Friday, October 29, 2010


Cast: John Abraham, Pakhi, Raghu Ram, Manasi Scott, Anaitha Nair, Alishka Varde, Prashant Chawla, Omar Khan, George Nick, Madhavan, Nandana Sen
Director: Abbas Tyrewala

The Story: Siddharth Arya (John Abraham) lives in London and is in a live-in relationship with Krutikka. His best friend is Omar (Raghu Ram), a Pakistani whose unmarried sister is pregnant. By a quirk of fate, Sid ends up receiving calls meant for a 24/7 suicide helpline for Indians. He spends a sleepless night answering desperate callers on the verge of giving up their lives. That’s how he gets to know Mishka (Pakhi – Abbas Tyrewala’s wife, btw). She is about to swallow all the sleeping pills in a bottle when she decides to call the helpline. Siddharth talks Mishka out of committing suicide. Mishka continues to call him every night and Siddharth patiently listens to her. When he refuses to divulge his name, she calls him Fidhaatho, meaning ‘someone who is absolutely trustworthy’.

Unfortunately, Siddharth meets her and pretends to be someone else. He lives a dual life – one as the voice on the helpline and the other as Siddharth. He lies a lot – I am not sure I understand the purpose to it, except that it fits in with the title of the film. The film goes on to show whether their relationship will last after Mishka gets to know the truth.

My Perception: The concept of the plot – the helpline for people on the verge of committing suicide – is good. Siddharth helping Mishka is very acceptable. The film has been built on this strong premise. But how it has been fleshed out is another story all together. The characters are all believable. A pregnant woman who refuses to accept the baby’s father’s (a Japanese) marriage proposal; a Gay man trying to find the right partner; Omar having hidden feelings for his best friend’s girlfriend; Mishka feeling desolate when her mother commits suicide and her boyfriend Kabir (Madhavan) ditches her for another woman; Kabir feeling jealous of Mishka’s newfound happiness with Siddharth – everything is believable and acceptable.

But the most important point of Jhootha Hi Sahi – Siddharth feeling the urge to lie to Mishka – I am not able to quite swallow that one. It does not seem natural. I can quite understand people telling lies under exceptional circumstances. And then there are those who are compulsive liars. Siddharth is neither. Why does he feel the need to lie? I felt lost. And as this is supposed to be the backbone of the story, the film just falls apart as it does not work.

John Abraham – it’s a surprise that he has made a name for himself in competitive Bollywood and directors have the guts to make films with him as the only hero. I have never found his acting great. But it was quite appalling in this film. He goes through the film with a dumbstruck look most of the time with a bit of pathos thrown in on and off. It’s amazing how the producer and director thought that they could rely on such an actor (?) to make the film run.

Pakhi – she was not too bad in what I presume is her debut venture in Bollywood.

Raghu Ram of the MTV Roadies fame has does an excellent job in his role as Omar. If there is a reason to watch this film, I would say that this is the one. He is the saving grace of the film.

The music by AR Rahman was good. What surprised me was the stammering Siddharth breaking into songs that are sung perfectly.

One more scene that needs to be mentioned is the one at the Chinese restaurant where Sid and Mishka go for dinner. The waiter tries to be helpful when Sid stammers while reading the menu. Mishka turns around and tells the poor man off. I am still (2 days after seeing the film) trying to fathom why she is rude to him. One angle to the story is that Mishka is pleased that she has become confident enough to tell someone off for his bad behaviour. But what was wrong with the waiter’s behaviour? I am flummoxed.

Verdict: All in all, a waste of good money. If you are keen on seeing the film, would advise you to watch it on TV as the film is bound to get to the small screen pretty soon.

Rating: ** Shaky

* Silly
** Shaky
*** Smart
**** Snazzy
***** Super

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Paneer Gobi Paratha
This paratha filling I learned from my sister-in-law Hemli. It needs some effort but is not too difficult to make.


