Movie Review

Haire Krishna !

I just finished vacuuming the floor today, and going by the quantity of hair that came out of the carpet, it is indeed a miracle that I am not yet bald ! Which led me to think if there was indeed a Rapunzel, if she was the protagonist of Ekta Kapoor’s next soap…what would it be like ??? Any guesses for the name of the soap … yes, you are right.. it’s “KKeshni”.

The parents would have to be successful, rich Gujju businessman Rahul and his model wife, Kkasturi. Rahul has of course, married his late brother (Rohit)’s fiance who was pregnant with Kkeshni at the time Rohit met with a fatal accident (an attempt of murder from which he will emerge alive after a 20-year leap, with plastic surgery done to make him look 20 years younger, which drives the audience crazy about how old he really is !!).

Anyway, our Kkeshni is an ideal daughter..beautiful, cultured, loving, and pretty much does nothing all day except leave her tresses loose (oops.. that’s our Rapunzel’s USP) and frolic about in the palatial house (they must be in the Top Twenty Richest People, considering the zooming property prices in India), playing with fluffy teddies and pampered by an old Ramu Kaka, who nurtures a dark secret about her past, and has sworn eternal allegiance to this family. Which planet did he arrive from ?!

One fine day, “Knock…knock” and Kkeshni opens the door thinking it is the postman (why isn’t she at college or at work ??!!). And there stands our magnificent hero, Karan (the surname’s just got to be a Mittal). Now, the audience will be subjected to the torture of a ten minute song from one of Tushar Kapoor’s movies, and will have to watch Kkeshni’s sparkling chandelier earrings and Karan’s deep eyes and painted lips over and over again, until its time for the next TV commercial. Phew…

Oh no, the commercial has ended, and so has my patience… No, I cannot watch Kkeshni marrying Karan , and realising that it was Karan’s dad who had plotted her real dad’s murder, because Karan’s mum was in love with Rahul, who was forced to marry Kkasturi, because Rohit died. If this makes a teeny weeny bit of sense to anyone, just email me for a reward !

Let me quickly take you five years down the line, to show you the finale of the soap. Mrs. and Mr. Mittal subject Kkeshni to various forms of torture. In the meanwhile, Karan has had a baby with Kkeshni’s sister (probably a cousin sister, who is miraculously invoked out of thin air to boost the TRPs in light of a KBC re-launch!). And Kkeshni herself loses her memory when she accidentally falls into a river and is saved by a sanyasi. She infact almost marries an old admirer of hers (thank God he is not the sanyasi himself), when Karan arrives just in time to stop the fiasco.

Anyway, all’s well that ends well. Kkeshni wins over her tormentors by sheer love and devotion. No, we are not done yet. The icing on the cake: the Saas is suddenly infected by a deadly disease, and to propitiate the Gods to save her, Kkeshni sacrifices her tresses. Now, isn’t that the real beauty of Rapunzel ?

You know what… if writing the above crap for just an hour today leaves me feel so confused and frustrated, I really feel bad for the Balaji team. They must have lost their marbles ages ago, trying to cater to the appetite of the non-Malabar-hill audience (as Ekta defines her target audience).

I think I’d rather get back to my cooking.
In Tulsi Ma’s words…”Jai Shree Krishna”.

Food and recipe

The art of making chapatis

A typical South-Indian, I always believed that chapatis are best made by our excellent North Indian neighbours. It was only after marriage and setting up our home, that I realised we could do it as well.

First , take some aata (aata, not maida), say about 6-7 scoops. Of course some of it falls on the table, and you need to mop it up, while swearing at it. Add a little salt, half a cup of hot water, and start mixing the dough. Then, since the water is not enough, add another cup, and keep mixing. Suddenly you realise that the dough seems way too watery, so you add scoop after scoop of aata until the dough becomes a little manageable. Experiment spooning some curd, thinking it will make the dough soft. Since the entire dough is now a sticky, gooey mess, just add more aata and finally, you will end up with the perfect dough, not too soft and not too hard. The litmus test is to put stick your finger (the fore-finger please) into the dough, and removing it, finding none of the dough sticking to it.

Then, place a tava (preferably non-stick) on the burner, and start rolling out the chapatis. First take a ball of dough, and press it down, then sprinkle some aata on it, and keep rolling. When you lift it, to roll in the other direction, you will find that it sticks to the base (of the table or the “kallu” on which you roll). That’s all a part of the game..just tear it off the base, and when it rips, roll it up again into a ball, and re-start the rolling process.

Now is the interesting part – you will realise that you have indeed learnt something from your school days. “Geography”. You will find that the chapatis morph into maps of various countries (my all-time favourite is Australia), some which you are familiar with, and some countries that you have never seen before. Never mind. Just keep up the good work. In the interim, a smell of something burning will gently waft through and hit your nose, when you will realise that it is the empty chapati tava. Then you hurriedly dump the chapati on it (don’t worry if the map changes shape slightly, global warming is always causing this).

An attempt at multi-tasking at this stage may lead to a conical chapati being rolled out, while the Australia map develops black craters. Anyway, make the best of the situation, by positioning the cone as a “heart-shaped chapati” to woo your spouse who returns tired and stressed from work. The craters may be scraped off.

