Saturday, September 28, 2013

Phata Poster Nikla Hero

Watched this movie within the first week as I wasn't sure, with its B.O performance, how many theaters would screen it in its second week. Yet, there is hope as the movie has its bright spots. Plus the fact that Grand Masti would lose its steam by its third week and there are no major releases lined up.
What's the movie about? Shahid Kapoor, the hero, was born with the dream of becoming a hero in films. But his mother Padmini Kolhapuri wants him to join the police. The first part of the film is filled with Shahid's attempts to fail every police recruitment test that his mother forces him to attend. Shahid displays a hitherto unexplored, brilliant comic side to his acting. There are many moments, many well-written scenes which are hilarious and you would thoroughly enjoy watching them.
Shahid goes to Mumbai for another police recruitment test but ends up being mistaken to be a real police by the heroine, Ileana. Ileana, who plays a social worker, is always after the police urging them to punish the criminals.This leads to more comic moments. And when Padmini Kolhapuri thinks her son has become a Police Inspector, she lands up at Mumbai too as she wants to see her son work as an inspector.
The movie belongs entirely to Shahid Kapoor. He has excelled in all emotions. Apart from his superb comic timing, he displays a vulnerability for which Salman Khan used to be known for in the 80s. Watch him especially in the scene where amidst great trauma, he still thinks of Vinod Khanna as a film star and not a doctor. " Yeh Vinod Khanna doctor kab ban gaye?," he exclaims. Watch him in the 'Rang sharbaton ka' song and all subtle moods he displays in it. And, of course, he has always been a great dancer. He exploits this talent to add to the comedy when he breaks into an impromptu pole dance in the villains' club!
What the film fails to do is to maintain the tempo of a slick script and lapses into the predictable melodrama of the 70s- 80s era: son lives his mother's dream, mother has a heart attack, son has to collect money for mother's operation, talking into clever devices like a watch that doubles up as a walkie-talkie to hood wink the villain, mother and girl friend getting kidnapped...
Ileana predictably has nothing much to do except look pretty. Darshan Jariwala as the Police Commissioner complements the comic moments well. Padmini Kolhapuri has remained in the 70-80s melodramatic times.What's really watchable is Salman's Khan's teeny-weeny cameo performance. He is effortlessly brilliant in a self-depreciating role.
Phata Poster Nikla Hero has its brilliant moments. A tighter script would have seen it hit it off with the audience.
This movie is watchable. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Lunchbox: incomparable

I was at the ticket counter at 12:05 to buy tickets for the movie which was supposed to start at 12. Not wanting to miss the beginning of the movie, I was frantically pleading, "Bhai sahab, two tickets please, jaldi. This is for the 12 o clock show". Beside me another voice, "Bhai sahab ek ticket pl, for the 12 o clock show, jaldi." I looked up to see a guy perspiring from all the running he obviously did to get to the counter. When our respective tickets were handed to us, we ran simultaneously towards the elevator to rush to the movies. He admitted that he traveled 18 kilometers just to catch the first day, first show of this movie! What love for good movies can do to people! :) Luckily for us, the movie started a little late :)