For filling:

Cabbage – ½ kg
Paneer – 250 gm
Green Chillies – 4 (can use more if you like spicy)
Ginger – ½ inch piece
Garlic – 2 cloves
Coriander leaves (kotmir) – ½ a bunch
Salt to taste
Oil – 1 tsp

For dough:

Wheat flour – 2 cups
Salt to taste
1 tsp oil
Enough water to form a tight dough

For shallow frying:

A mixture of oil and ghee – ½ cup


1.       Cabbage should be cut finely after removing all the hard veins.
2.       Grate the paneer and keep aside.
3.       Coarse grind Green chillies, ginger and garlic.
4.       Chop coriander leaves finely.
5.       Pour a spoon of oil in a saucepan (kadai) and place on gas. Add the cabbage and salt and cook on medium flame till soft till the water that oozes dries up. Now switch off the gas.
6.       Add the grated paneer, chilli-ginger-garlic paste and coriander leaves to the cabbage and mix well with a spoon. The filling is ready when cooled.
7.       Mix the dough with the above-mentioned ingredients and make small balls of the same.
8.       Roll out a ball of dough into a circle. Add 2 tsp of paneer gobi filling to it and make it into a ball with the filling inside.
9.       Now gently roll out the paratha before placing on semi-hot tawa (iron girdle).
10.      Turn on both sides while cooking on medium flame before adding the oil-ghee mix to both sides.
11.      Cook till golden brown in colour.

Serve the parathas hot with sauce or any chutney of your choice. I love to eat it plain as it tastes just yummy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Wall decor at Noodle Bar
My friend Chandra’s daughter Shwe and I went to see a dandiya programme at Kendriya Kreeda Mandal at Lower Parel before joining my daughter Vinitha for dinner at Noodle Bar at Phoenix Mills. This was my first visit to the restaurant. The wall decor was rather cute, I thought.
Vini & Shwe
Plus point 1: Vinitha ordered a Mango Mojito – mango syrup, white rum, soda with lots of ice and garnished with mint leaves – and enjoyed it thoroughly. 
Mango Mojito
Plus point 2: Shwe asked for a Wanton Soup. I am neither too fond of clear soups nor steamed wantons. But Shwe thought it was perfect and totally relished it.
Shwe with her Wanton Soup
Plus point 3: We ordered one portion of Thread Paneer that was fresh, crisp and hot while it tasted absolutely delicious. The portion was quite large too.
Thread Paneer
Plus point 4: The Burnt Chilli Noodles wok that we asked for the main course was simply humongous. Total paisa vasool! Although all three of us hogged and we hogged, we could not finish it. Delightfully yummy!
Burnt Chilli Noodles
Plus point 5: Shwe and I asked for Lemon Iced Teas that were just perfect with not too much ice, just the way we had ordered.
Lemon Iced Tea
Flop show 1: The Crispy Potatoes that we asked for starters were rather disappointing. I have definitely tasted better in other places. They were neither hot nor crisp enough and rather oily. Thumbs down for this one!
Not-so-crisp Crispy Potatoes
I cannot say much about the pricing as Shwe insisted on footing the bill. All in all, it was a good experience that I won’t mind repeating although I don't crave for a second visit.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


….to continue from Part I
Kathiawadi Chowk
The Kathiawadi Chowk Navratra fair is held on the first day of Navratri every year. This year, Tina and her family were up from 3 am on Friday morning, packing away the Garbas into a tempo to be taken to the fair. The auspicious time to leave home was 5 am and they left right then to reach the market at Malad East.

Neha, Payal & Tina at the Navratra Fair
Their wares were set up on the roadside in a colourful display along with many others. 9 o’clock was when the customers turned up in droves to inspect and buy the Garbas. I reached the venue at about 11 am and was thrilled to see the colour all around me.
Other vendors

Pink, yellow, red Garbas - your choice

More Garbas
Tina and her gang were busy selling their wares throughout the day to eager customers.

Tina selling her best Garba
It's going, going, gone!
One would be surprised to see the area that could pass off for a village but for the busy highway and some tall buildings. It was a combo of urban and rural in typical Mumbai-ishtyle.

Malad East - Village or City?
Well, those were scenes from the cute little village fair at Kathiawadi Chowk. I am glad to mention that while Tina and her family worked hard till 10 pm, they did manage to sell around 330 Garbas that day and she was left with a margin of about 10% unsold during this season.

