A Scandal In College

This place seriously needs an update!

😛

 
This place seriously needs an update!

😛

 

Jaane Hoga Kya – Now I wasnt expecting anything great from this long-in-the-making-released-hurriedly film. So, page what turned out was a pleasant surprise. And not because of its content. But for the inadvertant humor that the film provides. Ok, there so what’s it about? Cloning! Don’t choke on that coke, it is actually a film on human cloning. And how the directors (Glenn-Ankush) portray it is the best comedy released this year. As per this film, to make a clone there has to be two plastic covered ‘capsules’, connected to a computer. So, ‘data’ will move from one capsule to another, as heat rises, and out of steam a new human will be formed! Wow! That simple!

That’s how Aftab creates his own clone. But that’s not all. As soon as the new Aftab is formed, he leaves the capsule and *laugh laugh* heads for a dance bar to sing an item number with Maria Goretti. Some Bollywood pre-educated clone this was indeed! In fact, going by the number of songs that the clone gets to sing, he seems quite the ‘in-thing’! And other than the item number, this includes one roll-in-the-hay number with Preeti Jhangiani (who seems to have lost her voice and inhibitions permanently in this film).

Of course, the clone is not all that ‘good’, like the scientist. In fact, he turns out to be some ‘super-power’ monster with immense powers. Frankenstein, did some one say? Well, the scientist’s haalat is quite like that, but then the hero has to win in the end in movies!

Oh yes, in between all the songs and evil, there was a nice little twist in the end.

Overall – Watch it to laugh at it!

Aap Ki Khatir (Free - Bonus Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Aap Ki Khatir – Honestly, can some one tell Dharmesh Darshan to retire and spare us his tortures! Can someone tell Amisha Patel that making melancholic expressions doesnt construe acting! Can someone tell Sunil Shetty that joi-de-vivre is an inborn feeling; faking it never works! Can someone tell Lillette Dubey that she looked horrendous in this film spouting Anglicised Punjabi! Can someone tell…ok, I am sure you got what I want to convey.

This pain-some movie is old wine in older bottle. A soggy script with limp characters and a bland-as-London-weather scenario only worsens the viewer’s discomfort. In fact, the film ends up looking like a shoddy UK-produced small-budget fare.

I am quite surprised that Akshaye Khanna chose to do this film, which couldnt have looked attractive at script level even!

Overall – Dont even think of it!

Naksha – Beware of Vivek Oberoi in the jungle! He bored us first in Kaal, and now returns for another jungle-mein-mangle! Naksha is a directionless film that has no head nor tail nor any body in between!

Sadly, the concept is good. And one feels like screaming at the director for wasting an opportunity that could have been turned into a like slick thriller.

The story – We all know that in Mahabharat, Karan was born with the magical ‘kawach‘ and ‘kundal’ that gave him immense strength. The mythology tells us that during the Kuruskshetra war, Lord Indra (disguised as a brahman) had asked for the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’ as alms. This was done at the behest of Lord Krishna, in order to defeat Karan. After this, the epic is silent on the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’. What if Lord Indra buried these powerful object somewhere in the Himalayas? Well, the film is built on this premise wherein one archeologist is able to find the same, and prepares a map to reach the place. However, one evil person (Jackie in a horrible get up) gets to know of the same, and wants them as well. The archeologist prefers to suicide rather than give the map to Jackie.

Years later, the archeologist’s son (Vivek) learns of the map, and proceeds to get those objects, with Jackie again close on his heels. To help Vivek, there is his elder step-brother, Sunny Deol.

The story simply meanders precious reels in the jungle. And if the repartees between Sunny and Vivek were ‘comedy’ well, then the director needs to seriously watch some Hrishida films!

Our Bollywood heroes never know when to call it quits. But I had thought Sunny would have learnt from his father (Dharamendra acted in the most third-rate films in the eighties, romancing heroines like Amrita Singh and Dimple Kapadia, who were half his age. In fact, Dimple was having a allegedly having an affair with Sunny when Dharam acted opposite her!) Anyways, Sunny should take caution and remember that such inane roles dont suit his stature. I am sure there will be many writers/directors ready to provide him dignified roles that are commensurate with his age.

As for Sameera Reddy, well her role is the most wishy-washy and redundant. Perhaps, the director realised it, that’s why in the climax, she is just dropped off somewhere and forgotten as well. BTW, if Sameera’s acting career never takes off, she can try for WWE!

Overall – Go tickle your masochist streak and watch it!

This place seriously needs an update!

😛

 

Jaane Hoga Kya – Now I wasnt expecting anything great from this long-in-the-making-released-hurriedly film. So, page what turned out was a pleasant surprise. And not because of its content. But for the inadvertant humor that the film provides. Ok, there so what’s it about? Cloning! Don’t choke on that coke, it is actually a film on human cloning. And how the directors (Glenn-Ankush) portray it is the best comedy released this year. As per this film, to make a clone there has to be two plastic covered ‘capsules’, connected to a computer. So, ‘data’ will move from one capsule to another, as heat rises, and out of steam a new human will be formed! Wow! That simple!

That’s how Aftab creates his own clone. But that’s not all. As soon as the new Aftab is formed, he leaves the capsule and *laugh laugh* heads for a dance bar to sing an item number with Maria Goretti. Some Bollywood pre-educated clone this was indeed! In fact, going by the number of songs that the clone gets to sing, he seems quite the ‘in-thing’! And other than the item number, this includes one roll-in-the-hay number with Preeti Jhangiani (who seems to have lost her voice and inhibitions permanently in this film).

Of course, the clone is not all that ‘good’, like the scientist. In fact, he turns out to be some ‘super-power’ monster with immense powers. Frankenstein, did some one say? Well, the scientist’s haalat is quite like that, but then the hero has to win in the end in movies!

Oh yes, in between all the songs and evil, there was a nice little twist in the end.

Overall – Watch it to laugh at it!

Aap Ki Khatir (Free - Bonus Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Aap Ki Khatir – Honestly, can some one tell Dharmesh Darshan to retire and spare us his tortures! Can someone tell Amisha Patel that making melancholic expressions doesnt construe acting! Can someone tell Sunil Shetty that joi-de-vivre is an inborn feeling; faking it never works! Can someone tell Lillette Dubey that she looked horrendous in this film spouting Anglicised Punjabi! Can someone tell…ok, I am sure you got what I want to convey.

This pain-some movie is old wine in older bottle. A soggy script with limp characters and a bland-as-London-weather scenario only worsens the viewer’s discomfort. In fact, the film ends up looking like a shoddy UK-produced small-budget fare.

I am quite surprised that Akshaye Khanna chose to do this film, which couldnt have looked attractive at script level even!

Overall – Dont even think of it!

Naksha – Beware of Vivek Oberoi in the jungle! He bored us first in Kaal, and now returns for another jungle-mein-mangle! Naksha is a directionless film that has no head nor tail nor any body in between!

Sadly, the concept is good. And one feels like screaming at the director for wasting an opportunity that could have been turned into a like slick thriller.

The story – We all know that in Mahabharat, Karan was born with the magical ‘kawach‘ and ‘kundal’ that gave him immense strength. The mythology tells us that during the Kuruskshetra war, Lord Indra (disguised as a brahman) had asked for the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’ as alms. This was done at the behest of Lord Krishna, in order to defeat Karan. After this, the epic is silent on the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’. What if Lord Indra buried these powerful object somewhere in the Himalayas? Well, the film is built on this premise wherein one archeologist is able to find the same, and prepares a map to reach the place. However, one evil person (Jackie in a horrible get up) gets to know of the same, and wants them as well. The archeologist prefers to suicide rather than give the map to Jackie.

Years later, the archeologist’s son (Vivek) learns of the map, and proceeds to get those objects, with Jackie again close on his heels. To help Vivek, there is his elder step-brother, Sunny Deol.

The story simply meanders precious reels in the jungle. And if the repartees between Sunny and Vivek were ‘comedy’ well, then the director needs to seriously watch some Hrishida films!

Our Bollywood heroes never know when to call it quits. But I had thought Sunny would have learnt from his father (Dharamendra acted in the most third-rate films in the eighties, romancing heroines like Amrita Singh and Dimple Kapadia, who were half his age. In fact, Dimple was having a allegedly having an affair with Sunny when Dharam acted opposite her!) Anyways, Sunny should take caution and remember that such inane roles dont suit his stature. I am sure there will be many writers/directors ready to provide him dignified roles that are commensurate with his age.

As for Sameera Reddy, well her role is the most wishy-washy and redundant. Perhaps, the director realised it, that’s why in the climax, she is just dropped off somewhere and forgotten as well. BTW, if Sameera’s acting career never takes off, she can try for WWE!

Overall – Go tickle your masochist streak and watch it!

Umrao Jaan (New)

I admit it is too early to really write a review on the music on which everyone seems to have an opinion. But before that, women’s health let’s face a few facts squarely in the face – it was an arduously tough act to compose songs for a subject whose previous version is still fresh in the minds of music listeners. More than merit for the older hit, it is the nostalgic wrapper that shines and glitters. It has reached a cult status, traumatologist where it is placed at a hallowed pedestal. One reality check that I wish to present – unlike Sholay or Don the movie, or its music, wasn’t such an earth shattering hit when released in the eighties. It is only over the years that the songs have acquired a ‘retro-hit’ status. So, this sudden urge by everyone to lambast against the newer version sounds funny – even from that generation. Even those who wouldn’t ordinarily listen to Khayyam’s ghazals from Muzaffar Ali’s classic have somehow turned up their nose against Anu Mallik’s efforts. A prime reason is that Mallik’s name itself evokes plentiful negative reactions. Even before the music was out, I had read vitriolic write ups on how could J P Dutta entrust Mallik with such a prestigious job. But obviously, Dutta has enough faith in his composer who gave two whopper (musical) hits with Border and Refugee. In my honest opinion, such reaction was totally unwarranted. Mallik might be obnoxious in his interviews, his many compositions lack any luster of many kind, but still the man has in him to turn up with music that might just be listenable. Another positive point in Dutta-Mallik’s favor is that they haven’t gone and remixed or re-arranged the old classic songs – a towering brownie point to the team, especially seen in the light of the absolutely bland re-mixes/re-designed score of Don.

However, let me make my stance clear – I am neither fond of, nor in favor of, old classics remade in newer format with newer stars. It is simply unappealing, especially when the older versions usually reached perfection (perceived or otherwise) in terms of performance and direction. But this once, I am ready to give Dutta-Mallik team a clean chit, for two reasons – one, I feel that their effort is more honest in re-creating rather than just cashing in on the older success.

The second, and bigger reason, is that I am not emotionally attached to the older Umrao Jaan. Sometime back, in one of the comments, I had mentioned that I am not too fond of that film’s music. The ghazals are good. But somehow, they haven’t had the same gushing effect on me as they should have – except for ‘Yeh kya jagah hai doston‘. Hence, I approached the newer one with a totally fresh mind.

Coming back to the music, as I said, it is a bit early to write a comprehensive review. I haven’t been able to invest the requisite time to listen to it carefully. Yet, when a score leaves a few snatches attached to your soul after the first couple of listenings, you know that it demands coming back to it. In that respect, Mallik’s Umrao Jaan is surely on the right trail. After the first hearing, and switching off the system, I remained floating in its melody and effect, though I couldn’t recall the exact tunes.

From the bunch of solos (all Alka Yagnik barring two), I found ‘Salaam…Tumhari mehfil mein aa gaye hain to kyun na yeh bhi kaam kar len‘ particularly mesmerizing. A very subtle rhythm that supports a hummable tune keeps the song afloat. Alka’s rendition doesn’t move too much away from her flat intonations, yet they somehow suit the composition. The same goes for the second best number ‘Tum jo paas aa gaye, hum jo sharma gaye‘. It’s hookline lies in the charming ‘Tum bhi pahle pahal, hum bhi pahale pahal‘ line, and a mouthful interlude of ‘shehnais‘ topped with a single sarangi strain. A third song that perked my ears and plucked my heart was ‘Mai na mil sakoon jo tumse, meri justjoo na karna’ – a haunting number with tight violins that uplift the song to a dream level. Finally, ‘Jhoote ilzaam tum lagaaya na karo‘ is the fourth interesting solo – a bit slow and lengthy, but overall melodious. There is only one duet, unfortunately it didn’t cut much ice with me – and Sonu Nigam has sadly ‘oversung’ it. Passion can sometimes be understated, and not sighing overtly into the mic!

Agle janam mein mohe bitiya na kijo’ – in two parts – are the only numbers where Alka steps away. The song (in both versions) is a touching lament by a girl who doesn’t want to be a re-born in the same gender. However, I am a bit surprised at such a song in this film – as far as I know of Muslim religion, they do not have any concept of ‘re-birth’, hence the song is conceptually an anomaly in a film dealing with Muslim characters. But coming from Javed Akhtar, I am sure he would have done some research before penning it.

Somewhere I feel the weakest link has been Javed Akhtar’s lyrics that just do not sear with the burning pain that was Umrao Jan Ada’s life. Though one can find many scattered ‘quotable’ examples, overall the poetry is not the kind that one can hug and sob inconsolably to wet the pillows in the night. For example, in ‘Jhoote ilzaam’ a statement like ‘dil hai nazuk, isse dukhaya na karo’ is too bland and direct, and more suited to Sameer/Himesh combo of songs than in a film that talks about a courtesan who was exceptional in her poetry.

I am quite impressed by Mallik’s arrangements – he hasn’t done any unnecessarily experimentations, nor kept the sound cacophonously contemporary. He sticks to the era that the songs were meant to be and introduces now-forgotten Indian instruments like saarangi, sitar and tabla in full measure. Now that’s an achievement. Whether the current generation appreciates this is a million dollar question! But then, like the older generation, maybe they will reject it now but once they grow up, it is precisely this sort of music that they will like to come back to. Perhaps, this version might outlast every other contemporary composition and be a retro hit as well!

Overall- A Good Buy

This place seriously needs an update!

😛

 

Jaane Hoga Kya – Now I wasnt expecting anything great from this long-in-the-making-released-hurriedly film. So, page what turned out was a pleasant surprise. And not because of its content. But for the inadvertant humor that the film provides. Ok, there so what’s it about? Cloning! Don’t choke on that coke, it is actually a film on human cloning. And how the directors (Glenn-Ankush) portray it is the best comedy released this year. As per this film, to make a clone there has to be two plastic covered ‘capsules’, connected to a computer. So, ‘data’ will move from one capsule to another, as heat rises, and out of steam a new human will be formed! Wow! That simple!

That’s how Aftab creates his own clone. But that’s not all. As soon as the new Aftab is formed, he leaves the capsule and *laugh laugh* heads for a dance bar to sing an item number with Maria Goretti. Some Bollywood pre-educated clone this was indeed! In fact, going by the number of songs that the clone gets to sing, he seems quite the ‘in-thing’! And other than the item number, this includes one roll-in-the-hay number with Preeti Jhangiani (who seems to have lost her voice and inhibitions permanently in this film).

Of course, the clone is not all that ‘good’, like the scientist. In fact, he turns out to be some ‘super-power’ monster with immense powers. Frankenstein, did some one say? Well, the scientist’s haalat is quite like that, but then the hero has to win in the end in movies!

Oh yes, in between all the songs and evil, there was a nice little twist in the end.

Overall – Watch it to laugh at it!

Aap Ki Khatir (Free - Bonus Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Aap Ki Khatir – Honestly, can some one tell Dharmesh Darshan to retire and spare us his tortures! Can someone tell Amisha Patel that making melancholic expressions doesnt construe acting! Can someone tell Sunil Shetty that joi-de-vivre is an inborn feeling; faking it never works! Can someone tell Lillette Dubey that she looked horrendous in this film spouting Anglicised Punjabi! Can someone tell…ok, I am sure you got what I want to convey.

This pain-some movie is old wine in older bottle. A soggy script with limp characters and a bland-as-London-weather scenario only worsens the viewer’s discomfort. In fact, the film ends up looking like a shoddy UK-produced small-budget fare.

I am quite surprised that Akshaye Khanna chose to do this film, which couldnt have looked attractive at script level even!

Overall – Dont even think of it!

Naksha – Beware of Vivek Oberoi in the jungle! He bored us first in Kaal, and now returns for another jungle-mein-mangle! Naksha is a directionless film that has no head nor tail nor any body in between!

Sadly, the concept is good. And one feels like screaming at the director for wasting an opportunity that could have been turned into a like slick thriller.

The story – We all know that in Mahabharat, Karan was born with the magical ‘kawach‘ and ‘kundal’ that gave him immense strength. The mythology tells us that during the Kuruskshetra war, Lord Indra (disguised as a brahman) had asked for the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’ as alms. This was done at the behest of Lord Krishna, in order to defeat Karan. After this, the epic is silent on the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’. What if Lord Indra buried these powerful object somewhere in the Himalayas? Well, the film is built on this premise wherein one archeologist is able to find the same, and prepares a map to reach the place. However, one evil person (Jackie in a horrible get up) gets to know of the same, and wants them as well. The archeologist prefers to suicide rather than give the map to Jackie.

Years later, the archeologist’s son (Vivek) learns of the map, and proceeds to get those objects, with Jackie again close on his heels. To help Vivek, there is his elder step-brother, Sunny Deol.

The story simply meanders precious reels in the jungle. And if the repartees between Sunny and Vivek were ‘comedy’ well, then the director needs to seriously watch some Hrishida films!

Our Bollywood heroes never know when to call it quits. But I had thought Sunny would have learnt from his father (Dharamendra acted in the most third-rate films in the eighties, romancing heroines like Amrita Singh and Dimple Kapadia, who were half his age. In fact, Dimple was having a allegedly having an affair with Sunny when Dharam acted opposite her!) Anyways, Sunny should take caution and remember that such inane roles dont suit his stature. I am sure there will be many writers/directors ready to provide him dignified roles that are commensurate with his age.

As for Sameera Reddy, well her role is the most wishy-washy and redundant. Perhaps, the director realised it, that’s why in the climax, she is just dropped off somewhere and forgotten as well. BTW, if Sameera’s acting career never takes off, she can try for WWE!

Overall – Go tickle your masochist streak and watch it!

Umrao Jaan (New)

I admit it is too early to really write a review on the music on which everyone seems to have an opinion. But before that, women’s health let’s face a few facts squarely in the face – it was an arduously tough act to compose songs for a subject whose previous version is still fresh in the minds of music listeners. More than merit for the older hit, it is the nostalgic wrapper that shines and glitters. It has reached a cult status, traumatologist where it is placed at a hallowed pedestal. One reality check that I wish to present – unlike Sholay or Don the movie, or its music, wasn’t such an earth shattering hit when released in the eighties. It is only over the years that the songs have acquired a ‘retro-hit’ status. So, this sudden urge by everyone to lambast against the newer version sounds funny – even from that generation. Even those who wouldn’t ordinarily listen to Khayyam’s ghazals from Muzaffar Ali’s classic have somehow turned up their nose against Anu Mallik’s efforts. A prime reason is that Mallik’s name itself evokes plentiful negative reactions. Even before the music was out, I had read vitriolic write ups on how could J P Dutta entrust Mallik with such a prestigious job. But obviously, Dutta has enough faith in his composer who gave two whopper (musical) hits with Border and Refugee. In my honest opinion, such reaction was totally unwarranted. Mallik might be obnoxious in his interviews, his many compositions lack any luster of many kind, but still the man has in him to turn up with music that might just be listenable. Another positive point in Dutta-Mallik’s favor is that they haven’t gone and remixed or re-arranged the old classic songs – a towering brownie point to the team, especially seen in the light of the absolutely bland re-mixes/re-designed score of Don.

However, let me make my stance clear – I am neither fond of, nor in favor of, old classics remade in newer format with newer stars. It is simply unappealing, especially when the older versions usually reached perfection (perceived or otherwise) in terms of performance and direction. But this once, I am ready to give Dutta-Mallik team a clean chit, for two reasons – one, I feel that their effort is more honest in re-creating rather than just cashing in on the older success.

The second, and bigger reason, is that I am not emotionally attached to the older Umrao Jaan. Sometime back, in one of the comments, I had mentioned that I am not too fond of that film’s music. The ghazals are good. But somehow, they haven’t had the same gushing effect on me as they should have – except for ‘Yeh kya jagah hai doston‘. Hence, I approached the newer one with a totally fresh mind.

Coming back to the music, as I said, it is a bit early to write a comprehensive review. I haven’t been able to invest the requisite time to listen to it carefully. Yet, when a score leaves a few snatches attached to your soul after the first couple of listenings, you know that it demands coming back to it. In that respect, Mallik’s Umrao Jaan is surely on the right trail. After the first hearing, and switching off the system, I remained floating in its melody and effect, though I couldn’t recall the exact tunes.

From the bunch of solos (all Alka Yagnik barring two), I found ‘Salaam…Tumhari mehfil mein aa gaye hain to kyun na yeh bhi kaam kar len‘ particularly mesmerizing. A very subtle rhythm that supports a hummable tune keeps the song afloat. Alka’s rendition doesn’t move too much away from her flat intonations, yet they somehow suit the composition. The same goes for the second best number ‘Tum jo paas aa gaye, hum jo sharma gaye‘. It’s hookline lies in the charming ‘Tum bhi pahle pahal, hum bhi pahale pahal‘ line, and a mouthful interlude of ‘shehnais‘ topped with a single sarangi strain. A third song that perked my ears and plucked my heart was ‘Mai na mil sakoon jo tumse, meri justjoo na karna’ – a haunting number with tight violins that uplift the song to a dream level. Finally, ‘Jhoote ilzaam tum lagaaya na karo‘ is the fourth interesting solo – a bit slow and lengthy, but overall melodious. There is only one duet, unfortunately it didn’t cut much ice with me – and Sonu Nigam has sadly ‘oversung’ it. Passion can sometimes be understated, and not sighing overtly into the mic!

Agle janam mein mohe bitiya na kijo’ – in two parts – are the only numbers where Alka steps away. The song (in both versions) is a touching lament by a girl who doesn’t want to be a re-born in the same gender. However, I am a bit surprised at such a song in this film – as far as I know of Muslim religion, they do not have any concept of ‘re-birth’, hence the song is conceptually an anomaly in a film dealing with Muslim characters. But coming from Javed Akhtar, I am sure he would have done some research before penning it.

Somewhere I feel the weakest link has been Javed Akhtar’s lyrics that just do not sear with the burning pain that was Umrao Jan Ada’s life. Though one can find many scattered ‘quotable’ examples, overall the poetry is not the kind that one can hug and sob inconsolably to wet the pillows in the night. For example, in ‘Jhoote ilzaam’ a statement like ‘dil hai nazuk, isse dukhaya na karo’ is too bland and direct, and more suited to Sameer/Himesh combo of songs than in a film that talks about a courtesan who was exceptional in her poetry.

I am quite impressed by Mallik’s arrangements – he hasn’t done any unnecessarily experimentations, nor kept the sound cacophonously contemporary. He sticks to the era that the songs were meant to be and introduces now-forgotten Indian instruments like saarangi, sitar and tabla in full measure. Now that’s an achievement. Whether the current generation appreciates this is a million dollar question! But then, like the older generation, maybe they will reject it now but once they grow up, it is precisely this sort of music that they will like to come back to. Perhaps, this version might outlast every other contemporary composition and be a retro hit as well!

Overall- A Good Buy

I know an update on Random Expressions is long overdue; I have received subtle suggestions, information pills friendly reminders and even dire threats, buy more about which all proved the love and affection for this space. Thanks to everyone. And because of you all, just writing in to say I am fine, and alive – and so is this blog!

Needless to say, the past month has been tediously hectic – including, visits to far off places like Mainpuri, Bhongaon and Bewar and also a few more trips on that horrifying Agra-Aligarh stretch. But more than that it was an urge to prove something to superiors and get the sales figures correct that sort of doused the innate craving to write. So I kept focussed on the work, getting the act right and streamlining the processes as much as I could. Sadly, the end result was not all that encouraging – neither did the figures really shine, nor did this blog get any input. In short, a total failure!

In between, my speaker-set also conked off. Million complaints later, the service center of the obscure Korean brand agreed to rectify the same at home, obviously free of cost since it was well within the warranty period. The fault? Violently fluctuating voltage here – there, I add one more negative item from this city! The consequence? Lightened the wallet to purchase a voltage stabilizer.

Winters are lingering in, though the temperatures dropped precariously low for a couple of days in-between, but now they have clamboured upward. Another addition at home was a much-needed geyser.

Movie-watching and television-viewing were the only stable past-times. I havent yet entered any cinema hall here (waitng for Fun Cinemas to open up), but have put good use to the DVD player. The last few that I caught were the ominous Darna Zaroori Hai, the taut Deadline and the tastelessly dull Umrao Jaan! Television surfing has been massive, and I have to sheepishly admit I got hooked on to several programmes that I wouldnt have ordinarily watched. For example, Big Bosss! The shenanginans of drama-queen Rakhi Sawant and the antics of super-bitch Kashmira Shah kept the hands off the remote control.

The second programme I caught was Nach Baliye-2 – and the reason to get hooked to it was the extremely superb and scintillating performance by Manav and Shweta in that gold-outfit. They bettered it next week with the ‘bamboo dance’ – and I was sure that this pair could win. Sadly, Sweta let herself and us down with a limpid show of the mujra, though Manav more than made it up with his energetic ‘Mai deewana’ number. Still, personally I feel that combined they were far ahead of others in terms of grace, movement, choice and to top it all an endearing sang-froid and a thankful lack of melodrama or tears! Compare this with the eternal crybaby of tv, the other lady whose name I forget now (better known as Prerna of Kasautii Zindagii Kay), you will know what I mean. Their ousting section was the most tedious part of the entire show!

Of course cricket and bollywood both fed enough fodder for all news channels : the shameful South African tour debacle from the former and Sanjay Dutt , Aishwarya and Abhishek amongst the latter. So much so, that I can puke at the mere mention of the last two!

Beyond all this, there is really not much to write. So I will end here – with the same promise to be back soon, and definitely sooner than last time!  

 
This place seriously needs an update!

😛

 

Jaane Hoga Kya – Now I wasnt expecting anything great from this long-in-the-making-released-hurriedly film. So, page what turned out was a pleasant surprise. And not because of its content. But for the inadvertant humor that the film provides. Ok, there so what’s it about? Cloning! Don’t choke on that coke, it is actually a film on human cloning. And how the directors (Glenn-Ankush) portray it is the best comedy released this year. As per this film, to make a clone there has to be two plastic covered ‘capsules’, connected to a computer. So, ‘data’ will move from one capsule to another, as heat rises, and out of steam a new human will be formed! Wow! That simple!

That’s how Aftab creates his own clone. But that’s not all. As soon as the new Aftab is formed, he leaves the capsule and *laugh laugh* heads for a dance bar to sing an item number with Maria Goretti. Some Bollywood pre-educated clone this was indeed! In fact, going by the number of songs that the clone gets to sing, he seems quite the ‘in-thing’! And other than the item number, this includes one roll-in-the-hay number with Preeti Jhangiani (who seems to have lost her voice and inhibitions permanently in this film).

Of course, the clone is not all that ‘good’, like the scientist. In fact, he turns out to be some ‘super-power’ monster with immense powers. Frankenstein, did some one say? Well, the scientist’s haalat is quite like that, but then the hero has to win in the end in movies!

Oh yes, in between all the songs and evil, there was a nice little twist in the end.

Overall – Watch it to laugh at it!

Aap Ki Khatir (Free - Bonus Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Aap Ki Khatir – Honestly, can some one tell Dharmesh Darshan to retire and spare us his tortures! Can someone tell Amisha Patel that making melancholic expressions doesnt construe acting! Can someone tell Sunil Shetty that joi-de-vivre is an inborn feeling; faking it never works! Can someone tell Lillette Dubey that she looked horrendous in this film spouting Anglicised Punjabi! Can someone tell…ok, I am sure you got what I want to convey.

This pain-some movie is old wine in older bottle. A soggy script with limp characters and a bland-as-London-weather scenario only worsens the viewer’s discomfort. In fact, the film ends up looking like a shoddy UK-produced small-budget fare.

I am quite surprised that Akshaye Khanna chose to do this film, which couldnt have looked attractive at script level even!

Overall – Dont even think of it!

Naksha – Beware of Vivek Oberoi in the jungle! He bored us first in Kaal, and now returns for another jungle-mein-mangle! Naksha is a directionless film that has no head nor tail nor any body in between!

Sadly, the concept is good. And one feels like screaming at the director for wasting an opportunity that could have been turned into a like slick thriller.

The story – We all know that in Mahabharat, Karan was born with the magical ‘kawach‘ and ‘kundal’ that gave him immense strength. The mythology tells us that during the Kuruskshetra war, Lord Indra (disguised as a brahman) had asked for the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’ as alms. This was done at the behest of Lord Krishna, in order to defeat Karan. After this, the epic is silent on the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’. What if Lord Indra buried these powerful object somewhere in the Himalayas? Well, the film is built on this premise wherein one archeologist is able to find the same, and prepares a map to reach the place. However, one evil person (Jackie in a horrible get up) gets to know of the same, and wants them as well. The archeologist prefers to suicide rather than give the map to Jackie.

Years later, the archeologist’s son (Vivek) learns of the map, and proceeds to get those objects, with Jackie again close on his heels. To help Vivek, there is his elder step-brother, Sunny Deol.

The story simply meanders precious reels in the jungle. And if the repartees between Sunny and Vivek were ‘comedy’ well, then the director needs to seriously watch some Hrishida films!

Our Bollywood heroes never know when to call it quits. But I had thought Sunny would have learnt from his father (Dharamendra acted in the most third-rate films in the eighties, romancing heroines like Amrita Singh and Dimple Kapadia, who were half his age. In fact, Dimple was having a allegedly having an affair with Sunny when Dharam acted opposite her!) Anyways, Sunny should take caution and remember that such inane roles dont suit his stature. I am sure there will be many writers/directors ready to provide him dignified roles that are commensurate with his age.

As for Sameera Reddy, well her role is the most wishy-washy and redundant. Perhaps, the director realised it, that’s why in the climax, she is just dropped off somewhere and forgotten as well. BTW, if Sameera’s acting career never takes off, she can try for WWE!

Overall – Go tickle your masochist streak and watch it!

Umrao Jaan (New)

I admit it is too early to really write a review on the music on which everyone seems to have an opinion. But before that, women’s health let’s face a few facts squarely in the face – it was an arduously tough act to compose songs for a subject whose previous version is still fresh in the minds of music listeners. More than merit for the older hit, it is the nostalgic wrapper that shines and glitters. It has reached a cult status, traumatologist where it is placed at a hallowed pedestal. One reality check that I wish to present – unlike Sholay or Don the movie, or its music, wasn’t such an earth shattering hit when released in the eighties. It is only over the years that the songs have acquired a ‘retro-hit’ status. So, this sudden urge by everyone to lambast against the newer version sounds funny – even from that generation. Even those who wouldn’t ordinarily listen to Khayyam’s ghazals from Muzaffar Ali’s classic have somehow turned up their nose against Anu Mallik’s efforts. A prime reason is that Mallik’s name itself evokes plentiful negative reactions. Even before the music was out, I had read vitriolic write ups on how could J P Dutta entrust Mallik with such a prestigious job. But obviously, Dutta has enough faith in his composer who gave two whopper (musical) hits with Border and Refugee. In my honest opinion, such reaction was totally unwarranted. Mallik might be obnoxious in his interviews, his many compositions lack any luster of many kind, but still the man has in him to turn up with music that might just be listenable. Another positive point in Dutta-Mallik’s favor is that they haven’t gone and remixed or re-arranged the old classic songs – a towering brownie point to the team, especially seen in the light of the absolutely bland re-mixes/re-designed score of Don.

However, let me make my stance clear – I am neither fond of, nor in favor of, old classics remade in newer format with newer stars. It is simply unappealing, especially when the older versions usually reached perfection (perceived or otherwise) in terms of performance and direction. But this once, I am ready to give Dutta-Mallik team a clean chit, for two reasons – one, I feel that their effort is more honest in re-creating rather than just cashing in on the older success.

The second, and bigger reason, is that I am not emotionally attached to the older Umrao Jaan. Sometime back, in one of the comments, I had mentioned that I am not too fond of that film’s music. The ghazals are good. But somehow, they haven’t had the same gushing effect on me as they should have – except for ‘Yeh kya jagah hai doston‘. Hence, I approached the newer one with a totally fresh mind.

Coming back to the music, as I said, it is a bit early to write a comprehensive review. I haven’t been able to invest the requisite time to listen to it carefully. Yet, when a score leaves a few snatches attached to your soul after the first couple of listenings, you know that it demands coming back to it. In that respect, Mallik’s Umrao Jaan is surely on the right trail. After the first hearing, and switching off the system, I remained floating in its melody and effect, though I couldn’t recall the exact tunes.

From the bunch of solos (all Alka Yagnik barring two), I found ‘Salaam…Tumhari mehfil mein aa gaye hain to kyun na yeh bhi kaam kar len‘ particularly mesmerizing. A very subtle rhythm that supports a hummable tune keeps the song afloat. Alka’s rendition doesn’t move too much away from her flat intonations, yet they somehow suit the composition. The same goes for the second best number ‘Tum jo paas aa gaye, hum jo sharma gaye‘. It’s hookline lies in the charming ‘Tum bhi pahle pahal, hum bhi pahale pahal‘ line, and a mouthful interlude of ‘shehnais‘ topped with a single sarangi strain. A third song that perked my ears and plucked my heart was ‘Mai na mil sakoon jo tumse, meri justjoo na karna’ – a haunting number with tight violins that uplift the song to a dream level. Finally, ‘Jhoote ilzaam tum lagaaya na karo‘ is the fourth interesting solo – a bit slow and lengthy, but overall melodious. There is only one duet, unfortunately it didn’t cut much ice with me – and Sonu Nigam has sadly ‘oversung’ it. Passion can sometimes be understated, and not sighing overtly into the mic!

Agle janam mein mohe bitiya na kijo’ – in two parts – are the only numbers where Alka steps away. The song (in both versions) is a touching lament by a girl who doesn’t want to be a re-born in the same gender. However, I am a bit surprised at such a song in this film – as far as I know of Muslim religion, they do not have any concept of ‘re-birth’, hence the song is conceptually an anomaly in a film dealing with Muslim characters. But coming from Javed Akhtar, I am sure he would have done some research before penning it.

Somewhere I feel the weakest link has been Javed Akhtar’s lyrics that just do not sear with the burning pain that was Umrao Jan Ada’s life. Though one can find many scattered ‘quotable’ examples, overall the poetry is not the kind that one can hug and sob inconsolably to wet the pillows in the night. For example, in ‘Jhoote ilzaam’ a statement like ‘dil hai nazuk, isse dukhaya na karo’ is too bland and direct, and more suited to Sameer/Himesh combo of songs than in a film that talks about a courtesan who was exceptional in her poetry.

I am quite impressed by Mallik’s arrangements – he hasn’t done any unnecessarily experimentations, nor kept the sound cacophonously contemporary. He sticks to the era that the songs were meant to be and introduces now-forgotten Indian instruments like saarangi, sitar and tabla in full measure. Now that’s an achievement. Whether the current generation appreciates this is a million dollar question! But then, like the older generation, maybe they will reject it now but once they grow up, it is precisely this sort of music that they will like to come back to. Perhaps, this version might outlast every other contemporary composition and be a retro hit as well!

Overall- A Good Buy

I know an update on Random Expressions is long overdue; I have received subtle suggestions, information pills friendly reminders and even dire threats, buy more about which all proved the love and affection for this space. Thanks to everyone. And because of you all, just writing in to say I am fine, and alive – and so is this blog!

Needless to say, the past month has been tediously hectic – including, visits to far off places like Mainpuri, Bhongaon and Bewar and also a few more trips on that horrifying Agra-Aligarh stretch. But more than that it was an urge to prove something to superiors and get the sales figures correct that sort of doused the innate craving to write. So I kept focussed on the work, getting the act right and streamlining the processes as much as I could. Sadly, the end result was not all that encouraging – neither did the figures really shine, nor did this blog get any input. In short, a total failure!

In between, my speaker-set also conked off. Million complaints later, the service center of the obscure Korean brand agreed to rectify the same at home, obviously free of cost since it was well within the warranty period. The fault? Violently fluctuating voltage here – there, I add one more negative item from this city! The consequence? Lightened the wallet to purchase a voltage stabilizer.

Winters are lingering in, though the temperatures dropped precariously low for a couple of days in-between, but now they have clamboured upward. Another addition at home was a much-needed geyser.

Movie-watching and television-viewing were the only stable past-times. I havent yet entered any cinema hall here (waitng for Fun Cinemas to open up), but have put good use to the DVD player. The last few that I caught were the ominous Darna Zaroori Hai, the taut Deadline and the tastelessly dull Umrao Jaan! Television surfing has been massive, and I have to sheepishly admit I got hooked on to several programmes that I wouldnt have ordinarily watched. For example, Big Bosss! The shenanginans of drama-queen Rakhi Sawant and the antics of super-bitch Kashmira Shah kept the hands off the remote control.

The second programme I caught was Nach Baliye-2 – and the reason to get hooked to it was the extremely superb and scintillating performance by Manav and Shweta in that gold-outfit. They bettered it next week with the ‘bamboo dance’ – and I was sure that this pair could win. Sadly, Sweta let herself and us down with a limpid show of the mujra, though Manav more than made it up with his energetic ‘Mai deewana’ number. Still, personally I feel that combined they were far ahead of others in terms of grace, movement, choice and to top it all an endearing sang-froid and a thankful lack of melodrama or tears! Compare this with the eternal crybaby of tv, the other lady whose name I forget now (better known as Prerna of Kasautii Zindagii Kay), you will know what I mean. Their ousting section was the most tedious part of the entire show!

Of course cricket and bollywood both fed enough fodder for all news channels : the shameful South African tour debacle from the former and Sanjay Dutt , Aishwarya and Abhishek amongst the latter. So much so, that I can puke at the mere mention of the last two!

Beyond all this, there is really not much to write. So I will end here – with the same promise to be back soon, and definitely sooner than last time!  

 

There is a common English saying – “There are no free lunches in this world!” But I realized that there could be some free dinners sometimes!

It all started on Saturday. At office, this site we decided to try out the new Pizza Hut menu. The alluring leaflets, adiposity with discount coupons, search dropped at my place were added incentive.

However, what started off as a routine ‘order placement’ call, some five minutes later,metamorphosised into a full-fledged verbal duel. The reason being – their adamant refusal at delivering to our office, as it was beyond their ‘service area of four kilometers’. Now Pizza Hut outlet is very near my place so I was hundred percent sure that our office falls within their stipulated four kilometer radius; 3.8 kms, to be very precise- or probably lesser, as the outlet is some 500-700 meters away from my home.In any case, I argued, even if it wasnt within four kms, there is no reason why they cannot still service a kilometer or two extra, if the client is willing not to be bound by their time-frame clause. It’s not as if there is a ‘laxman rekha’ beyond which if Pizza Hut scooters cross, they’d be abducted by some horrifiying Ravans! But all my arguments fell on deaf ears. When the person on the other end (the shift manager) stopped harping on the four-kilometer clause, he started to give wishy washy arguments on how the area where we were didnt fall within ‘serviceable’ limit. Now, I really blew my fuse. Agreed, we fall within that area, but our office – a landmark on its own – is right at the edge, on the main road, and accessible through wide open roads (as wide as they can be in Agra!).

The heat in the arguments from both ends rose to a palpable limit, with lots of strong words deployed, till the time I banged the phone down, in anger and disgust. In the same stroke, I went to Pizza Hut’s website and registered a complaint, mentally swearing off Pizza Hut for lifetime (though, honestly, my stomach and taste buds grumbled their protests – I really like their pizzas, however un-Italian they be!)

Two hours later, when I was quite cooled down, and had been satiated with a heavy lunch from their rival Dominoe’s Pizza, I received a call from Pizza Hut. It was their Asst. Manager – and in a meek voice he apologized for all that had happened. We spoke for some twenty minutes, in which he must have used the word ‘sorry’ some twenty thousand times. He offered to rectify the error and send the order away immediately. But I politely declined, as I was already full – and moreover, on my way to Delhi. He also requested me to visit their outlet sometime, and I vaguely agreed.

I had totally forgotten about the incident by the time I returned from my short but extremely relaxing weekend. Amidst a pile load of work, I received yet another call from Pizza Hut – this time, from their Manager. Once again, there were several rounds of apologies and he insisted that I visit their outlet – anytime convenient. Since he was quite pressing, and since I like Pizza Hut pizzas, and since I live alone and don’t mind a dinner out sometimes, I agreed!

At the designated hour, I reached their outlet. From the moment I entered their restaurant till the time I left, it was an evening befitting a royalty. The manager was there to apologise ( we had a drink together), the shift manager (with whom I had the argument) did the same, and the waiters were all on call at the slightest turn of my head! After a delightful meal (their new Indian Menu is simply outstanding!), when I asked for the bill, they refused the same. ‘It’s complimentary from our side!’ they gushed.

Whether it was the slight intoxication of the smooth Forster, or the luxury of having being served with such impeccable finesse, or the sheer respect for someone who has apologized enough ( I am in sales, and have met enough rude customers to know!), or the effect of the aroma-rich, tasteful food, whatever it was at that time I was ready to do anything they asked for – and that was (as the shift manager meekly, hesitatingly and fearfully requested for) a mail to state that I had enjoyed the evening (which I understood was an euphemism to say that I no longer bore a grudge against them).

I am not entirely unfamiliar with the service standards offered by various organisations. But after yesterday, Pizza Hut’s service quality stands heads and shoulders above many of the bests! To say I am impressed with their service is an understatement! It is way beyond that. And now I have resolved to always be their loyal customer (and my stomach and taste buds gurgle in delight!)