Well, when you speak of a Irfan Khan movie, you dont need a movie review to watch it. You blindly jump at the opportunity. And the icing on the cake was having Nawazuddin Siddiqui in it. Watching Siddiqui was a treat. How he transforms from a sinister gangster roaming on Wasseypur streets in GOW, gun  or hookah in hand, to this opportunist who takes on the world breezily, is amazing.
Siddique is supposed to take over from Irfan who is about to retire after putting in 35 years of service. In Irfan's dry, monotonous and grouchy life, there comes a one in a million chance happening: the Mumbai dabba wala delivers the dabba to a wrong person. This triggers exchange of short notes between Nimrat Kaur, who plays a neglected housewife, and Irfan who receives her dabba. The notes, sent through the dabba, get longer as more personal details get exchanged. They are written on single-ruled pages torn from a note book and remind you of the little notes you must have exchanged with your friends in school.
Every time Irfan Khan opens the dabba cover and takes a deep breath of the food within, you too seem to enjoy those aromas wafting from within. And when he opens the tiffin box, you are as eager as him to see what the dabba contains today...the food and the note.
The food in the dabba each day conveys a different mood: eagerness, anticipation, love, anger, even revenge. That so much can be said through these dabbas forms part of the unspoken and subtle moments in the movie. Every scene is filled with meaning. Every moment filled with an emotion, largely unspoken and unexpressed.
The movie has a fourth character, the voice of Bharati Achrekar, who lives one floor above Nimrat's, and tries to help her by suggesting she spice up her food to find a route to her husband's heart. The love with which Nimrat Kaur cooks, from the loving way she washes the vegetables, to the way she adds a pinch of spice here and there, to the packing of the dabba, wiping it to ensure it is dust-free...each of these gestures show the love she puts into the cooking.
Food, love, and love for food, all these bring subtle transformations to the protagonists' lives. While it helps Irfan explore life beyond his secluded existence, it makes Nimrat find new strength in herself.
The movie was watched in pin-drop silence. No one wanted to miss a single moment or part of a conversation, I believe. After it was over, I remained seated in my place for a while, so overwhelmed was I with the experience of watching it.
Comparing this movie with any other movie, of any language or era is futile. This movie has simply no comparison. All departments excel: direction, story, acting... There are many meanings, inferences and conclusions that you can draw from the movie. What I choose to believe is that the movie tells me that life with all its subtleties is worth living every minute.
This movie is mostly Hindi but has large chunks of the English language too. The success of this wonderful movie ensures that a good script draws the audiences irrespective of  its very  little marketing or promotions.
I don't give this movie a rating as all the stars in the sky put together are not enough to rate this movie.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Khaan Saab

This restaurant, housed in GVK, has been around since the mall had opened at Banjara Hills. Strangely, I had tasted at their other restaurant, 'The Buffet' when it had opened and had missed this one. Off late, I am hearing of its declining standard. Yet I was assured by a friend that I could try the vegetarian section.and not be disappointed. Well, I wasn't.
Khaan Saab epitomizes grandeur.There is a huge royal elephant figure at the entrance, beyond which lies the main entrance to the restaurant. The impression continues with the very high ceiling and a semblance of a huge space.The royal feel continues into their dining rooms, about four of them on their first floor, which can accommodate small private parties.
We were seated in a corner at a table with brass ware. On the table was placed a holder with three dips/chutneys along with a few bread sticks. The three dips were made of mint, tomato and curd. Mint and tomato were slightly spicy but the curd was bland. All three were quite tasty.

Dips@ Khaan Saab

We ordered Karara Paneer Kabab for starters and for soup we ordered Dal Palak Makai Shorba. Both items were not tasted before. The steward described to us what it was and how it was prepared. So we had an inkling of what to look forward to.The soup was green, light, thin, a slight garlic smell along with the taste of the dal and a few corn kernels floating  in it. I liked it for its mild taste.

Palak Shorba@ Khaan Saab
The starters, the kabaabs, were eight to a plate. A huge portion for small eaters. This consisted of layers of thin ribbons of flour within which was encased the paneer and then deeply fried. The core tasted like the veg koftas and was a combination of paneer and vegetables. This yummy dish was very crunchy and we had a good time eating it with the accompanying dips. We were served two of these starters each and were almost half full by the time we finished it.

Karara Paneer@Khaan Saab
We ordered for Subz Hariyali Tikka Masala curry and plain naan for our main course. The naans were one of the softest I have had in a long time. We later added a roti  to that order. The roti, made of wheat flour, was also soft. The curry was made of palak (spinach) gravy and had 4 tikkis in it. The tikkis made of chopped vegetables was bound with corn flour, shaped into two inches round flat patties and shallow fried. They weren't soft like the koftas and were slightly chewy. The taste was quite decent.