Right now, Tina does not have any time to stand and stare. She is busy getting the Diyas ready for Diwali! Long live Tina and her family!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Quick-fix Meal: DAL KHICHDI

Dal Khichdi
This is totally quick-fix and tastes delicious.


Rice – 1 cup
Tur Dal – ¾ cup
Water – 3 ½ cups
Onion – 1 (chopped)
Tomato – 1 (chopped)
Garlic – 3-4 cloves (chopped)
Ginger – 1 small piece (grated)
Curry leaves – a few
Green Chillies – 2 (each cut in twos)
Coriander Leaves – 2 tsp (chopped)
Mustard Seeds (Rai) – ½ tsp
Cumin Seeds (Jeera) – ½ tsp
Cloves – 2 (optional)
Cinnamon – 1 teeny-weeny piece (optional)
Turmeric Powder – 1 pinch
Oil – 1 tsp
Ghee – 1 tsp
Salt to taste


1.       Wash the rice and dal together and keep them in a bowl.
2.       Take a pressure pan and place it on the gas.
3.       Add the oil and once it is hot add the mustard seeds and wait for it to crackle.
4.       Now, add the cumin seeds along with cloves and cinnamon.
5.       Next comes the turn of chillies, curry leaves, ginger, garlic and coriander leaves. Add
them all together to the pan and turn them.
6.       Immediately add the onions and fry till golden in colour.
7.       Add the turmeric powder to the onions and then the tomatoes.
8.       Cook for a couple of minutes before adding salt.
9.       Then pour in the water before adding the dal and rice.
10.   Close the pan and pressure cook the same as you would cook dal – 10 minutes after one whistle and the gas on slow.

The Dal Khichidi is ready to eat when you open the cooker. Add the spoon of ghee to it
before serving it hot with a vegetable raita or just plain curd.

Friday, October 8, 2010


The Garba
Well, this is Navratri time and I bring to my readers the story about a Garba Pot’s journey.

This real story is about a family of potters from Kumbarwada at Dharavi Labour Camp. Kanji is a potter by profession and lives in Kumbarwada with his wife Tina and four children – Dharmesh, Neha, Payal and Manthan.

Kanji, Tina and their kids

While he is an expert potter, Kanji has no facilities of his own and everything is used on rent. He works for 4-5 hours in a day while making 200 to 250 pieces. Not that he works everyday as he is not in the best of health.
Clay all set to be moulded

Tina is a terrific worker who packs a huge number of hours in her day. She works at my home as a cook in the mornings while she does work at other places too. Her afternoons and late evenings are spent getting the Garba ready for Navratri.

Kanji at work
Their work began three months ago. Clay is brought from wholesalers by the truck. The cost varies from Rs. 2000 to 2500 from time to time. It needs to be cleaned up thoroughly and mixed into a smooth paste.

Kanji rents an electric wheel (a day’s rent is Rs 150) and manages to make about 300 pots on a given day. The pots are dried in shade for a couple of days till they become firm. The round-bottomed pots are softly tapped into the right shape for the garba and then holes are made. There is no particular number of holes on these. They just use their discretion. What they need to ensure is that the pots don’t break when they work on them and also the holes should be very neat without any residual clay in-between.

Again these pots are left to dry in the sun over 3-4 days. They hope to have strong sunlight on the morning the pots are baked in the kiln.

Drying pots
All the work is done by the whole family and a few neighbours. The whole community gets together to work on each other’s projects. About 10-12 people work as one to stack the pots in the kiln and the process takes about half an hour. We are talking about 300 pots that are not quite dry yet.
The kiln, bhatti or choola

The kiln belongs to their neighbour Jaggubhai who generally rents it out between Rs 150 and 250 depending on the season. But Kanji is a good neighbour and friend and therefore gets to use it for free.

A thick layer of cotton is made inside the kiln. Then bricks are laid in a square and a thin sheet of metal (patra) is laid over this. The pots – 300 of them – are stacked over this layer after layer. Another layer of metal is placed over this and that is covered by the more cotton. They place a few more sheets of metal all around to generate heat evenly.