Next Update: December 07th, 2006 at 1800 Hrs IST titled “Eight”

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Jaane Hoga Kya – Now I wasnt expecting anything great from this long-in-the-making-released-hurriedly film. So, page what turned out was a pleasant surprise. And not because of its content. But for the inadvertant humor that the film provides. Ok, there so what’s it about? Cloning! Don’t choke on that coke, it is actually a film on human cloning. And how the directors (Glenn-Ankush) portray it is the best comedy released this year. As per this film, to make a clone there has to be two plastic covered ‘capsules’, connected to a computer. So, ‘data’ will move from one capsule to another, as heat rises, and out of steam a new human will be formed! Wow! That simple!

That’s how Aftab creates his own clone. But that’s not all. As soon as the new Aftab is formed, he leaves the capsule and *laugh laugh* heads for a dance bar to sing an item number with Maria Goretti. Some Bollywood pre-educated clone this was indeed! In fact, going by the number of songs that the clone gets to sing, he seems quite the ‘in-thing’! And other than the item number, this includes one roll-in-the-hay number with Preeti Jhangiani (who seems to have lost her voice and inhibitions permanently in this film).

Of course, the clone is not all that ‘good’, like the scientist. In fact, he turns out to be some ‘super-power’ monster with immense powers. Frankenstein, did some one say? Well, the scientist’s haalat is quite like that, but then the hero has to win in the end in movies!

Oh yes, in between all the songs and evil, there was a nice little twist in the end.

Overall – Watch it to laugh at it!

Aap Ki Khatir (Free - Bonus Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Aap Ki Khatir – Honestly, can some one tell Dharmesh Darshan to retire and spare us his tortures! Can someone tell Amisha Patel that making melancholic expressions doesnt construe acting! Can someone tell Sunil Shetty that joi-de-vivre is an inborn feeling; faking it never works! Can someone tell Lillette Dubey that she looked horrendous in this film spouting Anglicised Punjabi! Can someone tell…ok, I am sure you got what I want to convey.

This pain-some movie is old wine in older bottle. A soggy script with limp characters and a bland-as-London-weather scenario only worsens the viewer’s discomfort. In fact, the film ends up looking like a shoddy UK-produced small-budget fare.

I am quite surprised that Akshaye Khanna chose to do this film, which couldnt have looked attractive at script level even!

Overall – Dont even think of it!

Naksha – Beware of Vivek Oberoi in the jungle! He bored us first in Kaal, and now returns for another jungle-mein-mangle! Naksha is a directionless film that has no head nor tail nor any body in between!

Sadly, the concept is good. And one feels like screaming at the director for wasting an opportunity that could have been turned into a like slick thriller.

The story – We all know that in Mahabharat, Karan was born with the magical ‘kawach‘ and ‘kundal’ that gave him immense strength. The mythology tells us that during the Kuruskshetra war, Lord Indra (disguised as a brahman) had asked for the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’ as alms. This was done at the behest of Lord Krishna, in order to defeat Karan. After this, the epic is silent on the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’. What if Lord Indra buried these powerful object somewhere in the Himalayas? Well, the film is built on this premise wherein one archeologist is able to find the same, and prepares a map to reach the place. However, one evil person (Jackie in a horrible get up) gets to know of the same, and wants them as well. The archeologist prefers to suicide rather than give the map to Jackie.

Years later, the archeologist’s son (Vivek) learns of the map, and proceeds to get those objects, with Jackie again close on his heels. To help Vivek, there is his elder step-brother, Sunny Deol.

The story simply meanders precious reels in the jungle. And if the repartees between Sunny and Vivek were ‘comedy’ well, then the director needs to seriously watch some Hrishida films!

Our Bollywood heroes never know when to call it quits. But I had thought Sunny would have learnt from his father (Dharamendra acted in the most third-rate films in the eighties, romancing heroines like Amrita Singh and Dimple Kapadia, who were half his age. In fact, Dimple was having a allegedly having an affair with Sunny when Dharam acted opposite her!) Anyways, Sunny should take caution and remember that such inane roles dont suit his stature. I am sure there will be many writers/directors ready to provide him dignified roles that are commensurate with his age.

As for Sameera Reddy, well her role is the most wishy-washy and redundant. Perhaps, the director realised it, that’s why in the climax, she is just dropped off somewhere and forgotten as well. BTW, if Sameera’s acting career never takes off, she can try for WWE!

Overall – Go tickle your masochist streak and watch it!

Umrao Jaan (New)

I admit it is too early to really write a review on the music on which everyone seems to have an opinion. But before that, women’s health let’s face a few facts squarely in the face – it was an arduously tough act to compose songs for a subject whose previous version is still fresh in the minds of music listeners. More than merit for the older hit, it is the nostalgic wrapper that shines and glitters. It has reached a cult status, traumatologist where it is placed at a hallowed pedestal. One reality check that I wish to present – unlike Sholay or Don the movie, or its music, wasn’t such an earth shattering hit when released in the eighties. It is only over the years that the songs have acquired a ‘retro-hit’ status. So, this sudden urge by everyone to lambast against the newer version sounds funny – even from that generation. Even those who wouldn’t ordinarily listen to Khayyam’s ghazals from Muzaffar Ali’s classic have somehow turned up their nose against Anu Mallik’s efforts. A prime reason is that Mallik’s name itself evokes plentiful negative reactions. Even before the music was out, I had read vitriolic write ups on how could J P Dutta entrust Mallik with such a prestigious job. But obviously, Dutta has enough faith in his composer who gave two whopper (musical) hits with Border and Refugee. In my honest opinion, such reaction was totally unwarranted. Mallik might be obnoxious in his interviews, his many compositions lack any luster of many kind, but still the man has in him to turn up with music that might just be listenable. Another positive point in Dutta-Mallik’s favor is that they haven’t gone and remixed or re-arranged the old classic songs – a towering brownie point to the team, especially seen in the light of the absolutely bland re-mixes/re-designed score of Don.

However, let me make my stance clear – I am neither fond of, nor in favor of, old classics remade in newer format with newer stars. It is simply unappealing, especially when the older versions usually reached perfection (perceived or otherwise) in terms of performance and direction. But this once, I am ready to give Dutta-Mallik team a clean chit, for two reasons – one, I feel that their effort is more honest in re-creating rather than just cashing in on the older success.

The second, and bigger reason, is that I am not emotionally attached to the older Umrao Jaan. Sometime back, in one of the comments, I had mentioned that I am not too fond of that film’s music. The ghazals are good. But somehow, they haven’t had the same gushing effect on me as they should have – except for ‘Yeh kya jagah hai doston‘. Hence, I approached the newer one with a totally fresh mind.

Coming back to the music, as I said, it is a bit early to write a comprehensive review. I haven’t been able to invest the requisite time to listen to it carefully. Yet, when a score leaves a few snatches attached to your soul after the first couple of listenings, you know that it demands coming back to it. In that respect, Mallik’s Umrao Jaan is surely on the right trail. After the first hearing, and switching off the system, I remained floating in its melody and effect, though I couldn’t recall the exact tunes.

From the bunch of solos (all Alka Yagnik barring two), I found ‘Salaam…Tumhari mehfil mein aa gaye hain to kyun na yeh bhi kaam kar len‘ particularly mesmerizing. A very subtle rhythm that supports a hummable tune keeps the song afloat. Alka’s rendition doesn’t move too much away from her flat intonations, yet they somehow suit the composition. The same goes for the second best number ‘Tum jo paas aa gaye, hum jo sharma gaye‘. It’s hookline lies in the charming ‘Tum bhi pahle pahal, hum bhi pahale pahal‘ line, and a mouthful interlude of ‘shehnais‘ topped with a single sarangi strain. A third song that perked my ears and plucked my heart was ‘Mai na mil sakoon jo tumse, meri justjoo na karna’ – a haunting number with tight violins that uplift the song to a dream level. Finally, ‘Jhoote ilzaam tum lagaaya na karo‘ is the fourth interesting solo – a bit slow and lengthy, but overall melodious. There is only one duet, unfortunately it didn’t cut much ice with me – and Sonu Nigam has sadly ‘oversung’ it. Passion can sometimes be understated, and not sighing overtly into the mic!

Agle janam mein mohe bitiya na kijo’ – in two parts – are the only numbers where Alka steps away. The song (in both versions) is a touching lament by a girl who doesn’t want to be a re-born in the same gender. However, I am a bit surprised at such a song in this film – as far as I know of Muslim religion, they do not have any concept of ‘re-birth’, hence the song is conceptually an anomaly in a film dealing with Muslim characters. But coming from Javed Akhtar, I am sure he would have done some research before penning it.

Somewhere I feel the weakest link has been Javed Akhtar’s lyrics that just do not sear with the burning pain that was Umrao Jan Ada’s life. Though one can find many scattered ‘quotable’ examples, overall the poetry is not the kind that one can hug and sob inconsolably to wet the pillows in the night. For example, in ‘Jhoote ilzaam’ a statement like ‘dil hai nazuk, isse dukhaya na karo’ is too bland and direct, and more suited to Sameer/Himesh combo of songs than in a film that talks about a courtesan who was exceptional in her poetry.

I am quite impressed by Mallik’s arrangements – he hasn’t done any unnecessarily experimentations, nor kept the sound cacophonously contemporary. He sticks to the era that the songs were meant to be and introduces now-forgotten Indian instruments like saarangi, sitar and tabla in full measure. Now that’s an achievement. Whether the current generation appreciates this is a million dollar question! But then, like the older generation, maybe they will reject it now but once they grow up, it is precisely this sort of music that they will like to come back to. Perhaps, this version might outlast every other contemporary composition and be a retro hit as well!

Overall- A Good Buy

I know an update on Random Expressions is long overdue; I have received subtle suggestions, information pills friendly reminders and even dire threats, buy more about which all proved the love and affection for this space. Thanks to everyone. And because of you all, just writing in to say I am fine, and alive – and so is this blog!

Needless to say, the past month has been tediously hectic – including, visits to far off places like Mainpuri, Bhongaon and Bewar and also a few more trips on that horrifying Agra-Aligarh stretch. But more than that it was an urge to prove something to superiors and get the sales figures correct that sort of doused the innate craving to write. So I kept focussed on the work, getting the act right and streamlining the processes as much as I could. Sadly, the end result was not all that encouraging – neither did the figures really shine, nor did this blog get any input. In short, a total failure!

In between, my speaker-set also conked off. Million complaints later, the service center of the obscure Korean brand agreed to rectify the same at home, obviously free of cost since it was well within the warranty period. The fault? Violently fluctuating voltage here – there, I add one more negative item from this city! The consequence? Lightened the wallet to purchase a voltage stabilizer.

Winters are lingering in, though the temperatures dropped precariously low for a couple of days in-between, but now they have clamboured upward. Another addition at home was a much-needed geyser.

Movie-watching and television-viewing were the only stable past-times. I havent yet entered any cinema hall here (waitng for Fun Cinemas to open up), but have put good use to the DVD player. The last few that I caught were the ominous Darna Zaroori Hai, the taut Deadline and the tastelessly dull Umrao Jaan! Television surfing has been massive, and I have to sheepishly admit I got hooked on to several programmes that I wouldnt have ordinarily watched. For example, Big Bosss! The shenanginans of drama-queen Rakhi Sawant and the antics of super-bitch Kashmira Shah kept the hands off the remote control.

The second programme I caught was Nach Baliye-2 – and the reason to get hooked to it was the extremely superb and scintillating performance by Manav and Shweta in that gold-outfit. They bettered it next week with the ‘bamboo dance’ – and I was sure that this pair could win. Sadly, Sweta let herself and us down with a limpid show of the mujra, though Manav more than made it up with his energetic ‘Mai deewana’ number. Still, personally I feel that combined they were far ahead of others in terms of grace, movement, choice and to top it all an endearing sang-froid and a thankful lack of melodrama or tears! Compare this with the eternal crybaby of tv, the other lady whose name I forget now (better known as Prerna of Kasautii Zindagii Kay), you will know what I mean. Their ousting section was the most tedious part of the entire show!

Of course cricket and bollywood both fed enough fodder for all news channels : the shameful South African tour debacle from the former and Sanjay Dutt , Aishwarya and Abhishek amongst the latter. So much so, that I can puke at the mere mention of the last two!

Beyond all this, there is really not much to write. So I will end here – with the same promise to be back soon, and definitely sooner than last time!  

 

There is a common English saying – “There are no free lunches in this world!” But I realized that there could be some free dinners sometimes!

It all started on Saturday. At office, this site we decided to try out the new Pizza Hut menu. The alluring leaflets, adiposity with discount coupons, search dropped at my place were added incentive.

However, what started off as a routine ‘order placement’ call, some five minutes later,metamorphosised into a full-fledged verbal duel. The reason being – their adamant refusal at delivering to our office, as it was beyond their ‘service area of four kilometers’. Now Pizza Hut outlet is very near my place so I was hundred percent sure that our office falls within their stipulated four kilometer radius; 3.8 kms, to be very precise- or probably lesser, as the outlet is some 500-700 meters away from my home.In any case, I argued, even if it wasnt within four kms, there is no reason why they cannot still service a kilometer or two extra, if the client is willing not to be bound by their time-frame clause. It’s not as if there is a ‘laxman rekha’ beyond which if Pizza Hut scooters cross, they’d be abducted by some horrifiying Ravans! But all my arguments fell on deaf ears. When the person on the other end (the shift manager) stopped harping on the four-kilometer clause, he started to give wishy washy arguments on how the area where we were didnt fall within ‘serviceable’ limit. Now, I really blew my fuse. Agreed, we fall within that area, but our office – a landmark on its own – is right at the edge, on the main road, and accessible through wide open roads (as wide as they can be in Agra!).

The heat in the arguments from both ends rose to a palpable limit, with lots of strong words deployed, till the time I banged the phone down, in anger and disgust. In the same stroke, I went to Pizza Hut’s website and registered a complaint, mentally swearing off Pizza Hut for lifetime (though, honestly, my stomach and taste buds grumbled their protests – I really like their pizzas, however un-Italian they be!)

Two hours later, when I was quite cooled down, and had been satiated with a heavy lunch from their rival Dominoe’s Pizza, I received a call from Pizza Hut. It was their Asst. Manager – and in a meek voice he apologized for all that had happened. We spoke for some twenty minutes, in which he must have used the word ‘sorry’ some twenty thousand times. He offered to rectify the error and send the order away immediately. But I politely declined, as I was already full – and moreover, on my way to Delhi. He also requested me to visit their outlet sometime, and I vaguely agreed.

I had totally forgotten about the incident by the time I returned from my short but extremely relaxing weekend. Amidst a pile load of work, I received yet another call from Pizza Hut – this time, from their Manager. Once again, there were several rounds of apologies and he insisted that I visit their outlet – anytime convenient. Since he was quite pressing, and since I like Pizza Hut pizzas, and since I live alone and don’t mind a dinner out sometimes, I agreed!

At the designated hour, I reached their outlet. From the moment I entered their restaurant till the time I left, it was an evening befitting a royalty. The manager was there to apologise ( we had a drink together), the shift manager (with whom I had the argument) did the same, and the waiters were all on call at the slightest turn of my head! After a delightful meal (their new Indian Menu is simply outstanding!), when I asked for the bill, they refused the same. ‘It’s complimentary from our side!’ they gushed.

Whether it was the slight intoxication of the smooth Forster, or the luxury of having being served with such impeccable finesse, or the sheer respect for someone who has apologized enough ( I am in sales, and have met enough rude customers to know!), or the effect of the aroma-rich, tasteful food, whatever it was at that time I was ready to do anything they asked for – and that was (as the shift manager meekly, hesitatingly and fearfully requested for) a mail to state that I had enjoyed the evening (which I understood was an euphemism to say that I no longer bore a grudge against them).

I am not entirely unfamiliar with the service standards offered by various organisations. But after yesterday, Pizza Hut’s service quality stands heads and shoulders above many of the bests! To say I am impressed with their service is an understatement! It is way beyond that. And now I have resolved to always be their loyal customer (and my stomach and taste buds gurgle in delight!)

Next Update: December 07th, 2006 at 1800 Hrs IST titled “Eight”

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No, viagra approved no, gastritis no – this is not a review of Karan Razdan’s yet another forgettable click Aath-Shani. This is a tag that Juneli gave me. In this I have to inform who tagged me (which I have done), decease say eight things about me (which I will do shortly) and tag six people (which I will refrain from doing).

So here are eight things about me:

  • I have two arms, and use them quite a lot
  • I have ten fingers – five on each hand
  • I have two legs, and generally walk on them
  • I have one nose, that can smell pretty well
  • I have two eyes, both perfect till now
  • I have one mouth, and I try to keep it shut
  • I have one…err, let’s leave it here
  • Voila, I look, sound and act like a human being!

😛

 

Next Update– On 09.12.06 at 1800 Hrs, IST – “Ten Things I Miss About Nepal”
Don’t miss to read – “Favorite Songs of 2006” on 31.12.06 at 1700Hrs- only  on this blog!
This place seriously needs an update!

😛

 

Jaane Hoga Kya – Now I wasnt expecting anything great from this long-in-the-making-released-hurriedly film. So, page what turned out was a pleasant surprise. And not because of its content. But for the inadvertant humor that the film provides. Ok, there so what’s it about? Cloning! Don’t choke on that coke, it is actually a film on human cloning. And how the directors (Glenn-Ankush) portray it is the best comedy released this year. As per this film, to make a clone there has to be two plastic covered ‘capsules’, connected to a computer. So, ‘data’ will move from one capsule to another, as heat rises, and out of steam a new human will be formed! Wow! That simple!

That’s how Aftab creates his own clone. But that’s not all. As soon as the new Aftab is formed, he leaves the capsule and *laugh laugh* heads for a dance bar to sing an item number with Maria Goretti. Some Bollywood pre-educated clone this was indeed! In fact, going by the number of songs that the clone gets to sing, he seems quite the ‘in-thing’! And other than the item number, this includes one roll-in-the-hay number with Preeti Jhangiani (who seems to have lost her voice and inhibitions permanently in this film).

Of course, the clone is not all that ‘good’, like the scientist. In fact, he turns out to be some ‘super-power’ monster with immense powers. Frankenstein, did some one say? Well, the scientist’s haalat is quite like that, but then the hero has to win in the end in movies!

Oh yes, in between all the songs and evil, there was a nice little twist in the end.

Overall – Watch it to laugh at it!

Aap Ki Khatir (Free - Bonus Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Aap Ki Khatir – Honestly, can some one tell Dharmesh Darshan to retire and spare us his tortures! Can someone tell Amisha Patel that making melancholic expressions doesnt construe acting! Can someone tell Sunil Shetty that joi-de-vivre is an inborn feeling; faking it never works! Can someone tell Lillette Dubey that she looked horrendous in this film spouting Anglicised Punjabi! Can someone tell…ok, I am sure you got what I want to convey.

This pain-some movie is old wine in older bottle. A soggy script with limp characters and a bland-as-London-weather scenario only worsens the viewer’s discomfort. In fact, the film ends up looking like a shoddy UK-produced small-budget fare.

I am quite surprised that Akshaye Khanna chose to do this film, which couldnt have looked attractive at script level even!

Overall – Dont even think of it!

Naksha – Beware of Vivek Oberoi in the jungle! He bored us first in Kaal, and now returns for another jungle-mein-mangle! Naksha is a directionless film that has no head nor tail nor any body in between!

Sadly, the concept is good. And one feels like screaming at the director for wasting an opportunity that could have been turned into a like slick thriller.

The story – We all know that in Mahabharat, Karan was born with the magical ‘kawach‘ and ‘kundal’ that gave him immense strength. The mythology tells us that during the Kuruskshetra war, Lord Indra (disguised as a brahman) had asked for the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’ as alms. This was done at the behest of Lord Krishna, in order to defeat Karan. After this, the epic is silent on the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’. What if Lord Indra buried these powerful object somewhere in the Himalayas? Well, the film is built on this premise wherein one archeologist is able to find the same, and prepares a map to reach the place. However, one evil person (Jackie in a horrible get up) gets to know of the same, and wants them as well. The archeologist prefers to suicide rather than give the map to Jackie.

Years later, the archeologist’s son (Vivek) learns of the map, and proceeds to get those objects, with Jackie again close on his heels. To help Vivek, there is his elder step-brother, Sunny Deol.

The story simply meanders precious reels in the jungle. And if the repartees between Sunny and Vivek were ‘comedy’ well, then the director needs to seriously watch some Hrishida films!

Our Bollywood heroes never know when to call it quits. But I had thought Sunny would have learnt from his father (Dharamendra acted in the most third-rate films in the eighties, romancing heroines like Amrita Singh and Dimple Kapadia, who were half his age. In fact, Dimple was having a allegedly having an affair with Sunny when Dharam acted opposite her!) Anyways, Sunny should take caution and remember that such inane roles dont suit his stature. I am sure there will be many writers/directors ready to provide him dignified roles that are commensurate with his age.

As for Sameera Reddy, well her role is the most wishy-washy and redundant. Perhaps, the director realised it, that’s why in the climax, she is just dropped off somewhere and forgotten as well. BTW, if Sameera’s acting career never takes off, she can try for WWE!

Overall – Go tickle your masochist streak and watch it!

Umrao Jaan (New)

I admit it is too early to really write a review on the music on which everyone seems to have an opinion. But before that, women’s health let’s face a few facts squarely in the face – it was an arduously tough act to compose songs for a subject whose previous version is still fresh in the minds of music listeners. More than merit for the older hit, it is the nostalgic wrapper that shines and glitters. It has reached a cult status, traumatologist where it is placed at a hallowed pedestal. One reality check that I wish to present – unlike Sholay or Don the movie, or its music, wasn’t such an earth shattering hit when released in the eighties. It is only over the years that the songs have acquired a ‘retro-hit’ status. So, this sudden urge by everyone to lambast against the newer version sounds funny – even from that generation. Even those who wouldn’t ordinarily listen to Khayyam’s ghazals from Muzaffar Ali’s classic have somehow turned up their nose against Anu Mallik’s efforts. A prime reason is that Mallik’s name itself evokes plentiful negative reactions. Even before the music was out, I had read vitriolic write ups on how could J P Dutta entrust Mallik with such a prestigious job. But obviously, Dutta has enough faith in his composer who gave two whopper (musical) hits with Border and Refugee. In my honest opinion, such reaction was totally unwarranted. Mallik might be obnoxious in his interviews, his many compositions lack any luster of many kind, but still the man has in him to turn up with music that might just be listenable. Another positive point in Dutta-Mallik’s favor is that they haven’t gone and remixed or re-arranged the old classic songs – a towering brownie point to the team, especially seen in the light of the absolutely bland re-mixes/re-designed score of Don.

However, let me make my stance clear – I am neither fond of, nor in favor of, old classics remade in newer format with newer stars. It is simply unappealing, especially when the older versions usually reached perfection (perceived or otherwise) in terms of performance and direction. But this once, I am ready to give Dutta-Mallik team a clean chit, for two reasons – one, I feel that their effort is more honest in re-creating rather than just cashing in on the older success.

The second, and bigger reason, is that I am not emotionally attached to the older Umrao Jaan. Sometime back, in one of the comments, I had mentioned that I am not too fond of that film’s music. The ghazals are good. But somehow, they haven’t had the same gushing effect on me as they should have – except for ‘Yeh kya jagah hai doston‘. Hence, I approached the newer one with a totally fresh mind.

Coming back to the music, as I said, it is a bit early to write a comprehensive review. I haven’t been able to invest the requisite time to listen to it carefully. Yet, when a score leaves a few snatches attached to your soul after the first couple of listenings, you know that it demands coming back to it. In that respect, Mallik’s Umrao Jaan is surely on the right trail. After the first hearing, and switching off the system, I remained floating in its melody and effect, though I couldn’t recall the exact tunes.

From the bunch of solos (all Alka Yagnik barring two), I found ‘Salaam…Tumhari mehfil mein aa gaye hain to kyun na yeh bhi kaam kar len‘ particularly mesmerizing. A very subtle rhythm that supports a hummable tune keeps the song afloat. Alka’s rendition doesn’t move too much away from her flat intonations, yet they somehow suit the composition. The same goes for the second best number ‘Tum jo paas aa gaye, hum jo sharma gaye‘. It’s hookline lies in the charming ‘Tum bhi pahle pahal, hum bhi pahale pahal‘ line, and a mouthful interlude of ‘shehnais‘ topped with a single sarangi strain. A third song that perked my ears and plucked my heart was ‘Mai na mil sakoon jo tumse, meri justjoo na karna’ – a haunting number with tight violins that uplift the song to a dream level. Finally, ‘Jhoote ilzaam tum lagaaya na karo‘ is the fourth interesting solo – a bit slow and lengthy, but overall melodious. There is only one duet, unfortunately it didn’t cut much ice with me – and Sonu Nigam has sadly ‘oversung’ it. Passion can sometimes be understated, and not sighing overtly into the mic!

Agle janam mein mohe bitiya na kijo’ – in two parts – are the only numbers where Alka steps away. The song (in both versions) is a touching lament by a girl who doesn’t want to be a re-born in the same gender. However, I am a bit surprised at such a song in this film – as far as I know of Muslim religion, they do not have any concept of ‘re-birth’, hence the song is conceptually an anomaly in a film dealing with Muslim characters. But coming from Javed Akhtar, I am sure he would have done some research before penning it.

Somewhere I feel the weakest link has been Javed Akhtar’s lyrics that just do not sear with the burning pain that was Umrao Jan Ada’s life. Though one can find many scattered ‘quotable’ examples, overall the poetry is not the kind that one can hug and sob inconsolably to wet the pillows in the night. For example, in ‘Jhoote ilzaam’ a statement like ‘dil hai nazuk, isse dukhaya na karo’ is too bland and direct, and more suited to Sameer/Himesh combo of songs than in a film that talks about a courtesan who was exceptional in her poetry.

I am quite impressed by Mallik’s arrangements – he hasn’t done any unnecessarily experimentations, nor kept the sound cacophonously contemporary. He sticks to the era that the songs were meant to be and introduces now-forgotten Indian instruments like saarangi, sitar and tabla in full measure. Now that’s an achievement. Whether the current generation appreciates this is a million dollar question! But then, like the older generation, maybe they will reject it now but once they grow up, it is precisely this sort of music that they will like to come back to. Perhaps, this version might outlast every other contemporary composition and be a retro hit as well!

Overall- A Good Buy

I know an update on Random Expressions is long overdue; I have received subtle suggestions, information pills friendly reminders and even dire threats, buy more about which all proved the love and affection for this space. Thanks to everyone. And because of you all, just writing in to say I am fine, and alive – and so is this blog!

Needless to say, the past month has been tediously hectic – including, visits to far off places like Mainpuri, Bhongaon and Bewar and also a few more trips on that horrifying Agra-Aligarh stretch. But more than that it was an urge to prove something to superiors and get the sales figures correct that sort of doused the innate craving to write. So I kept focussed on the work, getting the act right and streamlining the processes as much as I could. Sadly, the end result was not all that encouraging – neither did the figures really shine, nor did this blog get any input. In short, a total failure!

In between, my speaker-set also conked off. Million complaints later, the service center of the obscure Korean brand agreed to rectify the same at home, obviously free of cost since it was well within the warranty period. The fault? Violently fluctuating voltage here – there, I add one more negative item from this city! The consequence? Lightened the wallet to purchase a voltage stabilizer.

Winters are lingering in, though the temperatures dropped precariously low for a couple of days in-between, but now they have clamboured upward. Another addition at home was a much-needed geyser.

Movie-watching and television-viewing were the only stable past-times. I havent yet entered any cinema hall here (waitng for Fun Cinemas to open up), but have put good use to the DVD player. The last few that I caught were the ominous Darna Zaroori Hai, the taut Deadline and the tastelessly dull Umrao Jaan! Television surfing has been massive, and I have to sheepishly admit I got hooked on to several programmes that I wouldnt have ordinarily watched. For example, Big Bosss! The shenanginans of drama-queen Rakhi Sawant and the antics of super-bitch Kashmira Shah kept the hands off the remote control.

The second programme I caught was Nach Baliye-2 – and the reason to get hooked to it was the extremely superb and scintillating performance by Manav and Shweta in that gold-outfit. They bettered it next week with the ‘bamboo dance’ – and I was sure that this pair could win. Sadly, Sweta let herself and us down with a limpid show of the mujra, though Manav more than made it up with his energetic ‘Mai deewana’ number. Still, personally I feel that combined they were far ahead of others in terms of grace, movement, choice and to top it all an endearing sang-froid and a thankful lack of melodrama or tears! Compare this with the eternal crybaby of tv, the other lady whose name I forget now (better known as Prerna of Kasautii Zindagii Kay), you will know what I mean. Their ousting section was the most tedious part of the entire show!

Of course cricket and bollywood both fed enough fodder for all news channels : the shameful South African tour debacle from the former and Sanjay Dutt , Aishwarya and Abhishek amongst the latter. So much so, that I can puke at the mere mention of the last two!

Beyond all this, there is really not much to write. So I will end here – with the same promise to be back soon, and definitely sooner than last time!  

 

There is a common English saying – “There are no free lunches in this world!” But I realized that there could be some free dinners sometimes!

It all started on Saturday. At office, this site we decided to try out the new Pizza Hut menu. The alluring leaflets, adiposity with discount coupons, search dropped at my place were added incentive.

However, what started off as a routine ‘order placement’ call, some five minutes later,metamorphosised into a full-fledged verbal duel. The reason being – their adamant refusal at delivering to our office, as it was beyond their ‘service area of four kilometers’. Now Pizza Hut outlet is very near my place so I was hundred percent sure that our office falls within their stipulated four kilometer radius; 3.8 kms, to be very precise- or probably lesser, as the outlet is some 500-700 meters away from my home.In any case, I argued, even if it wasnt within four kms, there is no reason why they cannot still service a kilometer or two extra, if the client is willing not to be bound by their time-frame clause. It’s not as if there is a ‘laxman rekha’ beyond which if Pizza Hut scooters cross, they’d be abducted by some horrifiying Ravans! But all my arguments fell on deaf ears. When the person on the other end (the shift manager) stopped harping on the four-kilometer clause, he started to give wishy washy arguments on how the area where we were didnt fall within ‘serviceable’ limit. Now, I really blew my fuse. Agreed, we fall within that area, but our office – a landmark on its own – is right at the edge, on the main road, and accessible through wide open roads (as wide as they can be in Agra!).

The heat in the arguments from both ends rose to a palpable limit, with lots of strong words deployed, till the time I banged the phone down, in anger and disgust. In the same stroke, I went to Pizza Hut’s website and registered a complaint, mentally swearing off Pizza Hut for lifetime (though, honestly, my stomach and taste buds grumbled their protests – I really like their pizzas, however un-Italian they be!)

Two hours later, when I was quite cooled down, and had been satiated with a heavy lunch from their rival Dominoe’s Pizza, I received a call from Pizza Hut. It was their Asst. Manager – and in a meek voice he apologized for all that had happened. We spoke for some twenty minutes, in which he must have used the word ‘sorry’ some twenty thousand times. He offered to rectify the error and send the order away immediately. But I politely declined, as I was already full – and moreover, on my way to Delhi. He also requested me to visit their outlet sometime, and I vaguely agreed.

I had totally forgotten about the incident by the time I returned from my short but extremely relaxing weekend. Amidst a pile load of work, I received yet another call from Pizza Hut – this time, from their Manager. Once again, there were several rounds of apologies and he insisted that I visit their outlet – anytime convenient. Since he was quite pressing, and since I like Pizza Hut pizzas, and since I live alone and don’t mind a dinner out sometimes, I agreed!

At the designated hour, I reached their outlet. From the moment I entered their restaurant till the time I left, it was an evening befitting a royalty. The manager was there to apologise ( we had a drink together), the shift manager (with whom I had the argument) did the same, and the waiters were all on call at the slightest turn of my head! After a delightful meal (their new Indian Menu is simply outstanding!), when I asked for the bill, they refused the same. ‘It’s complimentary from our side!’ they gushed.

Whether it was the slight intoxication of the smooth Forster, or the luxury of having being served with such impeccable finesse, or the sheer respect for someone who has apologized enough ( I am in sales, and have met enough rude customers to know!), or the effect of the aroma-rich, tasteful food, whatever it was at that time I was ready to do anything they asked for – and that was (as the shift manager meekly, hesitatingly and fearfully requested for) a mail to state that I had enjoyed the evening (which I understood was an euphemism to say that I no longer bore a grudge against them).

I am not entirely unfamiliar with the service standards offered by various organisations. But after yesterday, Pizza Hut’s service quality stands heads and shoulders above many of the bests! To say I am impressed with their service is an understatement! It is way beyond that. And now I have resolved to always be their loyal customer (and my stomach and taste buds gurgle in delight!)

Next Update: December 07th, 2006 at 1800 Hrs IST titled “Eight”

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No, viagra approved no, gastritis no – this is not a review of Karan Razdan’s yet another forgettable click Aath-Shani. This is a tag that Juneli gave me. In this I have to inform who tagged me (which I have done), decease say eight things about me (which I will do shortly) and tag six people (which I will refrain from doing).

So here are eight things about me:

  • I have two arms, and use them quite a lot
  • I have ten fingers – five on each hand
  • I have two legs, and generally walk on them
  • I have one nose, that can smell pretty well
  • I have two eyes, both perfect till now
  • I have one mouth, and I try to keep it shut
  • I have one…err, let’s leave it here
  • Voila, I look, sound and act like a human being!

😛

 

Next Update– On 09.12.06 at 1800 Hrs, IST – “Ten Things I Miss About Nepal”
Don’t miss to read – “Favorite Songs of 2006” on 31.12.06 at 1700Hrs- only  on this blog!

In my farewell post from Nepal, decease I had said I will someday surely re-visit my Nepal memories. These few days, I have been regularly visiting those memories, viewing at the snaps taken there and remembering small details which normally I thought I had forgotten. It is difficult to write down all the things, so I will just mention the top ten things that I miss in Nepal.

1. Mountains – When one is in the Himalayan land, the mountains are aplenty to view. Admittedly, I have a strong affinity towards these sturdy natural beauties that can be both awesome and awe-inspiring. Kathmandu is surrounded by a lush and dark green ring of mountains that seemed to be a benign guardian for the valley. Click here to read the first post on this topic alongwith my favorite hill-stations. Other than the mountains, another eye-pleasing sight is that of clouds, which seem to acquire a magnificently creative instinct. I haven’t seen any more beautiful formations anyplace else. In fact, my love to watch the shapes and size of clouds began when I started to click their snaps.

2. Kathmandu – Well, as a whole there is a quaint attraction in the city; its ruggedy criss-cross mesh of streets and old-fashioned houses, peppered with some forward-looking architecture, is a unique blend of old-worldly charm and modern utility. The city – if it stops growing now – is neither too big nor too small, the right size! Of course, being there one has to be perennialy in holiday-and-relaxed mode.

3. Banchha Ghar – A delightful old restaurant serving some lip-smackingly delicious (and exotic) snacks. Their cultural show, performed every evening by nubile Nepali girls, showcases the various dance forms prevalant in the country. They serve ‘Raakshi’, the homemade rice wine, in miniature ‘kulhads‘ as a welcome drink. I would have loved to make ‘raakshi‘ as a separate entry, but due to lack of space will include it here.

4. Thamel – If I add up the hours I stayed in Kathmandu, the ones spent roaming in Thamel will by far exceed anything else. This was a favorite haunt, especially on weekends, when I used to visit a couple of quaint and charming pubs and lounge-bar. The effect in them is imprinted deeply in my mind. And I sorely miss having beer there – it just isnt same in the antiseptic modern bars of Delhi or Agra! Thamel carries a perennial festive look, always brightly lit and attractively colored.

5. Nagarkot – If you want to see the best sunrise, you have to head for this tiny hill-station, just 45 minutes drive from Kathmandu. The sun’s first appearance – a tiny blob of molten gold – is a jaw dropping sight!

6. Festivals – The Nepalis definitely know how to celebrate and revel in festivals, something that we seem to have forgotten (Festivals in Delhi are just formalities, rather excuses to show who is richer than whom, than any genuine urge to celebrate community togetherness, religious significance or simply to let your hair down to have fun. At corporate level, they are merely pieces meant to further the manipulation game of gaining brownie points or downsizing unwanted elements). Here, I saw a genuine desire to break free from the routine and indulge in the pure unadulterated joy of celebration. Bada Dashain (or Dushhera) is their biggest one, and the entire valley erupted in an unanimous call of joy and visually into a riot of colors!

7. Monuments – It’s not for nothing that Kathmandu is called a living museum; it is a World Heritage Site, and the proof lies in the sheer number of tourist sites to visit – Pashupati Nath Mandir, Buddhaneelkantha, three Darbar Squares, Syambhu Stupa, Boudhanath Stupa, Indra Chowk and many more!

8. Devghat /Chitwan – Both the places have their own beauties. Since I travelled to both in the same trip, their memories are tightly intertwined. I still recall fondly the ride on the River in that rickety narrow canoe! In Chitwan, sighting a rhinoceros was a huge accomplishment.

9. Jai Nepal Cinema Hall – Yes, I remember this also because there was a small slice of time when I must have watched a film there every Sunday.

10. Finally, the last thing I will mention is the amount of free time I had to write all those stories. I have now re-read most of them, and as I did so, I tried to recall the days and the ways I wrote at that time; also, I marvel as to how I managed to pen them. Reading those comments at that time is a wonderful experience.

I recall, on a particularly dull day, I had wondered whether those days will ever form ‘memories’. Pri had assured that sure they would. Pri, you were so correct!

Dont miss to read – “Favorite Songs of 2006” on 31.12.06 at 1700 Hrs, only on this blog!

This place seriously needs an update!

😛

 

Jaane Hoga Kya – Now I wasnt expecting anything great from this long-in-the-making-released-hurriedly film. So, page what turned out was a pleasant surprise. And not because of its content. But for the inadvertant humor that the film provides. Ok, there so what’s it about? Cloning! Don’t choke on that coke, it is actually a film on human cloning. And how the directors (Glenn-Ankush) portray it is the best comedy released this year. As per this film, to make a clone there has to be two plastic covered ‘capsules’, connected to a computer. So, ‘data’ will move from one capsule to another, as heat rises, and out of steam a new human will be formed! Wow! That simple!

That’s how Aftab creates his own clone. But that’s not all. As soon as the new Aftab is formed, he leaves the capsule and *laugh laugh* heads for a dance bar to sing an item number with Maria Goretti. Some Bollywood pre-educated clone this was indeed! In fact, going by the number of songs that the clone gets to sing, he seems quite the ‘in-thing’! And other than the item number, this includes one roll-in-the-hay number with Preeti Jhangiani (who seems to have lost her voice and inhibitions permanently in this film).

Of course, the clone is not all that ‘good’, like the scientist. In fact, he turns out to be some ‘super-power’ monster with immense powers. Frankenstein, did some one say? Well, the scientist’s haalat is quite like that, but then the hero has to win in the end in movies!

Oh yes, in between all the songs and evil, there was a nice little twist in the end.

Overall – Watch it to laugh at it!

Aap Ki Khatir (Free - Bonus Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Aap Ki Khatir – Honestly, can some one tell Dharmesh Darshan to retire and spare us his tortures! Can someone tell Amisha Patel that making melancholic expressions doesnt construe acting! Can someone tell Sunil Shetty that joi-de-vivre is an inborn feeling; faking it never works! Can someone tell Lillette Dubey that she looked horrendous in this film spouting Anglicised Punjabi! Can someone tell…ok, I am sure you got what I want to convey.

This pain-some movie is old wine in older bottle. A soggy script with limp characters and a bland-as-London-weather scenario only worsens the viewer’s discomfort. In fact, the film ends up looking like a shoddy UK-produced small-budget fare.

I am quite surprised that Akshaye Khanna chose to do this film, which couldnt have looked attractive at script level even!

Overall – Dont even think of it!

Naksha – Beware of Vivek Oberoi in the jungle! He bored us first in Kaal, and now returns for another jungle-mein-mangle! Naksha is a directionless film that has no head nor tail nor any body in between!

Sadly, the concept is good. And one feels like screaming at the director for wasting an opportunity that could have been turned into a like slick thriller.

The story – We all know that in Mahabharat, Karan was born with the magical ‘kawach‘ and ‘kundal’ that gave him immense strength. The mythology tells us that during the Kuruskshetra war, Lord Indra (disguised as a brahman) had asked for the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’ as alms. This was done at the behest of Lord Krishna, in order to defeat Karan. After this, the epic is silent on the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’. What if Lord Indra buried these powerful object somewhere in the Himalayas? Well, the film is built on this premise wherein one archeologist is able to find the same, and prepares a map to reach the place. However, one evil person (Jackie in a horrible get up) gets to know of the same, and wants them as well. The archeologist prefers to suicide rather than give the map to Jackie.

Years later, the archeologist’s son (Vivek) learns of the map, and proceeds to get those objects, with Jackie again close on his heels. To help Vivek, there is his elder step-brother, Sunny Deol.

The story simply meanders precious reels in the jungle. And if the repartees between Sunny and Vivek were ‘comedy’ well, then the director needs to seriously watch some Hrishida films!

Our Bollywood heroes never know when to call it quits. But I had thought Sunny would have learnt from his father (Dharamendra acted in the most third-rate films in the eighties, romancing heroines like Amrita Singh and Dimple Kapadia, who were half his age. In fact, Dimple was having a allegedly having an affair with Sunny when Dharam acted opposite her!) Anyways, Sunny should take caution and remember that such inane roles dont suit his stature. I am sure there will be many writers/directors ready to provide him dignified roles that are commensurate with his age.

As for Sameera Reddy, well her role is the most wishy-washy and redundant. Perhaps, the director realised it, that’s why in the climax, she is just dropped off somewhere and forgotten as well. BTW, if Sameera’s acting career never takes off, she can try for WWE!

Overall – Go tickle your masochist streak and watch it!