Subz Hariyali@Khaan Saab
Along with the order of main course, was also brought to the table, a stand containing pickles of four varieties, some fresh onion rings, vinegared onion and green chilies.
We ended our meal with a lemonade, their nimbu pani, which was again rightly made, not too sour, not too sweet or salty, very nicely balanced tastes and a good end to a good meal. I feel this is the only item on the menu which doesn't justify its price. At 90/-, too steep for a glass of simple nimbu paani.
What really added to all this experience were the waiters. They were always attentive, quick to come to your table even if you looked a second longer in their direction, or just raised a finger. Very attentive and very helpful in describing the order for us so that we knew what to order and what to expect. The steward would check from time to time with us to see if everything was fine.
When we asked that the leftovers be packed for us, a very thoughtful gesture happened. The three dips were packed along with the starters. Good quantities in three boxes. And double packed so that it doesn't leak!
The food overall is mildly spiced and non-greasy.The washrooms were also spic and span and very decently maintained.
Will I go there again? Yes, for their excellent service, for the good portions per order, for their super soft naans and also to have another shot at their dal-palak shorba.
On the minus, we found some fine dust particles here and there, very few, but still existed, in the curry. This proved to be the fly in the ointment in this whole experience.
The bill for this meal for two came to Rs 840/- The good part is that they do not levy a service charge.We were taxed 14.5 % as VAT and 4.94% as service charge.
My rating;
Ambiance: 5/5
Food: 3.5/5
Service: 5/5
VFM:  3.5/5
Here is a tip shared by my friend: To reach the restaurant, do not enter from the main entrance but from the lift closer to the valet parking of the Hard Rock Cafe. If you enter from the main entrance, you need to change two lifts.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Shudh Desi Romance

Shudh Desi Romance from Yash Raj Films has the unmistakable stamp of director Maneesh Sharma(of Band Baja Barat and Ladies vs Ricky Bahl)

This film has been rated high by the critics. Though the trailers had kept up my expectations, the wish to see it was further bolstered by the critics' high rating. We had selected seats through online booking but could not complete the transaction for some reason. And when we went to buy the tickets through their counter, we were pleasantly surprised to find those very seats available two hours before the movie started. On entering the hall, we understood why. The hall was less than half full in its second week of running. Puzzling, especially when the movie has been declared a hit.
Well the pluses of the movie are the highly energetic and natural performances. There are four main characters in all: The hero, two heroines and that of Rishi Kapoor. 
Maneesh has given the same rustic appearance to the hero, Sushant Singh as he had done to the heroes  in his previous two movies. Sushant's is a highly energetic performance. Rishi Kapoor looks tailor made for the role and seems to be enjoying the second phase of his career fully. He is very comfortable playing the part of a small time wedding planner. He also plays a mentor to Sushant's role. Parneeti Chopra plays the role of a fiercely independent woman. The second heroine, Vaani Kapoor doesn't look like she is making a debut and is very confident. The movie revolves around these characters. And very few moments of appearances by others. 
The movie promos made it appear as though it was all about live-in relationships, but there is so much more to the movie. 
It is about how the young think beyond the conventional, beyond what's been accepted for generations. The movie isn't being judgmental. It shows how they want to be sure and double sure that this is the person that I want to live my entire life with. Testing compatibility & attraction: emotional and physical is important. Even after finding what they think is the right person, do they take that one big step? That's what the movie is about. 
The movie, from Yash Raj banners has evolved from those times when making love would be two flowers moving and shaking. This movie is more realistic, unconventional and free of any such hypocrisy. 
The story is about the hero fleeing from his own marriage when he develops doubts in his mind about it being the right thing to do. He in turn is dumped at his own marriage and for the same reason. What he decides and what is the role of the two heroines and whom he chooses to live with forms the story.
The strength of the movie is definitely the acting by the four main actors and a good few comic moments strewn in between. 
The minus is the length of 141 minutes...slightly long especially when it seems a bit drawn out at times. Also what makes this film seem like a documentary is when the main characters choose to speak to the camera...happens once too often.
Otherwise a well-made film with a contemporary script that this generation can identify with. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Kashmir Heights