The pot is ready for Stage II
Cotton balls are lit and placed all around the kiln around the packed pots with more at the mouth of the kiln. The kiln, bhatti or choola gets ready over the next couple of hours, the rest of the cotton slowly catching fire. This happens from 2 to 4 pm.
Manthan's handiwork

Then the oil rags are fed into the kiln in stages to keep the heat going. Iron rods are used to push the rags inside. This is from 4 to 10 pm when an even heat is maintained while the pots bake. One can imagine the kind of heat that is produced here. After 10 o’clock, the fire is allowed to cool down and fizzle out.

The pots are not touched until the next morning and then too they are handled only with denim gloves are they are still hot to the touch. The kiln is shared by a few families and is emptied if someone else needs it urgently. Otherwise, they take the whole day to remove the pots in a leisurely fashion.

Stage II of the Garba is the decoration. The baked pots are cooled and then washed thoroughly. They are dried both inside and outside their home as there are so many of them.

Day 2 sees the pots painted white. Chunna (lime) and gond (an edible substance used while making laddus) are mixed with water and made into a whitewash and the pots are coated with this. Tina and her four kids do this work in harmony. The best part is that Tina is very adamant that all her children are to be educated. Dharmesh is in FYJC, Neha in Std IX and other two are also in school. They study well too.

Day 3 is to use oil paint on the white coat. Red is the colour that holds best and is timeless. Other colours such as green, yellow, blue and more are also used. The pots are kept aside after this for drying yet again.

Tina and her creation
Day 4 is for sticking design on the pots. Mother and children work on this too. Tina uses her own imagination to make the designs. She uses neither a pre-sketched design nor a tracing paper. Everything is done freehand. They use pearl beads, zari threads, ropes, mirrors, chamki and more to stick on the pots. The overall effect needs to be seen to be believed. Tina gets the raw material for the designs from Surat where her sister lives. She uses about Rs. 3000 worth of these materials for the 700 pots she has decorated this season.

Then comes the final touch on Day 5. Tina prepares cones – similar to mehendi cones – and fills them with colour and a quick and strong fix gum. She gives the final touches to the decorated Garbas with these colours. This gets set in about an hour. Now the Garba is ready for sale.

Going to the market
Tina and family have already sold about 300 decorated pots in different sizes from home for a total cost of Rs 15000. They have about 400 pots packed away for sale during Navratri. While she has been working into the wee hours of the night over the past week, not once have I heard the little lady complain nor has she asked for a day off.

Going to the fair
The ever-grinning Tina and her gang are to set off to the fair at Kathiawadi Chowk at Malad for the grand Navratra market. All the hard work has not fazed them one bit. What I admire most about this family is that the determined lady of the house ensures that the kids study, they don’t do any labour outside home while what work they do at home is so creative that it holds this family so well together.  I sincerely pray that they sell all the pots that they have made for excellent prices. The prices do tend to ebb and flow and don’t remain very steady.

I will bring you this story in Part II of this series.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Anjaana Anjaani

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Zayed Khan
Director: Siddharth Anand

The Story: Akash (Ranbir Kapoor) is a financial whiz-kid whose touch turns to gold on Wall Street. He has his own business in partnership with a few friends. But a wrong move leaves them all with a loan of $ 12 million. The broke and frustrated Akash attempts suicide by jumping off the bridge into the Hudson River. He finds a very much drunk Kiara (Priyanka Chopra) on the bridge. She laughingly edges him on to commit the act. They both go their own ways only to have accidents with the same car and land up in the same hospital.

On recovery, the two strangers get together and try very many ways to commit suicide without success. Of course, there is a reason for Kiara wanting to kill herself. The film goes on to show how the Anjaana and Anjaani fall for each other and live happily ever after.

My Perception: As far as love stories go, the film was not too bad. The only trouble iss, it is a very short story and should have been made into a short film that will have had a run of 40 minutes. It was 2 hrs too long. Don’t mean to be too harsh, but there needs to be some meat to the plot. It is barely a sketch with very few incidents happening – too weak to hold up as a full length Bollywood film. Even after giving allowance for all the songs, the film should not have been more than one hour long.