Oh, with regard to the chapati on the tava, once bubbles appear on one side, turn it on the other side and wait for more bubbles. Once they appear (ignore bubbles that escape through the well-ventilated chapatis), press the chapati with a cloth to force it to “puff-up”. In case it still doesn’t puff, sprinkle finely chopped onions and tomatoes, and a little pepper and offer your very own ‘masala papad’ as a starter.

Phew, now that all the maps, chapatis and papads are ready to be served, fold the really unrecognizably-shaped chapatis in such a way that they appear as neat semi-circles. After all, presentation does impact appetite. Bon appetito!

By the way, this method of making chapatis will surely lead to weight-loss. Nobody will ask for a second serving, and your family can lose weight without having to exercise 🙂

P.S: For critics – the subject of this blog is only “the art of making chapatis” and not “the art of making Perfect chapatis”. So, you can’t really blame me for the above patented recipies and method, can you ?!

Movie Review

Kya Story Hai !

Baby went to sleep early today, so I switched on the TV – Star Gold channel, and I am regretting it ever since. The movie: Kya Love Story Hai. The same old story…boy, girl, another boy, and a love triangle. Unfortunately, I can’t specify if it was a love triangle or a quadrangle (depending on the number of people who joined the circus), as I just couldn’t watch beyond the first 20 minutes. The names.. OMG.. HOW can somebody’s name be “Rocky” ?! And all that these kids do, is party and bail each other out of their love tangles !! Oh, the co-hero by the way, delivers a lecture in Hindi, to a group of foreign students ! The only saving grace however, is that the comedy ends in 3 hours time. BTW, Ayesha Takia is really cute, despite her hairstyle reminding me of a pet pup.

What goes beyond all tolerance is Ekta Kapoor’s endless soaps, that are so full of crap. I find it so difficult to digest, how the characters wallow in their self-created problems for years together. The men are like Knights at the round table..almost always seated and worried about the misfortune that has befallen the “parivaar”. And the women, how do they manage to wear bejewelled saris, matching chandelier earrings, and perfect make-up even in the saddest of moments ?! Their only goal in life seems to be to beat each other at the complicated games they create to waste the audience’s time. I think the entire Balaji team needs to spend a month in an average middle-class family, to really see what goes on… how people struggle to make ends meet, how hard the parents work, how competitive the children are at school, and in a nutshell, how an average “parivaar” combats each day at a time. Of course its entertaining to watch a beautifully decked “Parvati bhabhi” (who should actually be “Parvati dadi”) or a self-sacrificing “Tulsi Ma” rectify the faults in the members of their family. What we need to see, is real problems faced by real people, and how they overcome them. We need to see the simple joys that people have in their daily life.. like reaching the bus-stop just in time to catch an empty bus. I guess this will touch the heart of the common man.

I plead to Ekta, to watch movies like ‘Mozhi’ and ‘Taare Zameen Par’. Please give the audience something that will touch their heart… something that they can really take home !

Thought and Reason

No for the Have-nots ? (A parallel between Nuclear NPT and Tata Nano)

Stench-filled, crowded buses, dusty auto rickshaws, two-wheelers driving like Siamese twins in the overcrowded roads of India…if this makes you feel nostalgic (not to mention, nauseatic), then the new Tata Nano (the Rs. One-Lakh Car) appears to be the manna sought after, by the rising Indian bourgeois.

While hopeful masses have welcomed the idea with open arms, several others are sceptical about the Nano, which they say, will only add to the over-crowded roads of India, increase pollution and congestion, and clog the already choked road network.

This interestingly, is similar to nuclear non-proliferation – The five states that are already nuclear states (US, UK, China, Russia and France) are the ones that push the rest of the world to not develop/acquire nuclear weapons. They do not seem to disarm themselves, but want developing countries to stem their plans to go nuclear. Similarly, existing car-owners and the more affluent of society are the ones who are critical of the Nano being so accessible to the common man. The Haves continue to sit in the lap of luxury, while preaching abstinence to the Have-Nots !

Be it the nuclear NPT or reducing road pollution, it calls for a solution by everyone, especially the Haves, and not just the Have-nots.

Interestingly, we can thus draw a parallel between nuclear non-proliferation and the road congestion scenario in India:

1- NON-PROLIFERATION: Non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS) agree to not acquire/manufacture/seek assistance in acquiring nuclear weapons. Nuclear states agree to not use their nuclear energy towards making weapons, to not assist non-nuclear weapon states to acquire nuclear weapons, and to not use their nuclear weapons against NNWS except in response to an attack. Similarly, those individuals who already own vehicles (cars/motorbikes/etc.) must consciously abstain from using their private vehicles for daily commute. And those who do not own a vehicle must try to avoid acquiring/using one.