Umrao Jaan (New)

I admit it is too early to really write a review on the music on which everyone seems to have an opinion. But before that, women’s health let’s face a few facts squarely in the face – it was an arduously tough act to compose songs for a subject whose previous version is still fresh in the minds of music listeners. More than merit for the older hit, it is the nostalgic wrapper that shines and glitters. It has reached a cult status, traumatologist where it is placed at a hallowed pedestal. One reality check that I wish to present – unlike Sholay or Don the movie, or its music, wasn’t such an earth shattering hit when released in the eighties. It is only over the years that the songs have acquired a ‘retro-hit’ status. So, this sudden urge by everyone to lambast against the newer version sounds funny – even from that generation. Even those who wouldn’t ordinarily listen to Khayyam’s ghazals from Muzaffar Ali’s classic have somehow turned up their nose against Anu Mallik’s efforts. A prime reason is that Mallik’s name itself evokes plentiful negative reactions. Even before the music was out, I had read vitriolic write ups on how could J P Dutta entrust Mallik with such a prestigious job. But obviously, Dutta has enough faith in his composer who gave two whopper (musical) hits with Border and Refugee. In my honest opinion, such reaction was totally unwarranted. Mallik might be obnoxious in his interviews, his many compositions lack any luster of many kind, but still the man has in him to turn up with music that might just be listenable. Another positive point in Dutta-Mallik’s favor is that they haven’t gone and remixed or re-arranged the old classic songs – a towering brownie point to the team, especially seen in the light of the absolutely bland re-mixes/re-designed score of Don.

However, let me make my stance clear – I am neither fond of, nor in favor of, old classics remade in newer format with newer stars. It is simply unappealing, especially when the older versions usually reached perfection (perceived or otherwise) in terms of performance and direction. But this once, I am ready to give Dutta-Mallik team a clean chit, for two reasons – one, I feel that their effort is more honest in re-creating rather than just cashing in on the older success.

The second, and bigger reason, is that I am not emotionally attached to the older Umrao Jaan. Sometime back, in one of the comments, I had mentioned that I am not too fond of that film’s music. The ghazals are good. But somehow, they haven’t had the same gushing effect on me as they should have – except for ‘Yeh kya jagah hai doston‘. Hence, I approached the newer one with a totally fresh mind.

Coming back to the music, as I said, it is a bit early to write a comprehensive review. I haven’t been able to invest the requisite time to listen to it carefully. Yet, when a score leaves a few snatches attached to your soul after the first couple of listenings, you know that it demands coming back to it. In that respect, Mallik’s Umrao Jaan is surely on the right trail. After the first hearing, and switching off the system, I remained floating in its melody and effect, though I couldn’t recall the exact tunes.

From the bunch of solos (all Alka Yagnik barring two), I found ‘Salaam…Tumhari mehfil mein aa gaye hain to kyun na yeh bhi kaam kar len‘ particularly mesmerizing. A very subtle rhythm that supports a hummable tune keeps the song afloat. Alka’s rendition doesn’t move too much away from her flat intonations, yet they somehow suit the composition. The same goes for the second best number ‘Tum jo paas aa gaye, hum jo sharma gaye‘. It’s hookline lies in the charming ‘Tum bhi pahle pahal, hum bhi pahale pahal‘ line, and a mouthful interlude of ‘shehnais‘ topped with a single sarangi strain. A third song that perked my ears and plucked my heart was ‘Mai na mil sakoon jo tumse, meri justjoo na karna’ – a haunting number with tight violins that uplift the song to a dream level. Finally, ‘Jhoote ilzaam tum lagaaya na karo‘ is the fourth interesting solo – a bit slow and lengthy, but overall melodious. There is only one duet, unfortunately it didn’t cut much ice with me – and Sonu Nigam has sadly ‘oversung’ it. Passion can sometimes be understated, and not sighing overtly into the mic!

Agle janam mein mohe bitiya na kijo’ – in two parts – are the only numbers where Alka steps away. The song (in both versions) is a touching lament by a girl who doesn’t want to be a re-born in the same gender. However, I am a bit surprised at such a song in this film – as far as I know of Muslim religion, they do not have any concept of ‘re-birth’, hence the song is conceptually an anomaly in a film dealing with Muslim characters. But coming from Javed Akhtar, I am sure he would have done some research before penning it.

Somewhere I feel the weakest link has been Javed Akhtar’s lyrics that just do not sear with the burning pain that was Umrao Jan Ada’s life. Though one can find many scattered ‘quotable’ examples, overall the poetry is not the kind that one can hug and sob inconsolably to wet the pillows in the night. For example, in ‘Jhoote ilzaam’ a statement like ‘dil hai nazuk, isse dukhaya na karo’ is too bland and direct, and more suited to Sameer/Himesh combo of songs than in a film that talks about a courtesan who was exceptional in her poetry.

I am quite impressed by Mallik’s arrangements – he hasn’t done any unnecessarily experimentations, nor kept the sound cacophonously contemporary. He sticks to the era that the songs were meant to be and introduces now-forgotten Indian instruments like saarangi, sitar and tabla in full measure. Now that’s an achievement. Whether the current generation appreciates this is a million dollar question! But then, like the older generation, maybe they will reject it now but once they grow up, it is precisely this sort of music that they will like to come back to. Perhaps, this version might outlast every other contemporary composition and be a retro hit as well!

Overall- A Good Buy

I know an update on Random Expressions is long overdue; I have received subtle suggestions, information pills friendly reminders and even dire threats, buy more about which all proved the love and affection for this space. Thanks to everyone. And because of you all, just writing in to say I am fine, and alive – and so is this blog!

Needless to say, the past month has been tediously hectic – including, visits to far off places like Mainpuri, Bhongaon and Bewar and also a few more trips on that horrifying Agra-Aligarh stretch. But more than that it was an urge to prove something to superiors and get the sales figures correct that sort of doused the innate craving to write. So I kept focussed on the work, getting the act right and streamlining the processes as much as I could. Sadly, the end result was not all that encouraging – neither did the figures really shine, nor did this blog get any input. In short, a total failure!

In between, my speaker-set also conked off. Million complaints later, the service center of the obscure Korean brand agreed to rectify the same at home, obviously free of cost since it was well within the warranty period. The fault? Violently fluctuating voltage here – there, I add one more negative item from this city! The consequence? Lightened the wallet to purchase a voltage stabilizer.

Winters are lingering in, though the temperatures dropped precariously low for a couple of days in-between, but now they have clamboured upward. Another addition at home was a much-needed geyser.

Movie-watching and television-viewing were the only stable past-times. I havent yet entered any cinema hall here (waitng for Fun Cinemas to open up), but have put good use to the DVD player. The last few that I caught were the ominous Darna Zaroori Hai, the taut Deadline and the tastelessly dull Umrao Jaan! Television surfing has been massive, and I have to sheepishly admit I got hooked on to several programmes that I wouldnt have ordinarily watched. For example, Big Bosss! The shenanginans of drama-queen Rakhi Sawant and the antics of super-bitch Kashmira Shah kept the hands off the remote control.

The second programme I caught was Nach Baliye-2 – and the reason to get hooked to it was the extremely superb and scintillating performance by Manav and Shweta in that gold-outfit. They bettered it next week with the ‘bamboo dance’ – and I was sure that this pair could win. Sadly, Sweta let herself and us down with a limpid show of the mujra, though Manav more than made it up with his energetic ‘Mai deewana’ number. Still, personally I feel that combined they were far ahead of others in terms of grace, movement, choice and to top it all an endearing sang-froid and a thankful lack of melodrama or tears! Compare this with the eternal crybaby of tv, the other lady whose name I forget now (better known as Prerna of Kasautii Zindagii Kay), you will know what I mean. Their ousting section was the most tedious part of the entire show!

Of course cricket and bollywood both fed enough fodder for all news channels : the shameful South African tour debacle from the former and Sanjay Dutt , Aishwarya and Abhishek amongst the latter. So much so, that I can puke at the mere mention of the last two!

Beyond all this, there is really not much to write. So I will end here – with the same promise to be back soon, and definitely sooner than last time!  

 

There is a common English saying – “There are no free lunches in this world!” But I realized that there could be some free dinners sometimes!

It all started on Saturday. At office, this site we decided to try out the new Pizza Hut menu. The alluring leaflets, adiposity with discount coupons, search dropped at my place were added incentive.

However, what started off as a routine ‘order placement’ call, some five minutes later,metamorphosised into a full-fledged verbal duel. The reason being – their adamant refusal at delivering to our office, as it was beyond their ‘service area of four kilometers’. Now Pizza Hut outlet is very near my place so I was hundred percent sure that our office falls within their stipulated four kilometer radius; 3.8 kms, to be very precise- or probably lesser, as the outlet is some 500-700 meters away from my home.In any case, I argued, even if it wasnt within four kms, there is no reason why they cannot still service a kilometer or two extra, if the client is willing not to be bound by their time-frame clause. It’s not as if there is a ‘laxman rekha’ beyond which if Pizza Hut scooters cross, they’d be abducted by some horrifiying Ravans! But all my arguments fell on deaf ears. When the person on the other end (the shift manager) stopped harping on the four-kilometer clause, he started to give wishy washy arguments on how the area where we were didnt fall within ‘serviceable’ limit. Now, I really blew my fuse. Agreed, we fall within that area, but our office – a landmark on its own – is right at the edge, on the main road, and accessible through wide open roads (as wide as they can be in Agra!).

The heat in the arguments from both ends rose to a palpable limit, with lots of strong words deployed, till the time I banged the phone down, in anger and disgust. In the same stroke, I went to Pizza Hut’s website and registered a complaint, mentally swearing off Pizza Hut for lifetime (though, honestly, my stomach and taste buds grumbled their protests – I really like their pizzas, however un-Italian they be!)

Two hours later, when I was quite cooled down, and had been satiated with a heavy lunch from their rival Dominoe’s Pizza, I received a call from Pizza Hut. It was their Asst. Manager – and in a meek voice he apologized for all that had happened. We spoke for some twenty minutes, in which he must have used the word ‘sorry’ some twenty thousand times. He offered to rectify the error and send the order away immediately. But I politely declined, as I was already full – and moreover, on my way to Delhi. He also requested me to visit their outlet sometime, and I vaguely agreed.

I had totally forgotten about the incident by the time I returned from my short but extremely relaxing weekend. Amidst a pile load of work, I received yet another call from Pizza Hut – this time, from their Manager. Once again, there were several rounds of apologies and he insisted that I visit their outlet – anytime convenient. Since he was quite pressing, and since I like Pizza Hut pizzas, and since I live alone and don’t mind a dinner out sometimes, I agreed!

At the designated hour, I reached their outlet. From the moment I entered their restaurant till the time I left, it was an evening befitting a royalty. The manager was there to apologise ( we had a drink together), the shift manager (with whom I had the argument) did the same, and the waiters were all on call at the slightest turn of my head! After a delightful meal (their new Indian Menu is simply outstanding!), when I asked for the bill, they refused the same. ‘It’s complimentary from our side!’ they gushed.

Whether it was the slight intoxication of the smooth Forster, or the luxury of having being served with such impeccable finesse, or the sheer respect for someone who has apologized enough ( I am in sales, and have met enough rude customers to know!), or the effect of the aroma-rich, tasteful food, whatever it was at that time I was ready to do anything they asked for – and that was (as the shift manager meekly, hesitatingly and fearfully requested for) a mail to state that I had enjoyed the evening (which I understood was an euphemism to say that I no longer bore a grudge against them).

I am not entirely unfamiliar with the service standards offered by various organisations. But after yesterday, Pizza Hut’s service quality stands heads and shoulders above many of the bests! To say I am impressed with their service is an understatement! It is way beyond that. And now I have resolved to always be their loyal customer (and my stomach and taste buds gurgle in delight!)

Next Update: December 07th, 2006 at 1800 Hrs IST titled “Eight”

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No, viagra approved no, gastritis no – this is not a review of Karan Razdan’s yet another forgettable click Aath-Shani. This is a tag that Juneli gave me. In this I have to inform who tagged me (which I have done), decease say eight things about me (which I will do shortly) and tag six people (which I will refrain from doing).

So here are eight things about me:

  • I have two arms, and use them quite a lot
  • I have ten fingers – five on each hand
  • I have two legs, and generally walk on them
  • I have one nose, that can smell pretty well
  • I have two eyes, both perfect till now
  • I have one mouth, and I try to keep it shut
  • I have one…err, let’s leave it here
  • Voila, I look, sound and act like a human being!

😛

 

Next Update– On 09.12.06 at 1800 Hrs, IST – “Ten Things I Miss About Nepal”
Don’t miss to read – “Favorite Songs of 2006” on 31.12.06 at 1700Hrs- only  on this blog!

In my farewell post from Nepal, decease I had said I will someday surely re-visit my Nepal memories. These few days, I have been regularly visiting those memories, viewing at the snaps taken there and remembering small details which normally I thought I had forgotten. It is difficult to write down all the things, so I will just mention the top ten things that I miss in Nepal.

1. Mountains – When one is in the Himalayan land, the mountains are aplenty to view. Admittedly, I have a strong affinity towards these sturdy natural beauties that can be both awesome and awe-inspiring. Kathmandu is surrounded by a lush and dark green ring of mountains that seemed to be a benign guardian for the valley. Click here to read the first post on this topic alongwith my favorite hill-stations. Other than the mountains, another eye-pleasing sight is that of clouds, which seem to acquire a magnificently creative instinct. I haven’t seen any more beautiful formations anyplace else. In fact, my love to watch the shapes and size of clouds began when I started to click their snaps.

2. Kathmandu – Well, as a whole there is a quaint attraction in the city; its ruggedy criss-cross mesh of streets and old-fashioned houses, peppered with some forward-looking architecture, is a unique blend of old-worldly charm and modern utility. The city – if it stops growing now – is neither too big nor too small, the right size! Of course, being there one has to be perennialy in holiday-and-relaxed mode.

3. Banchha Ghar – A delightful old restaurant serving some lip-smackingly delicious (and exotic) snacks. Their cultural show, performed every evening by nubile Nepali girls, showcases the various dance forms prevalant in the country. They serve ‘Raakshi’, the homemade rice wine, in miniature ‘kulhads‘ as a welcome drink. I would have loved to make ‘raakshi‘ as a separate entry, but due to lack of space will include it here.

4. Thamel – If I add up the hours I stayed in Kathmandu, the ones spent roaming in Thamel will by far exceed anything else. This was a favorite haunt, especially on weekends, when I used to visit a couple of quaint and charming pubs and lounge-bar. The effect in them is imprinted deeply in my mind. And I sorely miss having beer there – it just isnt same in the antiseptic modern bars of Delhi or Agra! Thamel carries a perennial festive look, always brightly lit and attractively colored.

5. Nagarkot – If you want to see the best sunrise, you have to head for this tiny hill-station, just 45 minutes drive from Kathmandu. The sun’s first appearance – a tiny blob of molten gold – is a jaw dropping sight!

6. Festivals – The Nepalis definitely know how to celebrate and revel in festivals, something that we seem to have forgotten (Festivals in Delhi are just formalities, rather excuses to show who is richer than whom, than any genuine urge to celebrate community togetherness, religious significance or simply to let your hair down to have fun. At corporate level, they are merely pieces meant to further the manipulation game of gaining brownie points or downsizing unwanted elements). Here, I saw a genuine desire to break free from the routine and indulge in the pure unadulterated joy of celebration. Bada Dashain (or Dushhera) is their biggest one, and the entire valley erupted in an unanimous call of joy and visually into a riot of colors!

7. Monuments – It’s not for nothing that Kathmandu is called a living museum; it is a World Heritage Site, and the proof lies in the sheer number of tourist sites to visit – Pashupati Nath Mandir, Buddhaneelkantha, three Darbar Squares, Syambhu Stupa, Boudhanath Stupa, Indra Chowk and many more!

8. Devghat /Chitwan – Both the places have their own beauties. Since I travelled to both in the same trip, their memories are tightly intertwined. I still recall fondly the ride on the River in that rickety narrow canoe! In Chitwan, sighting a rhinoceros was a huge accomplishment.

9. Jai Nepal Cinema Hall – Yes, I remember this also because there was a small slice of time when I must have watched a film there every Sunday.

10. Finally, the last thing I will mention is the amount of free time I had to write all those stories. I have now re-read most of them, and as I did so, I tried to recall the days and the ways I wrote at that time; also, I marvel as to how I managed to pen them. Reading those comments at that time is a wonderful experience.

I recall, on a particularly dull day, I had wondered whether those days will ever form ‘memories’. Pri had assured that sure they would. Pri, you were so correct!

Dont miss to read – “Favorite Songs of 2006” on 31.12.06 at 1700 Hrs, only on this blog!

First the Updates to set the background:

Ever since my holidays started, this 24-hour seem too less for me. The ‘deafening silence’ I mentioned here was short-lived. Overall, salve taking stock of the first quarter 2006, it has gone by in a blur of frenzied activities leaving behind small islands of quietitude.

Well, coming back to my trip – it was, to summarize it in two words: sheer fun! I have developed a new-found crush for Delhi So I roamed its wide roads like a smitten lover marveling at its infrastructural advancements and beauties. One reason is that since I didn’t have to go to office, I naturally avoided rush-hour traffic, which is the city’s biggest bane.

My parents had to go to Ludhiana, Punjab for a cousin’s wedding. So, for most parts I was again alone there. But there was a difference – living alone in spartan bachelor’s accommodation in Kathmandu is a far cry from staying in a full-fledged furnished house!

Meeting friends was the key highlight. From the bloggers met Anz. Ashish was leaving the day I reached there, hence couldn’t meet him, but had a word with him over telephone. Other than this, there was some personal work to be done, which took up considerable amount of time. I have set a few things rolling – do await a major announcement here soon.

On return to Kathmandu, I was caught up with the visit of our marketing guy, G. For the regular readers G is not an unknown name – remember the guy whom I took to Belly Dance Bar? This time round I told him I will take him to a better one – X-bar at Sundhara. From what I have heard, there are ‘topless’ performances there. He was so psyched and scared that every evening he would have headache/body-ache or some such excuse ready with him.

Anyways, we hardly had any time because planned a trip to Bhairawaha and Butwal – two neighboring towns in west Nepal plains – hence, we pushed X-bar trip to Friday evening which we had kept relatively free.

There was nothing great about Bhairawaha-Butwal, and the visit was wholly official, so will skip the details. But all through there also, kept joking and dropping hints about X-Bar! From Friday morning onwards, G kept his ‘not well’ raga on, and it kept increasing as the day progressed (LOL). By the time evening came, he was not ready to be seen with me even!

From all my colleagues, G is the most chilled out one and I couldn’t have taken this sort of liberty with any one else; we share a great rapport, and for that I will give him the maximum credit.

Nagarkot Sunrise

In any case, we didn’t end up at X-bar (or Fusion Bar, the other name that had cropped up with similar reputation). But we decided to view the sunrise from Nagarkot on Saturday early morning. This meant leaving

Kathmandu as early as 4 am, which in turn translated to getting up at 3 am.

Nagarkot sunrise is one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. I had seen the sunset earlier (It also finds mention in Naman Geeta), but the sunrise beats it any day! The weather there was cool, and we managed to find a strategic viewpoint to watch it. We were early. And had to wait some while to see nature’s magic show! But it was worth the wait, especially since the sun’s vanguard -the light itself- spread out with mesmerizing effect, especially as it reflected off the pristine white snow of Lamangthan peak!

How do I even describe the sight that is so enchanting? First, the rays shoot out. And then the sun peeps out from behind the mountains. When the first time it’s seen, it looks as if God has placed molten gold atop the hill. And then He pulls out the disc, which is bright red and looks moist and soft. (More pics can be seen here).

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

On our way back, we stopped at Bhaktapur. The Durbar Squareis more open and much cleaner than the ones in Patan(Lalitpur) or Kathmandu. I had been here once ealier, but this time it was the early morning and the effect was very pure and very devotional (since the square has maximum temples and the pujas were on at that time).

This place seriously needs an update!

😛

 

Jaane Hoga Kya – Now I wasnt expecting anything great from this long-in-the-making-released-hurriedly film. So, page what turned out was a pleasant surprise. And not because of its content. But for the inadvertant humor that the film provides. Ok, there so what’s it about? Cloning! Don’t choke on that coke, it is actually a film on human cloning. And how the directors (Glenn-Ankush) portray it is the best comedy released this year. As per this film, to make a clone there has to be two plastic covered ‘capsules’, connected to a computer. So, ‘data’ will move from one capsule to another, as heat rises, and out of steam a new human will be formed! Wow! That simple!

That’s how Aftab creates his own clone. But that’s not all. As soon as the new Aftab is formed, he leaves the capsule and *laugh laugh* heads for a dance bar to sing an item number with Maria Goretti. Some Bollywood pre-educated clone this was indeed! In fact, going by the number of songs that the clone gets to sing, he seems quite the ‘in-thing’! And other than the item number, this includes one roll-in-the-hay number with Preeti Jhangiani (who seems to have lost her voice and inhibitions permanently in this film).

Of course, the clone is not all that ‘good’, like the scientist. In fact, he turns out to be some ‘super-power’ monster with immense powers. Frankenstein, did some one say? Well, the scientist’s haalat is quite like that, but then the hero has to win in the end in movies!

Oh yes, in between all the songs and evil, there was a nice little twist in the end.

Overall – Watch it to laugh at it!

Aap Ki Khatir (Free - Bonus Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Aap Ki Khatir – Honestly, can some one tell Dharmesh Darshan to retire and spare us his tortures! Can someone tell Amisha Patel that making melancholic expressions doesnt construe acting! Can someone tell Sunil Shetty that joi-de-vivre is an inborn feeling; faking it never works! Can someone tell Lillette Dubey that she looked horrendous in this film spouting Anglicised Punjabi! Can someone tell…ok, I am sure you got what I want to convey.

This pain-some movie is old wine in older bottle. A soggy script with limp characters and a bland-as-London-weather scenario only worsens the viewer’s discomfort. In fact, the film ends up looking like a shoddy UK-produced small-budget fare.

I am quite surprised that Akshaye Khanna chose to do this film, which couldnt have looked attractive at script level even!

Overall – Dont even think of it!

Naksha – Beware of Vivek Oberoi in the jungle! He bored us first in Kaal, and now returns for another jungle-mein-mangle! Naksha is a directionless film that has no head nor tail nor any body in between!

Sadly, the concept is good. And one feels like screaming at the director for wasting an opportunity that could have been turned into a like slick thriller.

The story – We all know that in Mahabharat, Karan was born with the magical ‘kawach‘ and ‘kundal’ that gave him immense strength. The mythology tells us that during the Kuruskshetra war, Lord Indra (disguised as a brahman) had asked for the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’ as alms. This was done at the behest of Lord Krishna, in order to defeat Karan. After this, the epic is silent on the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’. What if Lord Indra buried these powerful object somewhere in the Himalayas? Well, the film is built on this premise wherein one archeologist is able to find the same, and prepares a map to reach the place. However, one evil person (Jackie in a horrible get up) gets to know of the same, and wants them as well. The archeologist prefers to suicide rather than give the map to Jackie.

Years later, the archeologist’s son (Vivek) learns of the map, and proceeds to get those objects, with Jackie again close on his heels. To help Vivek, there is his elder step-brother, Sunny Deol.

The story simply meanders precious reels in the jungle. And if the repartees between Sunny and Vivek were ‘comedy’ well, then the director needs to seriously watch some Hrishida films!

Our Bollywood heroes never know when to call it quits. But I had thought Sunny would have learnt from his father (Dharamendra acted in the most third-rate films in the eighties, romancing heroines like Amrita Singh and Dimple Kapadia, who were half his age. In fact, Dimple was having a allegedly having an affair with Sunny when Dharam acted opposite her!) Anyways, Sunny should take caution and remember that such inane roles dont suit his stature. I am sure there will be many writers/directors ready to provide him dignified roles that are commensurate with his age.

As for Sameera Reddy, well her role is the most wishy-washy and redundant. Perhaps, the director realised it, that’s why in the climax, she is just dropped off somewhere and forgotten as well. BTW, if Sameera’s acting career never takes off, she can try for WWE!

Overall – Go tickle your masochist streak and watch it!

Umrao Jaan (New)

I admit it is too early to really write a review on the music on which everyone seems to have an opinion. But before that, women’s health let’s face a few facts squarely in the face – it was an arduously tough act to compose songs for a subject whose previous version is still fresh in the minds of music listeners. More than merit for the older hit, it is the nostalgic wrapper that shines and glitters. It has reached a cult status, traumatologist where it is placed at a hallowed pedestal. One reality check that I wish to present – unlike Sholay or Don the movie, or its music, wasn’t such an earth shattering hit when released in the eighties. It is only over the years that the songs have acquired a ‘retro-hit’ status. So, this sudden urge by everyone to lambast against the newer version sounds funny – even from that generation. Even those who wouldn’t ordinarily listen to Khayyam’s ghazals from Muzaffar Ali’s classic have somehow turned up their nose against Anu Mallik’s efforts. A prime reason is that Mallik’s name itself evokes plentiful negative reactions. Even before the music was out, I had read vitriolic write ups on how could J P Dutta entrust Mallik with such a prestigious job. But obviously, Dutta has enough faith in his composer who gave two whopper (musical) hits with Border and Refugee. In my honest opinion, such reaction was totally unwarranted. Mallik might be obnoxious in his interviews, his many compositions lack any luster of many kind, but still the man has in him to turn up with music that might just be listenable. Another positive point in Dutta-Mallik’s favor is that they haven’t gone and remixed or re-arranged the old classic songs – a towering brownie point to the team, especially seen in the light of the absolutely bland re-mixes/re-designed score of Don.

However, let me make my stance clear – I am neither fond of, nor in favor of, old classics remade in newer format with newer stars. It is simply unappealing, especially when the older versions usually reached perfection (perceived or otherwise) in terms of performance and direction. But this once, I am ready to give Dutta-Mallik team a clean chit, for two reasons – one, I feel that their effort is more honest in re-creating rather than just cashing in on the older success.

The second, and bigger reason, is that I am not emotionally attached to the older Umrao Jaan. Sometime back, in one of the comments, I had mentioned that I am not too fond of that film’s music. The ghazals are good. But somehow, they haven’t had the same gushing effect on me as they should have – except for ‘Yeh kya jagah hai doston‘. Hence, I approached the newer one with a totally fresh mind.

Coming back to the music, as I said, it is a bit early to write a comprehensive review. I haven’t been able to invest the requisite time to listen to it carefully. Yet, when a score leaves a few snatches attached to your soul after the first couple of listenings, you know that it demands coming back to it. In that respect, Mallik’s Umrao Jaan is surely on the right trail. After the first hearing, and switching off the system, I remained floating in its melody and effect, though I couldn’t recall the exact tunes.

From the bunch of solos (all Alka Yagnik barring two), I found ‘Salaam…Tumhari mehfil mein aa gaye hain to kyun na yeh bhi kaam kar len‘ particularly mesmerizing. A very subtle rhythm that supports a hummable tune keeps the song afloat. Alka’s rendition doesn’t move too much away from her flat intonations, yet they somehow suit the composition. The same goes for the second best number ‘Tum jo paas aa gaye, hum jo sharma gaye‘. It’s hookline lies in the charming ‘Tum bhi pahle pahal, hum bhi pahale pahal‘ line, and a mouthful interlude of ‘shehnais‘ topped with a single sarangi strain. A third song that perked my ears and plucked my heart was ‘Mai na mil sakoon jo tumse, meri justjoo na karna’ – a haunting number with tight violins that uplift the song to a dream level. Finally, ‘Jhoote ilzaam tum lagaaya na karo‘ is the fourth interesting solo – a bit slow and lengthy, but overall melodious. There is only one duet, unfortunately it didn’t cut much ice with me – and Sonu Nigam has sadly ‘oversung’ it. Passion can sometimes be understated, and not sighing overtly into the mic!

Agle janam mein mohe bitiya na kijo’ – in two parts – are the only numbers where Alka steps away. The song (in both versions) is a touching lament by a girl who doesn’t want to be a re-born in the same gender. However, I am a bit surprised at such a song in this film – as far as I know of Muslim religion, they do not have any concept of ‘re-birth’, hence the song is conceptually an anomaly in a film dealing with Muslim characters. But coming from Javed Akhtar, I am sure he would have done some research before penning it.

Somewhere I feel the weakest link has been Javed Akhtar’s lyrics that just do not sear with the burning pain that was Umrao Jan Ada’s life. Though one can find many scattered ‘quotable’ examples, overall the poetry is not the kind that one can hug and sob inconsolably to wet the pillows in the night. For example, in ‘Jhoote ilzaam’ a statement like ‘dil hai nazuk, isse dukhaya na karo’ is too bland and direct, and more suited to Sameer/Himesh combo of songs than in a film that talks about a courtesan who was exceptional in her poetry.

I am quite impressed by Mallik’s arrangements – he hasn’t done any unnecessarily experimentations, nor kept the sound cacophonously contemporary. He sticks to the era that the songs were meant to be and introduces now-forgotten Indian instruments like saarangi, sitar and tabla in full measure. Now that’s an achievement. Whether the current generation appreciates this is a million dollar question! But then, like the older generation, maybe they will reject it now but once they grow up, it is precisely this sort of music that they will like to come back to. Perhaps, this version might outlast every other contemporary composition and be a retro hit as well!

Overall- A Good Buy

I know an update on Random Expressions is long overdue; I have received subtle suggestions, information pills friendly reminders and even dire threats, buy more about which all proved the love and affection for this space. Thanks to everyone. And because of you all, just writing in to say I am fine, and alive – and so is this blog!

Needless to say, the past month has been tediously hectic – including, visits to far off places like Mainpuri, Bhongaon and Bewar and also a few more trips on that horrifying Agra-Aligarh stretch. But more than that it was an urge to prove something to superiors and get the sales figures correct that sort of doused the innate craving to write. So I kept focussed on the work, getting the act right and streamlining the processes as much as I could. Sadly, the end result was not all that encouraging – neither did the figures really shine, nor did this blog get any input. In short, a total failure!

In between, my speaker-set also conked off. Million complaints later, the service center of the obscure Korean brand agreed to rectify the same at home, obviously free of cost since it was well within the warranty period. The fault? Violently fluctuating voltage here – there, I add one more negative item from this city! The consequence? Lightened the wallet to purchase a voltage stabilizer.

Winters are lingering in, though the temperatures dropped precariously low for a couple of days in-between, but now they have clamboured upward. Another addition at home was a much-needed geyser.

Movie-watching and television-viewing were the only stable past-times. I havent yet entered any cinema hall here (waitng for Fun Cinemas to open up), but have put good use to the DVD player. The last few that I caught were the ominous Darna Zaroori Hai, the taut Deadline and the tastelessly dull Umrao Jaan! Television surfing has been massive, and I have to sheepishly admit I got hooked on to several programmes that I wouldnt have ordinarily watched. For example, Big Bosss! The shenanginans of drama-queen Rakhi Sawant and the antics of super-bitch Kashmira Shah kept the hands off the remote control.

The second programme I caught was Nach Baliye-2 – and the reason to get hooked to it was the extremely superb and scintillating performance by Manav and Shweta in that gold-outfit. They bettered it next week with the ‘bamboo dance’ – and I was sure that this pair could win. Sadly, Sweta let herself and us down with a limpid show of the mujra, though Manav more than made it up with his energetic ‘Mai deewana’ number. Still, personally I feel that combined they were far ahead of others in terms of grace, movement, choice and to top it all an endearing sang-froid and a thankful lack of melodrama or tears! Compare this with the eternal crybaby of tv, the other lady whose name I forget now (better known as Prerna of Kasautii Zindagii Kay), you will know what I mean. Their ousting section was the most tedious part of the entire show!

Of course cricket and bollywood both fed enough fodder for all news channels : the shameful South African tour debacle from the former and Sanjay Dutt , Aishwarya and Abhishek amongst the latter. So much so, that I can puke at the mere mention of the last two!

Beyond all this, there is really not much to write. So I will end here – with the same promise to be back soon, and definitely sooner than last time!  

 

There is a common English saying – “There are no free lunches in this world!” But I realized that there could be some free dinners sometimes!

It all started on Saturday. At office, this site we decided to try out the new Pizza Hut menu. The alluring leaflets, adiposity with discount coupons, search dropped at my place were added incentive.

However, what started off as a routine ‘order placement’ call, some five minutes later,metamorphosised into a full-fledged verbal duel. The reason being – their adamant refusal at delivering to our office, as it was beyond their ‘service area of four kilometers’. Now Pizza Hut outlet is very near my place so I was hundred percent sure that our office falls within their stipulated four kilometer radius; 3.8 kms, to be very precise- or probably lesser, as the outlet is some 500-700 meters away from my home.In any case, I argued, even if it wasnt within four kms, there is no reason why they cannot still service a kilometer or two extra, if the client is willing not to be bound by their time-frame clause. It’s not as if there is a ‘laxman rekha’ beyond which if Pizza Hut scooters cross, they’d be abducted by some horrifiying Ravans! But all my arguments fell on deaf ears. When the person on the other end (the shift manager) stopped harping on the four-kilometer clause, he started to give wishy washy arguments on how the area where we were didnt fall within ‘serviceable’ limit. Now, I really blew my fuse. Agreed, we fall within that area, but our office – a landmark on its own – is right at the edge, on the main road, and accessible through wide open roads (as wide as they can be in Agra!).

The heat in the arguments from both ends rose to a palpable limit, with lots of strong words deployed, till the time I banged the phone down, in anger and disgust. In the same stroke, I went to Pizza Hut’s website and registered a complaint, mentally swearing off Pizza Hut for lifetime (though, honestly, my stomach and taste buds grumbled their protests – I really like their pizzas, however un-Italian they be!)

Two hours later, when I was quite cooled down, and had been satiated with a heavy lunch from their rival Dominoe’s Pizza, I received a call from Pizza Hut. It was their Asst. Manager – and in a meek voice he apologized for all that had happened. We spoke for some twenty minutes, in which he must have used the word ‘sorry’ some twenty thousand times. He offered to rectify the error and send the order away immediately. But I politely declined, as I was already full – and moreover, on my way to Delhi. He also requested me to visit their outlet sometime, and I vaguely agreed.

I had totally forgotten about the incident by the time I returned from my short but extremely relaxing weekend. Amidst a pile load of work, I received yet another call from Pizza Hut – this time, from their Manager. Once again, there were several rounds of apologies and he insisted that I visit their outlet – anytime convenient. Since he was quite pressing, and since I like Pizza Hut pizzas, and since I live alone and don’t mind a dinner out sometimes, I agreed!

At the designated hour, I reached their outlet. From the moment I entered their restaurant till the time I left, it was an evening befitting a royalty. The manager was there to apologise ( we had a drink together), the shift manager (with whom I had the argument) did the same, and the waiters were all on call at the slightest turn of my head! After a delightful meal (their new Indian Menu is simply outstanding!), when I asked for the bill, they refused the same. ‘It’s complimentary from our side!’ they gushed.

Whether it was the slight intoxication of the smooth Forster, or the luxury of having being served with such impeccable finesse, or the sheer respect for someone who has apologized enough ( I am in sales, and have met enough rude customers to know!), or the effect of the aroma-rich, tasteful food, whatever it was at that time I was ready to do anything they asked for – and that was (as the shift manager meekly, hesitatingly and fearfully requested for) a mail to state that I had enjoyed the evening (which I understood was an euphemism to say that I no longer bore a grudge against them).

I am not entirely unfamiliar with the service standards offered by various organisations. But after yesterday, Pizza Hut’s service quality stands heads and shoulders above many of the bests! To say I am impressed with their service is an understatement! It is way beyond that. And now I have resolved to always be their loyal customer (and my stomach and taste buds gurgle in delight!)

Next Update: December 07th, 2006 at 1800 Hrs IST titled “Eight”

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No, viagra approved no, gastritis no – this is not a review of Karan Razdan’s yet another forgettable click Aath-Shani. This is a tag that Juneli gave me. In this I have to inform who tagged me (which I have done), decease say eight things about me (which I will do shortly) and tag six people (which I will refrain from doing).

So here are eight things about me:

  • I have two arms, and use them quite a lot
  • I have ten fingers – five on each hand
  • I have two legs, and generally walk on them
  • I have one nose, that can smell pretty well
  • I have two eyes, both perfect till now
  • I have one mouth, and I try to keep it shut
  • I have one…err, let’s leave it here
  • Voila, I look, sound and act like a human being!

😛

 

Next Update– On 09.12.06 at 1800 Hrs, IST – “Ten Things I Miss About Nepal”
Don’t miss to read – “Favorite Songs of 2006” on 31.12.06 at 1700Hrs- only  on this blog!

In my farewell post from Nepal, decease I had said I will someday surely re-visit my Nepal memories. These few days, I have been regularly visiting those memories, viewing at the snaps taken there and remembering small details which normally I thought I had forgotten. It is difficult to write down all the things, so I will just mention the top ten things that I miss in Nepal.

1. Mountains – When one is in the Himalayan land, the mountains are aplenty to view. Admittedly, I have a strong affinity towards these sturdy natural beauties that can be both awesome and awe-inspiring. Kathmandu is surrounded by a lush and dark green ring of mountains that seemed to be a benign guardian for the valley. Click here to read the first post on this topic alongwith my favorite hill-stations. Other than the mountains, another eye-pleasing sight is that of clouds, which seem to acquire a magnificently creative instinct. I haven’t seen any more beautiful formations anyplace else. In fact, my love to watch the shapes and size of clouds began when I started to click their snaps.

2. Kathmandu – Well, as a whole there is a quaint attraction in the city; its ruggedy criss-cross mesh of streets and old-fashioned houses, peppered with some forward-looking architecture, is a unique blend of old-worldly charm and modern utility. The city – if it stops growing now – is neither too big nor too small, the right size! Of course, being there one has to be perennialy in holiday-and-relaxed mode.

3. Banchha Ghar – A delightful old restaurant serving some lip-smackingly delicious (and exotic) snacks. Their cultural show, performed every evening by nubile Nepali girls, showcases the various dance forms prevalant in the country. They serve ‘Raakshi’, the homemade rice wine, in miniature ‘kulhads‘ as a welcome drink. I would have loved to make ‘raakshi‘ as a separate entry, but due to lack of space will include it here.

4. Thamel – If I add up the hours I stayed in Kathmandu, the ones spent roaming in Thamel will by far exceed anything else. This was a favorite haunt, especially on weekends, when I used to visit a couple of quaint and charming pubs and lounge-bar. The effect in them is imprinted deeply in my mind. And I sorely miss having beer there – it just isnt same in the antiseptic modern bars of Delhi or Agra! Thamel carries a perennial festive look, always brightly lit and attractively colored.

5. Nagarkot – If you want to see the best sunrise, you have to head for this tiny hill-station, just 45 minutes drive from Kathmandu. The sun’s first appearance – a tiny blob of molten gold – is a jaw dropping sight!

6. Festivals – The Nepalis definitely know how to celebrate and revel in festivals, something that we seem to have forgotten (Festivals in Delhi are just formalities, rather excuses to show who is richer than whom, than any genuine urge to celebrate community togetherness, religious significance or simply to let your hair down to have fun. At corporate level, they are merely pieces meant to further the manipulation game of gaining brownie points or downsizing unwanted elements). Here, I saw a genuine desire to break free from the routine and indulge in the pure unadulterated joy of celebration. Bada Dashain (or Dushhera) is their biggest one, and the entire valley erupted in an unanimous call of joy and visually into a riot of colors!

7. Monuments – It’s not for nothing that Kathmandu is called a living museum; it is a World Heritage Site, and the proof lies in the sheer number of tourist sites to visit – Pashupati Nath Mandir, Buddhaneelkantha, three Darbar Squares, Syambhu Stupa, Boudhanath Stupa, Indra Chowk and many more!

8. Devghat /Chitwan – Both the places have their own beauties. Since I travelled to both in the same trip, their memories are tightly intertwined. I still recall fondly the ride on the River in that rickety narrow canoe! In Chitwan, sighting a rhinoceros was a huge accomplishment.

9. Jai Nepal Cinema Hall – Yes, I remember this also because there was a small slice of time when I must have watched a film there every Sunday.

10. Finally, the last thing I will mention is the amount of free time I had to write all those stories. I have now re-read most of them, and as I did so, I tried to recall the days and the ways I wrote at that time; also, I marvel as to how I managed to pen them. Reading those comments at that time is a wonderful experience.

I recall, on a particularly dull day, I had wondered whether those days will ever form ‘memories’. Pri had assured that sure they would. Pri, you were so correct!

Dont miss to read – “Favorite Songs of 2006” on 31.12.06 at 1700 Hrs, only on this blog!

First the Updates to set the background:

Ever since my holidays started, this 24-hour seem too less for me. The ‘deafening silence’ I mentioned here was short-lived. Overall, salve taking stock of the first quarter 2006, it has gone by in a blur of frenzied activities leaving behind small islands of quietitude.

Well, coming back to my trip – it was, to summarize it in two words: sheer fun! I have developed a new-found crush for Delhi So I roamed its wide roads like a smitten lover marveling at its infrastructural advancements and beauties. One reason is that since I didn’t have to go to office, I naturally avoided rush-hour traffic, which is the city’s biggest bane.

My parents had to go to Ludhiana, Punjab for a cousin’s wedding. So, for most parts I was again alone there. But there was a difference – living alone in spartan bachelor’s accommodation in Kathmandu is a far cry from staying in a full-fledged furnished house!

Meeting friends was the key highlight. From the bloggers met Anz. Ashish was leaving the day I reached there, hence couldn’t meet him, but had a word with him over telephone. Other than this, there was some personal work to be done, which took up considerable amount of time. I have set a few things rolling – do await a major announcement here soon.

On return to Kathmandu, I was caught up with the visit of our marketing guy, G. For the regular readers G is not an unknown name – remember the guy whom I took to Belly Dance Bar? This time round I told him I will take him to a better one – X-bar at Sundhara. From what I have heard, there are ‘topless’ performances there. He was so psyched and scared that every evening he would have headache/body-ache or some such excuse ready with him.

Anyways, we hardly had any time because planned a trip to Bhairawaha and Butwal – two neighboring towns in west Nepal plains – hence, we pushed X-bar trip to Friday evening which we had kept relatively free.

