Friday, June 15, 2018

Race 3 - Allah duhai hain!

Firstly, Eid Mubarak to my friends who are celebrating. It's a long weekend here and salman khan is back with his Eidi. We had not much to do, so we headed out to watch Race3. It was a fight getting tickets and the theater was jam packed (i feel it's important to mention here that we weren't the only idiots) But the movie turned out to be one of the most boring and dull movies i have seen in recent times. first there was no plot. whatever plot there was, came to light in the last 15 minutes. till then, characters came and went. characters fought. characters danced - with no story built up.

when bobby deol and daisy shah started swaying to a meaningless song that goes "ek baar selfish... blah blah blah" i saw a man from my row walk out. wait, that was my husband! when another party song came up a girl in the row said "what! one more?" wait, that was my daughter. and the one boy who normally laughs loud in the theater was awefully quiet - my son. anil kapoor sums up the movie brilliantly in his dehati accent in one of his dialogues, "ee ka bullsit family melodrama karat rahein ho bituwa"

of the star cast, anil kapoor does his job well, as the senior of the family. salman khan is on a leash - he wants to do more for his die hard fans, but the director promised equal footage to all. daisy shah and  deol seem to be trying too hard to make a comeback. bobby looks crooked (did he always look this way?). daisy shah is good in some action scenes but emotes like a parrot. saqib saleem has a few lines and plenty of fast cars. jackie is hot!

The Race franchise is supposed to churn out movies that are full of twists and turns in the plot with shock after shock. The only point in the movie when i felt a shock was when, towards the end, anil kapoor (a la black panther) says "the race is still on", hinting a Race4. Allah duhai hain, fir jaan pe aayi hain!

Some races are best left to the Men in White. abbas mastan we want u back!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Bucket list - a bucket half full

When I first saw the trailer of Bucket List, Madhuri’s first Marathi movie, it showed everything Madhuri is best known for – her style, her grace, her dance. The trailer however gave out almost everything the movie had to offer. There was literally no surprise element left for the viewer paying to watch it in the theater – even the Ranbir cameo had no one squealing in enthusiasm, as everyone in the theater already knew who the hooded man in the bar would be.

The story is simple – a quintessential housewife, Madhura (Madhuri) in a typical Maharashtrian joint family staying on Prabhat Road (where else), undergoes a heart transplant and as a gesture decides to complete her organ donor, Sai’s bucket list – a half completed list of things, the now deceased Sai, wanted to complete before she turned 21. Madhura’s journey, while she completes Sai’s bucket list is fun to watch – learning to ride a Harley, drinking in a pub, getting arrested, going viral –giving the ever-so-charismatic Madhuri Dixit a chance to showcase her talent.

Coming to what I liked in the movie – I was nervous about Madhuri’s Marathi diction considering we haven’t seen her speak much Marathi before, plus the fact that she has lived in the States long enough for the American accent to pop up. However, Madhuri did the Marathi task flawlessly! The second thing I was worried about whether Madhuri’s majestic onscreen persona would fit the role of the simple Marathi “soon” (daughter-in-law). She did that job fine too.  And she still lights up the scene when she plays with her eyes and flirts mischievously with the audience. Of the supporting cast, Vandana Gupte played the mother in law character with ease. The way she speaks Hindi (Marathi style) reminded me a lot of my own mom 😊 Renuka Shahane, as the mother of Sai, was pleasant but making an actress who is best know for her big broad smile look glum because of the loss of her daughter, felt like a wasted resource. Sumeet Raghavan, known for his sweet on-screen persona, fitted the job of the caring husband well. But all in all, the movie was about Madhuri, and Madhuri alone.  Well, that was why the audience was there too!