Many rave reviews in the foodies group made me wonder if this restaurant really was that good. I am skeptical because very rarely do restaurants known more for their non vegetarian cuisine have anything to offer to the vegetarian palate. I posed a question to the owner who also is part of the group and was assured that the vegetarians definitely would also enjoy the fare there.
There were a round of negative reviews of the restaurant which the owner attributed to absence of the cook but a month or so later, the group was assured that the restaurant had a cook brought from Kashmir to offer authentic food.
This place is not too far from my home and was definitely on my radar for long. I wanted to experience a real Kashmir food. What I know of Kashmir cuisine is from what is offered in some restaurants and also from my first hand experience of eating in Kashmir and from my Kashmir friends. Based on this experience, what I was looking forward to was food prepared with lot of dry fruits and in ghee with maybe a slightly sweet touch to the dish.
I called before going as it was a bandh in Hyderabd and I wanted to ensure that regular food was available.When assured, we proceeded to the restaurant. We people didn't have a proper lunch and were really looking forth to a delightful gastronomic experience. As soon as I seated myself, I asked for Dum Aloo to be prepared, just in case it takes time to prepare.
Then when I went through the menu, I discovered that the veg section in the menu was just about a page or so.This was expected as Kashmir is known more for its non veg preparations than veg ones. There was only one veg starter kind of thing and I ordered it : the Veg Kanti (Rs.160). The veg kanti was not like the usual dry preparation but came with thinly sliced fried onions. The quality of the paneer used was good and mildly spiced. There was a dip that was supposed to accompany this but none transpired.

Kanti Paneer@ Kashmir Heights

My eyes and heart were set on the Kahsmir Pulao in the menu and ordered it. I was waiting in eager anticipation imagining an aromatic delight laden with fruits, dry fruits, loads of vegetables, all fried in ghee. I was imagining this in my mind:

Kashmiri Pulao

And what I got was this:
Kashmiri pulao presented at Kashmir Heights
A huge bowl, filled with yellow and red colored rice with no obvious spices, vegetables, fruits or dry fruits was presented. There were one or two almonds in the entire dish and looked so lackluster. We were served some and when we dug into it, we found that it had absolutely no flavor whatsoever. When I told the waiters that we expected a sweet pulao, his reply was that the pulao isn't sweet. It is supposed to be like that only! One of the waiters told me that a mirchi ka salan was supposed to accompany this pulao but again nothing came. I didn't bother asking as I abandoned the pulao and opted for a nan+ curry instead.
I called the waiter for a curry recommendation but all that he did was list out the few vegetarian curries on the menu. No help there!  So ordered a navaratan curry and a nan.
The Navaratan curry (Rs. Rs.170) was again a disappointment. Prevalence of a stinky cauliflower and an overpoweringly sour taste describes the dish.  I have eaten navratan curry that borders on sweetish taste but never a sour one. The description in the menu was that it was supposed to be loaded with premium vegetables, raisins and dry fruits. I found nothing except some pieces of vegetables in it...almost like the Mixed Vegetable curry offered in Hyderabad cuisine. After having ensured that our tummy had the minimum food required to take care of its hunger, we prepared to leave.

Navaratan curry @ Kashmir Heights

The pulao was left nearly untouched and I questioned the waiter about its quality again during bill time. He called the owner to discuss this with.
The owner had this to say:
 I didnt know it was you who had walked in. Had I known I would have ensured you get the real Kashmir pulao and not this. People here don't like sweet preparation and hence we are forced to offer this. 
THIS? You mean plain yellow and red colored rice bereft of flavors? He also told me that had you eaten non vegetarian food, you would have had no complaints.
Coincidentally, I had interacted with another lady who had tasted their famous Wazwaan platter (a non vegetarian preparation) on the same day that I was  there and said this:
The so called wazwaan platter was so bad.. Tasted half cooked and half stale.. Not freshly made..
 I was craving for soup so had called for chicken hot n sour.. There was not even one chicken piece in that.. It was just mushroom and they were confident enough that they served us non veg soup.
So there goes his claim to serving a good non veg fare. At least he was decent enough to waive off the amount for the colored rice.
I know that many restaurants have their bad days and good days but what I couldn't take was the nonchalant waiters and the indifferent food. Every restaurateur needs to have only one motto to succeed: serve good food.