There was nothing great about Bhairawaha-Butwal, and the visit was wholly official, so will skip the details. But all through there also, kept joking and dropping hints about X-Bar! From Friday morning onwards, G kept his ‘not well’ raga on, and it kept increasing as the day progressed (LOL). By the time evening came, he was not ready to be seen with me even!

From all my colleagues, G is the most chilled out one and I couldn’t have taken this sort of liberty with any one else; we share a great rapport, and for that I will give him the maximum credit.

Nagarkot Sunrise

In any case, we didn’t end up at X-bar (or Fusion Bar, the other name that had cropped up with similar reputation). But we decided to view the sunrise from Nagarkot on Saturday early morning. This meant leaving

Kathmandu as early as 4 am, which in turn translated to getting up at 3 am.

Nagarkot sunrise is one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. I had seen the sunset earlier (It also finds mention in Naman Geeta), but the sunrise beats it any day! The weather there was cool, and we managed to find a strategic viewpoint to watch it. We were early. And had to wait some while to see nature’s magic show! But it was worth the wait, especially since the sun’s vanguard -the light itself- spread out with mesmerizing effect, especially as it reflected off the pristine white snow of Lamangthan peak!

How do I even describe the sight that is so enchanting? First, the rays shoot out. And then the sun peeps out from behind the mountains. When the first time it’s seen, it looks as if God has placed molten gold atop the hill. And then He pulls out the disc, which is bright red and looks moist and soft. (More pics can be seen here).

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

On our way back, we stopped at Bhaktapur. The Durbar Squareis more open and much cleaner than the ones in Patan(Lalitpur) or Kathmandu. I had been here once ealier, but this time it was the early morning and the effect was very pure and very devotional (since the square has maximum temples and the pujas were on at that time).

With the year almost to an end, medications there aren’t many biggies lined up for the winter. Due to lack of anything else interesting happening with me lately, stuff I decided to pre-pone this list to now.

So, here we go…with the movies I enjoyed watching this year, in no particular order, barring the first one:

Lage Raho Munnabhai – I guess it is not too difficult to guess why this film takes the top position. Raj Kumar Hirani has brought back the charmingly simple style of Hrishida movies, moulded it to the modern context, weaved in a thoughtful message and created a masterpiece that is magnificently delightful and cozily dreamy.

KrrishKrrish – Agreed as a Super-man sort of film, it sagged severely, especially in the middle. Yet I feel it was a very valiant effort by the Roshans – and one that was fairly entertaining, even though one might feel cheated about the low screen time given to the super-hero. In addition, bringing in Rohit (from the prequel Koi Mil Gaya) was a terrific twist (and a well guarded secret).

Fanaa (2 Disc Set)Fanaa This film received a lot of flak, yet with every passing bad review it seemed to have added one more zero in the producer’s bank account. I saw it again – twice over. And each time, I found the movie endearing, especially its sensitively handled second half. Moreover, I loved its graceful pace. Kajol’s presence gave it the requisite fillip to make it reach this list!

Malaamal Weekly – This year’s darkest horse – I dont think even Priyadarshan had imagined it would be clear cut hit. But one view of the movie, it is not difficult to fathom why. The movie is unpretentiously entertaining; and whatever it’s foreign sources be (for the story), in the end, it delivers a hilarious package that makes it ‘paisa vasool’. Om Puri and Paresh Rawal give a splendid performance.

CorporateCorporate – Ok, this one is not upto Page 3′s level, but I found Madhur Bhandarkar’s attempt to show the ruthlessly cut-throat corporate world very engrossing. There were some subtle moments that looked straight from the offices I have worked in.

36 China Town36 China Town Blame it on my soft-corner for whodunnits, Akshaye Khanna’s performances and Abbas Mustan’s taut directions, to place this film here. The comedy track was good, even though the mystery per se wasnt. And for once, I found Shahid and Kareena bearable together.

Pyaar Ke Side Effects / Khosla Ka Ghosla – It’s quite a tie here, since both are essentially similar conceptually – interesting storyline, modern style, comic, small budget and essentially more enjoyable at home than in theaters.Khosla Ka Ghosla

Of the two, Khosla Ka Ghosla is superior. Anupam Kher and Boman Irani give a rock-solid performance. The plot is more intricate than PKSE, and its presented in such a way that at one point you feel like thinking – yeah, this can happen too!

Amongst these low-budget ‘multiplex movies’ Bas Ek Pal barely missed entering the list, primarily because of its utterly shoddy denouement. It’s as if the director had this brilliant concept, but just didnt know how to take it forward.

Dor (Bonus _ Free Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Dor / Yun Hota Kya Hota – Again I am clubbing the two because of some obvious similarities – they were made with small budgets, had serious undertones, displayed human sensitivity, demonstrated some wonderful acting, were more character-driven than story-centric and brought out the best in Ayesha Takia! Yes, this girl surely has it in her to race ahead past her rivals where acting is concerned, and come to think of it, she is quite a looker as well. In Dor, she holds the film together with her fragile hands. The film is a strong feminist statement, often irreverent in its social messags, and yet without hammering the message unnecessarily. Another masterpiece from Nagesh Kukunnoor.

My standing ovation to Naseerudin Shah for Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota – four different lives merge towards one shattering climax. But the film’s real power lies in the presentation of each story – you feel the reality in every emotional strand of each character. Once again, Konkona delights!

GolmaalGolmaal / Tom Dick And Harry / Phir Hera Pheri– For their zany slapstick humor; remove your brains and just indulge in pure paagalpan, with dollops of double entendres (in the first two) and eye-catching visuals. Perhaps I am the only person who found Hera Pheri ordinary, and the sequel far superior!Phir Hera Pheri

Vivaah – The critics screamed ‘regressive’ and rejected it, the masses yelled ‘traditional’ and embraced it. End result? The film is this year’s biggest surprise success. In between, the confused multiplex audience simply squirmed in discomfort looking back at stuff that they would have given the thumbs up only a few years back! Personally, I loved the movie as it gave a very warm feeling which is otherwise lacking in the normal world. Moreover, it managed to moisten the eyes towards it climax. Sooraj Barjatya returned to his traditional roots after his warped modern outing in Mai Prem Ki Deewani Hoon, and it was a handsome comeback. Though it lacked a fulsome family/friends scenario as seen in HAHK and Hum Saath Saath Hain, still all the key Barjatya ingredients were available – family outings and functions, shy romance, a bit of ched-chhad , a slice of negativity (that gets conquered eventually)- and, ‘deals’ with ‘foreign collaborators’ that would establish the young hero in business! Amrita Rao looked bashfully ravishing ( I have yet to see someone so beautiful in Mathura, although one can sight even Chhotis there). Though one missed Salman’s presence, Shahid fitted the bill well. And, as a busy but benign brother, Sameer Soni effectively stepped into the shoes of Mohnish Bahl (who made a small appearance towards the end).

The film is additionaly special because it was the first movie I saw in Agra at the newly opened Fun Cinemas Multiplex.

The ‘Theek Thaak’ Films List:

Hum Ko Deewana Kar Gaye – Raj Kanwar’s attempt to do a Yash Chopra was redeemed by Katrina’s refreshing and effervescent presence; and her on-screen chemistry with Akshay Kumar rocked. Beyond that, the film was just an average time-pass. The music was above average, though.

Jaan – E – Mann – The film had everything going for it – huge star cast, lavish production, decent music and a tried-and-tested love triangle formula. Yet, Shirish Kunder couldnt just pull it off. The end result was an inordinately long and tedious film. If it doesn’t enter my ‘hall of shame’ , it’s only due to the actors, music and Anupam Kher’s comedy.

OmkaraOmkara – Vishal’s attempt to re-do Othello was brave, but it lacked the punch that his previous film Maqbool did. Partly because Othello is not a very strong play as such. Partly also because of wrong casting – neither is Kareena a woman to die for, nor is Vivek a man to be jealous of. The film fell flat! Frankly, I am tired of Ajay’s dour look passed off as ‘acting’.

Ahista Ahista – A sweet romance set in the backdrop of Old Delhi. Soha Ali and Abhay Deol breathed life into their portrayals of people brought together under unusual circumstances, grappling to find meaning within their relationship. The film was shorn off any extraneous glamour and forwarded the story in lavishly languid pace. Only, it lacked the lavishness in its production. Himesh’s music was a bore and didnt gel with the story.

Dil Diya Hai – Ok, I saw it in sheer boredom. But still I feel the film deserved more eyeballs than what it received. Director Aditya (Ashiq Banaya Aapne) Dutt took hold off a ‘different’ story altogether – so different that it ended up looking bizarre. Still, there was enough panache to keep viewers interest. Himesh’s ‘Jab se aankh ladi tere naal’ was good.

Gangster – The songs were good (and majority copied), the movie had good moments, but overall it was just okayish. Emraan Hashmi was damn irritating. And Kangana Ranaut’s diction was horrible (hope she has worked on this now). The movie was neither hard-hitting nor thought-provoking. It ended up being a depressing and whining account without much sunshine.

Anthony Kaun HaiAnthony Kaun Hai – The film was quite stylized and Arshad Warsi gave a credible performance – not moving too far off from his Munnabhai image, yet not being restricted within it. Having missed Yahan, and not impressed by her miniscule role in Corporate, this film was my revelation of Minisha Lamba – she came across bubbly and vivacious , and at times reminded me of Priety Zinta from her Dil Se days.

The Killer – Compared to Gangster, this was a better attempt (or, let’s say, a better rip-off). The sharp and suave Irrfan Khan and the bumbling and bleating Emraan complemented each other. Personally, I found Killer’s music better than Gangster.

Baabul – There was something grossly missing in the film, which couldnt shuttle the sensitive theme to the higher orbit where one can raise the hands in ecstacy. Neither does the joyful first half raise hearty chuckles, nor does the sad second part wring tears from your eyes. In short, very average film. Strangely, for a film that deals with widow-remarriage, the biggest disconnect is that the widows character just doesn’t simmer with that deadly loss she has to undergo. Perhaps, Ravi Chopra should have toned down the gloss, and worked more on emotions. Of course, it is absolutely delightful to watch Amitabh Bachhan’s performance. Rani is good, but I fear there is a repetitiveness creeping in. Hema Malini defies age, and becomes more beautiful with each passing year. In this movie, her role is on the side-lines, hence the chemistry seen between AB and her (as seen in Baghbaan ) is quite lacking.

Dhoom -2 – This was the most awaited movie, and a decided bumper-hit even before it hit the theaters. To this, there was the masala over Hritik-Ash’s kiss that was splashed over several news channels. My views? Yes, the action is great, the thefts more daring, the look splendid, the sound design awesome, the chases breath-taking; yet, overall it just doesnt add up. The film simply overdoes it – and spoils the entire spontaneous fun that one had while watching the prequel. So much time is spent on the villain, and his emotions, that Abhishek Bachhan (and family) should have worried more on his wimp-like role than Ash’s bewafaai due to the kiss (which is nothing much, and would have ordinarily gone unnoticed but for the lead pair involved). Which also brings in the more pricky question about today’s morality – why are villains getting shinier and brighter, so much so that when Hritik and Abhi have a face-off at the cliff, inthe climax, one almost wants the thief to win! (At least, in this film, there is some redemption, but in Don, even that is not given- which was not the case even in the angst-ridden, anti-hero studded seventies, when the original film was released.) The music was bad. And can someone tell me what Bipasha Basu was doing in this film -either as the cop, or as the Brazilian beauty!

The ‘Undecided List’ – As ever I have a couple of movies, that are so larger-than-life, that slotting them in any list doesnt work. So, I call them an undecided list, or rather an ‘extension’ of the ‘theek-thaak list’. This year, there are two such big films:

Umraao Jaan– Ok, the movie was way off the mark, especially in its authenticity. Agreed, Abhishek Bachchan looked bored and tired. Yes, Aishwarya Rai couldnt measure up to Rekha’s performance in the eighties version (Frankly, no one expected Aish to do so). So, why in this list, and not in the bad ones! Simply because, like when everything is right and the film doesnt do good, same is the reverse true – individually, everything is wrong, yet in entirety the film was quite watchable and didnt overtly bore me or make me run for the fast forward button. Thus, it’s here in the ‘theek-thaak’ list.

Don – Thank you Moon Cable and Sony, for showing the original days after the release of the newer version – you only helped me revive strong childhood memories associated with the older film; Amitabh Bachchan rocked in that film! The new version is suitably upgraded, with twists added, but wher ethe main character is concerned, sorry SRK, howsoever much I like you, AB’s Don was way way ahead of you. The only reason I am undecided and not immediately slotted it inthe ‘Hall of Shame’ is the immense praise that I have read about the film – so , I want to see it again and decide then, and I’ll watch it after some months, when the effect of AB’s superlative performance has worn off.

This is my list. So what’s yours?

Updated on 27.12.2006

Four films that I should have mentioned but missed out in the ‘theek thaak’ list are:

Taxi No. 9211 – A fairly entertaining and racy film by Milan Luthria. The story takes place in a day, and holds the audience attention. The short length was an added advantage.

Being CyrusBeing Cyrus – A dark film made using the neo-modern grammar of film making. The film had a few good high points, including an interesting performance by Saif Ali Khan. However, sadly, Dimple disappointed with her hyper-act.

Zinda - Sanjay Dutt, John AbrahamZinda – Brutal and blunt, the film didnt bore, though of course it made you wince several imes during the show. Full review here.

Kalyug – Quite an insightful and interesting film. Kaushie did a nice review – read here.

Updated on 28.12.06

Kabul ExpressKabul Express – Will go under ‘Movies That I Enjoyed’ – a new subject, a good treatment, and some delectable cinematography makes the film a winner.

Bhagam Bhaag – Will go under ‘Theek thaak list’ – masti with mystery, the film has all the Priyadarshan elements. Funny at places, a no-holds barred climax, and good acting by all. However, what it lacks is that punch which made Hungama a re-watchable film anytime. Wonder if Priyadarshan is losing his touch, or is the prolificity getting him!

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This place seriously needs an update!

😛

 

Jaane Hoga Kya – Now I wasnt expecting anything great from this long-in-the-making-released-hurriedly film. So, page what turned out was a pleasant surprise. And not because of its content. But for the inadvertant humor that the film provides. Ok, there so what’s it about? Cloning! Don’t choke on that coke, it is actually a film on human cloning. And how the directors (Glenn-Ankush) portray it is the best comedy released this year. As per this film, to make a clone there has to be two plastic covered ‘capsules’, connected to a computer. So, ‘data’ will move from one capsule to another, as heat rises, and out of steam a new human will be formed! Wow! That simple!

That’s how Aftab creates his own clone. But that’s not all. As soon as the new Aftab is formed, he leaves the capsule and *laugh laugh* heads for a dance bar to sing an item number with Maria Goretti. Some Bollywood pre-educated clone this was indeed! In fact, going by the number of songs that the clone gets to sing, he seems quite the ‘in-thing’! And other than the item number, this includes one roll-in-the-hay number with Preeti Jhangiani (who seems to have lost her voice and inhibitions permanently in this film).

Of course, the clone is not all that ‘good’, like the scientist. In fact, he turns out to be some ‘super-power’ monster with immense powers. Frankenstein, did some one say? Well, the scientist’s haalat is quite like that, but then the hero has to win in the end in movies!

Oh yes, in between all the songs and evil, there was a nice little twist in the end.

Overall – Watch it to laugh at it!

Aap Ki Khatir (Free - Bonus Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Aap Ki Khatir – Honestly, can some one tell Dharmesh Darshan to retire and spare us his tortures! Can someone tell Amisha Patel that making melancholic expressions doesnt construe acting! Can someone tell Sunil Shetty that joi-de-vivre is an inborn feeling; faking it never works! Can someone tell Lillette Dubey that she looked horrendous in this film spouting Anglicised Punjabi! Can someone tell…ok, I am sure you got what I want to convey.

This pain-some movie is old wine in older bottle. A soggy script with limp characters and a bland-as-London-weather scenario only worsens the viewer’s discomfort. In fact, the film ends up looking like a shoddy UK-produced small-budget fare.

I am quite surprised that Akshaye Khanna chose to do this film, which couldnt have looked attractive at script level even!

Overall – Dont even think of it!

Naksha – Beware of Vivek Oberoi in the jungle! He bored us first in Kaal, and now returns for another jungle-mein-mangle! Naksha is a directionless film that has no head nor tail nor any body in between!

Sadly, the concept is good. And one feels like screaming at the director for wasting an opportunity that could have been turned into a like slick thriller.

The story – We all know that in Mahabharat, Karan was born with the magical ‘kawach‘ and ‘kundal’ that gave him immense strength. The mythology tells us that during the Kuruskshetra war, Lord Indra (disguised as a brahman) had asked for the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’ as alms. This was done at the behest of Lord Krishna, in order to defeat Karan. After this, the epic is silent on the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’. What if Lord Indra buried these powerful object somewhere in the Himalayas? Well, the film is built on this premise wherein one archeologist is able to find the same, and prepares a map to reach the place. However, one evil person (Jackie in a horrible get up) gets to know of the same, and wants them as well. The archeologist prefers to suicide rather than give the map to Jackie.

Years later, the archeologist’s son (Vivek) learns of the map, and proceeds to get those objects, with Jackie again close on his heels. To help Vivek, there is his elder step-brother, Sunny Deol.

The story simply meanders precious reels in the jungle. And if the repartees between Sunny and Vivek were ‘comedy’ well, then the director needs to seriously watch some Hrishida films!

Our Bollywood heroes never know when to call it quits. But I had thought Sunny would have learnt from his father (Dharamendra acted in the most third-rate films in the eighties, romancing heroines like Amrita Singh and Dimple Kapadia, who were half his age. In fact, Dimple was having a allegedly having an affair with Sunny when Dharam acted opposite her!) Anyways, Sunny should take caution and remember that such inane roles dont suit his stature. I am sure there will be many writers/directors ready to provide him dignified roles that are commensurate with his age.

As for Sameera Reddy, well her role is the most wishy-washy and redundant. Perhaps, the director realised it, that’s why in the climax, she is just dropped off somewhere and forgotten as well. BTW, if Sameera’s acting career never takes off, she can try for WWE!

Overall – Go tickle your masochist streak and watch it!

Umrao Jaan (New)

I admit it is too early to really write a review on the music on which everyone seems to have an opinion. But before that, women’s health let’s face a few facts squarely in the face – it was an arduously tough act to compose songs for a subject whose previous version is still fresh in the minds of music listeners. More than merit for the older hit, it is the nostalgic wrapper that shines and glitters. It has reached a cult status, traumatologist where it is placed at a hallowed pedestal. One reality check that I wish to present – unlike Sholay or Don the movie, or its music, wasn’t such an earth shattering hit when released in the eighties. It is only over the years that the songs have acquired a ‘retro-hit’ status. So, this sudden urge by everyone to lambast against the newer version sounds funny – even from that generation. Even those who wouldn’t ordinarily listen to Khayyam’s ghazals from Muzaffar Ali’s classic have somehow turned up their nose against Anu Mallik’s efforts. A prime reason is that Mallik’s name itself evokes plentiful negative reactions. Even before the music was out, I had read vitriolic write ups on how could J P Dutta entrust Mallik with such a prestigious job. But obviously, Dutta has enough faith in his composer who gave two whopper (musical) hits with Border and Refugee. In my honest opinion, such reaction was totally unwarranted. Mallik might be obnoxious in his interviews, his many compositions lack any luster of many kind, but still the man has in him to turn up with music that might just be listenable. Another positive point in Dutta-Mallik’s favor is that they haven’t gone and remixed or re-arranged the old classic songs – a towering brownie point to the team, especially seen in the light of the absolutely bland re-mixes/re-designed score of Don.

However, let me make my stance clear – I am neither fond of, nor in favor of, old classics remade in newer format with newer stars. It is simply unappealing, especially when the older versions usually reached perfection (perceived or otherwise) in terms of performance and direction. But this once, I am ready to give Dutta-Mallik team a clean chit, for two reasons – one, I feel that their effort is more honest in re-creating rather than just cashing in on the older success.

The second, and bigger reason, is that I am not emotionally attached to the older Umrao Jaan. Sometime back, in one of the comments, I had mentioned that I am not too fond of that film’s music. The ghazals are good. But somehow, they haven’t had the same gushing effect on me as they should have – except for ‘Yeh kya jagah hai doston‘. Hence, I approached the newer one with a totally fresh mind.

Coming back to the music, as I said, it is a bit early to write a comprehensive review. I haven’t been able to invest the requisite time to listen to it carefully. Yet, when a score leaves a few snatches attached to your soul after the first couple of listenings, you know that it demands coming back to it. In that respect, Mallik’s Umrao Jaan is surely on the right trail. After the first hearing, and switching off the system, I remained floating in its melody and effect, though I couldn’t recall the exact tunes.

From the bunch of solos (all Alka Yagnik barring two), I found ‘Salaam…Tumhari mehfil mein aa gaye hain to kyun na yeh bhi kaam kar len‘ particularly mesmerizing. A very subtle rhythm that supports a hummable tune keeps the song afloat. Alka’s rendition doesn’t move too much away from her flat intonations, yet they somehow suit the composition. The same goes for the second best number ‘Tum jo paas aa gaye, hum jo sharma gaye‘. It’s hookline lies in the charming ‘Tum bhi pahle pahal, hum bhi pahale pahal‘ line, and a mouthful interlude of ‘shehnais‘ topped with a single sarangi strain. A third song that perked my ears and plucked my heart was ‘Mai na mil sakoon jo tumse, meri justjoo na karna’ – a haunting number with tight violins that uplift the song to a dream level. Finally, ‘Jhoote ilzaam tum lagaaya na karo‘ is the fourth interesting solo – a bit slow and lengthy, but overall melodious. There is only one duet, unfortunately it didn’t cut much ice with me – and Sonu Nigam has sadly ‘oversung’ it. Passion can sometimes be understated, and not sighing overtly into the mic!

Agle janam mein mohe bitiya na kijo’ – in two parts – are the only numbers where Alka steps away. The song (in both versions) is a touching lament by a girl who doesn’t want to be a re-born in the same gender. However, I am a bit surprised at such a song in this film – as far as I know of Muslim religion, they do not have any concept of ‘re-birth’, hence the song is conceptually an anomaly in a film dealing with Muslim characters. But coming from Javed Akhtar, I am sure he would have done some research before penning it.

Somewhere I feel the weakest link has been Javed Akhtar’s lyrics that just do not sear with the burning pain that was Umrao Jan Ada’s life. Though one can find many scattered ‘quotable’ examples, overall the poetry is not the kind that one can hug and sob inconsolably to wet the pillows in the night. For example, in ‘Jhoote ilzaam’ a statement like ‘dil hai nazuk, isse dukhaya na karo’ is too bland and direct, and more suited to Sameer/Himesh combo of songs than in a film that talks about a courtesan who was exceptional in her poetry.

I am quite impressed by Mallik’s arrangements – he hasn’t done any unnecessarily experimentations, nor kept the sound cacophonously contemporary. He sticks to the era that the songs were meant to be and introduces now-forgotten Indian instruments like saarangi, sitar and tabla in full measure. Now that’s an achievement. Whether the current generation appreciates this is a million dollar question! But then, like the older generation, maybe they will reject it now but once they grow up, it is precisely this sort of music that they will like to come back to. Perhaps, this version might outlast every other contemporary composition and be a retro hit as well!

Overall- A Good Buy

I know an update on Random Expressions is long overdue; I have received subtle suggestions, information pills friendly reminders and even dire threats, buy more about which all proved the love and affection for this space. Thanks to everyone. And because of you all, just writing in to say I am fine, and alive – and so is this blog!

Needless to say, the past month has been tediously hectic – including, visits to far off places like Mainpuri, Bhongaon and Bewar and also a few more trips on that horrifying Agra-Aligarh stretch. But more than that it was an urge to prove something to superiors and get the sales figures correct that sort of doused the innate craving to write. So I kept focussed on the work, getting the act right and streamlining the processes as much as I could. Sadly, the end result was not all that encouraging – neither did the figures really shine, nor did this blog get any input. In short, a total failure!

In between, my speaker-set also conked off. Million complaints later, the service center of the obscure Korean brand agreed to rectify the same at home, obviously free of cost since it was well within the warranty period. The fault? Violently fluctuating voltage here – there, I add one more negative item from this city! The consequence? Lightened the wallet to purchase a voltage stabilizer.

Winters are lingering in, though the temperatures dropped precariously low for a couple of days in-between, but now they have clamboured upward. Another addition at home was a much-needed geyser.

Movie-watching and television-viewing were the only stable past-times. I havent yet entered any cinema hall here (waitng for Fun Cinemas to open up), but have put good use to the DVD player. The last few that I caught were the ominous Darna Zaroori Hai, the taut Deadline and the tastelessly dull Umrao Jaan! Television surfing has been massive, and I have to sheepishly admit I got hooked on to several programmes that I wouldnt have ordinarily watched. For example, Big Bosss! The shenanginans of drama-queen Rakhi Sawant and the antics of super-bitch Kashmira Shah kept the hands off the remote control.

The second programme I caught was Nach Baliye-2 – and the reason to get hooked to it was the extremely superb and scintillating performance by Manav and Shweta in that gold-outfit. They bettered it next week with the ‘bamboo dance’ – and I was sure that this pair could win. Sadly, Sweta let herself and us down with a limpid show of the mujra, though Manav more than made it up with his energetic ‘Mai deewana’ number. Still, personally I feel that combined they were far ahead of others in terms of grace, movement, choice and to top it all an endearing sang-froid and a thankful lack of melodrama or tears! Compare this with the eternal crybaby of tv, the other lady whose name I forget now (better known as Prerna of Kasautii Zindagii Kay), you will know what I mean. Their ousting section was the most tedious part of the entire show!

Of course cricket and bollywood both fed enough fodder for all news channels : the shameful South African tour debacle from the former and Sanjay Dutt , Aishwarya and Abhishek amongst the latter. So much so, that I can puke at the mere mention of the last two!

Beyond all this, there is really not much to write. So I will end here – with the same promise to be back soon, and definitely sooner than last time!  

 

There is a common English saying – “There are no free lunches in this world!” But I realized that there could be some free dinners sometimes!

It all started on Saturday. At office, this site we decided to try out the new Pizza Hut menu. The alluring leaflets, adiposity with discount coupons, search dropped at my place were added incentive.

However, what started off as a routine ‘order placement’ call, some five minutes later,metamorphosised into a full-fledged verbal duel. The reason being – their adamant refusal at delivering to our office, as it was beyond their ‘service area of four kilometers’. Now Pizza Hut outlet is very near my place so I was hundred percent sure that our office falls within their stipulated four kilometer radius; 3.8 kms, to be very precise- or probably lesser, as the outlet is some 500-700 meters away from my home.In any case, I argued, even if it wasnt within four kms, there is no reason why they cannot still service a kilometer or two extra, if the client is willing not to be bound by their time-frame clause. It’s not as if there is a ‘laxman rekha’ beyond which if Pizza Hut scooters cross, they’d be abducted by some horrifiying Ravans! But all my arguments fell on deaf ears. When the person on the other end (the shift manager) stopped harping on the four-kilometer clause, he started to give wishy washy arguments on how the area where we were didnt fall within ‘serviceable’ limit. Now, I really blew my fuse. Agreed, we fall within that area, but our office – a landmark on its own – is right at the edge, on the main road, and accessible through wide open roads (as wide as they can be in Agra!).

The heat in the arguments from both ends rose to a palpable limit, with lots of strong words deployed, till the time I banged the phone down, in anger and disgust. In the same stroke, I went to Pizza Hut’s website and registered a complaint, mentally swearing off Pizza Hut for lifetime (though, honestly, my stomach and taste buds grumbled their protests – I really like their pizzas, however un-Italian they be!)

Two hours later, when I was quite cooled down, and had been satiated with a heavy lunch from their rival Dominoe’s Pizza, I received a call from Pizza Hut. It was their Asst. Manager – and in a meek voice he apologized for all that had happened. We spoke for some twenty minutes, in which he must have used the word ‘sorry’ some twenty thousand times. He offered to rectify the error and send the order away immediately. But I politely declined, as I was already full – and moreover, on my way to Delhi. He also requested me to visit their outlet sometime, and I vaguely agreed.

I had totally forgotten about the incident by the time I returned from my short but extremely relaxing weekend. Amidst a pile load of work, I received yet another call from Pizza Hut – this time, from their Manager. Once again, there were several rounds of apologies and he insisted that I visit their outlet – anytime convenient. Since he was quite pressing, and since I like Pizza Hut pizzas, and since I live alone and don’t mind a dinner out sometimes, I agreed!

At the designated hour, I reached their outlet. From the moment I entered their restaurant till the time I left, it was an evening befitting a royalty. The manager was there to apologise ( we had a drink together), the shift manager (with whom I had the argument) did the same, and the waiters were all on call at the slightest turn of my head! After a delightful meal (their new Indian Menu is simply outstanding!), when I asked for the bill, they refused the same. ‘It’s complimentary from our side!’ they gushed.

Whether it was the slight intoxication of the smooth Forster, or the luxury of having being served with such impeccable finesse, or the sheer respect for someone who has apologized enough ( I am in sales, and have met enough rude customers to know!), or the effect of the aroma-rich, tasteful food, whatever it was at that time I was ready to do anything they asked for – and that was (as the shift manager meekly, hesitatingly and fearfully requested for) a mail to state that I had enjoyed the evening (which I understood was an euphemism to say that I no longer bore a grudge against them).

I am not entirely unfamiliar with the service standards offered by various organisations. But after yesterday, Pizza Hut’s service quality stands heads and shoulders above many of the bests! To say I am impressed with their service is an understatement! It is way beyond that. And now I have resolved to always be their loyal customer (and my stomach and taste buds gurgle in delight!)

Next Update: December 07th, 2006 at 1800 Hrs IST titled “Eight”

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No, viagra approved no, gastritis no – this is not a review of Karan Razdan’s yet another forgettable click Aath-Shani. This is a tag that Juneli gave me. In this I have to inform who tagged me (which I have done), decease say eight things about me (which I will do shortly) and tag six people (which I will refrain from doing).

So here are eight things about me:

  • I have two arms, and use them quite a lot
  • I have ten fingers – five on each hand
  • I have two legs, and generally walk on them
  • I have one nose, that can smell pretty well
  • I have two eyes, both perfect till now
  • I have one mouth, and I try to keep it shut
  • I have one…err, let’s leave it here
  • Voila, I look, sound and act like a human being!

😛

 

Next Update– On 09.12.06 at 1800 Hrs, IST – “Ten Things I Miss About Nepal”
Don’t miss to read – “Favorite Songs of 2006” on 31.12.06 at 1700Hrs- only  on this blog!

In my farewell post from Nepal, decease I had said I will someday surely re-visit my Nepal memories. These few days, I have been regularly visiting those memories, viewing at the snaps taken there and remembering small details which normally I thought I had forgotten. It is difficult to write down all the things, so I will just mention the top ten things that I miss in Nepal.

1. Mountains – When one is in the Himalayan land, the mountains are aplenty to view. Admittedly, I have a strong affinity towards these sturdy natural beauties that can be both awesome and awe-inspiring. Kathmandu is surrounded by a lush and dark green ring of mountains that seemed to be a benign guardian for the valley. Click here to read the first post on this topic alongwith my favorite hill-stations. Other than the mountains, another eye-pleasing sight is that of clouds, which seem to acquire a magnificently creative instinct. I haven’t seen any more beautiful formations anyplace else. In fact, my love to watch the shapes and size of clouds began when I started to click their snaps.

2. Kathmandu – Well, as a whole there is a quaint attraction in the city; its ruggedy criss-cross mesh of streets and old-fashioned houses, peppered with some forward-looking architecture, is a unique blend of old-worldly charm and modern utility. The city – if it stops growing now – is neither too big nor too small, the right size! Of course, being there one has to be perennialy in holiday-and-relaxed mode.

3. Banchha Ghar – A delightful old restaurant serving some lip-smackingly delicious (and exotic) snacks. Their cultural show, performed every evening by nubile Nepali girls, showcases the various dance forms prevalant in the country. They serve ‘Raakshi’, the homemade rice wine, in miniature ‘kulhads‘ as a welcome drink. I would have loved to make ‘raakshi‘ as a separate entry, but due to lack of space will include it here.

4. Thamel – If I add up the hours I stayed in Kathmandu, the ones spent roaming in Thamel will by far exceed anything else. This was a favorite haunt, especially on weekends, when I used to visit a couple of quaint and charming pubs and lounge-bar. The effect in them is imprinted deeply in my mind. And I sorely miss having beer there – it just isnt same in the antiseptic modern bars of Delhi or Agra! Thamel carries a perennial festive look, always brightly lit and attractively colored.

5. Nagarkot – If you want to see the best sunrise, you have to head for this tiny hill-station, just 45 minutes drive from Kathmandu. The sun’s first appearance – a tiny blob of molten gold – is a jaw dropping sight!

6. Festivals – The Nepalis definitely know how to celebrate and revel in festivals, something that we seem to have forgotten (Festivals in Delhi are just formalities, rather excuses to show who is richer than whom, than any genuine urge to celebrate community togetherness, religious significance or simply to let your hair down to have fun. At corporate level, they are merely pieces meant to further the manipulation game of gaining brownie points or downsizing unwanted elements). Here, I saw a genuine desire to break free from the routine and indulge in the pure unadulterated joy of celebration. Bada Dashain (or Dushhera) is their biggest one, and the entire valley erupted in an unanimous call of joy and visually into a riot of colors!

7. Monuments – It’s not for nothing that Kathmandu is called a living museum; it is a World Heritage Site, and the proof lies in the sheer number of tourist sites to visit – Pashupati Nath Mandir, Buddhaneelkantha, three Darbar Squares, Syambhu Stupa, Boudhanath Stupa, Indra Chowk and many more!

8. Devghat /Chitwan – Both the places have their own beauties. Since I travelled to both in the same trip, their memories are tightly intertwined. I still recall fondly the ride on the River in that rickety narrow canoe! In Chitwan, sighting a rhinoceros was a huge accomplishment.

9. Jai Nepal Cinema Hall – Yes, I remember this also because there was a small slice of time when I must have watched a film there every Sunday.

10. Finally, the last thing I will mention is the amount of free time I had to write all those stories. I have now re-read most of them, and as I did so, I tried to recall the days and the ways I wrote at that time; also, I marvel as to how I managed to pen them. Reading those comments at that time is a wonderful experience.

I recall, on a particularly dull day, I had wondered whether those days will ever form ‘memories’. Pri had assured that sure they would. Pri, you were so correct!

Dont miss to read – “Favorite Songs of 2006” on 31.12.06 at 1700 Hrs, only on this blog!

First the Updates to set the background:

Ever since my holidays started, this 24-hour seem too less for me. The ‘deafening silence’ I mentioned here was short-lived. Overall, salve taking stock of the first quarter 2006, it has gone by in a blur of frenzied activities leaving behind small islands of quietitude.

Well, coming back to my trip – it was, to summarize it in two words: sheer fun! I have developed a new-found crush for Delhi So I roamed its wide roads like a smitten lover marveling at its infrastructural advancements and beauties. One reason is that since I didn’t have to go to office, I naturally avoided rush-hour traffic, which is the city’s biggest bane.

My parents had to go to Ludhiana, Punjab for a cousin’s wedding. So, for most parts I was again alone there. But there was a difference – living alone in spartan bachelor’s accommodation in Kathmandu is a far cry from staying in a full-fledged furnished house!

Meeting friends was the key highlight. From the bloggers met Anz. Ashish was leaving the day I reached there, hence couldn’t meet him, but had a word with him over telephone. Other than this, there was some personal work to be done, which took up considerable amount of time. I have set a few things rolling – do await a major announcement here soon.

On return to Kathmandu, I was caught up with the visit of our marketing guy, G. For the regular readers G is not an unknown name – remember the guy whom I took to Belly Dance Bar? This time round I told him I will take him to a better one – X-bar at Sundhara. From what I have heard, there are ‘topless’ performances there. He was so psyched and scared that every evening he would have headache/body-ache or some such excuse ready with him.

Anyways, we hardly had any time because planned a trip to Bhairawaha and Butwal – two neighboring towns in west Nepal plains – hence, we pushed X-bar trip to Friday evening which we had kept relatively free.

There was nothing great about Bhairawaha-Butwal, and the visit was wholly official, so will skip the details. But all through there also, kept joking and dropping hints about X-Bar! From Friday morning onwards, G kept his ‘not well’ raga on, and it kept increasing as the day progressed (LOL). By the time evening came, he was not ready to be seen with me even!

From all my colleagues, G is the most chilled out one and I couldn’t have taken this sort of liberty with any one else; we share a great rapport, and for that I will give him the maximum credit.

Nagarkot Sunrise

In any case, we didn’t end up at X-bar (or Fusion Bar, the other name that had cropped up with similar reputation). But we decided to view the sunrise from Nagarkot on Saturday early morning. This meant leaving

Kathmandu as early as 4 am, which in turn translated to getting up at 3 am.

Nagarkot sunrise is one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. I had seen the sunset earlier (It also finds mention in Naman Geeta), but the sunrise beats it any day! The weather there was cool, and we managed to find a strategic viewpoint to watch it. We were early. And had to wait some while to see nature’s magic show! But it was worth the wait, especially since the sun’s vanguard -the light itself- spread out with mesmerizing effect, especially as it reflected off the pristine white snow of Lamangthan peak!

How do I even describe the sight that is so enchanting? First, the rays shoot out. And then the sun peeps out from behind the mountains. When the first time it’s seen, it looks as if God has placed molten gold atop the hill. And then He pulls out the disc, which is bright red and looks moist and soft. (More pics can be seen here).

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

On our way back, we stopped at Bhaktapur. The Durbar Squareis more open and much cleaner than the ones in Patan(Lalitpur) or Kathmandu. I had been here once ealier, but this time it was the early morning and the effect was very pure and very devotional (since the square has maximum temples and the pujas were on at that time).

With the year almost to an end, medications there aren’t many biggies lined up for the winter. Due to lack of anything else interesting happening with me lately, stuff I decided to pre-pone this list to now.

So, here we go…with the movies I enjoyed watching this year, in no particular order, barring the first one:

Lage Raho Munnabhai – I guess it is not too difficult to guess why this film takes the top position. Raj Kumar Hirani has brought back the charmingly simple style of Hrishida movies, moulded it to the modern context, weaved in a thoughtful message and created a masterpiece that is magnificently delightful and cozily dreamy.

KrrishKrrish – Agreed as a Super-man sort of film, it sagged severely, especially in the middle. Yet I feel it was a very valiant effort by the Roshans – and one that was fairly entertaining, even though one might feel cheated about the low screen time given to the super-hero. In addition, bringing in Rohit (from the prequel Koi Mil Gaya) was a terrific twist (and a well guarded secret).

Fanaa (2 Disc Set)Fanaa This film received a lot of flak, yet with every passing bad review it seemed to have added one more zero in the producer’s bank account. I saw it again – twice over. And each time, I found the movie endearing, especially its sensitively handled second half. Moreover, I loved its graceful pace. Kajol’s presence gave it the requisite fillip to make it reach this list!

Malaamal Weekly – This year’s darkest horse – I dont think even Priyadarshan had imagined it would be clear cut hit. But one view of the movie, it is not difficult to fathom why. The movie is unpretentiously entertaining; and whatever it’s foreign sources be (for the story), in the end, it delivers a hilarious package that makes it ‘paisa vasool’. Om Puri and Paresh Rawal give a splendid performance.

CorporateCorporate – Ok, this one is not upto Page 3′s level, but I found Madhur Bhandarkar’s attempt to show the ruthlessly cut-throat corporate world very engrossing. There were some subtle moments that looked straight from the offices I have worked in.

36 China Town36 China Town Blame it on my soft-corner for whodunnits, Akshaye Khanna’s performances and Abbas Mustan’s taut directions, to place this film here. The comedy track was good, even though the mystery per se wasnt. And for once, I found Shahid and Kareena bearable together.

Pyaar Ke Side Effects / Khosla Ka Ghosla – It’s quite a tie here, since both are essentially similar conceptually – interesting storyline, modern style, comic, small budget and essentially more enjoyable at home than in theaters.Khosla Ka Ghosla

Of the two, Khosla Ka Ghosla is superior. Anupam Kher and Boman Irani give a rock-solid performance. The plot is more intricate than PKSE, and its presented in such a way that at one point you feel like thinking – yeah, this can happen too!

Amongst these low-budget ‘multiplex movies’ Bas Ek Pal barely missed entering the list, primarily because of its utterly shoddy denouement. It’s as if the director had this brilliant concept, but just didnt know how to take it forward.

Dor (Bonus _ Free Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Dor / Yun Hota Kya Hota – Again I am clubbing the two because of some obvious similarities – they were made with small budgets, had serious undertones, displayed human sensitivity, demonstrated some wonderful acting, were more character-driven than story-centric and brought out the best in Ayesha Takia! Yes, this girl surely has it in her to race ahead past her rivals where acting is concerned, and come to think of it, she is quite a looker as well. In Dor, she holds the film together with her fragile hands. The film is a strong feminist statement, often irreverent in its social messags, and yet without hammering the message unnecessarily. Another masterpiece from Nagesh Kukunnoor.

My standing ovation to Naseerudin Shah for Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota – four different lives merge towards one shattering climax. But the film’s real power lies in the presentation of each story – you feel the reality in every emotional strand of each character. Once again, Konkona delights!