Coming to where the movie felt short – some of the scenes between Madhura and her teenaged daughter felt straight out of English Vinglish. The song with Madhura and her husband in Malaysia, with wind blowing through 2 yards of saree pallo, seemed awkward and unnecessary. Maybe it was added only for the Dharma stamp. With so many producers name in the credits, I would think the makers had enough money and yet we see Madhuri advertising MakeMyTrip in one of the scenes – it so didn’t suit her class!  And then the bucket list itself – felt so short. One of Sai’s friend clarifies in the beginning “Sai has already completed a few tasks, but a few remain”. And the audience can’t help but feel – “Why did Sai have to do anything, it would have been so much better if Madhura had to finish the entire list”. Why did the bucket have to be half full? The audience leaves the theater yearning for more. We love you Madhuri and we can't have enough.

3.5 stars for the movie, with one star only for the Diva.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mommy Chronicles #1 - Three minutes in the morning

It has been a hectic morning as the father is out early for a meeting and the little but precious help that I get from him during that peak time is unavailable today. The snack boxes and lunch boxes have been packed. I have gulped my bowl of cereals. The girl has thrown a tantrum because I promised I would pack a bottle of Tang and have ‘conveniently’ forgotten! The girl has been dropped at the bus stop. The boy has been walked to school in what I would not describe as a pleasant walk (blame the rising heat). I have pushed myself to walk again to the gym and workout for a good 45 minutes.

I walk back home, exhausted from the extra weights I pushed myself to lift today. I walk back home, where I know the kitchen sink will be full of the dishes, bowls and the everyday omelet pan. The clothes have not been folded yet. And the next load is ready to go into the washing machine. Our new dining table will be arriving today so the old one will need to be cleared before that.  I long to read the newspaper but it has to wait. And yes I haven’t spoken to mom in 3 days and really want to skype. The girl needs some material for her science project that she has announced yesterday so I know my evenings will be busy scouting, which means I need to prepare the evening snacks and dinner during the day.

And there it rings – the phone. A friend calls to ask if I am going for the Sports assembly in the boy’s school.
“When is it?”
“9 am. But it’s ok if you reach a little late.”
“Why did he forget to tell me?” I wonder, taking a sniff at my sweaty t-shirt to see if I could just walk fast to school and save the shower time.
“What is it?” I ask, and she says all those who represented their school as part of squads will be honored with a certificate. Ok! I take a deep breath. My recalculation algorithm goes in panic mode.
Going to school again now, means walking back and forth another 2 km in the 40+ heat and I am so tired already.
But there I imagine my son, holding his certificate on stage for having been part of the basketball squad while everyone, BUT HIS MOM, claps.
But going now would mean I postpone all my chores.
So. Who cares if the kitchen sink is still full at 11? Right?
But wait, what if the delivery guy comes at that same time. I will need to call the store and reschedule the delivery time.
Doable still.
But he should have told me about this assembly yesterday. He should be more responsible. He is 9 now!
Or maybe he just genuinely forgot. It happens. What if his eyes keep searching through the audience for me?

And there. I decide I will not go. I ask my friend to take some pictures and videos that I will have a look at later.

It’s 9:03 now.

I sit for my morning tea with the newspaper. I feel happy. I am happy and looking forward to the new table.  And I am so happy I pushed myself to lift those extra weights today. And yet there it is, right there in the corner of my mind - the weight of a Mother’s guilt- heavier than all those gym weights - a weight that I know I will have to carry around all day today!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Austria - travelogue

Austria is beautiful! There’s no better way to put it. When we visited, it was already the beginning of Fall, when the snow had all melted, yet the tall, rocky mountain tops, the green slopes, the crystal clear river that flowed alongside the road, pretty houses (mostly bright yellow) with germaniums hanging out from flower boxes in the balcony, and cows grazing in the meadows  made it all picture perfect. If I had the will and a chiffon saree, I would stride on the slopes singing “Tere mere hoton pe” forever.

Travelling - Since we were travelling with kids, which meant ‘not light’ and ‘no fixed schedules’ we decided to rent a car at the airport and drive around for the trip. BMWs and Mercs are available on rent for a reasonable price - definitely works out cheaper than train tickets. Over 6 days we drove a total of 1500 kms and didn’t feel it at all. Plus since we had a car, we had the option of staying wherever we wanted. We stayed in a city hotel in Vienna just for a day and then went to Salzburg where we stayed for all the remaining days in a beautiful family owned hotel/B&B, outside the city (Absolutely recommend it – Pension Blobergerhof). From there we did day trips to Werfen, Zell am See, Innsbruck and Hallstatt. Driving was easy since it was no different than here in Dubai. Though the sign boards were in German the symbols were self-explanatory. And it never got dull. There was always a beautiful surprise set for us, at the next turn. Just when you thought you had seen it all, came a new landscape ready to be adored.

