Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kites: No strings of logic attached

Rakesh Roshan's movies were always about the underdog. Be it Kaho na Pyar Hai, where a dead Rohit comes back to life, or a Koi mil Gaya, where a challenged person becomes a stud, or Khoon Bhari Maang, where crocodiles do not like the taste of Rekha, and whatever is left of her goes on to kick Kabir Bedi's arse. It was always about the underdog.

Sadly, 'Kites' is the story of an over-bitch. Hrithik is 'J', a person who marries girls to give them Green Cards. We are told he has married 11 girls already, and the American police (the worst portrayal of cops in a movie. The guys give Indian cops a superiority complex with their inefficiencies) have no clue about it whatsoever. He also works in some sort of nightclub (he is a good dancer. How else do they show his skills?) and his eyes set on Kangana Ranaut (who has mastered the role of the screaming, psycho woman). Then, he meets Barbara Mori.

Ah! Barbara Mori. Kahaan gayi sex-appeal tori? For the last six months, we were told incessantly about the goddess that she is. I had never heard of her earlier, and had this image of piping hot sexy sultry seductress.

Sad thing is, she is not all that sexy. The Chemistry between the leads is interesting as Social Science. Well, anyway, so J falls for her and they run away after J has rescued her from her inhumane, physically abusive boyfriend. They set off on a trip across the deserts of Mexico, beating the cops each and every time.

'Kites' is the KLPD movie of the year. There is nothing new in the movie, ridden with so many stereotypes, you will feel have a future in Astrology. Cars are blown up, but that has been done to death in 'Race' and Rohit Shetty's films. So, while the cast move from one cliche to another, their story ends with the biggest cliche, that of their atmas meeting in water after their shedding their mortal coils.

The cinematography is superb, but that's the only good part. I wonder what Papa Roshan was doing with his three co-writers. The film has nothing new to speak of, including those slo-mo moments with loud background music. The performances are nothing to speak of. Hrithik flares his nostrils, and when he does that, you know its bad news for the viewer. Barbara Mori looks good at times, but nothing to steal your heart away. The villians in the movie are a joke, looking as dangerous as GI Joe toys. Kangana Ranaut plays the psychotic, screaming role yet again, and seems believable because she has done it so many times, you feel that is how she is in real life too.

Director Anurag Basu ( I wonder what is the hype about him. Gangster was the only decent film, provided you managed to stay awake for the first two light years of the film) successfully manages to make a mess of what could have been a crossover film. While we are pandering to American audiences shamelessly, they will view it and laugh it off as another silly melodramatic Hindi film.

Watching 'Kites' is a bit like eating Pani Puri in KFC. It may be more hygienic and classy, but who cares?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kadai Paalak Matar Paneer

Cooking has always been among the sexiest things to do according to me. I have told a lot of girls that I love cooking. Its a white lie. Truth is, while I love it, my knowledge of cooking is marginally more than my knowledge of the Uruguayan economy.

Its not as if I haven't tried. I did volunteer to help at home in the kitchen. I tried making rotis but they ended up looking like diligently made briefs. My attempts at Gajar halwa resulted in flying colours, most of which were hitherto unknown to mankind. So, I gradually gave up, and reconciled to honing my skills at Maggi and ready to eat soups.

Yesterday, Sarthak got one of his impulses to cook. He is a supermarket owner's wet dream, and there is no stopping him when he goes shopping. We made a few phone calls and got all the ingredients required. We decided that since we were making rice anyway, we should make it from the best quality. We were shocked to find that a packet of Basmati rice costs 153 rupees. I opine the government should start selling Basmati rice at a subsidised price too.

Around 8 o clock, we began. First, cut the palak. I did my best, but the instructions were to cut them to really small shreds. After wrestling with the palak for half an hour, we decided to shred it with our bare hands. Meanwhile, the rice should be cooked.

Sarthak set up the rice. Problem was, we have an induction stove, and were not sure if pressure cookers work on induction stoves. So we borrowed Raj's cooker, put in the rice and water, set it on the stove and prayed to God. We were told one whistle will do. We waited for 20 minutes, and were expecting a whistle like Rajesh Khanna's from 'Yeh Shaam Mastani'. It was nearly half an hour now, and there was no sign of a whimper, leave alone a whistle. We opened the cooker anyway and tasted the rice, to see that it was alright. Our friend Raj later informed us that the whistle might have been spoilt.

Now, for the curry. We had shredded the palak and were on the call with Aunty.

Aunty: Now add some oil, wait till it is heated and then add the palak.
Me: Wait till the oil is heated, or boiled?
Aunty: Heated.
Me: But it has started boiling.
Aunty: Then add the palak, and then add the salt. Be careful how much salt you add.

Sarthak took this advice with two large pinches of salt.

Sarthak: Will this much salt do?
Aunty(who was clearly getting put off with our inquisitiveness): Can I see from here how much you have added?
Sarthak: Oh, ok ok .
Aunty: Now put the lid on and leave it for five minutes.

After five minutes, we saw that the palak, which looked quite a lot in the beginning, had shrunk to the size of a dark green version of flubber. This was clearly not going to be enough for three of us. What to do?

Sarthak: Let's add green peas to it.
Me: Aren't we making palak paneer?
(Awkward silence for a few seconds, and we begin soaking the peas in water)

Following which, Raj walks in and nonchalantly informs us that he is quite a good cook. He has sarcastic timing, this guy! He took over and we were mere side-cooks. "Cut the onions now."