GolmaalGolmaal / Tom Dick And Harry / Phir Hera Pheri– For their zany slapstick humor; remove your brains and just indulge in pure paagalpan, with dollops of double entendres (in the first two) and eye-catching visuals. Perhaps I am the only person who found Hera Pheri ordinary, and the sequel far superior!Phir Hera Pheri

Vivaah – The critics screamed ‘regressive’ and rejected it, the masses yelled ‘traditional’ and embraced it. End result? The film is this year’s biggest surprise success. In between, the confused multiplex audience simply squirmed in discomfort looking back at stuff that they would have given the thumbs up only a few years back! Personally, I loved the movie as it gave a very warm feeling which is otherwise lacking in the normal world. Moreover, it managed to moisten the eyes towards it climax. Sooraj Barjatya returned to his traditional roots after his warped modern outing in Mai Prem Ki Deewani Hoon, and it was a handsome comeback. Though it lacked a fulsome family/friends scenario as seen in HAHK and Hum Saath Saath Hain, still all the key Barjatya ingredients were available – family outings and functions, shy romance, a bit of ched-chhad , a slice of negativity (that gets conquered eventually)- and, ‘deals’ with ‘foreign collaborators’ that would establish the young hero in business! Amrita Rao looked bashfully ravishing ( I have yet to see someone so beautiful in Mathura, although one can sight even Chhotis there). Though one missed Salman’s presence, Shahid fitted the bill well. And, as a busy but benign brother, Sameer Soni effectively stepped into the shoes of Mohnish Bahl (who made a small appearance towards the end).

The film is additionaly special because it was the first movie I saw in Agra at the newly opened Fun Cinemas Multiplex.

The ‘Theek Thaak’ Films List:

Hum Ko Deewana Kar Gaye – Raj Kanwar’s attempt to do a Yash Chopra was redeemed by Katrina’s refreshing and effervescent presence; and her on-screen chemistry with Akshay Kumar rocked. Beyond that, the film was just an average time-pass. The music was above average, though.

Jaan – E – Mann – The film had everything going for it – huge star cast, lavish production, decent music and a tried-and-tested love triangle formula. Yet, Shirish Kunder couldnt just pull it off. The end result was an inordinately long and tedious film. If it doesn’t enter my ‘hall of shame’ , it’s only due to the actors, music and Anupam Kher’s comedy.

OmkaraOmkara – Vishal’s attempt to re-do Othello was brave, but it lacked the punch that his previous film Maqbool did. Partly because Othello is not a very strong play as such. Partly also because of wrong casting – neither is Kareena a woman to die for, nor is Vivek a man to be jealous of. The film fell flat! Frankly, I am tired of Ajay’s dour look passed off as ‘acting’.

Ahista Ahista – A sweet romance set in the backdrop of Old Delhi. Soha Ali and Abhay Deol breathed life into their portrayals of people brought together under unusual circumstances, grappling to find meaning within their relationship. The film was shorn off any extraneous glamour and forwarded the story in lavishly languid pace. Only, it lacked the lavishness in its production. Himesh’s music was a bore and didnt gel with the story.

Dil Diya Hai – Ok, I saw it in sheer boredom. But still I feel the film deserved more eyeballs than what it received. Director Aditya (Ashiq Banaya Aapne) Dutt took hold off a ‘different’ story altogether – so different that it ended up looking bizarre. Still, there was enough panache to keep viewers interest. Himesh’s ‘Jab se aankh ladi tere naal’ was good.

Gangster – The songs were good (and majority copied), the movie had good moments, but overall it was just okayish. Emraan Hashmi was damn irritating. And Kangana Ranaut’s diction was horrible (hope she has worked on this now). The movie was neither hard-hitting nor thought-provoking. It ended up being a depressing and whining account without much sunshine.

Anthony Kaun HaiAnthony Kaun Hai – The film was quite stylized and Arshad Warsi gave a credible performance – not moving too far off from his Munnabhai image, yet not being restricted within it. Having missed Yahan, and not impressed by her miniscule role in Corporate, this film was my revelation of Minisha Lamba – she came across bubbly and vivacious , and at times reminded me of Priety Zinta from her Dil Se days.

The Killer – Compared to Gangster, this was a better attempt (or, let’s say, a better rip-off). The sharp and suave Irrfan Khan and the bumbling and bleating Emraan complemented each other. Personally, I found Killer’s music better than Gangster.

Baabul – There was something grossly missing in the film, which couldnt shuttle the sensitive theme to the higher orbit where one can raise the hands in ecstacy. Neither does the joyful first half raise hearty chuckles, nor does the sad second part wring tears from your eyes. In short, very average film. Strangely, for a film that deals with widow-remarriage, the biggest disconnect is that the widows character just doesn’t simmer with that deadly loss she has to undergo. Perhaps, Ravi Chopra should have toned down the gloss, and worked more on emotions. Of course, it is absolutely delightful to watch Amitabh Bachhan’s performance. Rani is good, but I fear there is a repetitiveness creeping in. Hema Malini defies age, and becomes more beautiful with each passing year. In this movie, her role is on the side-lines, hence the chemistry seen between AB and her (as seen in Baghbaan ) is quite lacking.

Dhoom -2 – This was the most awaited movie, and a decided bumper-hit even before it hit the theaters. To this, there was the masala over Hritik-Ash’s kiss that was splashed over several news channels. My views? Yes, the action is great, the thefts more daring, the look splendid, the sound design awesome, the chases breath-taking; yet, overall it just doesnt add up. The film simply overdoes it – and spoils the entire spontaneous fun that one had while watching the prequel. So much time is spent on the villain, and his emotions, that Abhishek Bachhan (and family) should have worried more on his wimp-like role than Ash’s bewafaai due to the kiss (which is nothing much, and would have ordinarily gone unnoticed but for the lead pair involved). Which also brings in the more pricky question about today’s morality – why are villains getting shinier and brighter, so much so that when Hritik and Abhi have a face-off at the cliff, inthe climax, one almost wants the thief to win! (At least, in this film, there is some redemption, but in Don, even that is not given- which was not the case even in the angst-ridden, anti-hero studded seventies, when the original film was released.) The music was bad. And can someone tell me what Bipasha Basu was doing in this film -either as the cop, or as the Brazilian beauty!

The ‘Undecided List’ – As ever I have a couple of movies, that are so larger-than-life, that slotting them in any list doesnt work. So, I call them an undecided list, or rather an ‘extension’ of the ‘theek-thaak list’. This year, there are two such big films:

Umraao Jaan– Ok, the movie was way off the mark, especially in its authenticity. Agreed, Abhishek Bachchan looked bored and tired. Yes, Aishwarya Rai couldnt measure up to Rekha’s performance in the eighties version (Frankly, no one expected Aish to do so). So, why in this list, and not in the bad ones! Simply because, like when everything is right and the film doesnt do good, same is the reverse true – individually, everything is wrong, yet in entirety the film was quite watchable and didnt overtly bore me or make me run for the fast forward button. Thus, it’s here in the ‘theek-thaak’ list.

Don – Thank you Moon Cable and Sony, for showing the original days after the release of the newer version – you only helped me revive strong childhood memories associated with the older film; Amitabh Bachchan rocked in that film! The new version is suitably upgraded, with twists added, but wher ethe main character is concerned, sorry SRK, howsoever much I like you, AB’s Don was way way ahead of you. The only reason I am undecided and not immediately slotted it inthe ‘Hall of Shame’ is the immense praise that I have read about the film – so , I want to see it again and decide then, and I’ll watch it after some months, when the effect of AB’s superlative performance has worn off.

This is my list. So what’s yours?

Updated on 27.12.2006

Four films that I should have mentioned but missed out in the ‘theek thaak’ list are:

Taxi No. 9211 – A fairly entertaining and racy film by Milan Luthria. The story takes place in a day, and holds the audience attention. The short length was an added advantage.

Being CyrusBeing Cyrus – A dark film made using the neo-modern grammar of film making. The film had a few good high points, including an interesting performance by Saif Ali Khan. However, sadly, Dimple disappointed with her hyper-act.

Zinda - Sanjay Dutt, John AbrahamZinda – Brutal and blunt, the film didnt bore, though of course it made you wince several imes during the show. Full review here.

Kalyug – Quite an insightful and interesting film. Kaushie did a nice review – read here.

Updated on 28.12.06

Kabul ExpressKabul Express – Will go under ‘Movies That I Enjoyed’ – a new subject, a good treatment, and some delectable cinematography makes the film a winner.

Bhagam Bhaag – Will go under ‘Theek thaak list’ – masti with mystery, the film has all the Priyadarshan elements. Funny at places, a no-holds barred climax, and good acting by all. However, what it lacks is that punch which made Hungama a re-watchable film anytime. Wonder if Priyadarshan is losing his touch, or is the prolificity getting him!

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Yesterday, buy more about spent some more time on the rough and rugged Western U.P. roads – this time on the outskirts of Aligarh. The road from Agra to Aligarh seems to worsen with each visit (it seems they are re-building the road and replacing it with a cemented one; but by the way things are moving, it looks it would be another decade before they complete it!) The ride shook, stirred, moved, hurtled and swung me around in the terribly uncomfortable Maruti Van, which our taxi provider had sent in lieu of the usual (and more comfortable) Indica.

The list:

Palla Sallu – A small village, just outside of Aligarh city limits, on the main G.T. Road (leading to Delhi via Khurja, Bulandhshahar and Khurja).

Gabhana – A highway small town – dusty and dirty.

Chandaus – (Pron. – the ‘d’ is to be pronounced as in ‘dark’) – We nearly missed the turn here. Travelling on the smooth G T Road was a delight, but the passing milestones warned that we would be in Khurja (Distt. Bulandshahar) soon. Since we knew that Chandaus was in Aligarh distt. only, we tried to keep vigil. But the turn was extremely narrow and we missed it by a few meters. Thankfully, it was a signboard for Radha Saomi Satsang that gave us an inkling that we had crossed the crucial turn.

The road to Chandaus (turn left from G.T. Road at Duaraou) was bad. Nay, it was atrocious. A narrow single lane that curved its way through fields and shanties, full of bumps and potholes, animals straying and children playing, rushing cyclists and slowing bullock carts! A deemed semi-rural development block, the only noteworthy thing here was the presence of a cluster of mobile telephony towers.

Pisawa – This was our final destination – some nine kilometers ahead of Chandaus, on the same narrow road. Pisawa is a sandy, brown and dull kasba. Earlier on it was a ‘riyasat‘, and the fort still exists – now used by the descendants for their use of rearing racing horses (as told by a bunch of locals). Being a private property, obviously we had no access to it. Here, the mobile service also died.

The Breakdown 

On our return trip, from Aligarh to Agra, after crossing another hamlet (Sadabad), our car whined to a jerky halt. It was an LPG kit model, and the driver informed that ‘gas thandi pad gayi’. As expected, he had no reserve petrol, and we were in the middle of nowhere, with no petrol pump in visible sight. While the driver tried to heat up the dispassionate and cold gas and make it work, we stepped out into the pitch darkness. It was chilly. 

The driver’s attempt to revive the car was futile, and he seemed to have screwed the starter enough. Quite comically, he tried to shake and stir the cylinder – with so much of play, I am sure even Aishwarya Rai would have heated up, but not this car! So, he set out to a nearby village to get some petrol.

We stood in the darkness, shivering. I looked around. The fields lay open. An abandoned well was nearby. The road stretched endlessly on both sides. The traffic was low. The wind was picking up. The moon was missing. A dog howled nearby. It was the 13th, if not a Friday.

And the only song I could think of humming was the ominous ‘Gumnaam hai koi…

My colleague was ready to strangle me!

 
This place seriously needs an update!

😛

 

Jaane Hoga Kya – Now I wasnt expecting anything great from this long-in-the-making-released-hurriedly film. So, page what turned out was a pleasant surprise. And not because of its content. But for the inadvertant humor that the film provides. Ok, there so what’s it about? Cloning! Don’t choke on that coke, it is actually a film on human cloning. And how the directors (Glenn-Ankush) portray it is the best comedy released this year. As per this film, to make a clone there has to be two plastic covered ‘capsules’, connected to a computer. So, ‘data’ will move from one capsule to another, as heat rises, and out of steam a new human will be formed! Wow! That simple!

That’s how Aftab creates his own clone. But that’s not all. As soon as the new Aftab is formed, he leaves the capsule and *laugh laugh* heads for a dance bar to sing an item number with Maria Goretti. Some Bollywood pre-educated clone this was indeed! In fact, going by the number of songs that the clone gets to sing, he seems quite the ‘in-thing’! And other than the item number, this includes one roll-in-the-hay number with Preeti Jhangiani (who seems to have lost her voice and inhibitions permanently in this film).

Of course, the clone is not all that ‘good’, like the scientist. In fact, he turns out to be some ‘super-power’ monster with immense powers. Frankenstein, did some one say? Well, the scientist’s haalat is quite like that, but then the hero has to win in the end in movies!

Oh yes, in between all the songs and evil, there was a nice little twist in the end.

Overall – Watch it to laugh at it!

Aap Ki Khatir (Free - Bonus Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Aap Ki Khatir – Honestly, can some one tell Dharmesh Darshan to retire and spare us his tortures! Can someone tell Amisha Patel that making melancholic expressions doesnt construe acting! Can someone tell Sunil Shetty that joi-de-vivre is an inborn feeling; faking it never works! Can someone tell Lillette Dubey that she looked horrendous in this film spouting Anglicised Punjabi! Can someone tell…ok, I am sure you got what I want to convey.

This pain-some movie is old wine in older bottle. A soggy script with limp characters and a bland-as-London-weather scenario only worsens the viewer’s discomfort. In fact, the film ends up looking like a shoddy UK-produced small-budget fare.

I am quite surprised that Akshaye Khanna chose to do this film, which couldnt have looked attractive at script level even!

Overall – Dont even think of it!

Naksha – Beware of Vivek Oberoi in the jungle! He bored us first in Kaal, and now returns for another jungle-mein-mangle! Naksha is a directionless film that has no head nor tail nor any body in between!

Sadly, the concept is good. And one feels like screaming at the director for wasting an opportunity that could have been turned into a like slick thriller.

The story – We all know that in Mahabharat, Karan was born with the magical ‘kawach‘ and ‘kundal’ that gave him immense strength. The mythology tells us that during the Kuruskshetra war, Lord Indra (disguised as a brahman) had asked for the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’ as alms. This was done at the behest of Lord Krishna, in order to defeat Karan. After this, the epic is silent on the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’. What if Lord Indra buried these powerful object somewhere in the Himalayas? Well, the film is built on this premise wherein one archeologist is able to find the same, and prepares a map to reach the place. However, one evil person (Jackie in a horrible get up) gets to know of the same, and wants them as well. The archeologist prefers to suicide rather than give the map to Jackie.

Years later, the archeologist’s son (Vivek) learns of the map, and proceeds to get those objects, with Jackie again close on his heels. To help Vivek, there is his elder step-brother, Sunny Deol.

The story simply meanders precious reels in the jungle. And if the repartees between Sunny and Vivek were ‘comedy’ well, then the director needs to seriously watch some Hrishida films!

Our Bollywood heroes never know when to call it quits. But I had thought Sunny would have learnt from his father (Dharamendra acted in the most third-rate films in the eighties, romancing heroines like Amrita Singh and Dimple Kapadia, who were half his age. In fact, Dimple was having a allegedly having an affair with Sunny when Dharam acted opposite her!) Anyways, Sunny should take caution and remember that such inane roles dont suit his stature. I am sure there will be many writers/directors ready to provide him dignified roles that are commensurate with his age.

As for Sameera Reddy, well her role is the most wishy-washy and redundant. Perhaps, the director realised it, that’s why in the climax, she is just dropped off somewhere and forgotten as well. BTW, if Sameera’s acting career never takes off, she can try for WWE!

Overall – Go tickle your masochist streak and watch it!

Umrao Jaan (New)

I admit it is too early to really write a review on the music on which everyone seems to have an opinion. But before that, women’s health let’s face a few facts squarely in the face – it was an arduously tough act to compose songs for a subject whose previous version is still fresh in the minds of music listeners. More than merit for the older hit, it is the nostalgic wrapper that shines and glitters. It has reached a cult status, traumatologist where it is placed at a hallowed pedestal. One reality check that I wish to present – unlike Sholay or Don the movie, or its music, wasn’t such an earth shattering hit when released in the eighties. It is only over the years that the songs have acquired a ‘retro-hit’ status. So, this sudden urge by everyone to lambast against the newer version sounds funny – even from that generation. Even those who wouldn’t ordinarily listen to Khayyam’s ghazals from Muzaffar Ali’s classic have somehow turned up their nose against Anu Mallik’s efforts. A prime reason is that Mallik’s name itself evokes plentiful negative reactions. Even before the music was out, I had read vitriolic write ups on how could J P Dutta entrust Mallik with such a prestigious job. But obviously, Dutta has enough faith in his composer who gave two whopper (musical) hits with Border and Refugee. In my honest opinion, such reaction was totally unwarranted. Mallik might be obnoxious in his interviews, his many compositions lack any luster of many kind, but still the man has in him to turn up with music that might just be listenable. Another positive point in Dutta-Mallik’s favor is that they haven’t gone and remixed or re-arranged the old classic songs – a towering brownie point to the team, especially seen in the light of the absolutely bland re-mixes/re-designed score of Don.

However, let me make my stance clear – I am neither fond of, nor in favor of, old classics remade in newer format with newer stars. It is simply unappealing, especially when the older versions usually reached perfection (perceived or otherwise) in terms of performance and direction. But this once, I am ready to give Dutta-Mallik team a clean chit, for two reasons – one, I feel that their effort is more honest in re-creating rather than just cashing in on the older success.

The second, and bigger reason, is that I am not emotionally attached to the older Umrao Jaan. Sometime back, in one of the comments, I had mentioned that I am not too fond of that film’s music. The ghazals are good. But somehow, they haven’t had the same gushing effect on me as they should have – except for ‘Yeh kya jagah hai doston‘. Hence, I approached the newer one with a totally fresh mind.

Coming back to the music, as I said, it is a bit early to write a comprehensive review. I haven’t been able to invest the requisite time to listen to it carefully. Yet, when a score leaves a few snatches attached to your soul after the first couple of listenings, you know that it demands coming back to it. In that respect, Mallik’s Umrao Jaan is surely on the right trail. After the first hearing, and switching off the system, I remained floating in its melody and effect, though I couldn’t recall the exact tunes.

From the bunch of solos (all Alka Yagnik barring two), I found ‘Salaam…Tumhari mehfil mein aa gaye hain to kyun na yeh bhi kaam kar len‘ particularly mesmerizing. A very subtle rhythm that supports a hummable tune keeps the song afloat. Alka’s rendition doesn’t move too much away from her flat intonations, yet they somehow suit the composition. The same goes for the second best number ‘Tum jo paas aa gaye, hum jo sharma gaye‘. It’s hookline lies in the charming ‘Tum bhi pahle pahal, hum bhi pahale pahal‘ line, and a mouthful interlude of ‘shehnais‘ topped with a single sarangi strain. A third song that perked my ears and plucked my heart was ‘Mai na mil sakoon jo tumse, meri justjoo na karna’ – a haunting number with tight violins that uplift the song to a dream level. Finally, ‘Jhoote ilzaam tum lagaaya na karo‘ is the fourth interesting solo – a bit slow and lengthy, but overall melodious. There is only one duet, unfortunately it didn’t cut much ice with me – and Sonu Nigam has sadly ‘oversung’ it. Passion can sometimes be understated, and not sighing overtly into the mic!

Agle janam mein mohe bitiya na kijo’ – in two parts – are the only numbers where Alka steps away. The song (in both versions) is a touching lament by a girl who doesn’t want to be a re-born in the same gender. However, I am a bit surprised at such a song in this film – as far as I know of Muslim religion, they do not have any concept of ‘re-birth’, hence the song is conceptually an anomaly in a film dealing with Muslim characters. But coming from Javed Akhtar, I am sure he would have done some research before penning it.

Somewhere I feel the weakest link has been Javed Akhtar’s lyrics that just do not sear with the burning pain that was Umrao Jan Ada’s life. Though one can find many scattered ‘quotable’ examples, overall the poetry is not the kind that one can hug and sob inconsolably to wet the pillows in the night. For example, in ‘Jhoote ilzaam’ a statement like ‘dil hai nazuk, isse dukhaya na karo’ is too bland and direct, and more suited to Sameer/Himesh combo of songs than in a film that talks about a courtesan who was exceptional in her poetry.

I am quite impressed by Mallik’s arrangements – he hasn’t done any unnecessarily experimentations, nor kept the sound cacophonously contemporary. He sticks to the era that the songs were meant to be and introduces now-forgotten Indian instruments like saarangi, sitar and tabla in full measure. Now that’s an achievement. Whether the current generation appreciates this is a million dollar question! But then, like the older generation, maybe they will reject it now but once they grow up, it is precisely this sort of music that they will like to come back to. Perhaps, this version might outlast every other contemporary composition and be a retro hit as well!

Overall- A Good Buy

I know an update on Random Expressions is long overdue; I have received subtle suggestions, information pills friendly reminders and even dire threats, buy more about which all proved the love and affection for this space. Thanks to everyone. And because of you all, just writing in to say I am fine, and alive – and so is this blog!

Needless to say, the past month has been tediously hectic – including, visits to far off places like Mainpuri, Bhongaon and Bewar and also a few more trips on that horrifying Agra-Aligarh stretch. But more than that it was an urge to prove something to superiors and get the sales figures correct that sort of doused the innate craving to write. So I kept focussed on the work, getting the act right and streamlining the processes as much as I could. Sadly, the end result was not all that encouraging – neither did the figures really shine, nor did this blog get any input. In short, a total failure!

In between, my speaker-set also conked off. Million complaints later, the service center of the obscure Korean brand agreed to rectify the same at home, obviously free of cost since it was well within the warranty period. The fault? Violently fluctuating voltage here – there, I add one more negative item from this city! The consequence? Lightened the wallet to purchase a voltage stabilizer.

Winters are lingering in, though the temperatures dropped precariously low for a couple of days in-between, but now they have clamboured upward. Another addition at home was a much-needed geyser.

Movie-watching and television-viewing were the only stable past-times. I havent yet entered any cinema hall here (waitng for Fun Cinemas to open up), but have put good use to the DVD player. The last few that I caught were the ominous Darna Zaroori Hai, the taut Deadline and the tastelessly dull Umrao Jaan! Television surfing has been massive, and I have to sheepishly admit I got hooked on to several programmes that I wouldnt have ordinarily watched. For example, Big Bosss! The shenanginans of drama-queen Rakhi Sawant and the antics of super-bitch Kashmira Shah kept the hands off the remote control.

The second programme I caught was Nach Baliye-2 – and the reason to get hooked to it was the extremely superb and scintillating performance by Manav and Shweta in that gold-outfit. They bettered it next week with the ‘bamboo dance’ – and I was sure that this pair could win. Sadly, Sweta let herself and us down with a limpid show of the mujra, though Manav more than made it up with his energetic ‘Mai deewana’ number. Still, personally I feel that combined they were far ahead of others in terms of grace, movement, choice and to top it all an endearing sang-froid and a thankful lack of melodrama or tears! Compare this with the eternal crybaby of tv, the other lady whose name I forget now (better known as Prerna of Kasautii Zindagii Kay), you will know what I mean. Their ousting section was the most tedious part of the entire show!

Of course cricket and bollywood both fed enough fodder for all news channels : the shameful South African tour debacle from the former and Sanjay Dutt , Aishwarya and Abhishek amongst the latter. So much so, that I can puke at the mere mention of the last two!

Beyond all this, there is really not much to write. So I will end here – with the same promise to be back soon, and definitely sooner than last time!  

 

There is a common English saying – “There are no free lunches in this world!” But I realized that there could be some free dinners sometimes!

It all started on Saturday. At office, this site we decided to try out the new Pizza Hut menu. The alluring leaflets, adiposity with discount coupons, search dropped at my place were added incentive.

However, what started off as a routine ‘order placement’ call, some five minutes later,metamorphosised into a full-fledged verbal duel. The reason being – their adamant refusal at delivering to our office, as it was beyond their ‘service area of four kilometers’. Now Pizza Hut outlet is very near my place so I was hundred percent sure that our office falls within their stipulated four kilometer radius; 3.8 kms, to be very precise- or probably lesser, as the outlet is some 500-700 meters away from my home.In any case, I argued, even if it wasnt within four kms, there is no reason why they cannot still service a kilometer or two extra, if the client is willing not to be bound by their time-frame clause. It’s not as if there is a ‘laxman rekha’ beyond which if Pizza Hut scooters cross, they’d be abducted by some horrifiying Ravans! But all my arguments fell on deaf ears. When the person on the other end (the shift manager) stopped harping on the four-kilometer clause, he started to give wishy washy arguments on how the area where we were didnt fall within ‘serviceable’ limit. Now, I really blew my fuse. Agreed, we fall within that area, but our office – a landmark on its own – is right at the edge, on the main road, and accessible through wide open roads (as wide as they can be in Agra!).

The heat in the arguments from both ends rose to a palpable limit, with lots of strong words deployed, till the time I banged the phone down, in anger and disgust. In the same stroke, I went to Pizza Hut’s website and registered a complaint, mentally swearing off Pizza Hut for lifetime (though, honestly, my stomach and taste buds grumbled their protests – I really like their pizzas, however un-Italian they be!)

Two hours later, when I was quite cooled down, and had been satiated with a heavy lunch from their rival Dominoe’s Pizza, I received a call from Pizza Hut. It was their Asst. Manager – and in a meek voice he apologized for all that had happened. We spoke for some twenty minutes, in which he must have used the word ‘sorry’ some twenty thousand times. He offered to rectify the error and send the order away immediately. But I politely declined, as I was already full – and moreover, on my way to Delhi. He also requested me to visit their outlet sometime, and I vaguely agreed.

I had totally forgotten about the incident by the time I returned from my short but extremely relaxing weekend. Amidst a pile load of work, I received yet another call from Pizza Hut – this time, from their Manager. Once again, there were several rounds of apologies and he insisted that I visit their outlet – anytime convenient. Since he was quite pressing, and since I like Pizza Hut pizzas, and since I live alone and don’t mind a dinner out sometimes, I agreed!

At the designated hour, I reached their outlet. From the moment I entered their restaurant till the time I left, it was an evening befitting a royalty. The manager was there to apologise ( we had a drink together), the shift manager (with whom I had the argument) did the same, and the waiters were all on call at the slightest turn of my head! After a delightful meal (their new Indian Menu is simply outstanding!), when I asked for the bill, they refused the same. ‘It’s complimentary from our side!’ they gushed.

Whether it was the slight intoxication of the smooth Forster, or the luxury of having being served with such impeccable finesse, or the sheer respect for someone who has apologized enough ( I am in sales, and have met enough rude customers to know!), or the effect of the aroma-rich, tasteful food, whatever it was at that time I was ready to do anything they asked for – and that was (as the shift manager meekly, hesitatingly and fearfully requested for) a mail to state that I had enjoyed the evening (which I understood was an euphemism to say that I no longer bore a grudge against them).

I am not entirely unfamiliar with the service standards offered by various organisations. But after yesterday, Pizza Hut’s service quality stands heads and shoulders above many of the bests! To say I am impressed with their service is an understatement! It is way beyond that. And now I have resolved to always be their loyal customer (and my stomach and taste buds gurgle in delight!)

Next Update: December 07th, 2006 at 1800 Hrs IST titled “Eight”

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No, viagra approved no, gastritis no – this is not a review of Karan Razdan’s yet another forgettable click Aath-Shani. This is a tag that Juneli gave me. In this I have to inform who tagged me (which I have done), decease say eight things about me (which I will do shortly) and tag six people (which I will refrain from doing).

So here are eight things about me:

  • I have two arms, and use them quite a lot
  • I have ten fingers – five on each hand
  • I have two legs, and generally walk on them
  • I have one nose, that can smell pretty well
  • I have two eyes, both perfect till now
  • I have one mouth, and I try to keep it shut
  • I have one…err, let’s leave it here
  • Voila, I look, sound and act like a human being!

😛

 

Next Update– On 09.12.06 at 1800 Hrs, IST – “Ten Things I Miss About Nepal”
Don’t miss to read – “Favorite Songs of 2006” on 31.12.06 at 1700Hrs- only  on this blog!

In my farewell post from Nepal, decease I had said I will someday surely re-visit my Nepal memories. These few days, I have been regularly visiting those memories, viewing at the snaps taken there and remembering small details which normally I thought I had forgotten. It is difficult to write down all the things, so I will just mention the top ten things that I miss in Nepal.

1. Mountains – When one is in the Himalayan land, the mountains are aplenty to view. Admittedly, I have a strong affinity towards these sturdy natural beauties that can be both awesome and awe-inspiring. Kathmandu is surrounded by a lush and dark green ring of mountains that seemed to be a benign guardian for the valley. Click here to read the first post on this topic alongwith my favorite hill-stations. Other than the mountains, another eye-pleasing sight is that of clouds, which seem to acquire a magnificently creative instinct. I haven’t seen any more beautiful formations anyplace else. In fact, my love to watch the shapes and size of clouds began when I started to click their snaps.

2. Kathmandu – Well, as a whole there is a quaint attraction in the city; its ruggedy criss-cross mesh of streets and old-fashioned houses, peppered with some forward-looking architecture, is a unique blend of old-worldly charm and modern utility. The city – if it stops growing now – is neither too big nor too small, the right size! Of course, being there one has to be perennialy in holiday-and-relaxed mode.

3. Banchha Ghar – A delightful old restaurant serving some lip-smackingly delicious (and exotic) snacks. Their cultural show, performed every evening by nubile Nepali girls, showcases the various dance forms prevalant in the country. They serve ‘Raakshi’, the homemade rice wine, in miniature ‘kulhads‘ as a welcome drink. I would have loved to make ‘raakshi‘ as a separate entry, but due to lack of space will include it here.

4. Thamel – If I add up the hours I stayed in Kathmandu, the ones spent roaming in Thamel will by far exceed anything else. This was a favorite haunt, especially on weekends, when I used to visit a couple of quaint and charming pubs and lounge-bar. The effect in them is imprinted deeply in my mind. And I sorely miss having beer there – it just isnt same in the antiseptic modern bars of Delhi or Agra! Thamel carries a perennial festive look, always brightly lit and attractively colored.

5. Nagarkot – If you want to see the best sunrise, you have to head for this tiny hill-station, just 45 minutes drive from Kathmandu. The sun’s first appearance – a tiny blob of molten gold – is a jaw dropping sight!

6. Festivals – The Nepalis definitely know how to celebrate and revel in festivals, something that we seem to have forgotten (Festivals in Delhi are just formalities, rather excuses to show who is richer than whom, than any genuine urge to celebrate community togetherness, religious significance or simply to let your hair down to have fun. At corporate level, they are merely pieces meant to further the manipulation game of gaining brownie points or downsizing unwanted elements). Here, I saw a genuine desire to break free from the routine and indulge in the pure unadulterated joy of celebration. Bada Dashain (or Dushhera) is their biggest one, and the entire valley erupted in an unanimous call of joy and visually into a riot of colors!

7. Monuments – It’s not for nothing that Kathmandu is called a living museum; it is a World Heritage Site, and the proof lies in the sheer number of tourist sites to visit – Pashupati Nath Mandir, Buddhaneelkantha, three Darbar Squares, Syambhu Stupa, Boudhanath Stupa, Indra Chowk and many more!

8. Devghat /Chitwan – Both the places have their own beauties. Since I travelled to both in the same trip, their memories are tightly intertwined. I still recall fondly the ride on the River in that rickety narrow canoe! In Chitwan, sighting a rhinoceros was a huge accomplishment.

9. Jai Nepal Cinema Hall – Yes, I remember this also because there was a small slice of time when I must have watched a film there every Sunday.

10. Finally, the last thing I will mention is the amount of free time I had to write all those stories. I have now re-read most of them, and as I did so, I tried to recall the days and the ways I wrote at that time; also, I marvel as to how I managed to pen them. Reading those comments at that time is a wonderful experience.

I recall, on a particularly dull day, I had wondered whether those days will ever form ‘memories’. Pri had assured that sure they would. Pri, you were so correct!

Dont miss to read – “Favorite Songs of 2006” on 31.12.06 at 1700 Hrs, only on this blog!

First the Updates to set the background:

Ever since my holidays started, this 24-hour seem too less for me. The ‘deafening silence’ I mentioned here was short-lived. Overall, salve taking stock of the first quarter 2006, it has gone by in a blur of frenzied activities leaving behind small islands of quietitude.

Well, coming back to my trip – it was, to summarize it in two words: sheer fun! I have developed a new-found crush for Delhi So I roamed its wide roads like a smitten lover marveling at its infrastructural advancements and beauties. One reason is that since I didn’t have to go to office, I naturally avoided rush-hour traffic, which is the city’s biggest bane.

My parents had to go to Ludhiana, Punjab for a cousin’s wedding. So, for most parts I was again alone there. But there was a difference – living alone in spartan bachelor’s accommodation in Kathmandu is a far cry from staying in a full-fledged furnished house!

Meeting friends was the key highlight. From the bloggers met Anz. Ashish was leaving the day I reached there, hence couldn’t meet him, but had a word with him over telephone. Other than this, there was some personal work to be done, which took up considerable amount of time. I have set a few things rolling – do await a major announcement here soon.

On return to Kathmandu, I was caught up with the visit of our marketing guy, G. For the regular readers G is not an unknown name – remember the guy whom I took to Belly Dance Bar? This time round I told him I will take him to a better one – X-bar at Sundhara. From what I have heard, there are ‘topless’ performances there. He was so psyched and scared that every evening he would have headache/body-ache or some such excuse ready with him.

Anyways, we hardly had any time because planned a trip to Bhairawaha and Butwal – two neighboring towns in west Nepal plains – hence, we pushed X-bar trip to Friday evening which we had kept relatively free.

There was nothing great about Bhairawaha-Butwal, and the visit was wholly official, so will skip the details. But all through there also, kept joking and dropping hints about X-Bar! From Friday morning onwards, G kept his ‘not well’ raga on, and it kept increasing as the day progressed (LOL). By the time evening came, he was not ready to be seen with me even!

From all my colleagues, G is the most chilled out one and I couldn’t have taken this sort of liberty with any one else; we share a great rapport, and for that I will give him the maximum credit.

Nagarkot Sunrise

In any case, we didn’t end up at X-bar (or Fusion Bar, the other name that had cropped up with similar reputation). But we decided to view the sunrise from Nagarkot on Saturday early morning. This meant leaving

Kathmandu as early as 4 am, which in turn translated to getting up at 3 am.

Nagarkot sunrise is one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. I had seen the sunset earlier (It also finds mention in Naman Geeta), but the sunrise beats it any day! The weather there was cool, and we managed to find a strategic viewpoint to watch it. We were early. And had to wait some while to see nature’s magic show! But it was worth the wait, especially since the sun’s vanguard -the light itself- spread out with mesmerizing effect, especially as it reflected off the pristine white snow of Lamangthan peak!

How do I even describe the sight that is so enchanting? First, the rays shoot out. And then the sun peeps out from behind the mountains. When the first time it’s seen, it looks as if God has placed molten gold atop the hill. And then He pulls out the disc, which is bright red and looks moist and soft. (More pics can be seen here).

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

On our way back, we stopped at Bhaktapur. The Durbar Squareis more open and much cleaner than the ones in Patan(Lalitpur) or Kathmandu. I had been here once ealier, but this time it was the early morning and the effect was very pure and very devotional (since the square has maximum temples and the pujas were on at that time).

With the year almost to an end, medications there aren’t many biggies lined up for the winter. Due to lack of anything else interesting happening with me lately, stuff I decided to pre-pone this list to now.

So, here we go…with the movies I enjoyed watching this year, in no particular order, barring the first one:

Lage Raho Munnabhai – I guess it is not too difficult to guess why this film takes the top position. Raj Kumar Hirani has brought back the charmingly simple style of Hrishida movies, moulded it to the modern context, weaved in a thoughtful message and created a masterpiece that is magnificently delightful and cozily dreamy.

KrrishKrrish – Agreed as a Super-man sort of film, it sagged severely, especially in the middle. Yet I feel it was a very valiant effort by the Roshans – and one that was fairly entertaining, even though one might feel cheated about the low screen time given to the super-hero. In addition, bringing in Rohit (from the prequel Koi Mil Gaya) was a terrific twist (and a well guarded secret).

Fanaa (2 Disc Set)Fanaa This film received a lot of flak, yet with every passing bad review it seemed to have added one more zero in the producer’s bank account. I saw it again – twice over. And each time, I found the movie endearing, especially its sensitively handled second half. Moreover, I loved its graceful pace. Kajol’s presence gave it the requisite fillip to make it reach this list!

Malaamal Weekly – This year’s darkest horse – I dont think even Priyadarshan had imagined it would be clear cut hit. But one view of the movie, it is not difficult to fathom why. The movie is unpretentiously entertaining; and whatever it’s foreign sources be (for the story), in the end, it delivers a hilarious package that makes it ‘paisa vasool’. Om Puri and Paresh Rawal give a splendid performance.

CorporateCorporate – Ok, this one is not upto Page 3′s level, but I found Madhur Bhandarkar’s attempt to show the ruthlessly cut-throat corporate world very engrossing. There were some subtle moments that looked straight from the offices I have worked in.

36 China Town36 China Town Blame it on my soft-corner for whodunnits, Akshaye Khanna’s performances and Abbas Mustan’s taut directions, to place this film here. The comedy track was good, even though the mystery per se wasnt. And for once, I found Shahid and Kareena bearable together.

Pyaar Ke Side Effects / Khosla Ka Ghosla – It’s quite a tie here, since both are essentially similar conceptually – interesting storyline, modern style, comic, small budget and essentially more enjoyable at home than in theaters.Khosla Ka Ghosla

Of the two, Khosla Ka Ghosla is superior. Anupam Kher and Boman Irani give a rock-solid performance. The plot is more intricate than PKSE, and its presented in such a way that at one point you feel like thinking – yeah, this can happen too!

Amongst these low-budget ‘multiplex movies’ Bas Ek Pal barely missed entering the list, primarily because of its utterly shoddy denouement. It’s as if the director had this brilliant concept, but just didnt know how to take it forward.

Dor (Bonus _ Free Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Dor / Yun Hota Kya Hota – Again I am clubbing the two because of some obvious similarities – they were made with small budgets, had serious undertones, displayed human sensitivity, demonstrated some wonderful acting, were more character-driven than story-centric and brought out the best in Ayesha Takia! Yes, this girl surely has it in her to race ahead past her rivals where acting is concerned, and come to think of it, she is quite a looker as well. In Dor, she holds the film together with her fragile hands. The film is a strong feminist statement, often irreverent in its social messags, and yet without hammering the message unnecessarily. Another masterpiece from Nagesh Kukunnoor.

My standing ovation to Naseerudin Shah for Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota – four different lives merge towards one shattering climax. But the film’s real power lies in the presentation of each story – you feel the reality in every emotional strand of each character. Once again, Konkona delights!

GolmaalGolmaal / Tom Dick And Harry / Phir Hera Pheri– For their zany slapstick humor; remove your brains and just indulge in pure paagalpan, with dollops of double entendres (in the first two) and eye-catching visuals. Perhaps I am the only person who found Hera Pheri ordinary, and the sequel far superior!Phir Hera Pheri

Vivaah – The critics screamed ‘regressive’ and rejected it, the masses yelled ‘traditional’ and embraced it. End result? The film is this year’s biggest surprise success. In between, the confused multiplex audience simply squirmed in discomfort looking back at stuff that they would have given the thumbs up only a few years back! Personally, I loved the movie as it gave a very warm feeling which is otherwise lacking in the normal world. Moreover, it managed to moisten the eyes towards it climax. Sooraj Barjatya returned to his traditional roots after his warped modern outing in Mai Prem Ki Deewani Hoon, and it was a handsome comeback. Though it lacked a fulsome family/friends scenario as seen in HAHK and Hum Saath Saath Hain, still all the key Barjatya ingredients were available – family outings and functions, shy romance, a bit of ched-chhad , a slice of negativity (that gets conquered eventually)- and, ‘deals’ with ‘foreign collaborators’ that would establish the young hero in business! Amrita Rao looked bashfully ravishing ( I have yet to see someone so beautiful in Mathura, although one can sight even Chhotis there). Though one missed Salman’s presence, Shahid fitted the bill well. And, as a busy but benign brother, Sameer Soni effectively stepped into the shoes of Mohnish Bahl (who made a small appearance towards the end).

The film is additionaly special because it was the first movie I saw in Agra at the newly opened Fun Cinemas Multiplex.

The ‘Theek Thaak’ Films List:

Hum Ko Deewana Kar Gaye – Raj Kanwar’s attempt to do a Yash Chopra was redeemed by Katrina’s refreshing and effervescent presence; and her on-screen chemistry with Akshay Kumar rocked. Beyond that, the film was just an average time-pass. The music was above average, though.

Jaan – E – Mann – The film had everything going for it – huge star cast, lavish production, decent music and a tried-and-tested love triangle formula. Yet, Shirish Kunder couldnt just pull it off. The end result was an inordinately long and tedious film. If it doesn’t enter my ‘hall of shame’ , it’s only due to the actors, music and Anupam Kher’s comedy.

OmkaraOmkara – Vishal’s attempt to re-do Othello was brave, but it lacked the punch that his previous film Maqbool did. Partly because Othello is not a very strong play as such. Partly also because of wrong casting – neither is Kareena a woman to die for, nor is Vivek a man to be jealous of. The film fell flat! Frankly, I am tired of Ajay’s dour look passed off as ‘acting’.

Ahista Ahista – A sweet romance set in the backdrop of Old Delhi. Soha Ali and Abhay Deol breathed life into their portrayals of people brought together under unusual circumstances, grappling to find meaning within their relationship. The film was shorn off any extraneous glamour and forwarded the story in lavishly languid pace. Only, it lacked the lavishness in its production. Himesh’s music was a bore and didnt gel with the story.

Dil Diya Hai – Ok, I saw it in sheer boredom. But still I feel the film deserved more eyeballs than what it received. Director Aditya (Ashiq Banaya Aapne) Dutt took hold off a ‘different’ story altogether – so different that it ended up looking bizarre. Still, there was enough panache to keep viewers interest. Himesh’s ‘Jab se aankh ladi tere naal’ was good.

