Padmavat

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If Padmavat-thi, then she’s probably wishing she wasn’t .All her strength and all the Rajput principles of valour, fair play and aan, baan and shaan have been undone by their descendants-The Karni Sena.

We’ve all witnessed their cowardly threats, violence and dastardly , unreasonable behaviour-All over sheer conjecture over a possible offence to their “tradition” and sullying the fair queen’s image.

Well congratulations-You’ve done a spectacular job of sullying it yourself and if your courage and bravery involves vandalism and harming children, god save you.

So to Padmavat- A typical, opulent, larger than life Sanjay Leela Bhansali presentation.

Deepika’s Padmavati is beautiful, graceful, steely and gentle in one elegant, jewel laden package. She emotes through her luminous eyes alone to great effect.

Shahid as Maharawal Ratan Singh is restrained, toothsome ,of a sculpted body and always perfectly coiffed. A tad understated though.He does declaim the four points of Rajput valour emphatically and smiles at his Padmavati rather endearingly adoringly.

As does she at him with large limpid eyes and a constant half smile.

(Some chemistry but nowhere close to Ranveer and Deepika’s in Baji Rao Mastani)

His badi rani is Nagmati- whose request for replacement pearls from Singhal ironically leads to Padmavati meeting Ratan Rawal.She literally hunts him down and then nurses him back to health and love blossoms.

And there’s Ranveer’s Alauddin Khilji.An evil, psyhotic, sadistic, power crazy nut job who wants to possess all that is beauteous-whether he’s seen it or not, by mere description he is enamoured. (I wish more people I meet as a sales person were so willing to aquire the wares on mere sales spiel).

He’s done such a super job that one feels revulsed and disgusted with throughout.Kind of dirty to just having seen him.

You know “ghin aatee hai”?

Ratan Rawal marries Padmavati.His advisor in the court casts an improper eye at her and he is banished for this misdeed.Big mistake as it turns out for he seeks revenge via A Khilji.He describes to him Padmavati’s beauty and prophesises that with Padmavati at his side, Alauddin K will rule the world.

Since said Khilji had bumped off his uncle for the kingdom, the idea of ruling the world clearly appealed and crazy coots set towards getting her by mostly foul means.

Two battles, much dialogue, drama , bloodshed later, it ends with RawalRatan dead and Padmavati leading the women to “jauhar”.

Alauddin is left staring enraged at his dream of world supremacy go up in flames barred behind a reinforced metal door.

Seeing Padmavati was denied to him in death as it was in life.

The costumes are well designed and each eco system portrayed well.So all of Khilji’s scenes scream grey-brown, brutal barbarism and the Rajput scapes are gentler beiges and whites but an energetic red showing up valour and sacrifice.

Of the music, the “ghoomar” song is melodious and catchy.The balance is forgettable….well I’ve forgotten it!

An able supporting cast helps the story.

Less impressive than Bajirao Mastani, Padmavat nevertheless merits one watch for sure.

If for nothing else, as support against bullies.

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Upstairs at Indian Accent with Chef Claude Bosi

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“Cooking is an art and patience a virtue… Careful shopping, fresh ingredients and an unhurried approach are nearly all you need. There is one more thing – love. Love for food and love for those you invite to your table. With a combination of these things you can be an artist – not perhaps in the representational style of a Dutch master, but rather more like Gauguin, the naïve, or Van Gogh, the impressionist. Plates or pictures of sunshine taste of happiness and love.”
― 
Keith Floyd

This last Thursday found a friend and I enjoying just a lovingly crafted, beautifully presented  and hospitably served meal Upstairs at Indian Accent by Chef Claud Bosi  of the 2 Michelin Star restaurant, Bibendum in London.

Dressed to the nines and suitably excited about an evening away from homework, housework and such, we ate our way through six courses of sheer deliciousness.

