Monday, August 22, 2011

Film Review: AARAKSHAN

What went wrong, Mr. Prakash Jha? Did you lose interest towards the end or what?

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Tanvi Azmi, Prateik, Manoj Bajpai, Darshan Zaveri, Hema Malini
Director: Prakash Jha

THE STORY: Deepak Kumar (Saif Ali Khan) is the son of a widow who earns a living by ironing clothes. He has worked hard through school and has gained entrance into college all thanks to Prabhakar Anand (Amitabh Bachchan), the principal of the most popular educational institution in Bhopal. Deepak is on his way to do his PhD in the USA. Anand’s daughter Poorbi (Deepika Padukone) is also studying in the same college and she and Deepak are in love. Their best friend is Sushant (Prateik), the son of one of the trustees of the college.

Prabhakar Anand believes that education should be made available to one and all. That’s the very reason his college is the most popular in the district since 35 years. Trouble begins when a minister’s nephew, with just 52.07% in Std. XII, is adamant about getting a seat at the college. Everything snowballs out of control when the minister approaches Mithilesh Singh (Manoj Bajpai), a lecturer whose main source of income is from his private coaching classes.

Things get from bad to worse when Anand resigns from his post as principal and later finds that he has lost his home too. Unfazed, he goes on to prove to everyone that his way of educating everyone is the only way to be. Watch the film to see how he manages to do that with his family’s support.

MY PERCEPTION: Amitabh Bachchan gets better and better at acting, if such a thing were possible. He has given a stupendous performance as Principal Prabhakar Anand. Tanvi Azmi – have missed the actor since her last performance as Anupam Kher’s wife in Darr. She is a very good actress and I am surprised that we never saw her in any film all these years.

Deepika Padukone has come a long way and has given a good performance. Congrats Deepika!

Saif Ali Khan was excellent. Kudos! Prateik was good in his role even though it was quite brief.

Manoj Bajpai – why do we see so less of this actor? I simply hated his character and the meanest of the mean look in his eyes. Isn’t that how a villain should be? He was too good and was the perfect villain to Amitabh’s protagonist. The other producers and directors need to wake up and realize what they are missing.

The subject was great and the problem and solution perfectly created. All that said, the film was just tooooooo looooooooong. Where was the editor? Gone to sleep midway or what? And then he suddenly woke up and chopped off a huge slice of the film at the end – yeah, the end was too abrupt.

The movie ran for about 2 hrs and 45 minutes. It should have been just 2 hrs and maybe another 15 minutes at the most. The music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy was good but just did not fit in. They could have done without it. Every scene was prolonged and dragged out. Then, suddenly, in the end, just when the bulldozers were about to strike, Hemamalini walks in and a few seconds later, everything’s hunky dory. What went wrong, Mr. Prakash Jha? Did you lose interest towards the end or what?

VERDICT: You can see it, I suppose

RATING: **1/2 (Better than shaky, less than smart)

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

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Book Review: THE SECRETS OF THE NAGAS by Amish

The mind did work that maybe the author had been first time lucky and that I should not expect as much from this sequel. Well, I had my mind changed for me...

This is the second book in The Shiva Trilogy, the first one being The Immortals of Meluha. This is also the second book written by the author, Amish.

What is the book about? (This is from the website

Shiva’s hunt for the Naga who killed his friend Brahaspati and targeted his wife Sati, takes him down India’s major river networks, searching for traitors and seeking allies in his war against evil. But evil is rising again, more potent than ever. A whole nation is dying. Another, suffering for no fault of its own. Everyone is suspect: new friends, old allies and even his philosopher guides. At every corner, Shiva finds evidence of Naga activity. A crown prince is murdered. A people held to ransom for a miracle drug made only by the Nagas.

Shiva’s journey takes him across the length and breadth of Swadweep, to the land of the Brangas and further south, deep into the Dandak forest. Shiva searches for the truth in a land of deadly mysteries – only to find that nothing is what it seems.

Book 2 of the Shiva trilogy takes up from the point where Shiva is dashing to save Sati at the end of The Immortals of Meluha. Does he succeed? His archenemy seems to be winning every encounter. All Shiva knows for sure is that the Chandravanshis aren’t evil. But then, neither are the Suryavanshis. So who or what is evil? And who is the mysterious Naga that stalks his family? What does he want? What is The Secret of the Nagas?

What’s my take on it?

Amish Tripathi’s first book was The Immortals of Meluha. It was simply superb! What one would tend assume is that:

1. Maybe Amish Tripathi was first time lucky
2. He had said all he had to say in the first book
3. Amish had worked out a special genre by weaving together mythology and history and surprised everyone in his first book. What more could be special in the second one?
4. Yeah, there could be more mystery and more wars – so what will be different in this one?