Gangster – The songs were good (and majority copied), the movie had good moments, but overall it was just okayish. Emraan Hashmi was damn irritating. And Kangana Ranaut’s diction was horrible (hope she has worked on this now). The movie was neither hard-hitting nor thought-provoking. It ended up being a depressing and whining account without much sunshine.

Anthony Kaun HaiAnthony Kaun Hai – The film was quite stylized and Arshad Warsi gave a credible performance – not moving too far off from his Munnabhai image, yet not being restricted within it. Having missed Yahan, and not impressed by her miniscule role in Corporate, this film was my revelation of Minisha Lamba – she came across bubbly and vivacious , and at times reminded me of Priety Zinta from her Dil Se days.

The Killer – Compared to Gangster, this was a better attempt (or, let’s say, a better rip-off). The sharp and suave Irrfan Khan and the bumbling and bleating Emraan complemented each other. Personally, I found Killer’s music better than Gangster.

Baabul – There was something grossly missing in the film, which couldnt shuttle the sensitive theme to the higher orbit where one can raise the hands in ecstacy. Neither does the joyful first half raise hearty chuckles, nor does the sad second part wring tears from your eyes. In short, very average film. Strangely, for a film that deals with widow-remarriage, the biggest disconnect is that the widows character just doesn’t simmer with that deadly loss she has to undergo. Perhaps, Ravi Chopra should have toned down the gloss, and worked more on emotions. Of course, it is absolutely delightful to watch Amitabh Bachhan’s performance. Rani is good, but I fear there is a repetitiveness creeping in. Hema Malini defies age, and becomes more beautiful with each passing year. In this movie, her role is on the side-lines, hence the chemistry seen between AB and her (as seen in Baghbaan ) is quite lacking.

Dhoom -2 – This was the most awaited movie, and a decided bumper-hit even before it hit the theaters. To this, there was the masala over Hritik-Ash’s kiss that was splashed over several news channels. My views? Yes, the action is great, the thefts more daring, the look splendid, the sound design awesome, the chases breath-taking; yet, overall it just doesnt add up. The film simply overdoes it – and spoils the entire spontaneous fun that one had while watching the prequel. So much time is spent on the villain, and his emotions, that Abhishek Bachhan (and family) should have worried more on his wimp-like role than Ash’s bewafaai due to the kiss (which is nothing much, and would have ordinarily gone unnoticed but for the lead pair involved). Which also brings in the more pricky question about today’s morality – why are villains getting shinier and brighter, so much so that when Hritik and Abhi have a face-off at the cliff, inthe climax, one almost wants the thief to win! (At least, in this film, there is some redemption, but in Don, even that is not given- which was not the case even in the angst-ridden, anti-hero studded seventies, when the original film was released.) The music was bad. And can someone tell me what Bipasha Basu was doing in this film -either as the cop, or as the Brazilian beauty!

The ‘Undecided List’ – As ever I have a couple of movies, that are so larger-than-life, that slotting them in any list doesnt work. So, I call them an undecided list, or rather an ‘extension’ of the ‘theek-thaak list’. This year, there are two such big films:

Umraao Jaan– Ok, the movie was way off the mark, especially in its authenticity. Agreed, Abhishek Bachchan looked bored and tired. Yes, Aishwarya Rai couldnt measure up to Rekha’s performance in the eighties version (Frankly, no one expected Aish to do so). So, why in this list, and not in the bad ones! Simply because, like when everything is right and the film doesnt do good, same is the reverse true – individually, everything is wrong, yet in entirety the film was quite watchable and didnt overtly bore me or make me run for the fast forward button. Thus, it’s here in the ‘theek-thaak’ list.

Don – Thank you Moon Cable and Sony, for showing the original days after the release of the newer version – you only helped me revive strong childhood memories associated with the older film; Amitabh Bachchan rocked in that film! The new version is suitably upgraded, with twists added, but wher ethe main character is concerned, sorry SRK, howsoever much I like you, AB’s Don was way way ahead of you. The only reason I am undecided and not immediately slotted it inthe ‘Hall of Shame’ is the immense praise that I have read about the film – so , I want to see it again and decide then, and I’ll watch it after some months, when the effect of AB’s superlative performance has worn off.

This is my list. So what’s yours?

Updated on 27.12.2006

Four films that I should have mentioned but missed out in the ‘theek thaak’ list are:

Taxi No. 9211 – A fairly entertaining and racy film by Milan Luthria. The story takes place in a day, and holds the audience attention. The short length was an added advantage.

Being CyrusBeing Cyrus – A dark film made using the neo-modern grammar of film making. The film had a few good high points, including an interesting performance by Saif Ali Khan. However, sadly, Dimple disappointed with her hyper-act.

Zinda - Sanjay Dutt, John AbrahamZinda – Brutal and blunt, the film didnt bore, though of course it made you wince several imes during the show. Full review here.

Kalyug – Quite an insightful and interesting film. Kaushie did a nice review – read here.

Updated on 28.12.06

Kabul ExpressKabul Express – Will go under ‘Movies That I Enjoyed’ – a new subject, a good treatment, and some delectable cinematography makes the film a winner.

Bhagam Bhaag – Will go under ‘Theek thaak list’ – masti with mystery, the film has all the Priyadarshan elements. Funny at places, a no-holds barred climax, and good acting by all. However, what it lacks is that punch which made Hungama a re-watchable film anytime. Wonder if Priyadarshan is losing his touch, or is the prolificity getting him!

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Yesterday, buy more about spent some more time on the rough and rugged Western U.P. roads – this time on the outskirts of Aligarh. The road from Agra to Aligarh seems to worsen with each visit (it seems they are re-building the road and replacing it with a cemented one; but by the way things are moving, it looks it would be another decade before they complete it!) The ride shook, stirred, moved, hurtled and swung me around in the terribly uncomfortable Maruti Van, which our taxi provider had sent in lieu of the usual (and more comfortable) Indica.

The list:

Palla Sallu – A small village, just outside of Aligarh city limits, on the main G.T. Road (leading to Delhi via Khurja, Bulandhshahar and Khurja).

Gabhana – A highway small town – dusty and dirty.

Chandaus – (Pron. – the ‘d’ is to be pronounced as in ‘dark’) – We nearly missed the turn here. Travelling on the smooth G T Road was a delight, but the passing milestones warned that we would be in Khurja (Distt. Bulandshahar) soon. Since we knew that Chandaus was in Aligarh distt. only, we tried to keep vigil. But the turn was extremely narrow and we missed it by a few meters. Thankfully, it was a signboard for Radha Saomi Satsang that gave us an inkling that we had crossed the crucial turn.

The road to Chandaus (turn left from G.T. Road at Duaraou) was bad. Nay, it was atrocious. A narrow single lane that curved its way through fields and shanties, full of bumps and potholes, animals straying and children playing, rushing cyclists and slowing bullock carts! A deemed semi-rural development block, the only noteworthy thing here was the presence of a cluster of mobile telephony towers.

Pisawa – This was our final destination – some nine kilometers ahead of Chandaus, on the same narrow road. Pisawa is a sandy, brown and dull kasba. Earlier on it was a ‘riyasat‘, and the fort still exists – now used by the descendants for their use of rearing racing horses (as told by a bunch of locals). Being a private property, obviously we had no access to it. Here, the mobile service also died.

The Breakdown 

On our return trip, from Aligarh to Agra, after crossing another hamlet (Sadabad), our car whined to a jerky halt. It was an LPG kit model, and the driver informed that ‘gas thandi pad gayi’. As expected, he had no reserve petrol, and we were in the middle of nowhere, with no petrol pump in visible sight. While the driver tried to heat up the dispassionate and cold gas and make it work, we stepped out into the pitch darkness. It was chilly. 

The driver’s attempt to revive the car was futile, and he seemed to have screwed the starter enough. Quite comically, he tried to shake and stir the cylinder – with so much of play, I am sure even Aishwarya Rai would have heated up, but not this car! So, he set out to a nearby village to get some petrol.

We stood in the darkness, shivering. I looked around. The fields lay open. An abandoned well was nearby. The road stretched endlessly on both sides. The traffic was low. The wind was picking up. The moon was missing. A dog howled nearby. It was the 13th, if not a Friday.

And the only song I could think of humming was the ominous ‘Gumnaam hai koi…

My colleague was ready to strangle me!

 

These are movies that either promised more, case or had huge budgets and big star-casts. I have purposely left out films like ‘Ek Se Mera Kya Hogaa’ that were doomed to bite the dust!

Rang De BasantiRang De Basanti – The biggest disappointment. A patchy, uneven, disjointed, noisy, pretentious and juvenile film. It offered no tangible solution either for humanity (in general) or for India (in particular). In fact, it catered to the base and perverse human urge to kill someone who has wronged you. It’s ok to violently proclaim that ‘i will kill the person’ in a fit of anger, but that doesnt mean one executes the threat. This is not the behaviour what mature human civilized exhibit. The parallel to Indian freedom movement was ill-placed and utter nonsense. Anyways, I will refrain to say anything more here. Enough has been said, argued and counter-argued when I first wrote its review. Read it here. Sigh, another bad entry at the Oscars!

Kabhi Alvida Na Kahna – Karan Johar’s first self confessed attempt at ‘maturity’ was a dull, despondent and disastrous film, which dragged on and on endlessly. It resembled the serials prolifilating on television – bored housewives lusting after other’s husbands under the grand chhatrachhaya of Indian marriage and mangalsutra; wimpish men, who are either too bitter or too sweet;and, bucket ful of copious tears that drown the flimsy script; even the gawdy gloss matched. The music was boring. SRK lent some cheer as a character that could have been real, but was shunted irresponsibly by Karan to the other extreme from SRK’s otherwise screen-persona. The only bright sunshine remained Amitabh Bachhan, who lent grace and fun to this tedious affair.

Aap Ki Khatir (Free - Bonus Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Aap Ki Khatir – It’s like the rag the dog pulled out from a god-forsaken attic. Stale and tattered, the film was a big yawn evoking fare.


Ankahee
– Enough of Bhatt-styled mentally disturbed and manic-depressed characters. Morose and melancholic, it lacks any escape for respite. For the same reason, I avoided Woh Lamhe! Both films have good music, though.

Utthaan – Another example of how to spoil a good story with indifferent direction. The twist could have been earth shattering bang, but is in reality a whimper not even loud enough to wake you up from the nap that you take during the film. Surprise factor? Neha Dhupia doesn’t bare at all, which makes you feel sad since it was better when she bared all!

Apna Sapna Money Money(bonus- Free Song Cd of Flavors)Apna Sapna Money Money – I missed this on theatres; but didnt want to spoil it by watching only on small screen. So, with help of borrowed projector, I saw it at home deriving full theater benefits. I was expecting another Kya Kool Hai Hum; alas, the film is a gigantic bore – and only Riteish Deshmukh is the bright star that saves the film from total darkness. But still, the disappointment didnt fully dissipate, hence placed in this list.

Bas Ek Pal – I was in two minds about this film. It could have been placed in the ‘theek thaak’ list. But on second view I saw the glaring errors in its script – a loose and haphazard one, that moves from a compelling jail account to a wishy washy tale of love and betrayal, interspersed with notions of wife-bashing. The movie has a rivetting first half. But the second one wastes away the grand build-up. Director Onir (who made the sensitive My Brother Nikhil) doesnt live up to the expectations. As ever, Juhi Chawla and Sanjay Suri delight. Jimmy Shergill is good too. Urmila disappoints.

Chingaari – Umm, err… was this really a film? Crass, coarse and chaotic, the film was a long string of dreadful scenes put together. Sadly, it didnt nothing to alleviate the pain or elevate the stature of prostitutes.

Teesri Aankh – If you can take it as a laughter inducing exercise, enjoy the film. Per se, the movie had nothing going for it. Sunny Deol shouted his lungs hoarse, and only added to the pain. Full review here

Naksha – Another Sunny Deol flick that was outlandishly bizarre and bakwaas! As an actor, he needs to seriously re-think where he is headed.

Chup Chup keChup Chup Ke – Priyadarshan severely lost his touch with this one. The color coordinated costumes were eye pleasing; wish they had coordinated the script as well!

Jaane Hoga Kya – Even Bipasha Basu would burn this off with the next available beedi from her resume. The clone-saga provided inadvertant humor, but that’s about it. Original review available here.

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This place seriously needs an update!

😛

 

Jaane Hoga Kya – Now I wasnt expecting anything great from this long-in-the-making-released-hurriedly film. So, page what turned out was a pleasant surprise. And not because of its content. But for the inadvertant humor that the film provides. Ok, there so what’s it about? Cloning! Don’t choke on that coke, it is actually a film on human cloning. And how the directors (Glenn-Ankush) portray it is the best comedy released this year. As per this film, to make a clone there has to be two plastic covered ‘capsules’, connected to a computer. So, ‘data’ will move from one capsule to another, as heat rises, and out of steam a new human will be formed! Wow! That simple!

That’s how Aftab creates his own clone. But that’s not all. As soon as the new Aftab is formed, he leaves the capsule and *laugh laugh* heads for a dance bar to sing an item number with Maria Goretti. Some Bollywood pre-educated clone this was indeed! In fact, going by the number of songs that the clone gets to sing, he seems quite the ‘in-thing’! And other than the item number, this includes one roll-in-the-hay number with Preeti Jhangiani (who seems to have lost her voice and inhibitions permanently in this film).

Of course, the clone is not all that ‘good’, like the scientist. In fact, he turns out to be some ‘super-power’ monster with immense powers. Frankenstein, did some one say? Well, the scientist’s haalat is quite like that, but then the hero has to win in the end in movies!

Oh yes, in between all the songs and evil, there was a nice little twist in the end.

Overall – Watch it to laugh at it!

Aap Ki Khatir (Free - Bonus Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Aap Ki Khatir – Honestly, can some one tell Dharmesh Darshan to retire and spare us his tortures! Can someone tell Amisha Patel that making melancholic expressions doesnt construe acting! Can someone tell Sunil Shetty that joi-de-vivre is an inborn feeling; faking it never works! Can someone tell Lillette Dubey that she looked horrendous in this film spouting Anglicised Punjabi! Can someone tell…ok, I am sure you got what I want to convey.

This pain-some movie is old wine in older bottle. A soggy script with limp characters and a bland-as-London-weather scenario only worsens the viewer’s discomfort. In fact, the film ends up looking like a shoddy UK-produced small-budget fare.

I am quite surprised that Akshaye Khanna chose to do this film, which couldnt have looked attractive at script level even!

Overall – Dont even think of it!

Naksha – Beware of Vivek Oberoi in the jungle! He bored us first in Kaal, and now returns for another jungle-mein-mangle! Naksha is a directionless film that has no head nor tail nor any body in between!

Sadly, the concept is good. And one feels like screaming at the director for wasting an opportunity that could have been turned into a like slick thriller.

The story – We all know that in Mahabharat, Karan was born with the magical ‘kawach‘ and ‘kundal’ that gave him immense strength. The mythology tells us that during the Kuruskshetra war, Lord Indra (disguised as a brahman) had asked for the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’ as alms. This was done at the behest of Lord Krishna, in order to defeat Karan. After this, the epic is silent on the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’. What if Lord Indra buried these powerful object somewhere in the Himalayas? Well, the film is built on this premise wherein one archeologist is able to find the same, and prepares a map to reach the place. However, one evil person (Jackie in a horrible get up) gets to know of the same, and wants them as well. The archeologist prefers to suicide rather than give the map to Jackie.

Years later, the archeologist’s son (Vivek) learns of the map, and proceeds to get those objects, with Jackie again close on his heels. To help Vivek, there is his elder step-brother, Sunny Deol.

The story simply meanders precious reels in the jungle. And if the repartees between Sunny and Vivek were ‘comedy’ well, then the director needs to seriously watch some Hrishida films!

Our Bollywood heroes never know when to call it quits. But I had thought Sunny would have learnt from his father (Dharamendra acted in the most third-rate films in the eighties, romancing heroines like Amrita Singh and Dimple Kapadia, who were half his age. In fact, Dimple was having a allegedly having an affair with Sunny when Dharam acted opposite her!) Anyways, Sunny should take caution and remember that such inane roles dont suit his stature. I am sure there will be many writers/directors ready to provide him dignified roles that are commensurate with his age.

As for Sameera Reddy, well her role is the most wishy-washy and redundant. Perhaps, the director realised it, that’s why in the climax, she is just dropped off somewhere and forgotten as well. BTW, if Sameera’s acting career never takes off, she can try for WWE!

Overall – Go tickle your masochist streak and watch it!

Umrao Jaan (New)

I admit it is too early to really write a review on the music on which everyone seems to have an opinion. But before that, women’s health let’s face a few facts squarely in the face – it was an arduously tough act to compose songs for a subject whose previous version is still fresh in the minds of music listeners. More than merit for the older hit, it is the nostalgic wrapper that shines and glitters. It has reached a cult status, traumatologist where it is placed at a hallowed pedestal. One reality check that I wish to present – unlike Sholay or Don the movie, or its music, wasn’t such an earth shattering hit when released in the eighties. It is only over the years that the songs have acquired a ‘retro-hit’ status. So, this sudden urge by everyone to lambast against the newer version sounds funny – even from that generation. Even those who wouldn’t ordinarily listen to Khayyam’s ghazals from Muzaffar Ali’s classic have somehow turned up their nose against Anu Mallik’s efforts. A prime reason is that Mallik’s name itself evokes plentiful negative reactions. Even before the music was out, I had read vitriolic write ups on how could J P Dutta entrust Mallik with such a prestigious job. But obviously, Dutta has enough faith in his composer who gave two whopper (musical) hits with Border and Refugee. In my honest opinion, such reaction was totally unwarranted. Mallik might be obnoxious in his interviews, his many compositions lack any luster of many kind, but still the man has in him to turn up with music that might just be listenable. Another positive point in Dutta-Mallik’s favor is that they haven’t gone and remixed or re-arranged the old classic songs – a towering brownie point to the team, especially seen in the light of the absolutely bland re-mixes/re-designed score of Don.

However, let me make my stance clear – I am neither fond of, nor in favor of, old classics remade in newer format with newer stars. It is simply unappealing, especially when the older versions usually reached perfection (perceived or otherwise) in terms of performance and direction. But this once, I am ready to give Dutta-Mallik team a clean chit, for two reasons – one, I feel that their effort is more honest in re-creating rather than just cashing in on the older success.

The second, and bigger reason, is that I am not emotionally attached to the older Umrao Jaan. Sometime back, in one of the comments, I had mentioned that I am not too fond of that film’s music. The ghazals are good. But somehow, they haven’t had the same gushing effect on me as they should have – except for ‘Yeh kya jagah hai doston‘. Hence, I approached the newer one with a totally fresh mind.

Coming back to the music, as I said, it is a bit early to write a comprehensive review. I haven’t been able to invest the requisite time to listen to it carefully. Yet, when a score leaves a few snatches attached to your soul after the first couple of listenings, you know that it demands coming back to it. In that respect, Mallik’s Umrao Jaan is surely on the right trail. After the first hearing, and switching off the system, I remained floating in its melody and effect, though I couldn’t recall the exact tunes.

From the bunch of solos (all Alka Yagnik barring two), I found ‘Salaam…Tumhari mehfil mein aa gaye hain to kyun na yeh bhi kaam kar len‘ particularly mesmerizing. A very subtle rhythm that supports a hummable tune keeps the song afloat. Alka’s rendition doesn’t move too much away from her flat intonations, yet they somehow suit the composition. The same goes for the second best number ‘Tum jo paas aa gaye, hum jo sharma gaye‘. It’s hookline lies in the charming ‘Tum bhi pahle pahal, hum bhi pahale pahal‘ line, and a mouthful interlude of ‘shehnais‘ topped with a single sarangi strain. A third song that perked my ears and plucked my heart was ‘Mai na mil sakoon jo tumse, meri justjoo na karna’ – a haunting number with tight violins that uplift the song to a dream level. Finally, ‘Jhoote ilzaam tum lagaaya na karo‘ is the fourth interesting solo – a bit slow and lengthy, but overall melodious. There is only one duet, unfortunately it didn’t cut much ice with me – and Sonu Nigam has sadly ‘oversung’ it. Passion can sometimes be understated, and not sighing overtly into the mic!

Agle janam mein mohe bitiya na kijo’ – in two parts – are the only numbers where Alka steps away. The song (in both versions) is a touching lament by a girl who doesn’t want to be a re-born in the same gender. However, I am a bit surprised at such a song in this film – as far as I know of Muslim religion, they do not have any concept of ‘re-birth’, hence the song is conceptually an anomaly in a film dealing with Muslim characters. But coming from Javed Akhtar, I am sure he would have done some research before penning it.

Somewhere I feel the weakest link has been Javed Akhtar’s lyrics that just do not sear with the burning pain that was Umrao Jan Ada’s life. Though one can find many scattered ‘quotable’ examples, overall the poetry is not the kind that one can hug and sob inconsolably to wet the pillows in the night. For example, in ‘Jhoote ilzaam’ a statement like ‘dil hai nazuk, isse dukhaya na karo’ is too bland and direct, and more suited to Sameer/Himesh combo of songs than in a film that talks about a courtesan who was exceptional in her poetry.

I am quite impressed by Mallik’s arrangements – he hasn’t done any unnecessarily experimentations, nor kept the sound cacophonously contemporary. He sticks to the era that the songs were meant to be and introduces now-forgotten Indian instruments like saarangi, sitar and tabla in full measure. Now that’s an achievement. Whether the current generation appreciates this is a million dollar question! But then, like the older generation, maybe they will reject it now but once they grow up, it is precisely this sort of music that they will like to come back to. Perhaps, this version might outlast every other contemporary composition and be a retro hit as well!

Overall- A Good Buy

I know an update on Random Expressions is long overdue; I have received subtle suggestions, information pills friendly reminders and even dire threats, buy more about which all proved the love and affection for this space. Thanks to everyone. And because of you all, just writing in to say I am fine, and alive – and so is this blog!

Needless to say, the past month has been tediously hectic – including, visits to far off places like Mainpuri, Bhongaon and Bewar and also a few more trips on that horrifying Agra-Aligarh stretch. But more than that it was an urge to prove something to superiors and get the sales figures correct that sort of doused the innate craving to write. So I kept focussed on the work, getting the act right and streamlining the processes as much as I could. Sadly, the end result was not all that encouraging – neither did the figures really shine, nor did this blog get any input. In short, a total failure!

In between, my speaker-set also conked off. Million complaints later, the service center of the obscure Korean brand agreed to rectify the same at home, obviously free of cost since it was well within the warranty period. The fault? Violently fluctuating voltage here – there, I add one more negative item from this city! The consequence? Lightened the wallet to purchase a voltage stabilizer.

Winters are lingering in, though the temperatures dropped precariously low for a couple of days in-between, but now they have clamboured upward. Another addition at home was a much-needed geyser.

Movie-watching and television-viewing were the only stable past-times. I havent yet entered any cinema hall here (waitng for Fun Cinemas to open up), but have put good use to the DVD player. The last few that I caught were the ominous Darna Zaroori Hai, the taut Deadline and the tastelessly dull Umrao Jaan! Television surfing has been massive, and I have to sheepishly admit I got hooked on to several programmes that I wouldnt have ordinarily watched. For example, Big Bosss! The shenanginans of drama-queen Rakhi Sawant and the antics of super-bitch Kashmira Shah kept the hands off the remote control.

The second programme I caught was Nach Baliye-2 – and the reason to get hooked to it was the extremely superb and scintillating performance by Manav and Shweta in that gold-outfit. They bettered it next week with the ‘bamboo dance’ – and I was sure that this pair could win. Sadly, Sweta let herself and us down with a limpid show of the mujra, though Manav more than made it up with his energetic ‘Mai deewana’ number. Still, personally I feel that combined they were far ahead of others in terms of grace, movement, choice and to top it all an endearing sang-froid and a thankful lack of melodrama or tears! Compare this with the eternal crybaby of tv, the other lady whose name I forget now (better known as Prerna of Kasautii Zindagii Kay), you will know what I mean. Their ousting section was the most tedious part of the entire show!

Of course cricket and bollywood both fed enough fodder for all news channels : the shameful South African tour debacle from the former and Sanjay Dutt , Aishwarya and Abhishek amongst the latter. So much so, that I can puke at the mere mention of the last two!

Beyond all this, there is really not much to write. So I will end here – with the same promise to be back soon, and definitely sooner than last time!  

 

There is a common English saying – “There are no free lunches in this world!” But I realized that there could be some free dinners sometimes!

It all started on Saturday. At office, this site we decided to try out the new Pizza Hut menu. The alluring leaflets, adiposity with discount coupons, search dropped at my place were added incentive.

However, what started off as a routine ‘order placement’ call, some five minutes later,metamorphosised into a full-fledged verbal duel. The reason being – their adamant refusal at delivering to our office, as it was beyond their ‘service area of four kilometers’. Now Pizza Hut outlet is very near my place so I was hundred percent sure that our office falls within their stipulated four kilometer radius; 3.8 kms, to be very precise- or probably lesser, as the outlet is some 500-700 meters away from my home.In any case, I argued, even if it wasnt within four kms, there is no reason why they cannot still service a kilometer or two extra, if the client is willing not to be bound by their time-frame clause. It’s not as if there is a ‘laxman rekha’ beyond which if Pizza Hut scooters cross, they’d be abducted by some horrifiying Ravans! But all my arguments fell on deaf ears. When the person on the other end (the shift manager) stopped harping on the four-kilometer clause, he started to give wishy washy arguments on how the area where we were didnt fall within ‘serviceable’ limit. Now, I really blew my fuse. Agreed, we fall within that area, but our office – a landmark on its own – is right at the edge, on the main road, and accessible through wide open roads (as wide as they can be in Agra!).

The heat in the arguments from both ends rose to a palpable limit, with lots of strong words deployed, till the time I banged the phone down, in anger and disgust. In the same stroke, I went to Pizza Hut’s website and registered a complaint, mentally swearing off Pizza Hut for lifetime (though, honestly, my stomach and taste buds grumbled their protests – I really like their pizzas, however un-Italian they be!)

Two hours later, when I was quite cooled down, and had been satiated with a heavy lunch from their rival Dominoe’s Pizza, I received a call from Pizza Hut. It was their Asst. Manager – and in a meek voice he apologized for all that had happened. We spoke for some twenty minutes, in which he must have used the word ‘sorry’ some twenty thousand times. He offered to rectify the error and send the order away immediately. But I politely declined, as I was already full – and moreover, on my way to Delhi. He also requested me to visit their outlet sometime, and I vaguely agreed.

I had totally forgotten about the incident by the time I returned from my short but extremely relaxing weekend. Amidst a pile load of work, I received yet another call from Pizza Hut – this time, from their Manager. Once again, there were several rounds of apologies and he insisted that I visit their outlet – anytime convenient. Since he was quite pressing, and since I like Pizza Hut pizzas, and since I live alone and don’t mind a dinner out sometimes, I agreed!

At the designated hour, I reached their outlet. From the moment I entered their restaurant till the time I left, it was an evening befitting a royalty. The manager was there to apologise ( we had a drink together), the shift manager (with whom I had the argument) did the same, and the waiters were all on call at the slightest turn of my head! After a delightful meal (their new Indian Menu is simply outstanding!), when I asked for the bill, they refused the same. ‘It’s complimentary from our side!’ they gushed.

Whether it was the slight intoxication of the smooth Forster, or the luxury of having being served with such impeccable finesse, or the sheer respect for someone who has apologized enough ( I am in sales, and have met enough rude customers to know!), or the effect of the aroma-rich, tasteful food, whatever it was at that time I was ready to do anything they asked for – and that was (as the shift manager meekly, hesitatingly and fearfully requested for) a mail to state that I had enjoyed the evening (which I understood was an euphemism to say that I no longer bore a grudge against them).

I am not entirely unfamiliar with the service standards offered by various organisations. But after yesterday, Pizza Hut’s service quality stands heads and shoulders above many of the bests! To say I am impressed with their service is an understatement! It is way beyond that. And now I have resolved to always be their loyal customer (and my stomach and taste buds gurgle in delight!)

Next Update: December 07th, 2006 at 1800 Hrs IST titled “Eight”

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No, viagra approved no, gastritis no – this is not a review of Karan Razdan’s yet another forgettable click Aath-Shani. This is a tag that Juneli gave me. In this I have to inform who tagged me (which I have done), decease say eight things about me (which I will do shortly) and tag six people (which I will refrain from doing).

So here are eight things about me:

  • I have two arms, and use them quite a lot
  • I have ten fingers – five on each hand
  • I have two legs, and generally walk on them
  • I have one nose, that can smell pretty well
  • I have two eyes, both perfect till now
  • I have one mouth, and I try to keep it shut
  • I have one…err, let’s leave it here
  • Voila, I look, sound and act like a human being!

😛

 

Next Update– On 09.12.06 at 1800 Hrs, IST – “Ten Things I Miss About Nepal”
Don’t miss to read – “Favorite Songs of 2006” on 31.12.06 at 1700Hrs- only  on this blog!

In my farewell post from Nepal, decease I had said I will someday surely re-visit my Nepal memories. These few days, I have been regularly visiting those memories, viewing at the snaps taken there and remembering small details which normally I thought I had forgotten. It is difficult to write down all the things, so I will just mention the top ten things that I miss in Nepal.

1. Mountains – When one is in the Himalayan land, the mountains are aplenty to view. Admittedly, I have a strong affinity towards these sturdy natural beauties that can be both awesome and awe-inspiring. Kathmandu is surrounded by a lush and dark green ring of mountains that seemed to be a benign guardian for the valley. Click here to read the first post on this topic alongwith my favorite hill-stations. Other than the mountains, another eye-pleasing sight is that of clouds, which seem to acquire a magnificently creative instinct. I haven’t seen any more beautiful formations anyplace else. In fact, my love to watch the shapes and size of clouds began when I started to click their snaps.

2. Kathmandu – Well, as a whole there is a quaint attraction in the city; its ruggedy criss-cross mesh of streets and old-fashioned houses, peppered with some forward-looking architecture, is a unique blend of old-worldly charm and modern utility. The city – if it stops growing now – is neither too big nor too small, the right size! Of course, being there one has to be perennialy in holiday-and-relaxed mode.

3. Banchha Ghar – A delightful old restaurant serving some lip-smackingly delicious (and exotic) snacks. Their cultural show, performed every evening by nubile Nepali girls, showcases the various dance forms prevalant in the country. They serve ‘Raakshi’, the homemade rice wine, in miniature ‘kulhads‘ as a welcome drink. I would have loved to make ‘raakshi‘ as a separate entry, but due to lack of space will include it here.

4. Thamel – If I add up the hours I stayed in Kathmandu, the ones spent roaming in Thamel will by far exceed anything else. This was a favorite haunt, especially on weekends, when I used to visit a couple of quaint and charming pubs and lounge-bar. The effect in them is imprinted deeply in my mind. And I sorely miss having beer there – it just isnt same in the antiseptic modern bars of Delhi or Agra! Thamel carries a perennial festive look, always brightly lit and attractively colored.

5. Nagarkot – If you want to see the best sunrise, you have to head for this tiny hill-station, just 45 minutes drive from Kathmandu. The sun’s first appearance – a tiny blob of molten gold – is a jaw dropping sight!

6. Festivals – The Nepalis definitely know how to celebrate and revel in festivals, something that we seem to have forgotten (Festivals in Delhi are just formalities, rather excuses to show who is richer than whom, than any genuine urge to celebrate community togetherness, religious significance or simply to let your hair down to have fun. At corporate level, they are merely pieces meant to further the manipulation game of gaining brownie points or downsizing unwanted elements). Here, I saw a genuine desire to break free from the routine and indulge in the pure unadulterated joy of celebration. Bada Dashain (or Dushhera) is their biggest one, and the entire valley erupted in an unanimous call of joy and visually into a riot of colors!

7. Monuments – It’s not for nothing that Kathmandu is called a living museum; it is a World Heritage Site, and the proof lies in the sheer number of tourist sites to visit – Pashupati Nath Mandir, Buddhaneelkantha, three Darbar Squares, Syambhu Stupa, Boudhanath Stupa, Indra Chowk and many more!

8. Devghat /Chitwan – Both the places have their own beauties. Since I travelled to both in the same trip, their memories are tightly intertwined. I still recall fondly the ride on the River in that rickety narrow canoe! In Chitwan, sighting a rhinoceros was a huge accomplishment.

9. Jai Nepal Cinema Hall – Yes, I remember this also because there was a small slice of time when I must have watched a film there every Sunday.

10. Finally, the last thing I will mention is the amount of free time I had to write all those stories. I have now re-read most of them, and as I did so, I tried to recall the days and the ways I wrote at that time; also, I marvel as to how I managed to pen them. Reading those comments at that time is a wonderful experience.

I recall, on a particularly dull day, I had wondered whether those days will ever form ‘memories’. Pri had assured that sure they would. Pri, you were so correct!

Dont miss to read – “Favorite Songs of 2006” on 31.12.06 at 1700 Hrs, only on this blog!

First the Updates to set the background:

Ever since my holidays started, this 24-hour seem too less for me. The ‘deafening silence’ I mentioned here was short-lived. Overall, salve taking stock of the first quarter 2006, it has gone by in a blur of frenzied activities leaving behind small islands of quietitude.

Well, coming back to my trip – it was, to summarize it in two words: sheer fun! I have developed a new-found crush for Delhi So I roamed its wide roads like a smitten lover marveling at its infrastructural advancements and beauties. One reason is that since I didn’t have to go to office, I naturally avoided rush-hour traffic, which is the city’s biggest bane.

My parents had to go to Ludhiana, Punjab for a cousin’s wedding. So, for most parts I was again alone there. But there was a difference – living alone in spartan bachelor’s accommodation in Kathmandu is a far cry from staying in a full-fledged furnished house!

Meeting friends was the key highlight. From the bloggers met Anz. Ashish was leaving the day I reached there, hence couldn’t meet him, but had a word with him over telephone. Other than this, there was some personal work to be done, which took up considerable amount of time. I have set a few things rolling – do await a major announcement here soon.

On return to Kathmandu, I was caught up with the visit of our marketing guy, G. For the regular readers G is not an unknown name – remember the guy whom I took to Belly Dance Bar? This time round I told him I will take him to a better one – X-bar at Sundhara. From what I have heard, there are ‘topless’ performances there. He was so psyched and scared that every evening he would have headache/body-ache or some such excuse ready with him.

Anyways, we hardly had any time because planned a trip to Bhairawaha and Butwal – two neighboring towns in west Nepal plains – hence, we pushed X-bar trip to Friday evening which we had kept relatively free.

There was nothing great about Bhairawaha-Butwal, and the visit was wholly official, so will skip the details. But all through there also, kept joking and dropping hints about X-Bar! From Friday morning onwards, G kept his ‘not well’ raga on, and it kept increasing as the day progressed (LOL). By the time evening came, he was not ready to be seen with me even!

From all my colleagues, G is the most chilled out one and I couldn’t have taken this sort of liberty with any one else; we share a great rapport, and for that I will give him the maximum credit.

Nagarkot Sunrise

In any case, we didn’t end up at X-bar (or Fusion Bar, the other name that had cropped up with similar reputation). But we decided to view the sunrise from Nagarkot on Saturday early morning. This meant leaving

Kathmandu as early as 4 am, which in turn translated to getting up at 3 am.

Nagarkot sunrise is one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. I had seen the sunset earlier (It also finds mention in Naman Geeta), but the sunrise beats it any day! The weather there was cool, and we managed to find a strategic viewpoint to watch it. We were early. And had to wait some while to see nature’s magic show! But it was worth the wait, especially since the sun’s vanguard -the light itself- spread out with mesmerizing effect, especially as it reflected off the pristine white snow of Lamangthan peak!

How do I even describe the sight that is so enchanting? First, the rays shoot out. And then the sun peeps out from behind the mountains. When the first time it’s seen, it looks as if God has placed molten gold atop the hill. And then He pulls out the disc, which is bright red and looks moist and soft. (More pics can be seen here).

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

On our way back, we stopped at Bhaktapur. The Durbar Squareis more open and much cleaner than the ones in Patan(Lalitpur) or Kathmandu. I had been here once ealier, but this time it was the early morning and the effect was very pure and very devotional (since the square has maximum temples and the pujas were on at that time).

With the year almost to an end, medications there aren’t many biggies lined up for the winter. Due to lack of anything else interesting happening with me lately, stuff I decided to pre-pone this list to now.

So, here we go…with the movies I enjoyed watching this year, in no particular order, barring the first one:

Lage Raho Munnabhai – I guess it is not too difficult to guess why this film takes the top position. Raj Kumar Hirani has brought back the charmingly simple style of Hrishida movies, moulded it to the modern context, weaved in a thoughtful message and created a masterpiece that is magnificently delightful and cozily dreamy.

KrrishKrrish – Agreed as a Super-man sort of film, it sagged severely, especially in the middle. Yet I feel it was a very valiant effort by the Roshans – and one that was fairly entertaining, even though one might feel cheated about the low screen time given to the super-hero. In addition, bringing in Rohit (from the prequel Koi Mil Gaya) was a terrific twist (and a well guarded secret).

Fanaa (2 Disc Set)Fanaa This film received a lot of flak, yet with every passing bad review it seemed to have added one more zero in the producer’s bank account. I saw it again – twice over. And each time, I found the movie endearing, especially its sensitively handled second half. Moreover, I loved its graceful pace. Kajol’s presence gave it the requisite fillip to make it reach this list!

Malaamal Weekly – This year’s darkest horse – I dont think even Priyadarshan had imagined it would be clear cut hit. But one view of the movie, it is not difficult to fathom why. The movie is unpretentiously entertaining; and whatever it’s foreign sources be (for the story), in the end, it delivers a hilarious package that makes it ‘paisa vasool’. Om Puri and Paresh Rawal give a splendid performance.

CorporateCorporate – Ok, this one is not upto Page 3′s level, but I found Madhur Bhandarkar’s attempt to show the ruthlessly cut-throat corporate world very engrossing. There were some subtle moments that looked straight from the offices I have worked in.

36 China Town36 China Town Blame it on my soft-corner for whodunnits, Akshaye Khanna’s performances and Abbas Mustan’s taut directions, to place this film here. The comedy track was good, even though the mystery per se wasnt. And for once, I found Shahid and Kareena bearable together.

Pyaar Ke Side Effects / Khosla Ka Ghosla – It’s quite a tie here, since both are essentially similar conceptually – interesting storyline, modern style, comic, small budget and essentially more enjoyable at home than in theaters.Khosla Ka Ghosla

Of the two, Khosla Ka Ghosla is superior. Anupam Kher and Boman Irani give a rock-solid performance. The plot is more intricate than PKSE, and its presented in such a way that at one point you feel like thinking – yeah, this can happen too!

Amongst these low-budget ‘multiplex movies’ Bas Ek Pal barely missed entering the list, primarily because of its utterly shoddy denouement. It’s as if the director had this brilliant concept, but just didnt know how to take it forward.

Dor (Bonus _ Free Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Dor / Yun Hota Kya Hota – Again I am clubbing the two because of some obvious similarities – they were made with small budgets, had serious undertones, displayed human sensitivity, demonstrated some wonderful acting, were more character-driven than story-centric and brought out the best in Ayesha Takia! Yes, this girl surely has it in her to race ahead past her rivals where acting is concerned, and come to think of it, she is quite a looker as well. In Dor, she holds the film together with her fragile hands. The film is a strong feminist statement, often irreverent in its social messags, and yet without hammering the message unnecessarily. Another masterpiece from Nagesh Kukunnoor.

My standing ovation to Naseerudin Shah for Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota – four different lives merge towards one shattering climax. But the film’s real power lies in the presentation of each story – you feel the reality in every emotional strand of each character. Once again, Konkona delights!

GolmaalGolmaal / Tom Dick And Harry / Phir Hera Pheri– For their zany slapstick humor; remove your brains and just indulge in pure paagalpan, with dollops of double entendres (in the first two) and eye-catching visuals. Perhaps I am the only person who found Hera Pheri ordinary, and the sequel far superior!Phir Hera Pheri

Vivaah – The critics screamed ‘regressive’ and rejected it, the masses yelled ‘traditional’ and embraced it. End result? The film is this year’s biggest surprise success. In between, the confused multiplex audience simply squirmed in discomfort looking back at stuff that they would have given the thumbs up only a few years back! Personally, I loved the movie as it gave a very warm feeling which is otherwise lacking in the normal world. Moreover, it managed to moisten the eyes towards it climax. Sooraj Barjatya returned to his traditional roots after his warped modern outing in Mai Prem Ki Deewani Hoon, and it was a handsome comeback. Though it lacked a fulsome family/friends scenario as seen in HAHK and Hum Saath Saath Hain, still all the key Barjatya ingredients were available – family outings and functions, shy romance, a bit of ched-chhad , a slice of negativity (that gets conquered eventually)- and, ‘deals’ with ‘foreign collaborators’ that would establish the young hero in business! Amrita Rao looked bashfully ravishing ( I have yet to see someone so beautiful in Mathura, although one can sight even Chhotis there). Though one missed Salman’s presence, Shahid fitted the bill well. And, as a busy but benign brother, Sameer Soni effectively stepped into the shoes of Mohnish Bahl (who made a small appearance towards the end).

The film is additionaly special because it was the first movie I saw in Agra at the newly opened Fun Cinemas Multiplex.

The ‘Theek Thaak’ Films List:

Hum Ko Deewana Kar Gaye – Raj Kanwar’s attempt to do a Yash Chopra was redeemed by Katrina’s refreshing and effervescent presence; and her on-screen chemistry with Akshay Kumar rocked. Beyond that, the film was just an average time-pass. The music was above average, though.

Jaan – E – Mann – The film had everything going for it – huge star cast, lavish production, decent music and a tried-and-tested love triangle formula. Yet, Shirish Kunder couldnt just pull it off. The end result was an inordinately long and tedious film. If it doesn’t enter my ‘hall of shame’ , it’s only due to the actors, music and Anupam Kher’s comedy.