Me: "Horizontally or in rings?"
Raj: "Leave it, I'll do it. You add the paneers in the oil."
Me: "Till they become brown, or reddish" (Angry stare, followed by Raj doing it himself)

Somewhere in between, we realised the quantity seemed on the lesser side. What to do? No problem! Lets make it a gravy-rich curry. I promptly added two glasses of water to it.

To pass time, me and Sarthak helped ourselves to three glasses of lemonade and one each of Jaljeera.

After an hour of going from the drawing room to the kitchen, taking the lid off and stirring th curry, getting fingers burnt, and trying to act busy, it was ready.

It was a two hour ordeal. We finally sat down to eat.

We were hungry as horses, the curry was giving off an enchanting smell, and England were kicking Australia's ass in the final. Perfect!

When we launched into the curry, we had mixed feelings. It seemed a trifle salty, the colour was somewhere in between dark green and dark brown, and Raj and Sarthak seemed to have got more curry than me (even after switching the bowls after careful consideration)

But it was the best damn Kadai Paalak Matar Paneer I have ever had.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I had been to the University of Hyderabad in the afternoon today. It was a pleasant day, and the view of the cloudy sky while lying down on the grass was so appealing that I fell asleep after a while. One of the lecturers had to wake me up, asking me who I was, what I was doing here, and what course I had applied for. (M.Tech - Mathematics Specialisation, I answered)

While I was leaving the campus, it started drizzling. Now, there is something so beautiful about the first rain, that one never tires from talking about it, no matter how cliched the topic is. And for someone who loves getting wet in the rain, I love the way people run helter skelter when it starts raining. I always look around for other people, but I always find it is children who know the real fun of getting drenched in the rain.

After getting wet thoroughly, I was on my way back in a "7 seater". It was a Tata Ace that carried seven people and got dirty looks from auto drivers all through the journey. Seated in front of me were a family. There was a mother and her two children, one by the window and another on the woman's lap.

I am not great with children. I can talk to them and play with them, but I am not good at the "Ullu-lullu, coochie-mocchie baby" kind of talking, so I generally do not get along well with babies. The kid in front of me must have been six years and old and his brother about three.

The elder one would keep looking out of the window and nudging his mother, and she would keep asking him to keep shut, glaring at him all the while. All of a sudden, he covered his mouth with his hand and stood up. "Vanti Vanti!!", the people shouted and the 'helper' rushed to open the screen that was pulled up to keep out the rain. Too late!

The kid had already cleared half of his digestive system inside the vehicle, and half of it was on my leg. The window was opened to allow him to add finishing touches, and his mother was both reprimanding him and holding the younger baby in her hands.

The little kid was woken out of sleep and had started wailing. I offered to hold her baby for her, and the mother pushed almost half of the older guy out of the window, so he could vomit outside. Poor guy had had too much watermelon!

The little kid in my arms meanwhile, had calmed down. He was dark, and had big, round eyes on which his mother had applied copious amount of kaajal. He kept looking up at me and saying 'Gaga' or 'Baba' or 'Tata' or something, expecting me to talk to him. However, I just smiled and gave him my finger.

While his mother kept saying Sorry for her elder son's mess, this little devil in my arms would hold my finger, put it in his mouth, and bite it. And everytime I pulled out my finger with an 'Ah', he would give a gargling laughter. I did it a few more times and each time his laughter grew louder.

There is something about a child's laughter, that brings warmth to your heart. I continued playing with him for a while. Slowly, I could feel the warmth flow into my shirt and my trouser. The child had happily peed all over me!!!

His mother took him back, smacked his bottom, got down in the next stoppage. The driver apologised for all the trouble and took 5 rupees instead of 6. I was surprised. I was covered in puke and pee, and somehow I wasn't feeling like stabbing someone around me.

As I walked to my home, the last drops of the drizzle soaked me completely. I was surprised at myself, for not getting pissed off.

The first rains not only bring drops of water, they bring with them happiness. A wish to run and play, and get dirty. A memory of childhood, and that smell of wet earth.

Officials at the meteorological department have predicted good monsoons this year. When the first rains strike your city, don't run away. Walk into the rain and get soaked.

You'll feel good.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Hurt Locker - Review

Walking into the hall, I saw the poster that said "War is a drug". I didn't understand what it meant.

'The Hurt Locker' is a film about a Bomb Disposal Squad (called EOD) in Iraq. Sergeant William joins an EOD team after their Sergeant dies in an explosion. William, played by Jeremy Renner, is a daredevil. He defies protocol and walks into bomb territory all by himself, much to the chagrin of his teammates the protocol-abiding Sanborn and the newbie in the army Eldridge. In spite of his teammates insisting on following guidelines, William pretty much does his own thing - walks into situations, getting rid of bombs and wires like weeding out grass. In an interesting scene, his teammates ponder killing him and reporting it as a 'mistake'.

Gradually, the team members bond and get to know each other, as they go from one mission to the other. As the movie progresses, director Kathryn Bigelow shows you the different facets of war. She makes you wonder if the experience is worth it, or if it something that cannot be done without. She makes you wonder if the lives of common people can be sacrificed on the basis of hunches and suspicions.

'The Hurt Locker' is neither overwhelming, nor underwhelming. It is a gritty representation of war, and the effect on the many people who are party to it. In the penultimate scene when Sergeant William goes back home and is in a supermarket, totally at sea when he has to choose from a hundred varieties of cereal.

It is then that I understood what the quote meant. For those involved in it, war is after all, a drug. You know it is not the right solution, you know it is something to be condemned. But once you have been in it, you know there cannot be a life without it.

Watch 'The Hurt Locker'. You might love it, or you might be bored. But you will have something to think about.