Our meal began with a warm welcome from the lovely team which runs the restaurant. Pleasant smiles and just the right level of care. This was then followed by gougères-savoury choux pastry with parmesan cheese and a hint of caramelised onions. Served on a bed of moong dal namkeen. We made short work of these and soon followed the mushroom custard, coconut and curry. Cute roly poly roundness of a frothy coconut and curry topping and a suggestion to “dig right to the bottom” to taste and savour the mushrooms as well. An unusual combination of flavours but I therein lies the mastery of Chef.

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Mushroom custard, coconut and curry.

The taste of things to come got steadily more interesting. French cuisine with a distinct Indian touch got along rather well!

The second course was a favourite combination of mine-beetroot and feta-albeit in terrine form and with the tang of passion fruit adding just the right tingle.It was so beautifully presented that it seemed a shame to spoil the painstaking work, but we succumbed.

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Warm beetroot terrine, feta and passion fruit.

Course three looked like a painting and tasted divine. Kanyakumari crab with apple and nimbu-served khatta meetha and cold. Yum!

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Kanyakumari crab, apple, nimbu

Courses 4 and 5 were the meats-River sole a la Grenobloise and Chicken with black lentils, coconut and coriander respectively. The river sole was delicate and the sauce tasted deliciously of butter and a distinct taste of “ghee” which indeed is clarified butter. Sinfully, delectably and healthily rich- ghee is good fat! The black lentils were inspired by dal makhni and complemented the chicken well.

The vegetarian options were a Vegetable Dumpling with Toasted Rice, Kashmiri Morels with Kaffir Lime and Sweet Potato Nosotto with Pomelo. A hint of ghee in the Kashmiri morels made it homely and the sweet potato nosotto-a risotto which does not use the rice but the sweet potato as the base, hit just the spot.

The meal was available with wine pairing but as good responsible citizens who were driving, we chose not to partake of those.( A  tiny bit of mulled is fine…medicinal almost.Besides, the mulling causes the alcohol to evaporate……)

As a break before dessert, delightful confection of mango and sesame brought together two seasons of India in one scoopful-mango and sesame. Summer accompanied by the crispness of the winter harvest being celebrated just about now.

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Mango, Black sesame

Replete with all these flavours and feeling slightly immovable, despite the thankful breaks between courses; we nevertheless applied ourselves with gusto to the chocolate tart as dessert. Accompanied (on request) with some excellent mulled wine (therapeutic strictly!), this last course was a perfect culmination to a dining experience full of flavours, textures colour and outstanding hospitality.

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Chef Claud and his team will be presenting their tempting fare Upstairs at Indian Accent till the middle of February. That leaves you with many week days, 3 normal weekends  and a long weekend coming up to enjoy the feast.

Book then swiftly….and have a mulled wine for me!

 

 

Sayonara 2017. Aan de 2018

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In the film Guide- Dev Anand “Raju’s” dialogue to “Rosie” just before a song is “kal tak aap lagti  thi, chaalis saal ki aurat, jo zindagi ki har khushi, har umang, har umeed raaste mein kahin kho aayi hai.Aur aaj lagti hain 16 saal ki bacchi; bholi, nadaan, bachpan ki shararat se bharpur.” (Till yesterday you seemed like a 40 year old woman-tired of life and having lost the zest for life. Today you seem as exuberant as a 16 year old again)

At which point Rosie breaks into “Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai.” (I want to live again.)

My journey in 2017 could well be summed up in thus filmy fashion. I started the year as that 40 saal ki (ok ok 42 saal ki –details details) and am ending it as a 43 saal ki but with much of the enthusiasm of a 16 year old- er-not bholi aur nadaan but let’s keep the shararat bit.

And well yes-Not only aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai-Waheeda ji ki tarah dance karne ki bhi hai.

The year began on a quiet, subdued and very introspective note for me. The process of change continued and as is wont, caused both distress and joy. While the latter was welcome, the former is not feted is it? I did however pull myself out by the scruff of the neck from wallowing in pity pools and told myself sternly to get on with it. It was tough going but the inner drama queen delighted herself by switching roles from hai main bechari to ma kaali hunter waali to able bhartiya naari. Some roles still missing but had to leave some for next year eh?

