Saturday, July 25, 2015

Top summer vacation spots in India

Summer vacations are just round the corner and many are looking to escape the heat as the summer sun beats down on all and sundry. People are packing their bags and getting ready to leave the the hustle bustle of the cities to enjoy the beautiful tourist spots that are getting ready for the people to start pouring in this holiday season.

Here is a list of the top destinations that people head for every summer:


The favourite of every Delhiite this hill station is beautiful and boasts of being the top most visited spot in the summer. Whether it is honeymooners or just travellers from around the country, Shimla is one of the most beautiful places to visit this summer. Cool temperatures, lovely views and something to do for everyone. The touch of the British Raj and the architecture reflecting that era is fascinating as are the multiple small places nearby that one can drive down to.


Mahabaleshwar is famous for its temple and the fact that it is the source of the Krishna river. It offers a spectacular view of the Deccan plateau and is a preferred destination for the Mumbaikars. Surrounded by trees all around, the Venna lake is one of the major tourist attractions of Mahabaleshwar. Other places to visit are the fort of Pratapgad, Needle Hole Point or the Elephant Point, 3 Monkey Point and many others


The queen of hill stations, Ooty is situated in the Nilgiri ranges. Like Shimla, this beautiful vacation spot is also accessible by train and the ride is indeed dreamy. Beautiful mountains, lakes, tea gardens sprawling the slopes of the hills, the heady smell of eucalyptus fascinated the British years ago and still captures the imagination of the romantics all over the world.


Ladakh is possibly heaven for all adventure sport enthusiasts and people who love driving to their destinations. Each of the mountains boast of a different colour and the lakes reflect the hue of the skies like a large mirror placed on the ground. Speckled with monasteries all around, Ladakh is every travellers dream destination and many go there every year in search of peace and revel in the wonders of nature.


The site of Kanchenjunga, a morning walk in fresh mountain air, flowers all around, beautiful music wafting through every cafe in the evening, along with the aroma of fresh Tibetan food, Gangtok boasts of this all. The capital of Sikkim became a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site after the construction of the Enchey Monastery in 1840. The diverse ethnic populace of the town keeps the colours of the town alive.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Baahubali movie review: Visually spellbinding epic, worth a watch

As far as epics are concerned, Indian mythology is rich – whether in its characters or intricacy of plot. SS Rajamouli's 'Baahubali' borrows the essence of an Indian epic complete with a god-like hero and power-play of brothers fighting for the throne. Undoubtedly, he succeeds in making a great impression.

Five women directors

Women are getting involved in film-making more than ever before. Women directors are taking over the industry by storm giving us some of the most memorable films in the past decade. Be it masala blockbuster maker Farah Khan or Gauri Shinde who made the beautiful 'English Vinglish' that touched our hearts.

But the industry has seen a lot of female directors who have challenged the otherwise male dominated B-town. Here is a list of some of the best the industry has seen:

Deepa Mehta
'Earth', 'Water', 'Fire' – Mehta the Indo-Canadian filmmaker has had her share of controversies as she touches topics of homosexuality, partition and many others. But the way she handles her subject, this talented director has received heavy international acclaim as well. Both '1947 Earth' and 'Water' were sent to be nominated for Oscars.

Kalpana Lajmi
Being an artist is in Lajmi's blood. Daughter of painter Lalita Lajmi and niece of auteur Guru Dutt, she has some of the best parallel films to her credit, the most famous of which is 'Rudaali' starring Dimple Kapadia. 'Daman', a woman centric film starring Raveena Tandon(who won a National Award for her role) was highly appreciated by critics and audiences for the realistic portrayal of marital abuse and its message of women empowerment.

Aparna Sen
A big name in Bengali cinema as an actress in her time, when Sen forayed into going behind the camera the anticipation was huge. She turned out to be one of the best behind as well. '36 Chowringhee Lane' (1981) connected emotionally with her audience and she has never looked back. 'Iti Mrinalini', 'Mr. and Mrs. Iyer', 'The Japanese Wife', 'Goynar Baksho' have all been very well received by the audience and people are only waiting for more.

Sai Paranjpye
This Padma Bhushan Awardee has given us some of the most memorable movies in the 80s and the 90s. The most well known of them is 'Sparsh' which went on to win three National Awards as well as three Filmfare Awards. Her comedy 'Chashme Baddoor' remains a classic even today. Sai made another heart warming musical film called 'Saaz' in 1997 which also starred internationally acclaimed tabla artist Zakir Hussain.