2- As the above may seem unfair to the common man who is waiting to taste luxury himself, we embark on adopting the second pillar of the NPT – DISARMAMENT. As nuclear states must disarm themselves of nuclear and other weapons, so also should individuals who possess private vehicles, disarm themselves of this luxury in their daily life. This is of course, on the premise that India has a world-class public transport system. People must use the public transport system for their daily commute, and restrict usage of private vehicles (cars/bikes) to the weekends. Importantly, commuters need to develop civic sense, not pull/push one another in a hurry to get into or out of the vehicle, and not use the vehicle as a dustbin for their unimaginable garbage.

3- PEACEFUL USE OF ENERGY: While the world must cruise towards using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and not for weapons/distruction, the Indian government must also use resources to develop a robust, convenient and world-class Public transport system that is accessible to everyone in the country. Take the London Underground railway system for instance..with all its deficiencies, it is still the lifeline of the working class. Trains arrive on time, and they are indeed crowded during peak hours, but the network does not halt for trivial reasons. The Mumbai train system could be a good local example. Public transport vehicles (buses/trains) must be refurbished, made clean and safe to use, and the government must increase the number/frequency of buses, to cater to a wider working-population. And for heaven’s sake, they must be “p-u-n-c-t-u-a-l”.

Another action point by the Government, could be to introduce motoring taxation for privately owned vehicles plying on central roads of urban areas during peak hours, for example, by levying a congestion charge. This, with the dual objective of generating revenue and to stemming the usage of private vehicles, thereby minimising congestion.

To summarise, while the world drives towards peace, individuals like us must walk towards building a less-congested road network in India. I hope we all get to own Tata Nano(s) and still use MRTS in our daily life. Let’s hope that 2008 heralds personal disarmament and national progress.

Book review

Do all fables end happy?

The cover of the book was unsuspectingly simple. The ‘fable’ started off just like some childrens’s fiction, but somewhere down the line, the storyline went from fiction to dreadful reality. An attempt to summarise this story is an injustice to this beautiful book. However, for the benefit of my friends whom I beg, to read this book, here is a summary…

An influential family living in Berlin is suddenly moved to the outskirts of Poland because the father has been transferred on some important military assignment. The children, Bruno and Gretel, resist the idea very much, and hate moving away from their luxurious life and friends.

They find their new surroundings at Camp ‘Out-With’ morbid and eerie – with no better company than that of the army officials – i.e.,their father’s colleaues. On the other side of the fence beyond their house however, there live many many men and young boys, all clothed in striped pyjamas, and their heads tonsured. On a couple of occasions, the family hear the officers talking to the people in pyjamas, in strong language, never heard before. Bruno however, strongly believes that his father can never do any wrong.

One day, Bruno accidentally comes across one of the little boys, named Shmuel, and befriends him. They begin meeting secretly at the fence, and gradually become close friends. However, neither crosses the fence ever, for fear of the officers. They never play games together, as children of their age would normally do. Instead, they spend time talking, sharing thoughts and memories of their earlier happy life. Shmuel describes how his family was separated, and brought into this camp, and how people suddenly go missing from here. Bruno tells him about his old school, close friends (whose names, he strangely keeps forgetting) and invites him to visit sometime in the future. Bruno’s head gets infected with lice, and one day, he has to be tonsured as well. Shmuel remarks that they looked very similar now, only one was thin and the other , healthy !

As Bruno slowly settles into his new home, his parents are unhappy with bringing up the children here, and decide to send them back to Berlin. So Bruno decides to pay a last visit to Shmuel. When they meet that day, Shmuel seems terribly downcast, because his father has disappeared ! Bruno promises to help search for him. They decide to meet the next afternoon to play atleast a little while, and to search for the father.

It rains ceaselessly the next morning, and Bruno is worried that he won’t be able to keep up his promise. However, the rain does finally stop, and Bruno goes as fast as he can, to the fence. Shmuel is eagerly waiting for him, and with him, is an extra pair of striped pyjamas. Bruno gets into these, and enters the other side of the fence. The harsh reality hits him, that this side of the fence wasn’t like he had imagined it to be. People just gathered around in groups, and looked downcast, desolate and bereft of all hope.

Bruno and Shmuel look everywhere, but cannot find the father. Bruno gets worried that its getting late, and he should be heading back to the fence, to get home in time for a good, hot dinner. When suddenly, a lot of officers gather around a group of people, and the two boys are drowned in the crowd. Shmuel says that sometimes, people were sent on such long marches, and never returned. Bruno is tempted to reveal to the officers, that his father heads the army unit, but is afraid that they would get into trouble for having crossed the fence.

It begins raining, and the officers direct the group to march towards a very big room. Bruno is too terrified to speak, and amidst all the commotion, he and Shmuel enter the room, and find it very warm. Bruno thinks this is to shelter them until the rain stops. The room gets crammed with the people in pyjamas, and suddenly the doors are shut, the room gets hotter and hotter and everybody begins screaming and crying. Not knowing what to do, and where to run, Bruno holds Shmuel’s hand very tightly. In that moment, he realises a bonding with Shmuel and does not let go of his best friend’s hand, till the end.

Bruno’s family never see him again. His father finds the hole in the fence (small enough for a little boy to enter) one day, and seeing a small pile of his son’s clothes, realises what might have happened.


If this story tugged at the strings of your heart, please do read: “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” by John Boyne. And please forgive me for any errors in the above summary.