Well, you have to read the book to find out. I was totally zapped. I went back to my college days (that of course, was eons ago) when I used to stay up late into the night, reading books that I simply could not put down. Somehow, that trend had stopped as I took on more responsibilities as a wife, mother and a full-time employee. After two-and-a-half decades, I stayed up till 3 am to complete the book as I just could not put it down without finishing it.

Before reading the book, I seriously wondered what more the author could have to astonish, amaze or hold one’s interest. It seemed that he had said it all in the first book.

Reading the book made me understand differently. It just shows the wealth of imagination Amish has and his story-telling skills don’t waver at all as he fascinates us with more characters – will not mention names here as the book has been out for barely a week – and incidents that are spellbinding.

It’s amazing the way Amish weaves characters and incidents from mythology along with perfectly acceptable, workable incidents in everyday life in 1900 BC and presents the perfect product, not a thread out of place. Swadweep, Brangaidai, Dandakaranya Forests and Panchavati spring to life in front of our eyes under the author’s able guidance.

I don’t think I should say any more – worried what I might let out to the readers.

I need to mention here that the cover art is beautiful with an abrasive snake held tightly curled around Shiva's left arm. Loved this one!

Way to go Amish! Looking forward to the third and final book of the trilogy and more and more in the future!

Friday, August 19, 2011


I got a mail about the workshop on comics & mythology to be conducted by Vimanika Comics at the behest of Comic Con Express Mumbai. Interested in both subjects and writing stories, I sensed an opportunity and decided to go to Mocha Mojo for the same on August 17, 2011.

I reached half an hour before the mentioned time in my over-enthusiasm and sat inside the AC section helping myself to a cup of hot Choco Latte and a bowl (it was huge) of delicious potato wedges with onion-cream sauce, to wait for my friend Nilima to come and the workshop to start. Both happened within five minutes of each other at about 7 pm.

Karan Vir Arora
There were about 40 people in the audience as Karan Vir Arora, the owner of Vimanika Comics, began the workshop. It was very interesting to listen to his ideas on creating a comic and how the company went about it.

Then it was Deepam Chatterjee’s turn to talk about mythology. There was some interaction at this point with Mr. Chatterjee throwing some questions at the audience. The youngsters were encouraged to answer as mythology is considered a forgotten thing amongst the lot. He took us through the process of creating a script for a comic strip. Once that is done, the artist does a rough sketch for the same. When it is approved by the boss (Karan Vir Arora), they go on to make the final sketch in pencil. Later, it is coloured. The background comes later and the two merged. Finally, the speech bubbles appear.

Deepam Chatterjee
A normal speech bubble is white with black writing in it. A red bubble suggests that the speaker is anger while a black bubble suggests that the speaker is negative. Quite interesting!

At this point, I asked Mr. Chatterjee, not once but twice, how one went about presenting a story for a comic. Both times, he came up with answers that had nothing to do with the question. Pretty persistent, I decided to ask this of Mr. Karan Vir Arora after the workshop got over.

Mr. Arora came back to the dais again and took us through the process of creating comic strips. The sketches and drawings were simply amazing on the screen. I was pretty fascinated. I also enjoyed the way these guys were using stories from mythology to suit present day situations and weave the two together and coming up with concepts that should hold the interest of gennext. Seems promising!

I spoke to Karan Vir Arora to find out whether there were any writing opportunities. I believe the whole thing is a kind of closed circuit and no outsiders were given a chance. Fair enough!

Tempted to buy the comics, Nilima and I went to the counter after the workshop was over. The comics were glossy and looked rich and were absolutely worth the pricing. Alas, when I opened them one by one, I was disappointed to see the gorgeous artwork and colour that I had seen on the screen, appeared pretty dull and lifeless on the pages. We refused Karan Vir Arora’s invitation to buy some and left the premises.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Food Review: GLORIA JEAN’S COFFEES @ Hiranandani Gardens, Powai

Nothing to beat a hot cup of superlative coffee during the monsoons...

Well, this visit was during our trip to Hiranandani Gardens. It was raining on and off and we wanted to stop at a coffee shop for a cup of hot coffee and snacks. I had already visited the CCD outlet here the last time I had been to Hiranandani. So, we opted to go to Gloria Jean’s Coffees. It turned out to be a good decision.
Watching the world go by from inside the Coffee Shop
Vinny and Viggy went to the counter to place our orders while I lounged about lazily on the comfortable sofa seating. The full length glass window gave me a lovely view of the rain-washed street outside and the restaurants across the street.