In all my avatars, I had well casted co-stars. This year was FULL of people for me. A new job, reunions, travel, gatherings and good times ensured old favourites remained constant (love you guys), new entrants mostly positive and some well-meh! Such a variety and range of interactions. A year that began with some brutal brush-offs grew into a lovely space with the warmth, affection and appreciation from friends far and near. I was ably, lovingly, and straight talked-ly supported by some people very dear to me. I hope you know who you are. Could not have got through large parts of the past two years without you. Add to this, completely unexpected observations on being a strong independent person and admiration for one’s creative pursuits. Fortunately not become a big-head but am just so thrilled with the lurve! A big squishy hug all around I say. Even to the meanies- a jaadu ki jhappi to hug your small-minded-ness away.

And what other insights do I have from 2017? What were the kaantaas I pulled the aanchal from? What were the phool hi phool?

That fear cripples and takes away from living and reduces it to mere existing. One cannot constantly fear losing people, money, job, relationships. It has to be faced, accepted and told no more. I am what I am. Other’s words don’t define me. My deeds do. I matter. I belong. I am fine.

Of witnessing kindnesses and realising that it is so important that we don’t lose our humanity, our gentler side, ourselves in the maelstrom of hate. That all lives matter and I have a right to eat what I want, see what I want, wear what I want and whether I’m Rachna, Rachel or Rukhsana, I remain first an Indian and that is all that should matter. Of also saying enough- “No, I don’t bow down to you. I will not be scared of you” and the bullies back off. I hope it won’t need a revolution to bring back the balance, but if it does- I’m up for it. You?

That people need to be encouraged and held. Positive words and appreciation are like water to a wilting plant. That people grow at different paces and that’s fine. That negativity needs a constant war waged against it. That bullies and bad behaviour cannot be tolerated silently for they think silence is weakness.

That life is actually fairly simple and can be kept that way.

2017-Thank you for the lessons, the people, the love. 2018. Let’s see what you’ve got for me.

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Oh—and here’s the song. https://youtu.be/BpLyDTEw3Z4

Ittefaq-2017

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The “original”-in itself inspired by an English film from 1965,  was made 48 years ago.If you hailed from a movie loving family such as mine, and were born in the 60s or 70s, you will have seen the Rajesh Khanna ,Nanda,Iftekhar starrer for sure. Directed by the King of  Romance-Yash Chopra.
Unusual for its time, it was talked about for no songs and the unexpectedness of the plot.A gripping watch.

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The 2017 version  is very well adapted, slickly shot, sans superfluity and has an unexpected ending which honestly is a bit blah…(but maybe that’s just me-justice being important.)

Two unconnected murders.Two suspects.Two  stories and a cop with 3 days to untangle the mess.He is the factor connecting them…or is he?
Vikram Sethi, a well-known writer is on the run, suspected of having killed his wife.Sidharth Malhotra in a handsome, I’m innocent , boo-hoo believe  me, melting brown eyes avatar. He seeks asylum in Maya’s house-Sonakshi Sinha in a Madonna like look and  trifle seductress mode. The police apprehend him from there, next to another corpse-this time of Maya’s lawyer husband Shekhar.

Nasty ittefaq from him..eh?This onslaught of bodies.

Dev is the cop investigating both crimes. Akshaye Khanna in a great role and in many frames, flashing his father’s charming smile.As he switches between their stories, it gets more and more difficult to figure out the truth….for some discoveries end up being damning as pre-conceived notions can be…….but may not necessarily be the truth.

A conclusion is reached.Arrests are made. And the cases are closed.But then…..the inspector reads a book.Possibly a tad late and it dawns-there are no coincidences.