OmkaraOmkara – Vishal’s attempt to re-do Othello was brave, but it lacked the punch that his previous film Maqbool did. Partly because Othello is not a very strong play as such. Partly also because of wrong casting – neither is Kareena a woman to die for, nor is Vivek a man to be jealous of. The film fell flat! Frankly, I am tired of Ajay’s dour look passed off as ‘acting’.

Ahista Ahista – A sweet romance set in the backdrop of Old Delhi. Soha Ali and Abhay Deol breathed life into their portrayals of people brought together under unusual circumstances, grappling to find meaning within their relationship. The film was shorn off any extraneous glamour and forwarded the story in lavishly languid pace. Only, it lacked the lavishness in its production. Himesh’s music was a bore and didnt gel with the story.

Dil Diya Hai – Ok, I saw it in sheer boredom. But still I feel the film deserved more eyeballs than what it received. Director Aditya (Ashiq Banaya Aapne) Dutt took hold off a ‘different’ story altogether – so different that it ended up looking bizarre. Still, there was enough panache to keep viewers interest. Himesh’s ‘Jab se aankh ladi tere naal’ was good.

Gangster – The songs were good (and majority copied), the movie had good moments, but overall it was just okayish. Emraan Hashmi was damn irritating. And Kangana Ranaut’s diction was horrible (hope she has worked on this now). The movie was neither hard-hitting nor thought-provoking. It ended up being a depressing and whining account without much sunshine.

Anthony Kaun HaiAnthony Kaun Hai – The film was quite stylized and Arshad Warsi gave a credible performance – not moving too far off from his Munnabhai image, yet not being restricted within it. Having missed Yahan, and not impressed by her miniscule role in Corporate, this film was my revelation of Minisha Lamba – she came across bubbly and vivacious , and at times reminded me of Priety Zinta from her Dil Se days.

The Killer – Compared to Gangster, this was a better attempt (or, let’s say, a better rip-off). The sharp and suave Irrfan Khan and the bumbling and bleating Emraan complemented each other. Personally, I found Killer’s music better than Gangster.

Baabul – There was something grossly missing in the film, which couldnt shuttle the sensitive theme to the higher orbit where one can raise the hands in ecstacy. Neither does the joyful first half raise hearty chuckles, nor does the sad second part wring tears from your eyes. In short, very average film. Strangely, for a film that deals with widow-remarriage, the biggest disconnect is that the widows character just doesn’t simmer with that deadly loss she has to undergo. Perhaps, Ravi Chopra should have toned down the gloss, and worked more on emotions. Of course, it is absolutely delightful to watch Amitabh Bachhan’s performance. Rani is good, but I fear there is a repetitiveness creeping in. Hema Malini defies age, and becomes more beautiful with each passing year. In this movie, her role is on the side-lines, hence the chemistry seen between AB and her (as seen in Baghbaan ) is quite lacking.

Dhoom -2 – This was the most awaited movie, and a decided bumper-hit even before it hit the theaters. To this, there was the masala over Hritik-Ash’s kiss that was splashed over several news channels. My views? Yes, the action is great, the thefts more daring, the look splendid, the sound design awesome, the chases breath-taking; yet, overall it just doesnt add up. The film simply overdoes it – and spoils the entire spontaneous fun that one had while watching the prequel. So much time is spent on the villain, and his emotions, that Abhishek Bachhan (and family) should have worried more on his wimp-like role than Ash’s bewafaai due to the kiss (which is nothing much, and would have ordinarily gone unnoticed but for the lead pair involved). Which also brings in the more pricky question about today’s morality – why are villains getting shinier and brighter, so much so that when Hritik and Abhi have a face-off at the cliff, inthe climax, one almost wants the thief to win! (At least, in this film, there is some redemption, but in Don, even that is not given- which was not the case even in the angst-ridden, anti-hero studded seventies, when the original film was released.) The music was bad. And can someone tell me what Bipasha Basu was doing in this film -either as the cop, or as the Brazilian beauty!

The ‘Undecided List’ – As ever I have a couple of movies, that are so larger-than-life, that slotting them in any list doesnt work. So, I call them an undecided list, or rather an ‘extension’ of the ‘theek-thaak list’. This year, there are two such big films:

Umraao Jaan– Ok, the movie was way off the mark, especially in its authenticity. Agreed, Abhishek Bachchan looked bored and tired. Yes, Aishwarya Rai couldnt measure up to Rekha’s performance in the eighties version (Frankly, no one expected Aish to do so). So, why in this list, and not in the bad ones! Simply because, like when everything is right and the film doesnt do good, same is the reverse true – individually, everything is wrong, yet in entirety the film was quite watchable and didnt overtly bore me or make me run for the fast forward button. Thus, it’s here in the ‘theek-thaak’ list.

Don – Thank you Moon Cable and Sony, for showing the original days after the release of the newer version – you only helped me revive strong childhood memories associated with the older film; Amitabh Bachchan rocked in that film! The new version is suitably upgraded, with twists added, but wher ethe main character is concerned, sorry SRK, howsoever much I like you, AB’s Don was way way ahead of you. The only reason I am undecided and not immediately slotted it inthe ‘Hall of Shame’ is the immense praise that I have read about the film – so , I want to see it again and decide then, and I’ll watch it after some months, when the effect of AB’s superlative performance has worn off.

This is my list. So what’s yours?

Updated on 27.12.2006

Four films that I should have mentioned but missed out in the ‘theek thaak’ list are:

Taxi No. 9211 – A fairly entertaining and racy film by Milan Luthria. The story takes place in a day, and holds the audience attention. The short length was an added advantage.

Being CyrusBeing Cyrus – A dark film made using the neo-modern grammar of film making. The film had a few good high points, including an interesting performance by Saif Ali Khan. However, sadly, Dimple disappointed with her hyper-act.

Zinda - Sanjay Dutt, John AbrahamZinda – Brutal and blunt, the film didnt bore, though of course it made you wince several imes during the show. Full review here.

Kalyug – Quite an insightful and interesting film. Kaushie did a nice review – read here.

Updated on 28.12.06

Kabul ExpressKabul Express – Will go under ‘Movies That I Enjoyed’ – a new subject, a good treatment, and some delectable cinematography makes the film a winner.

Bhagam Bhaag – Will go under ‘Theek thaak list’ – masti with mystery, the film has all the Priyadarshan elements. Funny at places, a no-holds barred climax, and good acting by all. However, what it lacks is that punch which made Hungama a re-watchable film anytime. Wonder if Priyadarshan is losing his touch, or is the prolificity getting him!

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Yesterday, buy more about spent some more time on the rough and rugged Western U.P. roads – this time on the outskirts of Aligarh. The road from Agra to Aligarh seems to worsen with each visit (it seems they are re-building the road and replacing it with a cemented one; but by the way things are moving, it looks it would be another decade before they complete it!) The ride shook, stirred, moved, hurtled and swung me around in the terribly uncomfortable Maruti Van, which our taxi provider had sent in lieu of the usual (and more comfortable) Indica.

The list:

Palla Sallu – A small village, just outside of Aligarh city limits, on the main G.T. Road (leading to Delhi via Khurja, Bulandhshahar and Khurja).

Gabhana – A highway small town – dusty and dirty.

Chandaus – (Pron. – the ‘d’ is to be pronounced as in ‘dark’) – We nearly missed the turn here. Travelling on the smooth G T Road was a delight, but the passing milestones warned that we would be in Khurja (Distt. Bulandshahar) soon. Since we knew that Chandaus was in Aligarh distt. only, we tried to keep vigil. But the turn was extremely narrow and we missed it by a few meters. Thankfully, it was a signboard for Radha Saomi Satsang that gave us an inkling that we had crossed the crucial turn.

The road to Chandaus (turn left from G.T. Road at Duaraou) was bad. Nay, it was atrocious. A narrow single lane that curved its way through fields and shanties, full of bumps and potholes, animals straying and children playing, rushing cyclists and slowing bullock carts! A deemed semi-rural development block, the only noteworthy thing here was the presence of a cluster of mobile telephony towers.

Pisawa – This was our final destination – some nine kilometers ahead of Chandaus, on the same narrow road. Pisawa is a sandy, brown and dull kasba. Earlier on it was a ‘riyasat‘, and the fort still exists – now used by the descendants for their use of rearing racing horses (as told by a bunch of locals). Being a private property, obviously we had no access to it. Here, the mobile service also died.

The Breakdown 

On our return trip, from Aligarh to Agra, after crossing another hamlet (Sadabad), our car whined to a jerky halt. It was an LPG kit model, and the driver informed that ‘gas thandi pad gayi’. As expected, he had no reserve petrol, and we were in the middle of nowhere, with no petrol pump in visible sight. While the driver tried to heat up the dispassionate and cold gas and make it work, we stepped out into the pitch darkness. It was chilly. 

The driver’s attempt to revive the car was futile, and he seemed to have screwed the starter enough. Quite comically, he tried to shake and stir the cylinder – with so much of play, I am sure even Aishwarya Rai would have heated up, but not this car! So, he set out to a nearby village to get some petrol.

We stood in the darkness, shivering. I looked around. The fields lay open. An abandoned well was nearby. The road stretched endlessly on both sides. The traffic was low. The wind was picking up. The moon was missing. A dog howled nearby. It was the 13th, if not a Friday.

And the only song I could think of humming was the ominous ‘Gumnaam hai koi…

My colleague was ready to strangle me!

 

These are movies that either promised more, case or had huge budgets and big star-casts. I have purposely left out films like ‘Ek Se Mera Kya Hogaa’ that were doomed to bite the dust!

Rang De BasantiRang De Basanti – The biggest disappointment. A patchy, uneven, disjointed, noisy, pretentious and juvenile film. It offered no tangible solution either for humanity (in general) or for India (in particular). In fact, it catered to the base and perverse human urge to kill someone who has wronged you. It’s ok to violently proclaim that ‘i will kill the person’ in a fit of anger, but that doesnt mean one executes the threat. This is not the behaviour what mature human civilized exhibit. The parallel to Indian freedom movement was ill-placed and utter nonsense. Anyways, I will refrain to say anything more here. Enough has been said, argued and counter-argued when I first wrote its review. Read it here. Sigh, another bad entry at the Oscars!

Kabhi Alvida Na Kahna – Karan Johar’s first self confessed attempt at ‘maturity’ was a dull, despondent and disastrous film, which dragged on and on endlessly. It resembled the serials prolifilating on television – bored housewives lusting after other’s husbands under the grand chhatrachhaya of Indian marriage and mangalsutra; wimpish men, who are either too bitter or too sweet;and, bucket ful of copious tears that drown the flimsy script; even the gawdy gloss matched. The music was boring. SRK lent some cheer as a character that could have been real, but was shunted irresponsibly by Karan to the other extreme from SRK’s otherwise screen-persona. The only bright sunshine remained Amitabh Bachhan, who lent grace and fun to this tedious affair.

Aap Ki Khatir (Free - Bonus Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Aap Ki Khatir – It’s like the rag the dog pulled out from a god-forsaken attic. Stale and tattered, the film was a big yawn evoking fare.


Ankahee
– Enough of Bhatt-styled mentally disturbed and manic-depressed characters. Morose and melancholic, it lacks any escape for respite. For the same reason, I avoided Woh Lamhe! Both films have good music, though.

Utthaan – Another example of how to spoil a good story with indifferent direction. The twist could have been earth shattering bang, but is in reality a whimper not even loud enough to wake you up from the nap that you take during the film. Surprise factor? Neha Dhupia doesn’t bare at all, which makes you feel sad since it was better when she bared all!

Apna Sapna Money Money(bonus- Free Song Cd of Flavors)Apna Sapna Money Money – I missed this on theatres; but didnt want to spoil it by watching only on small screen. So, with help of borrowed projector, I saw it at home deriving full theater benefits. I was expecting another Kya Kool Hai Hum; alas, the film is a gigantic bore – and only Riteish Deshmukh is the bright star that saves the film from total darkness. But still, the disappointment didnt fully dissipate, hence placed in this list.

Bas Ek Pal – I was in two minds about this film. It could have been placed in the ‘theek thaak’ list. But on second view I saw the glaring errors in its script – a loose and haphazard one, that moves from a compelling jail account to a wishy washy tale of love and betrayal, interspersed with notions of wife-bashing. The movie has a rivetting first half. But the second one wastes away the grand build-up. Director Onir (who made the sensitive My Brother Nikhil) doesnt live up to the expectations. As ever, Juhi Chawla and Sanjay Suri delight. Jimmy Shergill is good too. Urmila disappoints.

Chingaari – Umm, err… was this really a film? Crass, coarse and chaotic, the film was a long string of dreadful scenes put together. Sadly, it didnt nothing to alleviate the pain or elevate the stature of prostitutes.

Teesri Aankh – If you can take it as a laughter inducing exercise, enjoy the film. Per se, the movie had nothing going for it. Sunny Deol shouted his lungs hoarse, and only added to the pain. Full review here

Naksha – Another Sunny Deol flick that was outlandishly bizarre and bakwaas! As an actor, he needs to seriously re-think where he is headed.

Chup Chup keChup Chup Ke – Priyadarshan severely lost his touch with this one. The color coordinated costumes were eye pleasing; wish they had coordinated the script as well!

Jaane Hoga Kya – Even Bipasha Basu would burn this off with the next available beedi from her resume. The clone-saga provided inadvertant humor, but that’s about it. Original review available here.

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It wouldn’t be much of a surprise, and but some days back I was again on the drive. This time, prostate we were on the stretch between Agra and Firozabad, which falls within Agra District – or so we thought.

Just for formalities sake, allow me to list out the towns/villages we crossed; of course, interspersed with a few incidents that made it possible for this post to be written.

Kuberpur – Wherever the goddamn village is, the office we wanted to visit was thankfully on NH2, leading to Firozabad (yeah, the same place famous for its bangles and glass works). The cold cemented floor, and cobweb laden dirty walls inside the office werent much of a welcome anyways. But we panicked full time when we saw a thousand people (ok, I exaggerate – discount ten percent here or there) clamouring over one hapless employee, who was trying to do ten thousand things (I exaggerate again, but discount ten percent here or there) at the same time. Despite winters, the smell of sweat and human skin was overwhelming, but we managed a feeble smile towards the official, who tried to shake hands with us over the crowd and babel of voices; the official murmured a hundred thousand apologies (I exaggerate…but you get the point by now). We genuinely understood!

Etmadpur – This was just a few kilometers ahead on the highway. However, to enter the village, we had to get off it, on to a now-familiar dusty and narrow road. Our destination was bang in the middle of a crowded street, that lined odd shops, with cyclists covering the entire stretch. We parked my car, and got off.

Curious faces stared back at us, and I felt oddly uncomfortable to be looked at like this. “Why are they staring as if we had just escaped a zoo?” I murmured to my colleague. “Well, tie waale, patte-waale jaanwar kam hi dekhne ko milte honge yahan” he retorted wryly. I didn’t take off the tie, but discreetly placed the ‘patta‘ (our company’s ID-card) inside the pocket.

From this stretch began the real adventure. And thanx to Idea Mobile. Well, almost. It was Idea’s locator that flashed ‘Barhan Crssng’ on my cell-phone, which made me curious to ask about its distance from Etmadpur.

Barhan – To me now any road in U.P. interior is the same. The stretch to Barhan was no different, either in its ‘comfort’ or topography, to the ones that I had traveled earlier while going to Achnera, Kagarole or Kirawali. Barhan is a sandy village, with brown mud buildings – a small, rain-water-filled, by-default formed pond ran alongside the railway track, which pointed to something as high-sounding as ‘Barhan Junction’.

Khaanda – At Barhan, we had enquired on the few other places that we could visit on this route. Khanda was a bit further on and then there was Jalesar, our aquaintance informed. So off we were to Khaanda. The road was a bit better, but as often with these villages, they are never on the good roads. So, soon we had to depart the ‘highway’ and get onto a small road that led to this village.

“Err…I hope we are on track” I remarked, when we had been shaken enough. My colleague (let’s call him Ajeet, for nomenclature ease) tried to read some illegible address on a tin shanty.

“Why dont you ask her?” I teased, as a lady passed by.

“You want me to get killed! Dont you see the foot long ghoonghat she is in” Ajeet replied, visibly horrified at my suggestion.  

A few meters later, it was confirmed we were in Khanda – but whosoever we asked, gave a vague direction towards the office we had to visit. So as vaguely we got the instructions, so did we go. And ended up in a huge courtyard full of goats, and lazing elderly gentlemen, who viewed my dust-laden once-upon-a-white Santro disinterestingly.

“I am sure we are on the wrong way” I hissed beneath my breath, as the royal animals grazed the sides of my car and leisurely passed around it.

With difficulty, I managed to maneuver the car out from that sandy courtyard, and finally stopped a sensible-looking gentleman, and firmly asked for the directions.

Galat ho” he said. “Main road se, bamba kinaare jaana tha.”

The man was gesturing back towards the highway again. Since Ajeet is from Agra, I thought he would have understood the local dialect, but after a few seconds to my dismay, I found him stammering, “B..bamba kinaare?”

Jee, bamba kinaare!” The man asserted again.

Ummm…err…yeh bamba kya hota hai?”

Now, the man was clearly lost. With his hands straight and moving in parallel motion, he said, “Bamba…yaani, paani…naala…naala kinare

How simple! And we tucked away between us one new word in our vocabulary.

Jalesar – “It’s just 21 kilometers” I remarked, when we had finished off with Khaanda. Ajeet was apprehensive in going towards Jalesar. But I argued that we still had some time in hand, plus (as the official earlier had pointed out) there was a direct route back to Agra, and of course 21 kilometers is never ‘far away’ for us Delhiites. I shouldnt have spoken. Because, barely five kilometers on, the road vanished and all we had were potholes, and stones, and sand, and grime, as my poor Santro wove its way towards Jalesar – which wasnt (to our horrific discovery) in Agra even. It fell within Etah District.

At a particulary bad stretch, the car shook so hard that suddenly out from nowhere, Asha Bhonsle started to assert ‘Aaj main khush hoon’*.

Terrified, we both jumped out our skin! For that split second, when the silence was rudely cut by her voice, we were frightened.

Now, I admit I am a bigger fan of her sister’s but that didn’t give Ashaji the right to laugh at my plight, and get happy about it too.

Since Ajeet was shaken too, surely this wasn’t just my imagination. I eyed the culprit – the car stereo had switched on, on its own.

Tera haath laga hoga,” I told Ajeet.

Arre nahi baba. My hand was far off,” he defended himself.

The Mystery of Automatic Stereo Power On would have lingered on for sometime, but the road gave us ample opportunity to solve it. The bumps were so hard that they somehow started the power of the system!

We reached Jalesar in one piece, and almost at our wit’s end, and the day’s too.

Jalesar is a town, and a pretty large one, since we got quite lost in its maze of streets and alleyways, and an array of markets. If you care to ever go there, make sure you make the roundabout with a statue as your fulcrum point – everything seems to originate or end there.

(We were shattered to learn there was after all no direct route to Agra, and if we had to reach back home, there were only two alternatives available – either take the same road that we had come through, which wasn’t advisable from security point of view. Or, go through Sadabad – which is some 28 kms from Jalesar – and then move on to Agra. Anyone who has read these pieces earlier would know that Sadabad (in Hathras distt.) falls on the same ‘road-less’ Aligarh route, and is the biggest bane of my current travelling!)

*Aaj mai khush hoon lo tum hi bolo kyun, from Grahan; Music- Karthik Raja; Singers – Asha Bhonsle, Jolly Mukherjee
This place seriously needs an update!

😛

 

Jaane Hoga Kya – Now I wasnt expecting anything great from this long-in-the-making-released-hurriedly film. So, page what turned out was a pleasant surprise. And not because of its content. But for the inadvertant humor that the film provides. Ok, there so what’s it about? Cloning! Don’t choke on that coke, it is actually a film on human cloning. And how the directors (Glenn-Ankush) portray it is the best comedy released this year. As per this film, to make a clone there has to be two plastic covered ‘capsules’, connected to a computer. So, ‘data’ will move from one capsule to another, as heat rises, and out of steam a new human will be formed! Wow! That simple!

That’s how Aftab creates his own clone. But that’s not all. As soon as the new Aftab is formed, he leaves the capsule and *laugh laugh* heads for a dance bar to sing an item number with Maria Goretti. Some Bollywood pre-educated clone this was indeed! In fact, going by the number of songs that the clone gets to sing, he seems quite the ‘in-thing’! And other than the item number, this includes one roll-in-the-hay number with Preeti Jhangiani (who seems to have lost her voice and inhibitions permanently in this film).

Of course, the clone is not all that ‘good’, like the scientist. In fact, he turns out to be some ‘super-power’ monster with immense powers. Frankenstein, did some one say? Well, the scientist’s haalat is quite like that, but then the hero has to win in the end in movies!

Oh yes, in between all the songs and evil, there was a nice little twist in the end.

Overall – Watch it to laugh at it!

Aap Ki Khatir (Free - Bonus Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Aap Ki Khatir – Honestly, can some one tell Dharmesh Darshan to retire and spare us his tortures! Can someone tell Amisha Patel that making melancholic expressions doesnt construe acting! Can someone tell Sunil Shetty that joi-de-vivre is an inborn feeling; faking it never works! Can someone tell Lillette Dubey that she looked horrendous in this film spouting Anglicised Punjabi! Can someone tell…ok, I am sure you got what I want to convey.

This pain-some movie is old wine in older bottle. A soggy script with limp characters and a bland-as-London-weather scenario only worsens the viewer’s discomfort. In fact, the film ends up looking like a shoddy UK-produced small-budget fare.

I am quite surprised that Akshaye Khanna chose to do this film, which couldnt have looked attractive at script level even!

Overall – Dont even think of it!

Naksha – Beware of Vivek Oberoi in the jungle! He bored us first in Kaal, and now returns for another jungle-mein-mangle! Naksha is a directionless film that has no head nor tail nor any body in between!

Sadly, the concept is good. And one feels like screaming at the director for wasting an opportunity that could have been turned into a like slick thriller.

The story – We all know that in Mahabharat, Karan was born with the magical ‘kawach‘ and ‘kundal’ that gave him immense strength. The mythology tells us that during the Kuruskshetra war, Lord Indra (disguised as a brahman) had asked for the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’ as alms. This was done at the behest of Lord Krishna, in order to defeat Karan. After this, the epic is silent on the ‘kawach’ and ‘kundal’. What if Lord Indra buried these powerful object somewhere in the Himalayas? Well, the film is built on this premise wherein one archeologist is able to find the same, and prepares a map to reach the place. However, one evil person (Jackie in a horrible get up) gets to know of the same, and wants them as well. The archeologist prefers to suicide rather than give the map to Jackie.

Years later, the archeologist’s son (Vivek) learns of the map, and proceeds to get those objects, with Jackie again close on his heels. To help Vivek, there is his elder step-brother, Sunny Deol.

The story simply meanders precious reels in the jungle. And if the repartees between Sunny and Vivek were ‘comedy’ well, then the director needs to seriously watch some Hrishida films!

Our Bollywood heroes never know when to call it quits. But I had thought Sunny would have learnt from his father (Dharamendra acted in the most third-rate films in the eighties, romancing heroines like Amrita Singh and Dimple Kapadia, who were half his age. In fact, Dimple was having a allegedly having an affair with Sunny when Dharam acted opposite her!) Anyways, Sunny should take caution and remember that such inane roles dont suit his stature. I am sure there will be many writers/directors ready to provide him dignified roles that are commensurate with his age.

As for Sameera Reddy, well her role is the most wishy-washy and redundant. Perhaps, the director realised it, that’s why in the climax, she is just dropped off somewhere and forgotten as well. BTW, if Sameera’s acting career never takes off, she can try for WWE!

Overall – Go tickle your masochist streak and watch it!

Umrao Jaan (New)

I admit it is too early to really write a review on the music on which everyone seems to have an opinion. But before that, women’s health let’s face a few facts squarely in the face – it was an arduously tough act to compose songs for a subject whose previous version is still fresh in the minds of music listeners. More than merit for the older hit, it is the nostalgic wrapper that shines and glitters. It has reached a cult status, traumatologist where it is placed at a hallowed pedestal. One reality check that I wish to present – unlike Sholay or Don the movie, or its music, wasn’t such an earth shattering hit when released in the eighties. It is only over the years that the songs have acquired a ‘retro-hit’ status. So, this sudden urge by everyone to lambast against the newer version sounds funny – even from that generation. Even those who wouldn’t ordinarily listen to Khayyam’s ghazals from Muzaffar Ali’s classic have somehow turned up their nose against Anu Mallik’s efforts. A prime reason is that Mallik’s name itself evokes plentiful negative reactions. Even before the music was out, I had read vitriolic write ups on how could J P Dutta entrust Mallik with such a prestigious job. But obviously, Dutta has enough faith in his composer who gave two whopper (musical) hits with Border and Refugee. In my honest opinion, such reaction was totally unwarranted. Mallik might be obnoxious in his interviews, his many compositions lack any luster of many kind, but still the man has in him to turn up with music that might just be listenable. Another positive point in Dutta-Mallik’s favor is that they haven’t gone and remixed or re-arranged the old classic songs – a towering brownie point to the team, especially seen in the light of the absolutely bland re-mixes/re-designed score of Don.

However, let me make my stance clear – I am neither fond of, nor in favor of, old classics remade in newer format with newer stars. It is simply unappealing, especially when the older versions usually reached perfection (perceived or otherwise) in terms of performance and direction. But this once, I am ready to give Dutta-Mallik team a clean chit, for two reasons – one, I feel that their effort is more honest in re-creating rather than just cashing in on the older success.

The second, and bigger reason, is that I am not emotionally attached to the older Umrao Jaan. Sometime back, in one of the comments, I had mentioned that I am not too fond of that film’s music. The ghazals are good. But somehow, they haven’t had the same gushing effect on me as they should have – except for ‘Yeh kya jagah hai doston‘. Hence, I approached the newer one with a totally fresh mind.

Coming back to the music, as I said, it is a bit early to write a comprehensive review. I haven’t been able to invest the requisite time to listen to it carefully. Yet, when a score leaves a few snatches attached to your soul after the first couple of listenings, you know that it demands coming back to it. In that respect, Mallik’s Umrao Jaan is surely on the right trail. After the first hearing, and switching off the system, I remained floating in its melody and effect, though I couldn’t recall the exact tunes.

From the bunch of solos (all Alka Yagnik barring two), I found ‘Salaam…Tumhari mehfil mein aa gaye hain to kyun na yeh bhi kaam kar len‘ particularly mesmerizing. A very subtle rhythm that supports a hummable tune keeps the song afloat. Alka’s rendition doesn’t move too much away from her flat intonations, yet they somehow suit the composition. The same goes for the second best number ‘Tum jo paas aa gaye, hum jo sharma gaye‘. It’s hookline lies in the charming ‘Tum bhi pahle pahal, hum bhi pahale pahal‘ line, and a mouthful interlude of ‘shehnais‘ topped with a single sarangi strain. A third song that perked my ears and plucked my heart was ‘Mai na mil sakoon jo tumse, meri justjoo na karna’ – a haunting number with tight violins that uplift the song to a dream level. Finally, ‘Jhoote ilzaam tum lagaaya na karo‘ is the fourth interesting solo – a bit slow and lengthy, but overall melodious. There is only one duet, unfortunately it didn’t cut much ice with me – and Sonu Nigam has sadly ‘oversung’ it. Passion can sometimes be understated, and not sighing overtly into the mic!

Agle janam mein mohe bitiya na kijo’ – in two parts – are the only numbers where Alka steps away. The song (in both versions) is a touching lament by a girl who doesn’t want to be a re-born in the same gender. However, I am a bit surprised at such a song in this film – as far as I know of Muslim religion, they do not have any concept of ‘re-birth’, hence the song is conceptually an anomaly in a film dealing with Muslim characters. But coming from Javed Akhtar, I am sure he would have done some research before penning it.

Somewhere I feel the weakest link has been Javed Akhtar’s lyrics that just do not sear with the burning pain that was Umrao Jan Ada’s life. Though one can find many scattered ‘quotable’ examples, overall the poetry is not the kind that one can hug and sob inconsolably to wet the pillows in the night. For example, in ‘Jhoote ilzaam’ a statement like ‘dil hai nazuk, isse dukhaya na karo’ is too bland and direct, and more suited to Sameer/Himesh combo of songs than in a film that talks about a courtesan who was exceptional in her poetry.

I am quite impressed by Mallik’s arrangements – he hasn’t done any unnecessarily experimentations, nor kept the sound cacophonously contemporary. He sticks to the era that the songs were meant to be and introduces now-forgotten Indian instruments like saarangi, sitar and tabla in full measure. Now that’s an achievement. Whether the current generation appreciates this is a million dollar question! But then, like the older generation, maybe they will reject it now but once they grow up, it is precisely this sort of music that they will like to come back to. Perhaps, this version might outlast every other contemporary composition and be a retro hit as well!

Overall- A Good Buy

I know an update on Random Expressions is long overdue; I have received subtle suggestions, information pills friendly reminders and even dire threats, buy more about which all proved the love and affection for this space. Thanks to everyone. And because of you all, just writing in to say I am fine, and alive – and so is this blog!

Needless to say, the past month has been tediously hectic – including, visits to far off places like Mainpuri, Bhongaon and Bewar and also a few more trips on that horrifying Agra-Aligarh stretch. But more than that it was an urge to prove something to superiors and get the sales figures correct that sort of doused the innate craving to write. So I kept focussed on the work, getting the act right and streamlining the processes as much as I could. Sadly, the end result was not all that encouraging – neither did the figures really shine, nor did this blog get any input. In short, a total failure!

In between, my speaker-set also conked off. Million complaints later, the service center of the obscure Korean brand agreed to rectify the same at home, obviously free of cost since it was well within the warranty period. The fault? Violently fluctuating voltage here – there, I add one more negative item from this city! The consequence? Lightened the wallet to purchase a voltage stabilizer.

Winters are lingering in, though the temperatures dropped precariously low for a couple of days in-between, but now they have clamboured upward. Another addition at home was a much-needed geyser.

Movie-watching and television-viewing were the only stable past-times. I havent yet entered any cinema hall here (waitng for Fun Cinemas to open up), but have put good use to the DVD player. The last few that I caught were the ominous Darna Zaroori Hai, the taut Deadline and the tastelessly dull Umrao Jaan! Television surfing has been massive, and I have to sheepishly admit I got hooked on to several programmes that I wouldnt have ordinarily watched. For example, Big Bosss! The shenanginans of drama-queen Rakhi Sawant and the antics of super-bitch Kashmira Shah kept the hands off the remote control.

The second programme I caught was Nach Baliye-2 – and the reason to get hooked to it was the extremely superb and scintillating performance by Manav and Shweta in that gold-outfit. They bettered it next week with the ‘bamboo dance’ – and I was sure that this pair could win. Sadly, Sweta let herself and us down with a limpid show of the mujra, though Manav more than made it up with his energetic ‘Mai deewana’ number. Still, personally I feel that combined they were far ahead of others in terms of grace, movement, choice and to top it all an endearing sang-froid and a thankful lack of melodrama or tears! Compare this with the eternal crybaby of tv, the other lady whose name I forget now (better known as Prerna of Kasautii Zindagii Kay), you will know what I mean. Their ousting section was the most tedious part of the entire show!

Of course cricket and bollywood both fed enough fodder for all news channels : the shameful South African tour debacle from the former and Sanjay Dutt , Aishwarya and Abhishek amongst the latter. So much so, that I can puke at the mere mention of the last two!

Beyond all this, there is really not much to write. So I will end here – with the same promise to be back soon, and definitely sooner than last time!  

 

There is a common English saying – “There are no free lunches in this world!” But I realized that there could be some free dinners sometimes!

It all started on Saturday. At office, this site we decided to try out the new Pizza Hut menu. The alluring leaflets, adiposity with discount coupons, search dropped at my place were added incentive.

However, what started off as a routine ‘order placement’ call, some five minutes later,metamorphosised into a full-fledged verbal duel. The reason being – their adamant refusal at delivering to our office, as it was beyond their ‘service area of four kilometers’. Now Pizza Hut outlet is very near my place so I was hundred percent sure that our office falls within their stipulated four kilometer radius; 3.8 kms, to be very precise- or probably lesser, as the outlet is some 500-700 meters away from my home.In any case, I argued, even if it wasnt within four kms, there is no reason why they cannot still service a kilometer or two extra, if the client is willing not to be bound by their time-frame clause. It’s not as if there is a ‘laxman rekha’ beyond which if Pizza Hut scooters cross, they’d be abducted by some horrifiying Ravans! But all my arguments fell on deaf ears. When the person on the other end (the shift manager) stopped harping on the four-kilometer clause, he started to give wishy washy arguments on how the area where we were didnt fall within ‘serviceable’ limit. Now, I really blew my fuse. Agreed, we fall within that area, but our office – a landmark on its own – is right at the edge, on the main road, and accessible through wide open roads (as wide as they can be in Agra!).

The heat in the arguments from both ends rose to a palpable limit, with lots of strong words deployed, till the time I banged the phone down, in anger and disgust. In the same stroke, I went to Pizza Hut’s website and registered a complaint, mentally swearing off Pizza Hut for lifetime (though, honestly, my stomach and taste buds grumbled their protests – I really like their pizzas, however un-Italian they be!)

Two hours later, when I was quite cooled down, and had been satiated with a heavy lunch from their rival Dominoe’s Pizza, I received a call from Pizza Hut. It was their Asst. Manager – and in a meek voice he apologized for all that had happened. We spoke for some twenty minutes, in which he must have used the word ‘sorry’ some twenty thousand times. He offered to rectify the error and send the order away immediately. But I politely declined, as I was already full – and moreover, on my way to Delhi. He also requested me to visit their outlet sometime, and I vaguely agreed.

I had totally forgotten about the incident by the time I returned from my short but extremely relaxing weekend. Amidst a pile load of work, I received yet another call from Pizza Hut – this time, from their Manager. Once again, there were several rounds of apologies and he insisted that I visit their outlet – anytime convenient. Since he was quite pressing, and since I like Pizza Hut pizzas, and since I live alone and don’t mind a dinner out sometimes, I agreed!

At the designated hour, I reached their outlet. From the moment I entered their restaurant till the time I left, it was an evening befitting a royalty. The manager was there to apologise ( we had a drink together), the shift manager (with whom I had the argument) did the same, and the waiters were all on call at the slightest turn of my head! After a delightful meal (their new Indian Menu is simply outstanding!), when I asked for the bill, they refused the same. ‘It’s complimentary from our side!’ they gushed.

Whether it was the slight intoxication of the smooth Forster, or the luxury of having being served with such impeccable finesse, or the sheer respect for someone who has apologized enough ( I am in sales, and have met enough rude customers to know!), or the effect of the aroma-rich, tasteful food, whatever it was at that time I was ready to do anything they asked for – and that was (as the shift manager meekly, hesitatingly and fearfully requested for) a mail to state that I had enjoyed the evening (which I understood was an euphemism to say that I no longer bore a grudge against them).

I am not entirely unfamiliar with the service standards offered by various organisations. But after yesterday, Pizza Hut’s service quality stands heads and shoulders above many of the bests! To say I am impressed with their service is an understatement! It is way beyond that. And now I have resolved to always be their loyal customer (and my stomach and taste buds gurgle in delight!)

Next Update: December 07th, 2006 at 1800 Hrs IST titled “Eight”

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No, viagra approved no, gastritis no – this is not a review of Karan Razdan’s yet another forgettable click Aath-Shani. This is a tag that Juneli gave me. In this I have to inform who tagged me (which I have done), decease say eight things about me (which I will do shortly) and tag six people (which I will refrain from doing).

So here are eight things about me:

  • I have two arms, and use them quite a lot
  • I have ten fingers – five on each hand
  • I have two legs, and generally walk on them
  • I have one nose, that can smell pretty well
  • I have two eyes, both perfect till now
  • I have one mouth, and I try to keep it shut
  • I have one…err, let’s leave it here
  • Voila, I look, sound and act like a human being!

😛

 

Next Update– On 09.12.06 at 1800 Hrs, IST – “Ten Things I Miss About Nepal”
Don’t miss to read – “Favorite Songs of 2006” on 31.12.06 at 1700Hrs- only  on this blog!

In my farewell post from Nepal, decease I had said I will someday surely re-visit my Nepal memories. These few days, I have been regularly visiting those memories, viewing at the snaps taken there and remembering small details which normally I thought I had forgotten. It is difficult to write down all the things, so I will just mention the top ten things that I miss in Nepal.

1. Mountains – When one is in the Himalayan land, the mountains are aplenty to view. Admittedly, I have a strong affinity towards these sturdy natural beauties that can be both awesome and awe-inspiring. Kathmandu is surrounded by a lush and dark green ring of mountains that seemed to be a benign guardian for the valley. Click here to read the first post on this topic alongwith my favorite hill-stations. Other than the mountains, another eye-pleasing sight is that of clouds, which seem to acquire a magnificently creative instinct. I haven’t seen any more beautiful formations anyplace else. In fact, my love to watch the shapes and size of clouds began when I started to click their snaps.

2. Kathmandu – Well, as a whole there is a quaint attraction in the city; its ruggedy criss-cross mesh of streets and old-fashioned houses, peppered with some forward-looking architecture, is a unique blend of old-worldly charm and modern utility. The city – if it stops growing now – is neither too big nor too small, the right size! Of course, being there one has to be perennialy in holiday-and-relaxed mode.

3. Banchha Ghar – A delightful old restaurant serving some lip-smackingly delicious (and exotic) snacks. Their cultural show, performed every evening by nubile Nepali girls, showcases the various dance forms prevalant in the country. They serve ‘Raakshi’, the homemade rice wine, in miniature ‘kulhads‘ as a welcome drink. I would have loved to make ‘raakshi‘ as a separate entry, but due to lack of space will include it here.

4. Thamel – If I add up the hours I stayed in Kathmandu, the ones spent roaming in Thamel will by far exceed anything else. This was a favorite haunt, especially on weekends, when I used to visit a couple of quaint and charming pubs and lounge-bar. The effect in them is imprinted deeply in my mind. And I sorely miss having beer there – it just isnt same in the antiseptic modern bars of Delhi or Agra! Thamel carries a perennial festive look, always brightly lit and attractively colored.

5. Nagarkot – If you want to see the best sunrise, you have to head for this tiny hill-station, just 45 minutes drive from Kathmandu. The sun’s first appearance – a tiny blob of molten gold – is a jaw dropping sight!

6. Festivals – The Nepalis definitely know how to celebrate and revel in festivals, something that we seem to have forgotten (Festivals in Delhi are just formalities, rather excuses to show who is richer than whom, than any genuine urge to celebrate community togetherness, religious significance or simply to let your hair down to have fun. At corporate level, they are merely pieces meant to further the manipulation game of gaining brownie points or downsizing unwanted elements). Here, I saw a genuine desire to break free from the routine and indulge in the pure unadulterated joy of celebration. Bada Dashain (or Dushhera) is their biggest one, and the entire valley erupted in an unanimous call of joy and visually into a riot of colors!

7. Monuments – It’s not for nothing that Kathmandu is called a living museum; it is a World Heritage Site, and the proof lies in the sheer number of tourist sites to visit – Pashupati Nath Mandir, Buddhaneelkantha, three Darbar Squares, Syambhu Stupa, Boudhanath Stupa, Indra Chowk and many more!

8. Devghat /Chitwan – Both the places have their own beauties. Since I travelled to both in the same trip, their memories are tightly intertwined. I still recall fondly the ride on the River in that rickety narrow canoe! In Chitwan, sighting a rhinoceros was a huge accomplishment.

9. Jai Nepal Cinema Hall – Yes, I remember this also because there was a small slice of time when I must have watched a film there every Sunday.

10. Finally, the last thing I will mention is the amount of free time I had to write all those stories. I have now re-read most of them, and as I did so, I tried to recall the days and the ways I wrote at that time; also, I marvel as to how I managed to pen them. Reading those comments at that time is a wonderful experience.

I recall, on a particularly dull day, I had wondered whether those days will ever form ‘memories’. Pri had assured that sure they would. Pri, you were so correct!

Dont miss to read – “Favorite Songs of 2006” on 31.12.06 at 1700 Hrs, only on this blog!

First the Updates to set the background:

Ever since my holidays started, this 24-hour seem too less for me. The ‘deafening silence’ I mentioned here was short-lived. Overall, salve taking stock of the first quarter 2006, it has gone by in a blur of frenzied activities leaving behind small islands of quietitude.

Well, coming back to my trip – it was, to summarize it in two words: sheer fun! I have developed a new-found crush for Delhi So I roamed its wide roads like a smitten lover marveling at its infrastructural advancements and beauties. One reason is that since I didn’t have to go to office, I naturally avoided rush-hour traffic, which is the city’s biggest bane.

My parents had to go to Ludhiana, Punjab for a cousin’s wedding. So, for most parts I was again alone there. But there was a difference – living alone in spartan bachelor’s accommodation in Kathmandu is a far cry from staying in a full-fledged furnished house!

Meeting friends was the key highlight. From the bloggers met Anz. Ashish was leaving the day I reached there, hence couldn’t meet him, but had a word with him over telephone. Other than this, there was some personal work to be done, which took up considerable amount of time. I have set a few things rolling – do await a major announcement here soon.

On return to Kathmandu, I was caught up with the visit of our marketing guy, G. For the regular readers G is not an unknown name – remember the guy whom I took to Belly Dance Bar? This time round I told him I will take him to a better one – X-bar at Sundhara. From what I have heard, there are ‘topless’ performances there. He was so psyched and scared that every evening he would have headache/body-ache or some such excuse ready with him.

Anyways, we hardly had any time because planned a trip to Bhairawaha and Butwal – two neighboring towns in west Nepal plains – hence, we pushed X-bar trip to Friday evening which we had kept relatively free.

There was nothing great about Bhairawaha-Butwal, and the visit was wholly official, so will skip the details. But all through there also, kept joking and dropping hints about X-Bar! From Friday morning onwards, G kept his ‘not well’ raga on, and it kept increasing as the day progressed (LOL). By the time evening came, he was not ready to be seen with me even!