Eating – I am a preferred vegetarian. I enjoy a piece of chicken now and then but that’s as far as I go when it comes to meat. In Austria, chicken was hardly ever on the menu, maybe a lackluster dish mentioned at the bottom on the last page of the menu. Pork and beef were the heroes there. That meant I was on margherita pizza or plain creamy pasta for most days. On one occasion when the rest of the family felt sorry for me, I was treated in an Indian restaurant.

People - People in general seemed very friendly and helpful. On more occasions than one, a stranger has stopped by to help us; at one time, even opening a map on his smart phone to show us directions. Most people smiled and greeted when we crossed them. They also seemed very relaxed and in no hurry to go anywhere. It was like being in Goa – susegaad!  Which is great for a vacation but..

And that was the pain point - everything closed at 5pm - shops and attractions alike. The only thing open after that were restaurants and pubs. Even the capital city Vienna wore a deserted look past 6. I would have hoped that at least between Spring and Fall when there’s daylight till 7, we could do fun things till late in the evening. But nope! The Austrians beat the Chitales in that! To add to the misery, The Pisals consider it ‘shaan ke khilaaf’ to wake up before 8 am, and even more so, if it’s a vacation. So by the time we hogged on the ‘free’ breakfast and got out, it would be 11 am, leaving us very few hours to do it all in a day’s time! After 6pm there wasn’t much for families to do - just sit in hotel room and watch German TV shows. I can't blame the kids that they got bored then.

All in all, a lovely trip. Moderately paced yet plenty covered. Some of the must do places that I would recommend are -

  • ·         Alpine coaster near Salzburg (or any other place, there are many)
  • ·         Sound of music tour on bicycle in Salzburg
  • ·         Salt mines near Salzburg or Hallstatt
  • ·         Dachestein ice caves near Hallstatt. The cable car ride up is thrilling)
  • ·         Five finger lookout (further up with another cable car ride). Awesome views and an adrenaline rush when you stand on the fingers.
  • ·         Burg HohenWerfen – the castle in Werfen where part of the movie ‘Where Eagles dare’ was shot. There are many such castles around, one even in Salzburg. This one was very scenic plus the funicular ride up was exciting.
  • ·         A walk in the city of Hallstatt, a world heritage site.
  • ·         A walk in the city of Innsbruck, a beautiful city with a lot of tourists.
I     (I will be putting my reviews of each of these on tripadvisor, but if anyone is planning a trip to Austria and needs some suggestions, feel free to message.)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

When mommy goes to 'Civil War'

The only super heroes I knew till last week were Spider-man, Superman and our desi Krissh. “Ignorance is bliss”, they say. My kids would discuss Loki and Fury like they were our next door neighbors. Often the man in the house would join the discussion too. My only hopes were pinned to my daughter but she’s turned out to be one who would rather watch an action movie than come bracelet shopping with me. So it was pretty much one against three. “What’s the big deal, anyway,” I thought and I decided it was time to take the plunge. So when Marvel came up with the ‘Civil War’ movie I said, “Well, why not? I’ll come to the movies with you.” After all I wanted to be part of the family activity too. The three looked at me speechless, like they did when they saw Bucky alive in Part 2 (Yeah, I know that now). They knew this meant a lot of hard work, but they were ready and so was I.

It was decided that to bring Mommy up to speed it was important she should watch the first two parts of the Captain America series. So I did. But in the middle of the first part I had to make dinner so I got up with an almost natural oh-no!-have-to-go face. 2 days later came part 2 on a weekend morning and I watched it while continuing with my weekend chores. I think I passed my test, cause towards the end I knew at least who the Captain was.