The self-service counter
THUMBS UP 1: We asked for three different coffees. I opted for a Caramel Latte, Viggy had an Irish Crème and Vinny had a Cappuccino. We simply loved them as we guzzled them down while watching the wet weather. My Caramel Latte was perfectly sweetened, just the way I like it.

THUMBS UP 2: My Blueberry Muffin was yummy.

THUMBS UP 3: Vinny had a slice of Banana Bread that was delicious.
Coffee & Cake
THUMBS UP 4: Viggy asked for a Chocolate Lamington – it was chocolate cake drizzled with coconut. It was the best of the lot.

THUMBS UP 5: Viggy also asked for a Garlic Chicken Sandwich. He insisted that the quality of chicken was too good, especially as compared to other coffee shops. He relished it till the last bite.

THUMBS UP 6: We shared a Veg Puff between us. It was good enough although I have had better.
Viggy & his Ice-cream Smoothie
THUMBS UP 7: The Ice-cream Smoothie that Vignesh had last was the best of the lot - deliciously creamy and chilled just right.

THUMBS UP 8: The best was the pricing. Very reasonable and total value for money!
A tissue that says it all!
Gloria Jean's Coffees
Gloria Jean’s Coffees,
G-3, Ground Floor,
Citi Park Building,
Hiranandani Business Park,
Hiranandani Gardens,
Powai , Mumbai
Phone: 40156262

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I could feel the resonance in the core of my being…

What is the book about? 
     ‘THE IMMORTALS OF MELUHA’, the first book of the Shiva trilogy is a No 1 National Bestseller, having sold over 100,000 copies since its launch in March, 2010.
     It is set in 1900 BC, in what the modern Indians mistakenly call the Indus Valley Civilisation. The inhabitants of that period called it the land of Meluha – a near perfect empire created many centuries earlier by Lord Ram, one of the greatest monarchs that ever lived.
     The once proud empire and its Suryavanshi rulers face severe perils as its primary river, the revered Saraswati, is slowly drying to extinction. They also face devastating terrorist attacks from the east, the land of the Chandravanshis. 
     To make matters worse, the Chandravanshis appear to have allied with the Nagas, an ostracised and sinister race of deformed humans with astonishing martial skills.
     The only hope for the Suryavanshis is an ancient legend – ‘when evil reaches epic proportions, when all seems lost, when it appears that your enemies have triumphed, a hero will emerge’.
     Is the rough-hewn Tibetan immigrant Shiva, really that hero?
     And does he want to be that hero at all?
     Drawn suddenly to his destiny, by duty as well as by love, will Shiva lead the Suryavanshi vengeance and destroy evil?
     The above matter is taken from

What follows is my take on it
     If you are interested in history, mythology and philosophy, you will find the book a totally absorbing reading. If you are not interested in any of the above, you will still find it fascinating.
     Amish aka Amish Tripathi has a fertile imagination clubbed with powerful story-telling skills. The result is simply awesome. 
     As I read the book, I forgot that I was living in the 21st century and felt transported to 1900 BC. I could feel myself walking the streets of the Indus Valley. I fell in love with Shiva and so wanted him to be human and not just an unreachable God. 
     I must congratulate the author on the details that he has imparted during his narration without it appearing to be a lesson in history. The characters - all of them you must have heard of- either from your grandparents, parents or from the pages of mythology or may be even from Amar Chitra Katha
     While we had believed them all to belong to some other alien world, they all spring alive in the pages of The Immortals of Meluha. How Amish has managed to give each of them a human persona is to be read to be believed. Imagine Shiva, Sati, Nandi, Veerbhadra, Daksha, Parvateshwar, Brahaspati and many more of them talking and walking the earth! I found the experience just mind-blowing. 
     The description of Swadweep and its residents so reminded me of present day Mumbai. 
     I could not keep the book down while my son and I took turns reading one copy – almost coming to blows over it. ;)
     As the book ends, the author has you begging for more, literally, as the sequel – The Secret of the Nagas – has just got out into the market. 
     Can’t wait to lay my hands on this one!

Click here to know all about Amish Tripathi!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Food Review: MASALAZONE BAR & KITCHEN @ Bandra Reclamation

Venkat and I were glad that we went to Masalazone. Read on to find out why…

Vinitha took us all out for dinner to celebrate her birthday belatedly. Masalazone was her idea as she and Viggy had already been there a couple of times and were all for it. The restaurant has an AC section and a non-AC one. It was obvious that the non-AC was more popular. The area appeared smart while rather dimly lit. Vinitha had booked a table in advance. We had to wait ten minutes despite that. The place was obviously popular.

