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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

De de pyaar de

De De Pyar De trailer looked interesting. There was a prospect of comedy I was looking forward to watching.
To summarize, the movie is about a 50-year old romancing a 26-year young thing. So, what’s new, you may ask. Let me tell you, then.
This movie takes you back to those days when comedy need not equate to crassness. It need not be slapstick to be entertaining. It shows how one can have a decent storyline with all elements of drama, melancholy and comedy woven into it.
It starts with how Rakul Preet Singh, the 26-year-old meets the 50-year-old Ajay Devgn and what starts as a random acquaintance blooms into a full-blown romance. Much time is wasted trying to establish the bond between the two, though.
You get to sink your teeth into the juicy parts of the story only after interval when Devgn, who his daughter had declared dead to her fiancé, lands bang in the middle of her betrothal along with Rakul Preet. The ill-prepared Rakul Preet then discovers that Devgn has two grown up children in their 20s; that he has a sexy looking ex-wife (Tabu); that he has a set of parents who blame Devgn for the break-up between Tabu and him.
What ensues is a set of emotional moments between the bitter daughter and father, the son’s crush on Rakul Preet (who is introduced as Devgn’s secretary), the father (Alok Nath)’s caustic comments about the age difference...
Tabu has some powerful lines written for her and seems to remain in control through all this chaos as she tries to bring the groom’s family and hers together.
There are moments, mostly unspoken, which reflect fine lines in relationships. It does not boil to a simplistic 'Age doesn’t matter in relationships’ theory. It is that hesitant touch when Devgn wants to draw Rakul Preet close but feels awkward when he realizes that she had worn his daughter’s clothes. About when Devgn’s sense of responsibility towards his daughter overpowers his attraction to Rakul Preet. Despite that, his brooding moments through his daughters’ engagement reflecting his longing for Rakul Preet. This tells us that age doesn’t take away our longing for loving and being loved. It only awaits the right person to re-ignite it.
The Indian hero always shows himself being much younger than what he actually is. In such scenario, it takes a lot of courage for Devgn to allow himself to not only be shown as a 50-year-old but also to be called a ‘buddha.’
Javed Jaffery, a psychiatrist, plays the practical voice of the societal expectations from such a skewed relationship.
Like the many movies cautioning the teenagers of the perils of hastily venturing into inappropriate relationships, this one too cautions about the possible long-term effects of this age difference on a relationship.
This hitherto unapproached subject of age difference is supported by a powerful statement like ‘In earlier times also we had marriages with huge age differences but at least this is happening with the girl’s consent.’ 
A good entertainer this one with splendid performances by Tabu and Devgn. There is nothing intense about this movie. But, rest assured, it is not a Total Dhamaal either. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Maharshi


The movies of Mahesh Babu that I like are far and few between. I do not like those commercially-oriented ones with barely-there story lines. To his credit, he does try different genres in his films.
What evoked my interest in watching Maharshi was Allari Naresh’s presence. That Naresh is a good actor (forcibly confined to certain genre) is no secret. I am so glad that in this film he got to do something other than hare-brained comedy (though he excels at those too).
The 3-hour film is divided into three phases of Mahesh Babu’s life. A college, corporate and village life.
The movie starts with a college scene with blossoming friendship between Mahesh Babu, Naresh and Pooja Hegde, the heroine. (Suspended belief called for.)
It is the usual college scene except that Mahesh Babu has extraordinary intelligence (and loads of attitude).
He has mapped himself to a path of success wherein relationships don’t hold much meaning and are seen as impediments. He loses the two friends he makes in college before he sets forward on the journey of his life to the US where his innovative ideas in mobile applications, find him soon heading the company he works for. Just as he starts wallowing in his long-dreamt success, a blast from the past makes him visit Naresh in his village. The visit sets him re-thinking the meaning of success and this forms the third and final part of the movie.
The next act in village and the ensuing confrontation with Jagapathi Babu forms an interesting duel between two minds.
Both Naresh and Jagapathi Babu shine in their performances. Mahesh Babu looks uncannily like his father. Of course, with far better dancing skills.
The very brief almost cameo- like appearances of Tanikella Bharani, Prakash Raj , Jayasudha and Vennella Kishore remain inexplicable. I mean such powerful performers in such blink-and-miss roles? To the extent that even Pooja Hegde, the heroine’s presence was just not required. When will we get rid of the obsession with glamor quotient in Telugu films?  The heroine for Naresh is completely justified though. Without all the song and dance, we would have a crisper movie on hand. and, the fights too...too many of them just to showcase Mahesh's action skills.
The story, though not really new, is very predictive but still gripping throughout, so much so that I never realized when the 3-hour long film got over.
What works for this film by Vamsi Paidipally, is that after a long time, we have a message delivered very effectively in a film without sounding preachy. At the end of the movie, your heart will go out and want to do something for the farmer.
Brings to mind the slogan so aptly raised by Shastriji “Jai Jawaan, Jai Kisaan!” So true! Where would we all be without the two?
Yeah, go watch the film while remaining vigilant of the above-mentioned minuses.
A 3.75/5 experience for me.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Jersey