Not fast paced enough to be an edge of the seat thriller, it nevertheless keeps one intrigued in  a “hmm, interesting puzzle this…wonder who dun it” kind of way. You’re interested and want to solve it, but are not “in” it. You know-how some films just absorb you and you ‘are’ the henchman, the victim, the criminal….you are there.Stabbing.Starting in shock.Looking furtively over a shoulder….Not that level of involvement but not boring either.

Sidharth Malhotra has to evolve as an actor, beyond the chocolaty looks. Sonakshi did well as did Askshaye Khanna who really should be getting more roles.

Don’t compare it to the old one. Watch this for its own sake. You’ll enjoy it more.

 

Chef-2017

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Roshan Kalra ran away from home at 16 because his dad wouldn’t let him learn cooking and that was his passion. Many years, one hotel management degree (how?!! He ran away to Amritsar- what about money-shoney, exam-shixam?), one divorce and one 10-year-old child later, he cooks in a restaurant called Galli Kitchen in Amrika but seems to be losing his pot—er plot. He punches a complaining guest on the face, draws blood, lands in jail and then is fired….while he is busy screaming at his own staff for their inadequacies.

He heads back to Cochin, where ex-wife and son reside in a gorgeous house. She is a dance teacher and seems to have a significant other, who raises the hackles of chef in a most dog in the manger-ish manner. (This part was handled much well in the original.)

Significant O and ex-w suggest that he takes over a run-down double-decker bus and turn it into “mobile restaurant”. After taking strong offence, stating that he’s a “chef” and not a “cook” and generally behaving like a completely misplaced prima donna, sense prevails and he agrees to the project.

The rest is about the transforming the bus with young son’s help and driving it from Cochin to Delhi via Goa. What they sell is a “rottza”-a pizza made with rotis. The drive is scenic, the locales breath-taking and this part of the film is thoroughly enjoyable. A superbly danceable number by Raghu Dixit is included here.”Shugal Laga Le” is superb.  https://youtu.be/sJTEca51zG8

Roshan Kalra is played by a squarely-rotundish Saif Ali Khan who hams through most of the film though in an odd scene or two-some of his acting does shine through.Padampriya Janakiraman plays Radha-the ex-w. Charming and lovely. Their son Armaan is played by young Svar. Chandan Roy Sanyal plays Roshan’s protégé from New York who follows him to India and joins up with him. Significant O is an almost illegally handsome Milind Soman. Made me want to acquire said bus!

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The director turns the original story of Favreau’s “Chef” on its head and makes the Bollywood version about a chef who’s lost his mojo and is quickly unravelling and resorting to breaking his complaining guest’s nose as opposed to the Original which is about a spat with a Critic and a bad review due to being stuck in a rut and his creativity being suppressed by a short-sighted controlling owner.

Given the fact that this film will have only an urban appeal or understanding, the change of story was mystifying and is in fact detrimental to the film. Food critics and the power they wield on Restaurants is very much a part of modern Indian society. Forget critics, an adverse Zomato review strikes terror into restaurateur’s hearts. Also, other parts, scenes and even dialogues have been faithfully adapted and shot, often down to the exact dialogue almost-which actually could have been changes to make them more believable!

Further, for a film straddling North and South India, there is a deplorable lack of mention and depiction of the vast variety of Indian food. Given that the Chef’s original inspiration as a child was chole bhature, his introduction of it to his son is bordering on insipid. The only food he is ever shown cooking is tagliatelle or spaghetti and the rottza. Almost as if he jumped from chole bhature to pasta and landed in a rottza-ignoring all other edibles en route. A missed opportunity for shooting some of our Indian food. Think the 100 Foot Journey. A minor redeeming scene was him making tomato chutney, which will be tried shortly in the home kitchen. Otherwise…..gah. The sizzle of a tadka. The ballooning of a puri. The steam from an idli…..sooo much possibility. But the passion for food missing.

I say that it was enjoyable but nothing to rave about or deserving a full rant. Watchable with some lovely scenes, some oversimplification and tons of mistakes on actual chefs. Home viewing is fine.

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