Vinny with Long Island Iced Tea; Viggy with Mojito & Sunshine sitting right there in the middle
THUMBS UP 1: Venkat asked for a Mojito and simply loved it. He ordered a second one too.

Basil Garlic Paneer Tikka
THUMBS UP 2: Viggy went for a Long Island Iced Tea and relished the taste. He did not go in for a second one as he planned to drive us all back home. ;)

The Bar at the entrance. There are pedestal fans all around to keep the area cool
THUMBS UP 3: Vinny & I opted for the same mocktail each. It had ‘sunshine’ in its name (don’t remember the full name). It looked and tasted like sunshine with mango and orange in it. Refreshing and just the right amount of sweet. Perfect! I just cannot stand over-sweet drinks, hot or cold.

Achari Paneer
THUMBS UP 4: For starters we asked for Achaari Paneer Tikka, Subz Ki Bahar (grilled vegetables and paneer), Basil Garlic Paneer Tikka and a chicken grill. Vinitha and I loved the veg. starters while Venkat and Viggy enjoyed all of them. With so many starters, I opted not to have the main course.

Grilled chicken
THUMBS UP 5: We asked for Rotis, Butter Garlic Naan along with Butter Paneer Masala and Black Dal. While there was a mix up as they served half a naan and one-and-a-half rotis, they later made up for it by setting things straight.

Main Course
THUMBS UP 6: For dessert we asked for vanilla ice-cream with chocolate sauce and a chocolate cake. This was what they had left over at around 11 pm. They were not too bad.

THUMBS UP 7: The bill was pretty reasonable at around Rs. 2,400 plus.

THUMBS DOWN 1: The place was dimly lit. All the same, it would have been nice if there had been one light at least per table. I could not quite see what I was eating. I don’t much care for this.

The Subz Dhania Sorba that I returned
THUMBS DOWN 2: I asked for a Subz Dhaniya Sorba. It looked good but tasted of cardamom, of all things. I just could not have it. I believe it is kept ready and they could not possibly create a new soup for me without cardamom. Alas, the readymade Tomato Sorba also had cardamom in it, I believe. I don’t know what’s with cardamom in soups at this place. The good part was they did not charge us for this one.

For those interested:
Masalazone Bar & Kitchen is at
21-B, Santhal ONGC Complex,
Opposite Leelavati Hosptial,
Behind IES College
Bandra Reclamation
Phone: 26452031, 26439239, 9820403111

Author's Note: My pictures have been better. My only excuse is that the lighting was not good and I had a difficult time clicking my camera in the dark. :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Food Review: PRAKASH HOTEL @ Ghatkopar (East)

Latha & Venkat at Prakash Hotel
I have not added any food pictures as the items were quite common to South-Indian restaurants 

Venkat and I had been to his sister’s home at Ghatkopar on Saturday. We decided to go out for dinner and Latha suggested Prakash Hotel nearby. On entering, Venkat and I were rather worried that there was no crowd. Many a time that suggests that the food is not very good. It was obviously not the case here. 
THUMBS UP 1: We ordered soups to begin with. While Venkat, Latha and I shared two Sweet Corn Soups between us, Latha’s husband sGanesh went for a Tomato Soup. All of us relished our soups. In fact, Venkat was surprised that the Sweet Corn Soup tasted very different. That was because it was very fresh.
THUMBS UP 2: The Cheese Pakodas that we ordered came with two types of chutneys – coconut and kotmir chutneys. Yummy!
THUMBS UP 3: The Spring Roll was late in coming, just as the waiter had warned us. But it was definitely worth the wait.
THUMBS UP 4: Venkat’s Cheese Pav Bhaji was smothered in cheese in a nice way. He simply loved it!

THUMBS UP 5: Ganesh liked the Sada Dosa that he ordered. 
THUMBS UP 6: I asked for a Medhu-Vada Sambar. It was delicious. The coconut chutney and sambar were ever so fresh. 
THUMBS UP 7: Venkat had a Kulfi-Falooda and Ganesh had a Kulfi.
THUMBS UP 8: The best part was that after all the above-mentioned items, the bill came to just Rs. 700.

Wall decor at the hotel
THUMBS DOWN 1: The service could have been better and there was water dripping on Latha from the AC right above her head. On telling them to check, they simply switched it off. 

For those interested:
Prakash Hotel is at
Odeon Shopping Centre, 
Rajawadi, Vallabh Baug Lane, 
Ghatkopar (East), 
Mumbai 400077
Phone: 022-25106619