The tag ‘Natural Actor’ sits on Nani well. This aspect is reinforced in the Telugu movie, Jersey.
 That, after a plethora of attempts at larger-than-life portrayals, he has returned to his Amol Palekarisque role brings great relief to his audience.
This is what he does best and not the Krishnagadi…Krishnarjuna etc. etc. kind of movies. (Perhaps the word Krishna doesn’t suit him?)
Neither Nani nor the movie fight shy of portraying the hero in a grey shade, a rarity in Telugu movies where even heroes over 50 want to show themselves as young and inviolable. In this movie, Nani’s age is a year older than what he actually is in his real life. He allows himself to be amidst 19-year-old youngsters bringing forth the stark difference in age and physical sprightliness.
As is his wont, he doesn’t seem to act. He lives the role. He portrays a successful but an arrogant cricketer who loses both, cricket and a government job, giving up the former and suspended from the latter. He now sits moping at home watching cricket and, in general, wasting time as his wife works, albeit reluctantly, in a job that doesn’t pay her much and in which she is humiliated from time to time.
But his love for his son keeps him going. Nani must have had an emotional attachment to the role as he named his reel son Nani and himself Arjun (his son’s name in real life) in the movie.
The son’s simple wish of getting the Indian jersey for his birthday is what forms the premise of the film. Nani feels humiliated and helpless as he sees himself unable to fulfil his son’s one wish.
The awakening happens when his wife catches him taking money from her purse. That triggers the end to his inaction.  He now wants to do something about his life instead of whiling away his time hoping to get back his job (by bribing the lawyer, which he refuses to).
Nani has played the role seemingly with lot of ease. In reality, how hard he must have worked, how much he must have practised to get those perfect shots with his bat. Not once does he make you feel he is a novice at cricket. At the same time, he allows his efforts to be noticed in his attempts to fit in and show himself as physically fit as the 19-year-old cricketers.
The movie is simple with no twists and turns. The hero tries to shed his looser label and fulfil a purpose in life. The journey from an insignificant existence to a meaningful one is what makes it so endearing to the audience. Plus, the fact that Nani is one of us, adds to the appeal.
The heroine, Shraddha Srinath’s acting was a little forced as she doesn’t have much to do but keep yelling at Nani. The kid is cute, a tad too cute perhaps. The cuteness factor could be turned down a little to concentrate more on some unspoken moments between father and son.
Sathyaraj as Nani’s coach and mentor is brilliant. Brahmaji, Rao Ramesh and Sampath Raj do well in their cameos.
There are times when you feel the movie is pursuing too many sub-plots. The more the sub-plots, the greater the difficulty in tying them together and bring them to a cohesive end.
Go watch for the Nani who was before Krishna etc…you will find him again in this movie.
After the director takes you to a crescendo in the post-interval portion of the film, the end was a definite let-down.
What works for the movie is the sincere efforts of the director, Gowtham Tinnanuri, a relative novice who knows how to cash in on Nani’s histrionics.
For me Jersey is a 3.5/5 experience.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Apna Time Aayega