Mira Nair

Possibly the most well known female director from India in the international circuit, Mira Nair is known for portraying human stories on the big screen. 'Salaam Bombay', her first film was successful in putting her on the map and her subsequent work ('Namesake', 'Monsoon Wedding' etc.) has only strengthened her position as one of the best filmmakers India has produced.  

Top 5 Hrithik Roshan dances

Check out my compilation:

Top 5 Hrithik Roshan dances | Zee News

Six offbeat movies to look out for in 2015

2015 is sure to be exciting with many big releases scheduled and interesting pairs coming on screen.
But many films which are off the beaten track are releasing this year too. While some have already made a massive impact in film festivals all over the world.  

Liar's dice

Releasing in march this year, the movie has already won accolades in many film festivals and received two national awards in india. Geetanjali thapa and nawazuddin siddiqui star in this geetu mohandas movie which is a human drama dealing with the issue of migration, exploitation and revealing the socio-political scenario of the subcontinent.  

Margarita, with a straw

This movie starring kalki koechlin is likely to release in india in 2015. Directed by shonali bose, this movie explores the story of a girl suffering from cerebral palsy and her struggles with being accepted as a normal person in the society. The trailer was very well received in india, and the movie itself has garnered quite a few accolades world over.  


Not one but 11 directors have made this movie. It is one story being told by 11 different directors in part. The experimental cinema is definitely a must watch with one actor rajat kapoor and 12 lead actresses. Abhinav shiv tiwari, anu menon, nalan kumarasamy, hemant gaba, pratim d. Gupta, q, raja sen, rajshree ojha, sandeep mohan, sudhish kamath and suparn verma are going to helm the different parts of the film.


Previously called 'white lies', this emraan hashmi starrer is being directed by award winning international film-maker danis tanovic. The movie is scheduled to release on march 6, 2015. Based in pakistan, 'tigers' traces the journey of a real life pharmacuetical employee who goes against the big corporates.  


Irrfan Khan and Konkona Sen Sharma in a Meghna Gulzar movie is sure to intrigue any movie goer. Vishal Bharadwaj has produced the movie, while Gulzar himself is penning the lyrics. This movie is based on the real life infamous incident of the arushi talwar murder case which happened in noida. Tabu is likely to make a special appearance too.  


Sohum shah who starred in the successful movie 'ship of theseus', broke all stereotypes and cliches in indian cinema. His next movie 'tumbad' is being looked forward to for the very reason. The bar is set high for the actor and one is only waiting to see what magic he can create in the horror epic being directed by debutant rahi anil barve.  

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Sikkim Travelogue: Flowers, mountains and snow - a trip to remember

Planning a trip and checking boxes while travelling has never been my forte. What I do like is stuffing a few T-shirts in a backpack and taking off whenever I can get some days off. Alas! Growing up has its disadvantages – you cannot just up and leave as you want. And if you are planning to go to Sikkim – that is not an option anyway.

Travelling with my recently travel bug-bitten husband, Sikkim required an advance planning by a few weeks. Not only because it is far from Delhi, which is my home, but you also have to take special permissions to go to the places near the border areas.

After speaking to a couple of friends who had been there before, we decided

Saturday, July 04, 2015

The fantabulous achievements of FTII chairman Gajendra Chauhan!

Protests over the appointment of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) chairman are still going on. Students have come together to stand against the decision of the seat being taken by a certain Mr Gajendra Chauhan; as it is perceived that he was given the privilege of being at the helm of affair due to his political leanings and not experience in the world of cinema.

While the general consensus on this issue is that it was done to 'keep an eye' on the institution, its students and faculty--there has been no move as such from the Information and Broadcast Ministry regarding the matter. It seems that things stand at a stalemate.

Chauhan's experience has been questioned in this entire affair, but should that really be an issue?

Monday, June 01, 2015

Avengers: Age Of Ultron movie review: Superhero extravaganza

The biggest superhero extravaganza is here in the form of 'Avengers: Age of Ultron', and it doesn't get better than this. The larger than life characters of Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow come together once more to save the world in the spectacular style as they have done before.

Diretor Joss Whedon explores the theme of artificial intelligence taking over human interest (as have many before especially in superhero stories) in the second instalment of 'The Avengers'. His super-villain is not someone who wants world domination. His superhero is robotic Pinocchio who has warped Isaac Asimov's laws of robotics.