D-day. Dad made sure I had popcorn and chips so I could keep myself busy during the movie, in case I got bored. Expert Avengerist - my son, would be sitting next to me to clear doubts when required. (I think this was more of dad-daughter ruse to stay as far away from me as possible. The little boy fell for it as he was declared an expert. ) The first half hour went in figuring out one more time - who’s who! My constant “Ha kon, hi kon?” (Who’s this? Who’s that), amused my son in the beginning and he murmured with detail, “This is Black Widow and she is the captain’s friend.”  “Oh the one who was a fighter in the army? But she was blonde.” “Not that one mumma! That was Peggy. This is Black Widow. She was in the 2nd part. Don’t you remember anything? Leave it.” My next few questions got one word answers. I sat quietly trying to figure out who were the good guys and who were the bad guys and why the good guys were fighting the other good guys! Then suddenly came Spiderman from Queens and I jumped with joy like a dessert traveler who had seen an oasis. Finally a familiar face! “C’mon,” I said to my boy later, “you expect me to know there is an AntMan as well? Even IronMan didn’t know he existed.” ;) Point taken.

I looked proudly at my super heroes through the darkness of the hall; the ones sitting next to me - enjoying and actually understanding Sokovia accords, Hydra handlers and cryogenic sleeping. But my head had started hurting from all the clink clunk – You see, I’m more of a Bollywood ‘aa dhishum, aaa dhishum’ type of action movie fan. But when the captain’s shield and IronMan’s metal fist hit, its metal vs metal, again and again - clink, clunk and more clink and clunk all the way.  Add to that buildings falling and cars crashing and explosions everywhere. Finally the good guys on both sides have patched up and we start walking towards the exit. “See when two good brothers fight, it’s the outsider who wins,” I tell my kids (There isn’t a parental guidance opportunity I would want to miss). “Is that what you saw in the movie?” they asked disappointed. Anyways, it was over. “HALT!” said the dad, “there’s a mid-credit scene.” We sit down again on the empty chairs in the first row. It ends with Black Panther muttering something. The three give a high five “Black Panther! Yes. Have to watch the next one.” I call it quits.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bajirao Mastani - director's cut!

On one hand we have the Maharashtrians, especially the Punekars, coming together, not like they do at 4pm outside Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale, but this time with their pens as swords, to slam Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani.  On the other hand we have Bhansali and the film fraternity who stand by the movie in the name of ‘Creative liberty’. Whose side am I on? Doesn’t matter. No one cares. Will I watch the movie? Hell, yes! I have even watched Humshakals in the theater. My tolerance (a very popular word these days) for low IQ cinema is very high.  

Bhansali justifies that when the audience comes to watch his movie they would want entertainment and he is giving them just that (a biopic on Sunny Leone would have been more appropriate for that purpose, IMHO, but that’s besides the point). And then, this is his style – Grand sets, a love triangle and a dance sequence with the leading ladies. His movie should have that Bhansali stamp, right?!
So while I read the amusing WA and FB jokes on Bajirao Mastani (may their souls rest in peace), I wondered what would happen if other directors joined the bandwagon and decided to make their own version of the same story. Here’s my take.

Karan Johar – [Star cast: SRK, Kajol (Kashi), Kareena (Mastani).] Mastani is on a horse, ready to leave, but looking at Baaji, longingly. Kashi is holding Baaji’s hand firmly. The horse neighs. It’s time to leave. Baaji looks at Kashi with a ‘Kaashiji-mujhe-jane-do’ face. Kashi lets go. “Ja Baaji ja, jee le apni zindagi”. Baji sprints and jumps onto the horse and the two gallop into the far in slow motion as a beautiful mandolin piece plays in the background. Creative liberty hain bhai!