Indian cinema trying to replicate a success story has become quite a hackneyed theme.
In this scenario, though based on a true story, Gully Boy offers a fresh approach, a fresh story and is different from all the movies (biopics being the latest trend) that get churned out regularly.
Apart from the odd Lootera in the beginning days of his acting, Ranveer is known more for his loud expressions, attire and persona.
In Gully Boy he has proved he can also underplay and do it well. The movie is about the underdog and pursuit of his dreams. When I heard this one-liner, my reaction was a yawn…so, what’s new?
What’s new, however, is its treatment by director Zoya Akhtar and execution by the lead actor, Ranveer Singh.
The hero doesn’t portray the typical larger-than-life persona. His no make-up look shows him as a very real person. The body language accentuates the humble demeanor he displays when in the presence of his employer, (eyes bend down, speaking in controlled voice).
Ranveer is accepting of his vulnerabilities and makes mistakes just like you and I do. He witnesses a deep rich-poor divide when he works as a temporary driver to his rich employer, yet there is no bitterness in him…. only a quiet note to himself ‘apna time aayega’ (my time will come). He defies his father who believes that they are born for and meant to serve the rich meekly all through their lives. Despite his poverty, Ranveer exhibits a strong set of values, standing by his friends, his mother…
The movie is filmed in Dharavi, the famed slums of Mumbai. Zoya speaks of the humdrum of life; of how the lead pair of Ranveer and Alia meet unknown to their parents; of their daily commute together in the local train; of their respective lower middle-class households; of Alia studying to become a doctor. All this is shown in a very matter-of-fact way without belittling the people of Dharavi or their surroundings.
Ranveer, on the other hand, is clueless about his life and its goal. He is happy penning lyrics for rap songs. Life has its plans when he happens to meet Siddhant Chaturvedi (an Emcee himself) who nudges him into singing (or is it called rapping?).
I don’t understand rap much but what I can empathise with is the yearning in the mind of a young boy who is from an impoverished background and hopes to make it big one day. Alia adds the subtle counterfoil to this ambitious Ranveer.
The movie could be considered as a take-off from where 3 idiots left. it will appeal more to the suppressed lot and not to the middle & upper middle class where lot of us have already allowed our children’s dreams to take wing.
Chaturvedi adds greatly to the energy but seems, unfairly, to be left out of the so-far-shared success journey towards the end. What could distract you is his uncanny resemblance to Shahid Kapoor.
I loved the simple synergy in this movie. One need not get unduly stressed wondering who is backstabbing who. The emotions of anger, happiness, friendship are never camouflaged. At 153 minutes, especially post interval, the film does drag a bit though.
I’d rate it a 3.5/ 5.


Saturday, December 29, 2018

Thailand: its culture and practices

This is my concluding post in the Thailand series on Preparing for, Eating at and Touring Thailand.
Here I list some of my observations regarding Thailand culture and its practices. Hopefully, they will be of use to people who plan to travel there.

About Thailand Hotels:
  1. The hospitality industry doesn’t pander to you as the ones back in India do. Even at a 4-starred hotel you’d rarely find bell boys to help carry your luggage … neither during check-in nor check-out times.
  2. The best of the hotels doesn’t provide you with shampoo bottles or soap bars. You’d find these provided in different soap dispensers in liquid form.
  3. For the coffee and tea preparation in your room, you are daily provided with just the required number of coffee, tea and sugar sachets, not one more.
  4. The toothbrush kit, when available, is of superior quality, similar to what you buy for your regular use.
  5. Many a time you find, close to the reception area, free snacks and sweets available throughout the day for you to dip into for your hunger pangs.
  6. Along with all the usual stuff, we found, in two of the hotels we stayed in, clean beach towels and umbrellas for the sudden torrents.
  7. All three hotels we stayed in provided us with pin-drop silence and a peaceful night’s sleep.
  8. Thankfully, the hotels are strict about smoking and non-smoking rooms and therefore my room didn’t have the smell of smoke hanging in the air.
  9. Bottled water, one for each person each day, was provided free of cost in the hotels.
  10. All the hotels have the check-in time at 2 pm and check-out at 12 noon. They allow you to store your luggage with them even after you check-out.
  11. The hotels aren't really costly there and compare with those in India.
  12. Of the three hotels we stayed in, Ibis, Krabi was the best experience and The Mailka, Phuket the least.Holiday Inn Express, Bangkok was a pretty good experience too. 
Other practices
  1. As in India, Thailand too charges its foreign tourists higher than the local ones for entry to various tourist spots. For visitors from the West, the cost is a fraction of their currency but for the Indian tourists, it is multiplied by two and a half ( at current currency conversion rate). 
    Entrance ticket to one of the tourist sites.
  2. Tissues are used abundantly. Not only do you find it in the bathroom in the form of toilet paper, but you also find boxes of tissues in the bathroom, at the dressing mirror, at your bedside…in short, everywhere. Being an avid tissue user, I really didn’t mind. The quality of tissue is also amazingly soft and not abrasive like the ones we find here.
  3. Some hotels provide you with shuttle services to the beach every hour.
  4. What saddens you though is the abundant use of thin plastic carry bags. Every time we shopped, we politely turned them down.
  5. English is spoken or understood by very few. We  approached some school kids on the street for directions, assuming that, like in India, English is spoken by almost every school kid. But , no, they didn't understand the language either. 
  6. The different modes of transport are the abundant cabs found on the street, the tuk-tuks (like our autos) and the sky train in Bangkok. Like in India, you can negotiate with the cab and tuk-tuk drivers.
  7. Most of the cab drivers are swift and smart with their phone use. You name the place and you are quickly driven there. But you can never see where they drive you because guess what…the Google maps are also in Thai.
  8. Bangkok airport has a complicated wi-fi connection system and takes 20-30 minutes to connect.
  9. Most of the temples are of Buddha and you need to take off your shoes to enter a temple. You also need to make sure you cover your knees and shoulders before you do.
  10. Most of the restaurants run till late in the night, almost round the clock with no breaks between lunch and dinner times.
  11. Water isn’t available for free anywhere. You’d need to buy it.
  12. Forex exchange kiosks are found almost everywhere.
  13. The roads are free of troughs and craters and are very beautifully maintained.
I hope you find this list useful in guiding your preparations when you visit Thailand.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Thailand: touring Bangkok, Phuket & Krabi