On the plus, the Dum Aoo (Rs. 100) we ordered was quite decent in taste. It contained two whole boiled and fried potatoes served in a mildly flavored and smooth, non-spicy gravy. Was it because we ordered for it as soon as we came in?

Dum Aloo@ Kashmir Heights
I was so looking forward to finshing my meal with their tea or the desserts but I knew nothing could take the bitter taste from my mind or tongue.
The ambience is ok, not bad. What really is nice is the seating by the window which offers you privacy and a view. Also, though there is lot of oil as found in other restaurants, I didnt find the use of dalda in their food
This restaurant on SP Road, situated on way to Begumpet, had very little parking space. Three cars and they are full.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mama Mia: the best pizzas in Hyderabad

A celebration normally means restaurants with big names, a fine-dining experience...and not a small, relatively unknown pizzeria with two tables inside and a few outside it.
But after a take-away a couple of months back, my family thought the food at Mama Mia Italia was worth celebrating the occasion.Though I have been strongly advocating the restaurant to all known, somewhere inside was a hesitation: I hadn't been to the place yet and what if the experience there was different? Thankfully I discovered that the taste was consistent with the previous experience.
We went around 8 in the evening battling a sudden shower and landed at Mama Mia wet and hungry. Without wasting much time, we ordered for a garlic bread and two medium sized (10") pizzas: Margarita and the Hawaiian. The quick order was because of the previous experience when the take-away on a weekend had taken about half hour or more to deliver. Meanwhile I took the opportunity to chat with Mr. Shastry, the owner and also look around. This place is at Defense colony in Sainikpuri and has a seating capacity of around 6 inside. Outside the pizzeria, they have a few places laid out with chairs and long benches which could take in about 10-12 people more. Apart from the garlic bread and pizzas, the menu also consists of pasta and some desserts and has both veg and non veg options.
The garlic bread itself took around 20 minutes to arrive. They were about 2" long and disappeared fast. They were four to a plate which I felt was a small portion and was priced at Rs.50. Quite good with the right amount of cheese & basil coat.
 It was amazing to find Mr. Shastry greet all customers so warmly, making an effort to remember names of repeat customers. In fact, he addressed me by my name as one of my foodie friends had let him on that I'd be visiting that day :) A big plus for this gesture.
After another 10 minute wait, we had both the pizzas brought to the table. They were brought in cardboard boxes. The pizza base was thin, soft yet crisp. The BEST part of the pizza slice was that you could roll it up and eat. Which other pizza base can lay a claim to that? We were silent as we ate, lost completely in the experience. It was yum all the way. One and half pizzas through, we were done and carried away the rest.
Below are the pizzas we had. See the way they brown nicely on the top?!

Hawaiian Pizza @Mama Mia Italia

Margarita Pizza @ Mama Mia Italia

After the meal, I was curious to see the wood fired oven. I was not only given a guided tour of the oven built in the basement but also shown the different ingredients that went into preparing the pizzas. The pizzas are made from scratch, starting with the base. You have a choice of pizza base: multi-grained and thick base. I tasted the mozzarella used, was shown the tomato pulp that's used for preparing the sauce and watched the making of the pizza. An awesome experience!
What came across in talking to Mr. Shastry was the dedication and sincerity in wanting to make people experience good food. If a restaurateur concentrates only on this, everything else falls in place. He acknowledged that I was also a brand ambassador for his pizzeria along with few others but then I assured him that he doesn't need any brand ambassadors. The taste speaks for itself. He says he isn't in a hurry to expand and promised to take care of quality first. I hope he continues to churn out what he does best and gives us the best pizzas in town.
The waiting time is something that you need to look out for. But I guess a wood fired oven does take that kind of time. After all, patience and time are the prerequisites for loving cooking.
Our total bill ( no taxes) came to below 500/- for the dinner. That taste for this price! No competition!
By the way, when microwaved the next day, the taste of the pizza remained unchanged.