From all my colleagues, G is the most chilled out one and I couldn’t have taken this sort of liberty with any one else; we share a great rapport, and for that I will give him the maximum credit.

Nagarkot Sunrise

In any case, we didn’t end up at X-bar (or Fusion Bar, the other name that had cropped up with similar reputation). But we decided to view the sunrise from Nagarkot on Saturday early morning. This meant leaving

Kathmandu as early as 4 am, which in turn translated to getting up at 3 am.

Nagarkot sunrise is one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. I had seen the sunset earlier (It also finds mention in Naman Geeta), but the sunrise beats it any day! The weather there was cool, and we managed to find a strategic viewpoint to watch it. We were early. And had to wait some while to see nature’s magic show! But it was worth the wait, especially since the sun’s vanguard -the light itself- spread out with mesmerizing effect, especially as it reflected off the pristine white snow of Lamangthan peak!

How do I even describe the sight that is so enchanting? First, the rays shoot out. And then the sun peeps out from behind the mountains. When the first time it’s seen, it looks as if God has placed molten gold atop the hill. And then He pulls out the disc, which is bright red and looks moist and soft. (More pics can be seen here).

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

On our way back, we stopped at Bhaktapur. The Durbar Squareis more open and much cleaner than the ones in Patan(Lalitpur) or Kathmandu. I had been here once ealier, but this time it was the early morning and the effect was very pure and very devotional (since the square has maximum temples and the pujas were on at that time).

With the year almost to an end, medications there aren’t many biggies lined up for the winter. Due to lack of anything else interesting happening with me lately, stuff I decided to pre-pone this list to now.

So, here we go…with the movies I enjoyed watching this year, in no particular order, barring the first one:

Lage Raho Munnabhai – I guess it is not too difficult to guess why this film takes the top position. Raj Kumar Hirani has brought back the charmingly simple style of Hrishida movies, moulded it to the modern context, weaved in a thoughtful message and created a masterpiece that is magnificently delightful and cozily dreamy.

KrrishKrrish – Agreed as a Super-man sort of film, it sagged severely, especially in the middle. Yet I feel it was a very valiant effort by the Roshans – and one that was fairly entertaining, even though one might feel cheated about the low screen time given to the super-hero. In addition, bringing in Rohit (from the prequel Koi Mil Gaya) was a terrific twist (and a well guarded secret).

Fanaa (2 Disc Set)Fanaa This film received a lot of flak, yet with every passing bad review it seemed to have added one more zero in the producer’s bank account. I saw it again – twice over. And each time, I found the movie endearing, especially its sensitively handled second half. Moreover, I loved its graceful pace. Kajol’s presence gave it the requisite fillip to make it reach this list!

Malaamal Weekly – This year’s darkest horse – I dont think even Priyadarshan had imagined it would be clear cut hit. But one view of the movie, it is not difficult to fathom why. The movie is unpretentiously entertaining; and whatever it’s foreign sources be (for the story), in the end, it delivers a hilarious package that makes it ‘paisa vasool’. Om Puri and Paresh Rawal give a splendid performance.

CorporateCorporate – Ok, this one is not upto Page 3′s level, but I found Madhur Bhandarkar’s attempt to show the ruthlessly cut-throat corporate world very engrossing. There were some subtle moments that looked straight from the offices I have worked in.

36 China Town36 China Town Blame it on my soft-corner for whodunnits, Akshaye Khanna’s performances and Abbas Mustan’s taut directions, to place this film here. The comedy track was good, even though the mystery per se wasnt. And for once, I found Shahid and Kareena bearable together.

Pyaar Ke Side Effects / Khosla Ka Ghosla – It’s quite a tie here, since both are essentially similar conceptually – interesting storyline, modern style, comic, small budget and essentially more enjoyable at home than in theaters.Khosla Ka Ghosla

Of the two, Khosla Ka Ghosla is superior. Anupam Kher and Boman Irani give a rock-solid performance. The plot is more intricate than PKSE, and its presented in such a way that at one point you feel like thinking – yeah, this can happen too!

Amongst these low-budget ‘multiplex movies’ Bas Ek Pal barely missed entering the list, primarily because of its utterly shoddy denouement. It’s as if the director had this brilliant concept, but just didnt know how to take it forward.

Dor (Bonus _ Free Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Dor / Yun Hota Kya Hota – Again I am clubbing the two because of some obvious similarities – they were made with small budgets, had serious undertones, displayed human sensitivity, demonstrated some wonderful acting, were more character-driven than story-centric and brought out the best in Ayesha Takia! Yes, this girl surely has it in her to race ahead past her rivals where acting is concerned, and come to think of it, she is quite a looker as well. In Dor, she holds the film together with her fragile hands. The film is a strong feminist statement, often irreverent in its social messags, and yet without hammering the message unnecessarily. Another masterpiece from Nagesh Kukunnoor.

My standing ovation to Naseerudin Shah for Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota – four different lives merge towards one shattering climax. But the film’s real power lies in the presentation of each story – you feel the reality in every emotional strand of each character. Once again, Konkona delights!

GolmaalGolmaal / Tom Dick And Harry / Phir Hera Pheri– For their zany slapstick humor; remove your brains and just indulge in pure paagalpan, with dollops of double entendres (in the first two) and eye-catching visuals. Perhaps I am the only person who found Hera Pheri ordinary, and the sequel far superior!Phir Hera Pheri

Vivaah – The critics screamed ‘regressive’ and rejected it, the masses yelled ‘traditional’ and embraced it. End result? The film is this year’s biggest surprise success. In between, the confused multiplex audience simply squirmed in discomfort looking back at stuff that they would have given the thumbs up only a few years back! Personally, I loved the movie as it gave a very warm feeling which is otherwise lacking in the normal world. Moreover, it managed to moisten the eyes towards it climax. Sooraj Barjatya returned to his traditional roots after his warped modern outing in Mai Prem Ki Deewani Hoon, and it was a handsome comeback. Though it lacked a fulsome family/friends scenario as seen in HAHK and Hum Saath Saath Hain, still all the key Barjatya ingredients were available – family outings and functions, shy romance, a bit of ched-chhad , a slice of negativity (that gets conquered eventually)- and, ‘deals’ with ‘foreign collaborators’ that would establish the young hero in business! Amrita Rao looked bashfully ravishing ( I have yet to see someone so beautiful in Mathura, although one can sight even Chhotis there). Though one missed Salman’s presence, Shahid fitted the bill well. And, as a busy but benign brother, Sameer Soni effectively stepped into the shoes of Mohnish Bahl (who made a small appearance towards the end).

The film is additionaly special because it was the first movie I saw in Agra at the newly opened Fun Cinemas Multiplex.

The ‘Theek Thaak’ Films List:

Hum Ko Deewana Kar Gaye – Raj Kanwar’s attempt to do a Yash Chopra was redeemed by Katrina’s refreshing and effervescent presence; and her on-screen chemistry with Akshay Kumar rocked. Beyond that, the film was just an average time-pass. The music was above average, though.

Jaan – E – Mann – The film had everything going for it – huge star cast, lavish production, decent music and a tried-and-tested love triangle formula. Yet, Shirish Kunder couldnt just pull it off. The end result was an inordinately long and tedious film. If it doesn’t enter my ‘hall of shame’ , it’s only due to the actors, music and Anupam Kher’s comedy.

OmkaraOmkara – Vishal’s attempt to re-do Othello was brave, but it lacked the punch that his previous film Maqbool did. Partly because Othello is not a very strong play as such. Partly also because of wrong casting – neither is Kareena a woman to die for, nor is Vivek a man to be jealous of. The film fell flat! Frankly, I am tired of Ajay’s dour look passed off as ‘acting’.

Ahista Ahista – A sweet romance set in the backdrop of Old Delhi. Soha Ali and Abhay Deol breathed life into their portrayals of people brought together under unusual circumstances, grappling to find meaning within their relationship. The film was shorn off any extraneous glamour and forwarded the story in lavishly languid pace. Only, it lacked the lavishness in its production. Himesh’s music was a bore and didnt gel with the story.

Dil Diya Hai – Ok, I saw it in sheer boredom. But still I feel the film deserved more eyeballs than what it received. Director Aditya (Ashiq Banaya Aapne) Dutt took hold off a ‘different’ story altogether – so different that it ended up looking bizarre. Still, there was enough panache to keep viewers interest. Himesh’s ‘Jab se aankh ladi tere naal’ was good.

Gangster – The songs were good (and majority copied), the movie had good moments, but overall it was just okayish. Emraan Hashmi was damn irritating. And Kangana Ranaut’s diction was horrible (hope she has worked on this now). The movie was neither hard-hitting nor thought-provoking. It ended up being a depressing and whining account without much sunshine.

Anthony Kaun HaiAnthony Kaun Hai – The film was quite stylized and Arshad Warsi gave a credible performance – not moving too far off from his Munnabhai image, yet not being restricted within it. Having missed Yahan, and not impressed by her miniscule role in Corporate, this film was my revelation of Minisha Lamba – she came across bubbly and vivacious , and at times reminded me of Priety Zinta from her Dil Se days.

The Killer – Compared to Gangster, this was a better attempt (or, let’s say, a better rip-off). The sharp and suave Irrfan Khan and the bumbling and bleating Emraan complemented each other. Personally, I found Killer’s music better than Gangster.

Baabul – There was something grossly missing in the film, which couldnt shuttle the sensitive theme to the higher orbit where one can raise the hands in ecstacy. Neither does the joyful first half raise hearty chuckles, nor does the sad second part wring tears from your eyes. In short, very average film. Strangely, for a film that deals with widow-remarriage, the biggest disconnect is that the widows character just doesn’t simmer with that deadly loss she has to undergo. Perhaps, Ravi Chopra should have toned down the gloss, and worked more on emotions. Of course, it is absolutely delightful to watch Amitabh Bachhan’s performance. Rani is good, but I fear there is a repetitiveness creeping in. Hema Malini defies age, and becomes more beautiful with each passing year. In this movie, her role is on the side-lines, hence the chemistry seen between AB and her (as seen in Baghbaan ) is quite lacking.

Dhoom -2 – This was the most awaited movie, and a decided bumper-hit even before it hit the theaters. To this, there was the masala over Hritik-Ash’s kiss that was splashed over several news channels. My views? Yes, the action is great, the thefts more daring, the look splendid, the sound design awesome, the chases breath-taking; yet, overall it just doesnt add up. The film simply overdoes it – and spoils the entire spontaneous fun that one had while watching the prequel. So much time is spent on the villain, and his emotions, that Abhishek Bachhan (and family) should have worried more on his wimp-like role than Ash’s bewafaai due to the kiss (which is nothing much, and would have ordinarily gone unnoticed but for the lead pair involved). Which also brings in the more pricky question about today’s morality – why are villains getting shinier and brighter, so much so that when Hritik and Abhi have a face-off at the cliff, inthe climax, one almost wants the thief to win! (At least, in this film, there is some redemption, but in Don, even that is not given- which was not the case even in the angst-ridden, anti-hero studded seventies, when the original film was released.) The music was bad. And can someone tell me what Bipasha Basu was doing in this film -either as the cop, or as the Brazilian beauty!

The ‘Undecided List’ – As ever I have a couple of movies, that are so larger-than-life, that slotting them in any list doesnt work. So, I call them an undecided list, or rather an ‘extension’ of the ‘theek-thaak list’. This year, there are two such big films:

Umraao Jaan– Ok, the movie was way off the mark, especially in its authenticity. Agreed, Abhishek Bachchan looked bored and tired. Yes, Aishwarya Rai couldnt measure up to Rekha’s performance in the eighties version (Frankly, no one expected Aish to do so). So, why in this list, and not in the bad ones! Simply because, like when everything is right and the film doesnt do good, same is the reverse true – individually, everything is wrong, yet in entirety the film was quite watchable and didnt overtly bore me or make me run for the fast forward button. Thus, it’s here in the ‘theek-thaak’ list.

Don – Thank you Moon Cable and Sony, for showing the original days after the release of the newer version – you only helped me revive strong childhood memories associated with the older film; Amitabh Bachchan rocked in that film! The new version is suitably upgraded, with twists added, but wher ethe main character is concerned, sorry SRK, howsoever much I like you, AB’s Don was way way ahead of you. The only reason I am undecided and not immediately slotted it inthe ‘Hall of Shame’ is the immense praise that I have read about the film – so , I want to see it again and decide then, and I’ll watch it after some months, when the effect of AB’s superlative performance has worn off.

This is my list. So what’s yours?

Updated on 27.12.2006

Four films that I should have mentioned but missed out in the ‘theek thaak’ list are:

Taxi No. 9211 – A fairly entertaining and racy film by Milan Luthria. The story takes place in a day, and holds the audience attention. The short length was an added advantage.

Being CyrusBeing Cyrus – A dark film made using the neo-modern grammar of film making. The film had a few good high points, including an interesting performance by Saif Ali Khan. However, sadly, Dimple disappointed with her hyper-act.

Zinda - Sanjay Dutt, John AbrahamZinda – Brutal and blunt, the film didnt bore, though of course it made you wince several imes during the show. Full review here.

Kalyug – Quite an insightful and interesting film. Kaushie did a nice review – read here.

Updated on 28.12.06

Kabul ExpressKabul Express – Will go under ‘Movies That I Enjoyed’ – a new subject, a good treatment, and some delectable cinematography makes the film a winner.

Bhagam Bhaag – Will go under ‘Theek thaak list’ – masti with mystery, the film has all the Priyadarshan elements. Funny at places, a no-holds barred climax, and good acting by all. However, what it lacks is that punch which made Hungama a re-watchable film anytime. Wonder if Priyadarshan is losing his touch, or is the prolificity getting him!

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Yesterday, buy more about spent some more time on the rough and rugged Western U.P. roads – this time on the outskirts of Aligarh. The road from Agra to Aligarh seems to worsen with each visit (it seems they are re-building the road and replacing it with a cemented one; but by the way things are moving, it looks it would be another decade before they complete it!) The ride shook, stirred, moved, hurtled and swung me around in the terribly uncomfortable Maruti Van, which our taxi provider had sent in lieu of the usual (and more comfortable) Indica.

The list:

Palla Sallu – A small village, just outside of Aligarh city limits, on the main G.T. Road (leading to Delhi via Khurja, Bulandhshahar and Khurja).

Gabhana – A highway small town – dusty and dirty.

Chandaus – (Pron. – the ‘d’ is to be pronounced as in ‘dark’) – We nearly missed the turn here. Travelling on the smooth G T Road was a delight, but the passing milestones warned that we would be in Khurja (Distt. Bulandshahar) soon. Since we knew that Chandaus was in Aligarh distt. only, we tried to keep vigil. But the turn was extremely narrow and we missed it by a few meters. Thankfully, it was a signboard for Radha Saomi Satsang that gave us an inkling that we had crossed the crucial turn.

The road to Chandaus (turn left from G.T. Road at Duaraou) was bad. Nay, it was atrocious. A narrow single lane that curved its way through fields and shanties, full of bumps and potholes, animals straying and children playing, rushing cyclists and slowing bullock carts! A deemed semi-rural development block, the only noteworthy thing here was the presence of a cluster of mobile telephony towers.

Pisawa – This was our final destination – some nine kilometers ahead of Chandaus, on the same narrow road. Pisawa is a sandy, brown and dull kasba. Earlier on it was a ‘riyasat‘, and the fort still exists – now used by the descendants for their use of rearing racing horses (as told by a bunch of locals). Being a private property, obviously we had no access to it. Here, the mobile service also died.

The Breakdown 

On our return trip, from Aligarh to Agra, after crossing another hamlet (Sadabad), our car whined to a jerky halt. It was an LPG kit model, and the driver informed that ‘gas thandi pad gayi’. As expected, he had no reserve petrol, and we were in the middle of nowhere, with no petrol pump in visible sight. While the driver tried to heat up the dispassionate and cold gas and make it work, we stepped out into the pitch darkness. It was chilly. 

The driver’s attempt to revive the car was futile, and he seemed to have screwed the starter enough. Quite comically, he tried to shake and stir the cylinder – with so much of play, I am sure even Aishwarya Rai would have heated up, but not this car! So, he set out to a nearby village to get some petrol.

We stood in the darkness, shivering. I looked around. The fields lay open. An abandoned well was nearby. The road stretched endlessly on both sides. The traffic was low. The wind was picking up. The moon was missing. A dog howled nearby. It was the 13th, if not a Friday.

And the only song I could think of humming was the ominous ‘Gumnaam hai koi…

My colleague was ready to strangle me!

 

These are movies that either promised more, case or had huge budgets and big star-casts. I have purposely left out films like ‘Ek Se Mera Kya Hogaa’ that were doomed to bite the dust!

Rang De BasantiRang De Basanti – The biggest disappointment. A patchy, uneven, disjointed, noisy, pretentious and juvenile film. It offered no tangible solution either for humanity (in general) or for India (in particular). In fact, it catered to the base and perverse human urge to kill someone who has wronged you. It’s ok to violently proclaim that ‘i will kill the person’ in a fit of anger, but that doesnt mean one executes the threat. This is not the behaviour what mature human civilized exhibit. The parallel to Indian freedom movement was ill-placed and utter nonsense. Anyways, I will refrain to say anything more here. Enough has been said, argued and counter-argued when I first wrote its review. Read it here. Sigh, another bad entry at the Oscars!

Kabhi Alvida Na Kahna – Karan Johar’s first self confessed attempt at ‘maturity’ was a dull, despondent and disastrous film, which dragged on and on endlessly. It resembled the serials prolifilating on television – bored housewives lusting after other’s husbands under the grand chhatrachhaya of Indian marriage and mangalsutra; wimpish men, who are either too bitter or too sweet;and, bucket ful of copious tears that drown the flimsy script; even the gawdy gloss matched. The music was boring. SRK lent some cheer as a character that could have been real, but was shunted irresponsibly by Karan to the other extreme from SRK’s otherwise screen-persona. The only bright sunshine remained Amitabh Bachhan, who lent grace and fun to this tedious affair.

Aap Ki Khatir (Free - Bonus Star Dust Awards 2004 DVD)Aap Ki Khatir – It’s like the rag the dog pulled out from a god-forsaken attic. Stale and tattered, the film was a big yawn evoking fare.


Ankahee
– Enough of Bhatt-styled mentally disturbed and manic-depressed characters. Morose and melancholic, it lacks any escape for respite. For the same reason, I avoided Woh Lamhe! Both films have good music, though.

Utthaan – Another example of how to spoil a good story with indifferent direction. The twist could have been earth shattering bang, but is in reality a whimper not even loud enough to wake you up from the nap that you take during the film. Surprise factor? Neha Dhupia doesn’t bare at all, which makes you feel sad since it was better when she bared all!

Apna Sapna Money Money(bonus- Free Song Cd of Flavors)Apna Sapna Money Money – I missed this on theatres; but didnt want to spoil it by watching only on small screen. So, with help of borrowed projector, I saw it at home deriving full theater benefits. I was expecting another Kya Kool Hai Hum; alas, the film is a gigantic bore – and only Riteish Deshmukh is the bright star that saves the film from total darkness. But still, the disappointment didnt fully dissipate, hence placed in this list.

Bas Ek Pal – I was in two minds about this film. It could have been placed in the ‘theek thaak’ list. But on second view I saw the glaring errors in its script – a loose and haphazard one, that moves from a compelling jail account to a wishy washy tale of love and betrayal, interspersed with notions of wife-bashing. The movie has a rivetting first half. But the second one wastes away the grand build-up. Director Onir (who made the sensitive My Brother Nikhil) doesnt live up to the expectations. As ever, Juhi Chawla and Sanjay Suri delight. Jimmy Shergill is good too. Urmila disappoints.

Chingaari – Umm, err… was this really a film? Crass, coarse and chaotic, the film was a long string of dreadful scenes put together. Sadly, it didnt nothing to alleviate the pain or elevate the stature of prostitutes.

Teesri Aankh – If you can take it as a laughter inducing exercise, enjoy the film. Per se, the movie had nothing going for it. Sunny Deol shouted his lungs hoarse, and only added to the pain. Full review here

Naksha – Another Sunny Deol flick that was outlandishly bizarre and bakwaas! As an actor, he needs to seriously re-think where he is headed.

Chup Chup keChup Chup Ke – Priyadarshan severely lost his touch with this one. The color coordinated costumes were eye pleasing; wish they had coordinated the script as well!

Jaane Hoga Kya – Even Bipasha Basu would burn this off with the next available beedi from her resume. The clone-saga provided inadvertant humor, but that’s about it. Original review available here.

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It wouldn’t be much of a surprise, and but some days back I was again on the drive. This time, prostate we were on the stretch between Agra and Firozabad, which falls within Agra District – or so we thought.

Just for formalities sake, allow me to list out the towns/villages we crossed; of course, interspersed with a few incidents that made it possible for this post to be written.

Kuberpur – Wherever the goddamn village is, the office we wanted to visit was thankfully on NH2, leading to Firozabad (yeah, the same place famous for its bangles and glass works). The cold cemented floor, and cobweb laden dirty walls inside the office werent much of a welcome anyways. But we panicked full time when we saw a thousand people (ok, I exaggerate – discount ten percent here or there) clamouring over one hapless employee, who was trying to do ten thousand things (I exaggerate again, but discount ten percent here or there) at the same time. Despite winters, the smell of sweat and human skin was overwhelming, but we managed a feeble smile towards the official, who tried to shake hands with us over the crowd and babel of voices; the official murmured a hundred thousand apologies (I exaggerate…but you get the point by now). We genuinely understood!

Etmadpur – This was just a few kilometers ahead on the highway. However, to enter the village, we had to get off it, on to a now-familiar dusty and narrow road. Our destination was bang in the middle of a crowded street, that lined odd shops, with cyclists covering the entire stretch. We parked my car, and got off.

Curious faces stared back at us, and I felt oddly uncomfortable to be looked at like this. “Why are they staring as if we had just escaped a zoo?” I murmured to my colleague. “Well, tie waale, patte-waale jaanwar kam hi dekhne ko milte honge yahan” he retorted wryly. I didn’t take off the tie, but discreetly placed the ‘patta‘ (our company’s ID-card) inside the pocket.

From this stretch began the real adventure. And thanx to Idea Mobile. Well, almost. It was Idea’s locator that flashed ‘Barhan Crssng’ on my cell-phone, which made me curious to ask about its distance from Etmadpur.

Barhan – To me now any road in U.P. interior is the same. The stretch to Barhan was no different, either in its ‘comfort’ or topography, to the ones that I had traveled earlier while going to Achnera, Kagarole or Kirawali. Barhan is a sandy village, with brown mud buildings – a small, rain-water-filled, by-default formed pond ran alongside the railway track, which pointed to something as high-sounding as ‘Barhan Junction’.

Khaanda – At Barhan, we had enquired on the few other places that we could visit on this route. Khanda was a bit further on and then there was Jalesar, our aquaintance informed. So off we were to Khaanda. The road was a bit better, but as often with these villages, they are never on the good roads. So, soon we had to depart the ‘highway’ and get onto a small road that led to this village.

“Err…I hope we are on track” I remarked, when we had been shaken enough. My colleague (let’s call him Ajeet, for nomenclature ease) tried to read some illegible address on a tin shanty.

“Why dont you ask her?” I teased, as a lady passed by.

“You want me to get killed! Dont you see the foot long ghoonghat she is in” Ajeet replied, visibly horrified at my suggestion.  

A few meters later, it was confirmed we were in Khanda – but whosoever we asked, gave a vague direction towards the office we had to visit. So as vaguely we got the instructions, so did we go. And ended up in a huge courtyard full of goats, and lazing elderly gentlemen, who viewed my dust-laden once-upon-a-white Santro disinterestingly.

“I am sure we are on the wrong way” I hissed beneath my breath, as the royal animals grazed the sides of my car and leisurely passed around it.

With difficulty, I managed to maneuver the car out from that sandy courtyard, and finally stopped a sensible-looking gentleman, and firmly asked for the directions.

Galat ho” he said. “Main road se, bamba kinaare jaana tha.”

The man was gesturing back towards the highway again. Since Ajeet is from Agra, I thought he would have understood the local dialect, but after a few seconds to my dismay, I found him stammering, “B..bamba kinaare?”

Jee, bamba kinaare!” The man asserted again.

Ummm…err…yeh bamba kya hota hai?”

Now, the man was clearly lost. With his hands straight and moving in parallel motion, he said, “Bamba…yaani, paani…naala…naala kinare

How simple! And we tucked away between us one new word in our vocabulary.

Jalesar – “It’s just 21 kilometers” I remarked, when we had finished off with Khaanda. Ajeet was apprehensive in going towards Jalesar. But I argued that we still had some time in hand, plus (as the official earlier had pointed out) there was a direct route back to Agra, and of course 21 kilometers is never ‘far away’ for us Delhiites. I shouldnt have spoken. Because, barely five kilometers on, the road vanished and all we had were potholes, and stones, and sand, and grime, as my poor Santro wove its way towards Jalesar – which wasnt (to our horrific discovery) in Agra even. It fell within Etah District.

At a particulary bad stretch, the car shook so hard that suddenly out from nowhere, Asha Bhonsle started to assert ‘Aaj main khush hoon’*.

Terrified, we both jumped out our skin! For that split second, when the silence was rudely cut by her voice, we were frightened.

Now, I admit I am a bigger fan of her sister’s but that didn’t give Ashaji the right to laugh at my plight, and get happy about it too.

Since Ajeet was shaken too, surely this wasn’t just my imagination. I eyed the culprit – the car stereo had switched on, on its own.

Tera haath laga hoga,” I told Ajeet.

Arre nahi baba. My hand was far off,” he defended himself.

The Mystery of Automatic Stereo Power On would have lingered on for sometime, but the road gave us ample opportunity to solve it. The bumps were so hard that they somehow started the power of the system!

We reached Jalesar in one piece, and almost at our wit’s end, and the day’s too.

Jalesar is a town, and a pretty large one, since we got quite lost in its maze of streets and alleyways, and an array of markets. If you care to ever go there, make sure you make the roundabout with a statue as your fulcrum point – everything seems to originate or end there.

(We were shattered to learn there was after all no direct route to Agra, and if we had to reach back home, there were only two alternatives available – either take the same road that we had come through, which wasn’t advisable from security point of view. Or, go through Sadabad – which is some 28 kms from Jalesar – and then move on to Agra. Anyone who has read these pieces earlier would know that Sadabad (in Hathras distt.) falls on the same ‘road-less’ Aligarh route, and is the biggest bane of my current travelling!)

*Aaj mai khush hoon lo tum hi bolo kyun, from Grahan; Music- Karthik Raja; Singers – Asha Bhonsle, Jolly Mukherjee

A Story By Deepak Jeswal
Episode Seven

I was a bit perplexed to hear the nurse announce Vineeta’s name. I was not mentally prepared to meet her, grip mainly because I had suspected her to be the enemy whereas she had proven to be an ally. Yet, buy information pills there was a curiosity to know how she had managed it. And where had I gone wrong in my judgment?

She entered the room with a strong whiff of perfume. Perhaps, unhealthy Chanel, I thought as she would have informed, had we been in college. But today, I found her very different from the air-headed fool that I believed her to be. For one, she wore a salvar suit. Having seen her mostly in low-waist jeans, this was a marked change but for the better. The suit made her look even more attractive, and it fit wonderfully on her tall and lissome frame.

She walked across the room, hesitant and unsure, and I pointed towards the chair next to the bed, for her to sit. She sat gingerly, groping to begin the conversation. In that moment, I looked at her closely, and felt horrified at my own self for hating her so much.

“I am sorry,” she began.

“I should be sorry,” I interrupted. “And honestly, I am sorry.”

She smiled. “It’s nothing. Anyone would have thought what you did about me and Ashish,” she said, with a tinge of contempt at the name. “And that exactly was my plan!”

“But when did all this start? And why?”

“It started when Vasu spread the news about Smita’s pregnancy with obvious glee and malice,” she started.

But I stopped her mid-way. “Vasu?” I asked, shocked. So Vasu was the traitor in the class; that unknown friend of Ashish.

“Yes, Vasu,” she reiterated. “From then on, I don’t know why but I really felt bad for Smita and angry at Ashish. It wasn’t fair. So, I thought of getting back on Ashish… no clear plan to send him to jail, but at least to humiliate him enough so that he doesn’t play around again with a girl’s emotions. I knew he had flipped for me long time back. He had also sent some feelers through a common friend even as he was going around with Smita. He had been two-timing her for a long time. Anyways, I had ignored him then and had tried to drill some sense into Smita, but she took it otherwise and thought I was jealous of her. Also, just before this thing spread, and probably even before you came to know of it, one day I overheard Vasu and Ashish talking in the auditorium. They thought they were alone, but I heard them full and clear. Ashish was jittery about Smita’s pregnancy, and was asking a solution from Vasu. So, Vasu advised him to flatly deny his involvement, refuse to acknowledge Smita and devised this huge plan of spreading the rumor in the class, to humiliate Smita and drop enough hints to implicate you.”

“But why would Vasu want to humiliate Smita?”

“Remember the huge misunderstanding they had some months back. Apparently, Vasu hadn’t forgotten that and wanted to get back at her. It sounds silly alright, but that’s what he told Ashish. I think he is not the kind who can easily forgive or forget. Since, Vasu was never really pally with me, so I guess it was easy for him to pass the blame of ‘rumour-monger’ on to me.”

I was aghast and speechless.

“It was easy to make Ashish fall for me. He was already interested, plus he has an overactive libido, which I used to my full advantage. When things started getting a bit serious, I panicked. At that point, I took my mamaji, who is in police, in confidence. The day you beat Ashish up was an ideal day to execute the small plan we had made. I took him to our Mehrauli farm-house, and ensured that mamaji was fully informed. By the time we reached the place, I could see two familiar policemen, in plain-clothes near the farm. Ashish was terribly wounded you really beat him to a pulp, so he couldn’t have seen anything or anyone. There, I nursed him, and when, in the evening, he tried to be overtly romantic, I raised an alarm. The police rushed in, and nabbed him.”

There was a certain amount of maturity and intelligence on her face, which had otherwise always been quite expressionless. The softness had given way to determination, which lent an elderly hue to her face. Or perhaps, my eyes had always been curtained by silly enmity, which had blinded me to her obvious positives. I was dumbfounded at what she had done, the enormity of the act and the courage in going through with it.

“You are a genius, Vineeta!” I gushed, “you really bit him like a scorpion.”

“Don’t forget, I am a Scorpio by Zodiac,” she laughed. And I found the soft stream like naughtiness in the laughter very assuring and endearing.

“Vasu, Vasu! I can’t believe he was such a bastard! But what should he have against me?”

She shrugged. “Really can’t say. I guess he dislikes you because you are so close to Smita.”

“And the other day, I was at his place, asking for his help to sort out this mess.” I remembered what he had said that day, ‘Accept the child’ and when I had asked about Ashish, he had replied, ‘Leave him’. Of course, he wanted me not to mess with Ashish, and accept the child so that his friend could be free from blame. Damn sweet of him , indeed, I thought sarcastically! Only, I was thinking of accepting the child with another motive. He had wonderfully played on my emotion.

“Appearances can be deceptive,” remarked Vineeta.

“I wish people would show their enmity right at your face, rather than attacking from behind. It hurts.”

“I know. You were pretty open in showing your enmity towards me.”

“I am sorry,” I said, sheepishly.

“It’s ok, I know where you were coming from, and you are right it is the clarity in emotions while dealing with people that is important,” she said. She turned her attention to the flowers on the side table. “These are so awesome and wonderful!”

She raised her arm to touch them. “Yep. Smita got them,” I informed. For a sliver of a second, I thought I saw her arm hesitate, before touching them tenderly. I felt warmth exuding from her, something that I hadn’t expected to feel, at least not from her.

****************************************

I was to stay under observation for a few more days in the hospital, Dr. Chatterjee informed. I groaned. I was sick of being there, and wanted to move out. There was nothing to do, except read magazines, which dad had brought, and sleep. The routine was awfully boring. It was terrible to be fooling around in the hospital bed when the whole world was on the move. All that while, what I could really do is think, think and think more, till the time my mind was sore. I wanted to move out and do something – something that the world would be proud of, something that my parents could be proud of. Honestly, I had no idea what it would be. But I thought, let me first get out of this goddamn room!

Vishal, Sugandha, Saina and Shilpa came to meet. But the most surprising visit was of Prof. Arora. It was an awkward meeting, but this time the tables had turned. He was the one who was nervous and kept on repeating his apology. I believed him when he said that ‘family ties had blinded my eyes’. It was expected, and I held no grudge against him. “And yes, you are on for my tutorial class,” he offered, as a parting gift. I was pleased.

I had realized the hard way that all of us make mistakes, misunderstanding each other due to various circumstances and guises. Smita couldn’t see through Ashish. Hell, I couldn’t understand the people I met daily – Vasu and Vineeta!

Smita and Vineeta made a second round of visits a couple of days later together. It was odd seeing them enter like old friends. All this while, an invisible wall of rivalry had kept the two apart. Perhaps, some good had come from all the scandal in college: it broke the ice between them.

Smita looked relaxed and much better than she had been. She sat on the chair, while Vineeta moved towards the window.

“Wow, the lawn is so wonderful and awesome!” remarked Vineeta. It was. But since I had seen it enough, I was pretty bored with it.

“Tomorrow I will be free from this,” Smita said, her eyes pointing towards her abdomen.

Vineeta looked at her and then at me, and with a reassuring smile said, “Don’t worry. It will be fine. I will go with her.”

Smita smiled back. “Thanks a bunch.”

“But have you thought of what to do after that,” Vineeta asked her, and her eyes indicated me. I was very uncomfortable, and wished she hadn’t brought it up. But in a way, I was happy. Maybe Smita would have reached a positive decision.

Smita didn’t reply immediately. “Yes. I have thought a lot but couldn’t reach any decision,” she replied eventually. I saw my hopes crumble. Turning to me, she said, “Dinesh, you are a great friend. But anything more would just be a compromise.”

“At least it will be with a person who loves you,” whispered Vineeta, her eyes lowered, and she turned away to look out of the window.

Smita nodded, but didn’t say anything. Vineeta had to meet her Mamaji regarding some affidavits about the case, and she left soon. Smita stayed on.

“You know she has feelings for you,” she said. My eyes bulged out, my jaw landed on the bed and I nearly toppled from the bed.

“What?”

“Yes. She just told me while coming here.”

My mind was whirring and in a turmoil. “But… but I haven’t thought about her like that!”

“Neither have I thought about you like that,” said Smita, quietly.

I started to speak, but became conscious that I had nothing to say. In any case, I think it was best to keep quiet, for a change!

“It’s ok, Dinesh. I think Vineeta was sort of correct. I might accept the compromise. But allow me some more time, please. Maybe it will work out.”

When she had left, I was again left with my thoughts a new set of them, pouncing and prancing on my innards. This was impossible. Had Smita been mistaken? But no, she said that Vineeta had herself expressed her feelings. In all this, I finally realized how Smita must have felt when I proposed to her.

Suddenly, I was unsure. And more than Smita, I realized I had to make one firm and final decision.

****************************************

Today, fifteen years have passed since that scandal in college. In these fifteen years, I didn’t get time to think much about it. You know, how it is – college was over soon, and then MBA, then the jobs. Time became a casualty, friends drifted apart, and over the years, even that incident looked so trivial and blown out of proportion. It seemed we had nothing better to do than think about romantic liaisons and got serious about the slightest things.

However, last night I saw a new Bollywood release – very maudlin one, but there was one thought in it, which stuck on and pried open the entire can of memories. In the film, the heroine states “Mai rishton mein milawat nahi karrti” ; loosely translated it means that ‘she didn’t adulterate her relationships’- a friend and a lover are two different entities . So much like Smita, no?

Hence, all the past skeletons came crashing out. I came home from the multiplex, and immediately started to pen this story.

Like what happened to the film’s characters, sometimes circumstances and destiny force you to mix emotions. And often, the result can be extremely satisfying. That’s my personal experience. I wish I could meet Vishal again and tell him that my bookish philosophy has also worked very well.

As for me, let me sign off now – life has been great, or as my wife would say, it has been ‘wonderful and awesome’!

The End

Edited By Priyangini Mehta
Disclaimer – The story is a work of fiction; all characters and events are imaginary; any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

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Comments

  1. shagun bhi daaala…

    your ever faithful reader..no matter how busy I am..I sure will catch up on your stories 🙂 😀

  2. Hi DJ,
    7 episodes already !!
    i will read them chronologically.

    Sirji i m really glad to see you back into storytelling.

    (i am still unsure of a comeback).

  3. oh so u wrote this in college????

    reminded me of the line from phir bhi dil hai hindustani ka title track

    “kabhi naye packet mein benchen tumko cheez purani,
    phir bhi dil hai hindustani….”

    :p

    when i was talking about the dialogues, i din’t mean about the filminess… i meant about the wit in them…. there have been some very witty and enjoyable ones in your recent tales!

    you know i complained once that you have made your story too graphic… its so detailed that nothing was left to the imaginaion? i think that was or WTHMTE… that was not the case here… that i think was another big plus point of this story!

    i think i agree with pri if you add the vasu-smita face off here… slipped somewhere in between… maybe when he and dinesh are having the beer…. would anyways like to read what the issue was there!

  4. Kaushi – Thank u thank u ji 😀 Fifty for the story, and esp in this set up where long comments are allowed by WP, its quite an achievement. Thanks a million 😀

    Mehak – True, bilkul wahi din yaad aa gaye…even the fact that whenever there is a party on the blog, i hv to go for a trip 🙂

    Prakash – Thanks a ton 🙂

  5. Invincible – Hey, its great to see you here. Seven episodes, and its over (short that way:P) . Sure do read it and lemme know how u found it.

    And hope to cya blogging fulltime again 🙂

    Anks – Yep, that remark was for WTHMTE. I was a bit conscious of it when i wrote both Ambadeep and this one.

    BTW, i m itching to write a true blue filmi story , with the same detailed description, and lots of flowing dupattas, heaving bosoms, rains and what nots LOL … but but…time is a constraint…

    LOL@phil bhi dil hai hindustani… yep its old wine in a sparkling new bottle 😛

    Ha ha, i myself dont know what the issue betn Vasu/Smita was – since i hadnt planned to bring it to the fore, i didnt even cook up anything 😛

  6. Wah wah…i was right there had to be a twist….infact I know you wouldnt believe it…but i guessed Vineeta and Dinesh would come together. But again DJ another great story. Enjoyed reading a story from you after quite sometime now. Good na, your bollywood knowledge is finally paying off.

    As for the names…..was going through 1comment from Kaushie I think about the way you get down to deciding the names. How do u go about it?

    To comment on the story overall: “It is Wonderful and Awesome!”

  7. Anz – Hey, thanks a million for reading this through. Read through all your comments on each episode 🙂 I am happy you enjoyed reading it.

    LOL – yeah my Bollywood knowledge will always pay off in stories 😛

    As regards the names – Ashish just happened inadvertantly ( plus when i wrote the story first i hadnt met the Misc. Masala man 😉 ) Actually till the time you mentioned it , it didnt even strike my mind. As for the rest, as i told Kaushie too, i dont spend too much time on names, it’s largely off the cuff.

    Thanks once again 😀

  8. I’m again late to comment…. 🙁 and you know what the song is in my mind for this situation –

    hazoor aate aate bahut der kar di……. “tshi”

    As you know boss was around and lots of work in office forth and there were two cousins wedding ceremonies at personal forth. So could not comment in time here in your story and I could not give reply of my own blogs too.

    Anyway, today I’m here but still could not give the details comment as I used to.

    You know that what I would tell about your style and all…. so better not to mentioned that again and again :).

    I like the open end of the story and more than that I liked the ending of the story with the last line “As for me, let me sign off now – life has been great, or as my wife would say, it has been ‘wonderful and awesome’!” You have used Veenita’s “Takiya Kalam” very beautifully and even it was expected and known, mentioning it here you told whom did he marry. That’s the best part of the story I liked :).

    But but but…. don’t get too much excited reading this line “wonderful and awesome” here 😛 as I’m not going to say the same for this story as you know I have lots of expectations from you after reading your story, and you know that, here I’m not referring Meera or ID or WTHMT but you know which one. That was the first story I read and I got such an impression I want to read more stories from better than that.

    Don’t get gurrrrrrrrrr kitkittttttttttttttt. It’s me and you know that I say what I feel 😀

  9. Juneli – You really know how to reach late all the time! Maybe u can paraphrase Henna’s song and sing ‘Mai der karti nahi, der ho jaati hai’ 😛

    Anyways, all eyes on Pri’s blog today…

  10. Am fairly new to blogs..infact it was just the curiosity to read your stuff that actually brought me here.And as expected(and told),you write exceptionally well.Read all the seven parts last night…in one go and I must admit it was only after i finished with the last part,that i realised the time and also,i realised i could read too..unlike my belief that reading wasnt my cup ‘o’ tea.That was such a brilliant piece that inspires me not just to read more and more stuff..but also to start a blog of my own.Pl wish me luck…I hope I dont sound over enthusiastic..but if i do,perhaps that is what i am.All credit to you deepak..oops dj(got some clue?)
    Now,I have to read Meera,ID and where heaven…Asap.
    p.s. Also read priyangini’s ‘pensive peek’ n am lookin’ fwd to her story coming up today evng.

  11. “You really know how to reach late all the time! ” Is this satire or ….. gurrr kitkitt…

    I think if you still remember, I have commented in your very first story very very late….. Shayed yahi wazah ho hamesh der ho jaati hoon…. shuruwaat hi galat huwa tha :P.

    Yes, that song was more apt for me :).

    Yes, today the party is going to be on her blog :D.

  12. Taarika – I am overwhelmed by your comment. And thank you sounds so pathetically small in reply to your beautiful and encouraging comment. But still, pls. accept my heartfelt thanks. I also hope you enjoy reading the other stories 🙂

    And yes, now I got the clue!

    Juneli – LOL , nahi nahi, no taunt 🙂