BANGKOK
We landed at Bangkok at 10. 30 pm and went for visa-on-arrival process. We filled out a form. Despite a long check-list of required documents, the only proof that they asked for was the to & fro tickets. After 15 minutes of waiting, we were beckoned and handed the stamped passports.
We headed out to our hotel (Holiday Inn Express) and reached at around 12.30. Hungry and tired, we checked in and asked for some food. We were told that there was no kitchen and suggested we go down to the Mc Donald’s attached to the hotel which had plenty of beef, pork and chicken options but nothing that we vegetarians could eat. We had booked ourselves into this hotel at Siam, in the centre of the city but found nothing to eat in its neighborhood. Walking around at 1 in the night, we were looking for something to eat when a kind tuktukwala (tuktuk: like the autos in India but bigger) stopped and asked, “India?” and promised to take us to an Indian restaurant. I normally avoid Indian food outside India but then having no other recourse, got into his tuktuk and visited the Indian restaurant, which, as imagined, served an absolutely bland fare. By the time we slipped under covers, it was 2 am!
The next day was a trip to Ayutthaya. We started at 10 am, took help of the hotel concierge and booked a cab for THB 2000 to Ayutthaya and back.  All along the way, we were taken to several temples which belonged to many centuries back and were mostly in ruins. Though history interests me, after a point of time I was pretty tired from seeing ruins after ruins. There was the palace thrown in as well, but at around 11.30 am, at the beginning of the tour, it was too hot for us to enjoy going around. In the process, I got severely sunburnt.
The next day was the flight to Phuket in the evening. Therefore, we went for shopping at Pratunam, the street shopping at Bangkok during the first half of the day. For me, it was very much like the Sultan bazaar of Hyderabad, with crowds jostling against each other. There was a great fear of pick-pocketing and we were very careful, clutching on to our wallets and phones. We bought some clothes suitable for beach. At Pratunam clothes were as cheap as THB 65 for a t shirt! We also shopped at the adjacent Indira market where you find stuff priced slightly higher comparatively but still cheap.
We ate some Thai food at the food courts there. When we emerged onto the main road from Indira market, we found, to our astonishment, a line of Indian restaurants, mostly vegetarian! So, for people who want to stick to a familiar cuisine, this is for you guys.
After shopping, we rushed back to the hotel, picked up our luggage and headed to the airport to Phuket.