Priyanka Chopra has proved herself to be an excellent actress over and over again and she is sizzling hot too. I don’t think a no-brainer such as this would make much of a negative impact on her career. But then again, it will never go down in history as one of her better performances.

We have seen way better of Ranbir Kapoor in Wake Up Sid, Rocket Singh, Ajab Prem Ki Kajab Kahani and Raajneeti. There was no scope for any acting for this guy in the film. It must be the director’s fault surely.

Zayed Khan was a surprise package. While he was there in only 3-4 scenes, the man proved that he could act. Congratulations!

The music and songs were good, but there were just too many of them.

Verdict: A weak storyline with mediocre direction makes the film a waste of money and time. I am sure it should be out as ‘World Premiere’ on a TV channel pretty soon. Those who are keen would be better off seeing it then. 

Rating: **

** Shaky
*** Smart
**** Snazzy
***** Super

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sharing: Inauguration of CWG 2010

Picture captured from my TV screen
The Common Wealth Games 2010 were kickstarted on October 3, 2010 in a gala celebration. I got to see the event on TV same as most of us. The event was superbly organised and did our country proud.

Prince Charles was the Chief Guest at the function and was in attendance with his wife Camilla. There was a splendid performance by Sri Hariharan and this was followed by a number of traditional dances. There were group performances of Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Mohiniattam, Manipuri and Kuchipudi. It was nice to see the national integration in that the performances were alternately from the North and the South of India. They were exquisitely colourful too, especially the Kuchipudi performers from Andhra Pradesh who wore a vibrant pink. The choreography and getting so many people together on one platform must have been a mammoth effort. Kudos to the organisers!

A couple of speeches and oath-taking later, there was a Bhangra performance, an Eastern tribal dance followed by Karagattam and Kavadi from Tamil Nadu. There was also a song and dance from Kerala but I am not able to place the name. It was beautiful.

There was a Yoga programme introducing the 5000-year-old tradition of Pathanjali Yoga to the foreign guests and sportspersons. Excellently put together!

There was an array of floats themed ‘The Great Indian Journey’ with displays of small business manufacturers, bangle sellers, cycle manufacturers, cane juice makers, politicians and more. It could have been better and classier.

The fireworks came next and were a lovely sight to behold. The highlight of the show was music and singing by AR Rahman – a lovely jewel in the crown of the Inauguration Ceremony.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Endhiran, the Robot

Cast: Superstar Rajnikanth, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Danny Denzongpa, Santhanam, Karunas
Director: S. Shankar

This is the Tamil version of the film I am writing about here.

The Story: Vaseegaran (Rajnikanth) is a robotics scientist who has been conducting an experiment for ten years before he completes his latest project – an android. His girlfriend Sana, (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) is quite bugged with him for his lack of attention but is quite happy when she meets ‘the robot’ (also Rajnikanth). Vaseegaran has two guys (Santhanam, Karunas) assisting him in the project. Vaseegaran updates his robot with a keen knowledge of just about everything – music, dance, a variety of fighting techniques and more. The robot is able to scan books by the hundreds and absorb their information. Vaseegaran gives it the name of Chitti.

Everyone is enamoured with Chitti and its antics. Chitti is good at anything it does. It can cook, it can draw and paint, it can fight when necessary, drive a car and whatever. Vaseegaran is keen to use Chitti for the military and protect the country. But every time he tries to get his project approved, there is one person who stops it from happening. And that is the bad guy (Danny Denzongpa) scientist who used to be Vaseegaran’s mentor. Jealous of his disciple’s success and worried of losing out on all the income, the villain does his best to sabotage Vaseegaran’s chances.

The film goes on to show how the villain manages to convert the helpful Chitti into a maniacal and destructive robot. Whether Vaseegaran is able to realise his dreams forms the rest of the story.

My Perception: The film was simply superb with fantastic animation and a lot of research has gone into robotics to give an authentic presentation. Kudos to S. Shankar for the idea, story and its execution! A fantastic dream that spans about a decade has come true for the director from what I hear. It is totally worth all his efforts. My son is a staunch Hollywood fan and insisted on watching the film. He went through it with an eagle eye to find faults and was amazed that he could not find any. I go by his word that the film has been perfectly made.