The beginning of the film sets the tone for the rest of it. The superheroes are assembled trying to retrieve the Tesseract and the team finds itself in the middle of an onslaught. The film starts with an adrenaline rush that is challenging to match. And it indeed makes for one of the most arresting scenes in the film. The VFX is spectacular and you know that you are in for a joyride.

As before, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is snarky, but what is entertaining is how Whedon has made sure that this time he has someone to match his wit. James Spader as Ultron (he also plays J.A.R.V.I.S.) brings more peevishness to the film that left the viewers in splits. The film also shifts a little from the last one in terms of tone.

There is budding romance between Natasha and Bruce Banner. There are also several back stories that are revealed through the works of Wanda Maximof, better known as Scarlet Witch in the Marvel universe. There is also a lot more Jeremy Renner (playing Hawkeye) in this part of the movie. Captain America takes the lead justifying his character's qualities (as in the solo films) in subtle yet smart ways.

This one is much more of the team (with some extra additions) than the prequel. They have their differences, they sort it out, they fight together, they save the world – that is what every superhero movie is supposed to be about, and this one hits that nail on its head.

The film shifts from one masterfully directed action sequence to another. A special mention to the fight sequence between Hulk and Hulkbuster. It was perchance the most entertaining bit in the movie. The special effects are extravagant and taut, the execution is stylish. The performances are up to the mark but nothing beyond.

The film suffers from a slightly drawn-out middle. Although that does not take away from the fact that the whole theatre booed when the interval started, yet the slightly stretched emotional scenes take away from the rush. The climax however makes up for the lost time.

The film is sure to be an international blockbuster, and is worth every penny. Comic book buffs may be a little miffed with the small walk-aways from the original back stories. But the visual spectacle is going to keep the fans happy.

There are subtle hints in the movie, as well as a teaser at the end (as is usual in Marvel Universe) that pave way for the next two instalments of the 'Avengers' and raising the expectations for all superhero movies to come.

Not to be missed!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

'The Unwanted Shadow' book review: Short, crisp and thrilling

Thrillers by modern Indian writers leave me skeptical. It is not everyday that you actually find one that is gripping.

However, 'The Unwanted Shadow' by Bhaskarya Deka is not too bad. With just about 200 pages, the book doesn't seem heavy at the outset. You begin the book and you are left guessing where the story is taking you. It is not a whodunnit, it has a very realistic feel to it. The deaths are rare and well spaced throughout the novel.

Deka has researched his characters well. The story revolves around a young man from a small town in eastern India. Mohan, has a past, and is moving on to the big glittering Delhi to make a future for himself. But fate, as always has different plans for him. His new-found love, success and happiness suddenly dissappears when a deadly attack takes away his life.

His journey from thereon is one of self discovery. Within that self discovery he also finds a person who comes crashing back to his life. Whether this person is a friend or a foe is what the book explores.

As a thriller, the book is not high on violence or death. Although, it will keep you more or less gripped, Deka has not gone too graphic with his depiction of murders. The book is short so it does not dwindle on the pace of the story. There is a certain amount of inspiration from various books of this genre, especially hotsellers. The depth of the central character is well etched. However the other characters don't share that quality. Also, certain parts of the book seem to be superficially chalked out.

Deka has made sure to keep the relationship sides of the story crisp and to the point. He does not dwell on romanticising relationships and exaggerating scenes. Although, the story does come to a point where he makes the mistake of encouraging irrelevant character development, which ultimately can be a deterrent. The pace however rarely slacks.

The first half of the book makes it seem that the book may fail in its genre, but the author makes up for it. It may also seem that the book has been written by one of those umpteen engineering graduates, who have fashioned themselves as writers after failing to make a mark in their own industry.

It is a one sitting book. You wouldn't want to put it down as the shortness of it is refreshing. It also has some crisp and fresh language, especially for the young. Although it would not provide a very deep insight into psychology, it does touch some issues that young Indian authors are not very comfortable to delve into.

'The Unwanted Shadow' has all the necessary elements of a thriller, and the author can go a long way ahead with his writing. It is a great book to pick up while travelling, and will definitely be a engrossing read.

