indulging, and you desperately hope for a quick end!

My recommendation - watch it on BluRay, and make liberal use of the FF button!