Anurag Kashyap – [Star cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Huma Qureshi (Kashi), Kalki (Mastani), Nawazuddin would have a special role – a fictional character that has been added on the pretext of artistic freedom].  80% of the movie will be shot in the dark in the natural lights of the glowing lanterns with sounds of crickets in the background. Bajirao’s mother Radhabai and Kashibai meet in the darkness of the Wada. The ever increasing influence of Mastani is worrying them. Kashibai is infuriated and in a weak moment bursts out, oblivious as she stands in front of her mother-in-law. The non-Marathi audience in educated with a series of Marathi cuss words being spit out like venom. ‘Tujhya ....chi, …chi, ..chi’ chichichi Kashi chirps on. Mastani canot live, they both agree. “Keh ke lenge”, they say with clenched fists. The screen becomes dark. Creative liberty hain bhai!

Suraj Barjatya – [Star cast: Salman (who else?), Kareena (Kashi), Sonam Kapoor (Mastani), Reema
Lagoo (Radhabai), Anupam Kher (Balaji Vishwanath), Sanskaari Alok Nath (Chatrasaal) with Renuka Shahane, Mohnish Behl, Bindu, Himani Shivpuri… I could go on ]. Barjatya declares he is making a sequel to his 1994 blockbuster and calls his new movie – ‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun Firse Batao’. And wait, hold your breath - Instead of one wedding, audiences would now be treated to two. The first half would be the wedding of Baajirao and Kashi. After the intermission, the second would be the wedding of Baajirao and Mastani.  And mind you, you poor Marathi people from humble backgrounds, if you have issues with Bhansali’s grand portrayal of the Peshwas, wait till you watch Barjatya’s set of the Peshawe Wada. Bharjatya’s set would make the descendants of the Peshhwa’s wonder where all that money went. (The movie will go on floors as soon as Barjatya recovers from the loss of PRDP.)

Ram Gopal Verma – He was last seen doing the rounds of Shaniwar wada, to gather content for the film. The chowkidar mistook him to be the ghost of Narayanrao and ran for his life. Disheartened, RGV left. Thank god or “Kaka, amhala vachva” (“Save us, uncle”), is what the audience would have to say.

Sajid Khan – Are you still reading this?

“So is there no one who could do justice to this biopic?” I thought somberly. I thought of Rajkumar Hirani. But he has burned his lips once and refuses to delve into any sensitive topic, be it mythological or historical. Sunju will be available soon, so he’ll probably just play it safe with Munna Bhai Part 3. Then Zoya Akhtar? She said she loved the script, but Farhan was busy. Ashutosh Gowarikar? -  Is he still around?

Finally!! Hallelujah - Amir Khan, the perfectionist. How did I not think of him before? He would probably be the only one to do it right. Alas - he is leaving the country! ;)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Why I refuse to be called an immigrant

“America is a land of immigrants”, they say. About Dubai they say “It’s a land of expats”.  I would think immigrants and expatriates were synonyms. Until now. The Oxford dictionary defines an immigrant as someone who comes to live permanently in a foreign country. An expatriate on the other hand is someone who lives outside his native country. The main difference you would think is the thought of being ‘permanent’. Could be. Yet, I see so many Indians returning back from America, either willfully or just because their visa had expired. On the other hand I know of many Indians living in Dubai for close to 20 years.

The H1 and L1 visas are called non-immigrant visas. That itself takes away the ‘permanency’ from the word. If they are not intended for permanent immigration why are they not called ‘expat’ visas? Could there be a racist connotation, I wondered? Looks to me, there is. When white folk/westerns work outside their country they are called expats. When Asians/Africans work outside their country they are called immigrants. Now that sounded like a more correct (yet unfair) definition.  

When I utter the word immigration, the thoughts that come to mind are ‘cross border illegal immigration’, ‘Cramped boats waiting for relief on foreign shores’, ‘cheap labor’ and ‘visa woes’. When I utter ‘expatriate’ what comes to  mind are ‘Plush expatriate colonies’, ‘expat wives shopping at malls flashing their Louis Vuittons’ and ‘a lot of pampering in general’.

I can decorate the word with feel-good adjectives like ‘highly skilled’ or ‘professional’, but the fact is I would still be an immigrant and I would still not be guaranteed permanency! Unfair, don’t you think?

(A cartoon on US immigration, from a website related to women and finance.)

(An image in an article on 'Expat living in Singapore' in The Telegraph.)