Published by: Half Baked Beans

Price: Rs175

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Frida - The yoga dog

Every morning frida does her morning stretches...
Forward, then backward.... Pulling her legs together to turn her spine...
Then curls up to catch her tail... She does it, defying all norms... Every time.
Then it is time to lie in her back... And stretch all four paws as far as possible... Time for morning ritual number 2. With that much yoga my dog should never have a bowel problem.
Move over ram dev.. Time for sadhvi frida

Frida's morning ritual

After a good night's sleep who doesn't like a little cosying up and cuddling in the morning?
Frida, it seems, has taken a special liking to cuddling.... Right in the morning she sneaks up between me and stupendous man.... Finds a sweet spot where she buries her head... And catches a few more hours of sleep right on top of my covers...
You move and she moans in agony of how she is being disturbed....
The tragedy of having a baby is that you know that she is comfortable, you are not.. And yet you don't move an inch so she could lie in a lil longer

Friday, May 01, 2015

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! review: Suave, stylish edge of the seat thriller

The television series directed by Basu Chatterjee starring Rajit Kapur and KK Raina has made it impossible to picture the Bengali sleuth Byomkesh Bakshi being played by any other actor on screen. But Dibakar Banerjee took on the challenge and cast a young Sushant Singh Rajput to play the role.

Byomkesh is India's answer to Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes. Dibakar raised the expectations with his chic trailers, and smart marketing not revealing his plan with the detective's character.

The film is 'Bakshy's' beginnings, the storyline of the movie is inspired by two of author Sharadindu Bandopadhyay's stories but with the director's own twist. The character grows throughout the film and Sushant has done justice to the responsibility placed upon him.

The movie will keep you on the edge of your seats. The plot has twists and turns and doesn't slack off. The treatment is very Tarantinoesque with rococo style art direction, sharp dialogues, and heavy background music. It would have been unbelievable that heavy metal plays in the background of a movie set in India, in the early 1940s. But it has to be watched to be bound by the spell that all these musician's (the music has been given by various artists including Madboy Mink, Sneha Khanwalkar, Joint Family etc,) cast and the tracks hit the mark without overpowering the film. The soundtrack done by a ensemble of lesser known artists is a masterstroke played by Banerjee.

Neeraj Kabi as Dr Guha is fantastic. He underplays his role throughout to emerge as one of the strongest characters of the movie. Sushant has played with a composure few actors can boast of.

Bengali actress Swastika Mukherjee,(as Anguri Devi) whose character was based on the notorious spy cum exotic dancer Mata Hari, is seductive at times, and at times she fails to make the impact which a layered character like her could have. Anand Tiwari plays the soft spoken Ajeet babu with panache.

Dibakar has attempted to include deaths and murders in the movie without going 'Dabbang' on his audience. The gore exists but (partly due to censorship) it does not overwhelm the main theme of the movie. The 'whodunit' format of the first half is quickly twisted into looking at the larger picture. The one villain of the movie will be revealed pretty quickly, but for a reason. The people who have read the original books would probably predict the first half, but the second half is meshed in the first story with subtlety.

The details of the movie are worth a mention. The costumes by Manish Malhotra prove that the go-to-glamour guy of Bollywood is more than just dressing up divas in fashionable clothes.

Although not perfected, the research and the hardwork shows in the movie. The sets by Vandana Kataria is an ode to pop culture and fits the feel of the movie.

The only qualm with the entire movie would possibly be the slightly long winded revelation in the climax. The explanation of the motive, as all detective stories must do could have been shorter and the mad man act by the villain was totally avoidable. The action sequence that follows is a fantastic tribute to the neo-noir cinema of the 40s and the 50s.

That aside, the gripping story, and crisp editing makes it a nail-biting watch. The end points towards a sequel and one eagerly awaits it. The genre of crime thrillers has been oft attempted but only a few have managed to impress as much as Dibakar's 'Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!' does.

The film has managed to bring back a popular Indian character to the limelight, and the movie does justice to the genre. Watch it for the packaging of the movie, music, lights, art direction and the story – they all fit together for an experience to remember.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Leonard Nimoy obituary: Adieu Captain Spock!

Pointy ears, upturned eyebrows, a smile that reached his eyes – Leonard Nimoy's spock is perhaps the most known and loved screen character of all times.

His death means an end of an era for so many in the world.

'Star Trek' is the benchmark of all science fiction work on-screen since its first season on TV and subsequent movies. People have grown up on it. We have cheered for Spock in his many adventures.

Fair and handsome Hrithik Roshan? Not you too!

It is so disappointing when an actor you have liked and respected for so long goes to the dark side. Well in this case the 'light' side.

Indians have a racist streak in them. They all like fair people.

First there was a demand for fair girls. Now, the advertisement industry features girls who are so pale that they would give Bella of 'Twilight' a run for her money.