The music by Rahman, sound by Resul Pookutty and cinematography by R. Rathnavelu were nothing short of amazing.

Danny Denzongpa had a good role that seemed to have suddenly been cut short. While he has done his part well, I did expect a bit more from the character and not the abrupt end that it had.

Rajinikanth as Vaseegaran had a very ordinary role – nothing that you would expect from the Superstar. But words cannot describe him play Chitti the Robot. It was fantabulous, to put it mildly. One has to see the film to understand the magnitude of the role and the 61-year-old who is playing it. Amazing!

Aishwarya Rai – don’t quite know what to say. A woman was required in the role. And of course it helps to have a Bollywood star if the film is being sold to both the south and north of India. And then, Miss. World definitely adds more glam. But all these will help sell the film. Will it make the film improve in quality is for the viewer to decide. I did not find anything fascinating or special about Aishwarya’s role as Sana. It was too ordinary and could have been way shorter so that the film had a tighter fit.

With Santhanam and Karunas on board, I definitely expected some more comedy. That was quite disappointing, especially considering the earlier Rajini and Shankar flicks that had way more comedy timing.

To this end, I would have given the film four and a half stars.

But I have a bone to pick at this point. The film is 2 hrs 45 min long. Filmmakers in India, especially those in the South have to mature way more in the sense, they should get out of the myth that quantity is more important than quality. To give that extra 45 minutes, the director has compromised on the quality of the film.

The film is awesome – the story, the music, the cinematography, the direction and whatnot – they all were just perfect. But every time the story took off in a promising direction, Rajni and Aishwarya would jump into a song and dance sequence. By God, that was simply horrendous and totally irritating. It kept interrupting the flow of the film and made one want to scream.

A tight script with the focus on robotics is what we went for and what we would have loved. The film will definitely run extremely well as we kind of excuse the S&D and see the movie anyway. But I hope the director understands that these have made his “stupendous and extraordinary film” into “just a very good one”.

Verdict: You definitely have to watch this one. Tamil Sci-fi has gone global. Superb one by Shankar & the Superstar!

Rating: *** ½ (you know why :( )

** Shaky
*** Smart
**** Snazzy
***** Super

Friday, October 1, 2010


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or The Mahatma – what does the name mean to the lot of us?

When I was a kid (that was eons ago), the name meant a sense of patriotism, a deep feeling of gratitude while I have cried many-a-tear reading about Gandhi Thatha (grandpa) in history books. We have watched many films on Indian Independence and got to know The Mahatma’s role in it. I have always felt mighty proud that I belong to the same soil as the great man himself.

My grandfather told us many stories of life during the British Raj. He had studied and practised law in those times. My father had gone for an interview with an Englishman. These interactions helped us all understand the concept of Gandhi. 

But what about today’s generation? My kids and those younger to them? Do they know anything – what I mean is – do they understand what MK Gandhi was and still is to our country?

I mean the question literally, without any sarcasm. I remember this incident when my daughter was a baby. I kept on telling her that the pressure cooker was hot and she should not touch it. Vinitha was too curious by nature and kept on reaching for the cooker only to be scolded by me again and again. One moment I looked away and she screamed with pain. She had touched the hot cooker and her little fingers had turned red. With tears in her eyes, she wanted me to cuddle her. That was the first time I understood that you need to experience some things to really understand what it is. She had to touch the cooker to know the meaning of ‘hot’. How many ever times I kept telling her, there was just no use.

In a similar fashion, talking about Gandhiji in times when the country is going global might be tough on GenNext. They might not be able to comprehend the values that the older generation is trying to inculcate in them.

This is where I really appreciate the value of Rajkumar Hirani bringing Gandhigiri to the masses through his blockbuster, Lage Raho Munna Bhai. Even if the younger generation is not quite able to comprehend what Gandhiji did for our country and her independence, the kids will definitely be able to relate to his principles. Jai Ho!

Long live the memory of the Father of our Nation!