AT PHUKET
At around 8 pm, we arrived at Phuket at a fairly better time than we did at Bangkok. We booked ourselves at Malika Hotel at Phuket Town. Phuket looks like a sleepy Kerala village. There is lots of greenery with long coconut trees swaying all along your route from Phuket airport to the town.
Even at 8 pm, we (again) found no food or kitchen in the hotel open at that time. Too tired to go out, we survived on some salvaged food from our bags.
We then held a discussion with the hotel receptionist for our next day’s plans. Don’t be fooled by the frail appearance of the receptionist. On travel review sites, people have mentioned about how this poor, frail thing carried your suitcases to the top floor in absence of a lift and the bell-boys. (She  actually sprinted upstairs with two 10 kg suitcases in each hand!
I would say definitely, in this case, appearances can be so deceptive!
She booked us to a Phi Phi island trip at THB 2000 each. Later, we found out that the people from other hotels had paid 900 to 1200 max for the same trip.
Though the hotel was set in a serene environment, it has no lift and no phone to call the receptionist! Just imagine trying to ask for something…
The next morning, we set out for a trip to Phi Phi islands and several other islands and beaches en route.
Organized by the APJR group, the whole trip experience was rather mediocre.
After Phi Phi islands, we returned in the evening at 5 and went out for a stroll and dinner in Phuket town. After knowing how much the hotel could overcharge us by, we decided to go to one of the several tourist centres to book a taxi for the next day to Krabi. By now, we knew better than to arrive late to a hotel and starve.
But we found our driver, Mr. Chai, through a car mechanic’s shop. We had strolled by to ask for a tourist centre who could book us a cab in Phuket Town and they called up this excellent driver who charged us cheaper than the tourist centres did . He was a thorough professional, arriving on dot the next day at our hotel, drove at optimum speed and with great care to Krabi. Mr. Chai can be reached at 081-6062485.
Phuket to Karbi is exactly 3 hours. Starting at 11. 30, we arrived at Krabi at 2.30 pm.

AT KRABI
Reaching our hotel IBIS, Krabi at 2.30 pm, just in time for lunch, was a vast improvement when compared to arrival times at Bangkok and Phuket.
Krabi, at 4,709 km² is the largest island in Thailand and, therefore, will have you puzzled about where to stay. Look no further…Ao Nang it is. It is closest to the beach and has a 2 km stretch of way-side shopping, stretching from our hotel to the beach. During our foray for lunch, we chanced upon a Thai- cum-Indian restaurant. We ordered Thai food sharing our requirements with its Indian owner and Thai chef.
The next day we went to a 4-island tour through the hotel @ 1000 THBs each. Where Phuket beaches are for those who swim, snorkel, dive etc. Krabi is more of pristine, clean beaches and fine sands. In sharp contrast to the APJR group we went with in Phuket, Krabi Mukandaman Travel, (phone: 075-695-591) was very professional. They had far superior boats, uniformed personnel and the jewel in the crown was the excellent tour guide who was so mindful of our needs, took great care and sprinkled his conversations with much witticism.
Mat, our cheerful tourist guide

To experience the feeling of being one with the nature, do visit Ao Nang beach in the evening. A quiet peace engulfs you as you walk away from the noise of the main road towards the beach.
The environment is electrifying with only the noise of waves splashing against the shores as you walk past many restaurants of various cuisines, massage parlours, live music, candle light dinners…the works!
Next time, it is straight Krabi for me!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Thailand: preparing for the journey

When you want to visit a country, the first thing you need to plan is about which parts of the country you want to tour. This again depends on why you want to travel to that country in the first place.
Ok, so here is how I decided. I got Diwali holidays for a couple of days at office. Combining that with three days’ leave and 4 days of weekends, gave me a solid 9 days off. I decided to keep one day to myself to sorting and unpacking the mess post-travel before joining office from Monday.

So, what could be done in these 8 days?  Looking at Thailand map made me realize that the names of places that float around were at quite a distance from each other, two cities (Bangkok & Pattaya) in the North Thailand and two cities (Phuket & Krabi) in the South. A preliminary research made me realize that doing all four, plus travel in the given duration was tough.

Bangkok was, after all, just another city, like any other city in the world. Pattaya was a city famous for its night life. Could easily skip that. That means we devote our time to the South where the delightful islands of Phuket and Krabi lay. So, the plan was made: the briefest of times at Bangkok and the maximum time at Krabi.
Flights tickets from Hyderabad to Bangkok and back were booked. Extensive research done on which hotels to stay at, depending on the proximity to prominent landmarks, and booked. All these activities were done online and took about 14 days. By then, I was about a week away from travel and didn’t have the time to apply for visa from Hyderabad, as apparently, we need to show proof of to and fro tickets plus where we planned to stay during the entire duration of our Thailand stay.
Next, was applying for Forex. This was the easiest of all tasks as I could book the forex online and get it delivered the same day. I got it at the rate of Rs. 2.89 to 1 THB. I applied for 15000 THB, hoping it will do. The cards were always there, anyways.
We stayed in two 4-starred hotels and one 3-starred (where the 4-starred one wasn’t available). We didn’t travel by public transport and always took the cab. What I mean to say is that we definitely weren't on a money-saving mode. Yet, we only incurred a cost of 22000 THB for our sight-seeing, food and shopping expenditure. We swiped the card when we thought we might fall short of cash.