Movie review: CHENNAI ‘Doesn’t’ EXPRESS

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  •  It is a standard SRK film- Check.
  • Takes on his own aged DDLJ theme- Check.
  • North-South divide and comedy arising from language barrier -Check
  • Good guy and Good gal on the run from Big Bad guys -Check.

With so many stereotypes and cliches, it is no wonder Chennai Express is not a new train on the track.

SRK plays a 40-yr old bachelor , looking for a good time with his friends in Goa despite having his Grandpa’s asthi meant for Rameswaram, but lands up in some remote TN village still lorded over by local zamindar-cum-Don to whom  everyone reverentially bows..
Oh, really, this is some TN that I am yet to see in this day and age!

Deepika is a gutsy and lively Don’s daughter on the run, an unwilling bride who still needs protection from the 40 yr Old bachelor, who neither understands Tamil nor can defend himself against big bulky bouncers of her evil daddy.

From the first scene of SRK helping Deepika up on the train it was never in doubt how the movie would end, but it takes some tired, circuitous route to the destination.
Chennai Shuttle Passenger’, would have been a more appropriate title.

SRK tries to pass off his brand of downright buffoonery as comedy most of the time. Else he hams the rest of the way.
It is left to the young and mercurial Deepika Padukone to lift the goings on with a spirited performance…Tamil accent, eyes, expressions everything spot on.
Rest of the crew is quite deadpan.

How and when the lead pair falls in love is not brought out clearly by Director Shetty and it seems like more of a compulsion than real sentiments at play.

Songs and BGM are pleasantly fine with two songs noteworthy. Photography is arresting. These are about two plus points to mention. That’s it.

In the end , it was quite clear that this was a typical ‘mass entertainer’ that Bollywood mindlessly churns out, so less said the better.

Rating : 2.5/5

Yercaud…Chilling in Hills

Yercaud…Chilling in Hills

Salient features:
Distance to Yercaud= 353  km from Chennai on GST road.
Car:  Our maruti Ritz Vxi
Time taken: 7 hrs ( with 2 to 3 breaks for Breakfast, tea etc)
One night halt
We as a family of four decided to visit a cool hill station we had often heard about but never seen yet…Yercaud, near Salem, TN.
We were ready to leave on Friday, a Ramadan holiday, at morning 5.30 am.
After filling up full tank, the driver informed me the meter starting reading as 3021.
The early morning had light rains and light traffic along Adyar- GST road towards Ulundurpet, the road we had chosen. We made good time traveling at 100 kmph thereabouts.
 

We stopped for breakfast at a nice place near SRM University called ‘Sappada Vanga’ a veggie restaurant and had steaming Idli vada for breakfast with Coffee. The restaurant is nicely furnished and there is even a small glass aquarium there.

We made good time again the rest of the way with GST road being butter smooth all the way.
What surprised me was the rest of the way i.e, NH 68 is also excellent with hardly any traffic to clutter up your path.
 
I was earlier advised to take the shorter Kuppanur Ghat Road, but we heard on the way at a tea shop that the same was quite narrow and besides the recent rains had made the conditions worse.
So we took the regular one via Salem town, often asking for directions, for Yercaud Main road up the enchanting hills that guards the town like a behemoth.
There are 20 hair pin bends on the way up and green scenery as we drove up is feast to the tired eyes of a Citizen.
 

We had some sickness breaks and all, so were delayed a bit but we managed to reach up to Yercaud after 7 hrs of our departure from home. Though Shyamala was feeling sick when the trip started, she considerably brightened up after reaching Yercaud and enjoyed the rest.

The hill town was bursting at seams with holiday traffic and we had a tough time in locating the small resort we had booked in called Thendral resort.
It is tucked away beyond Montfort school in atop a lovely hillock that overlooks the entire valley. It has only 6 rooms and small Veg-Non veg restaurant in the basement. Purely B- class in my opinion .
Call Ph no No,04281- 226800.
 
But then the view is breathtaking and compensates for the small and medium grade facilities in the resort, nee Lodge.
 
I advise only bachelors who want to party or make merry to stay here and not for families. The problem is you have to make booking well in advance for good resorts like GRT, Sterling, Shevaroys etc…
 The weather at this time of the year (August) is amazingly cool and nights are chilly too. Light blankets were given and we did not need the ceiling fans throughout.
The lunch was at a medium class place called Shevaroys -Silver oak restaurant.  On this weekend, there was severe staff shortage and even food shortage in most restaurants generally everywhere in Yercaud. Of course the rooms everywhere were fully booked for 3 day long weekend!!
There is a Malar restaurant and an Annalakshmi near the lake for vegetarians and we had to settle for whatever they could serve up under the circumstances of overcrowding and food short supply.
The places to see included lovely panoramic view spots called Lady’s seat, Rose garden and Pagoda Point on day 1.
 
Boating had to wait for the next day as sunset arrived and we returned to the rooms.
In all, Chinmay and Sanmathi along with us made the most of the welcome break on this tour.
The next day we took the pedal boats 4-seater one, for 30 mins and it costs 110 bucks with a  refundable deposit of same amount, but in case you are late, no refunds! Mercifully they give you, life jackets, albeit stained old ones!
 
There is a water fall called Kiliyur falls and the road to it was clogged with holiday traffic. It takes some 260 steps to get down to the falls and climb up on the return.
I am unused to such long hauls and chose to  stay put at the top with wife accompanying.
As many elderly and children came up huffing and puffing, complaining that steps were  steep and it was quite hard for them, I realized the authorities have to put not only warning boards but also some first aid medical facility midway there.
My children enthusiastically went about visiting the falls and here are some pics
 
 
There is an advertised Tourist spot called Botanical garden maintained by Central Govt, but know what?..They work only 5 days a week, and closed on Saturdays and Sundays!!   Isn’t it ridiculous and ironical that they do such things in Holiday resorts?
We left shortly after 2.30 pm on Saturday and came down the hills pretty fast. There are still some drunk young road-ragers en route but we had an experienced Driver in Ramachandran who handled the conditions with ease.
 We stopped over for a break at Devi Towers in Salem.  We had hot Masala tea to help us get on with rest of the trip back.
  A small comedy board seen on the way... see the spelling!
 
 Nothing to do with Jayalalitha’s Amma canteens …But a small Mess!
We had light dinner at Sappda Vanga again and were home by 10 pm.
 The journey had consumed some 784 kms in all at the end…
A good brisk weekend getaway from Chennai!

Book Review: The Cuckoo’s calling…Loud and clear!

This murder mystery thriller is written by JK ‘Galbraith’..err!..’Robert’ Rowling..Sorry I mixed it up…JK Rowling herself!

(I read it primarily because it is a hot seller in the market now and not because she wrote Harry Potter books, of which I have not read even one.)

Anyone can understand that the burden of fame and expectations from the readers’ world is so phenomenal that JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame decided to hide her celeb self under a `mysterious’ pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, while embarking on a different genre of story—An adult Murder Mystery as opposed to Youngsters’ fantasies she is well known for..

Have a change of scene, as James Hadley Chase would say!

The story is a straight up detective novel, in the English crime tradition of Agatha Christie with a touch of J H Chase while elaborating on the shady characters, deceit, lust and greed that pervades the world of high glamour and big money.

We open the narrative following the death of supermodel Lula Landry (affectionately nicknamed Cuckoo), whose apparent suicide has the press in frenzy. Three months later, private detective Cormoran Strike is asked by her step brother to investigate if, in fact, Landry was pushed from her balcony, thus cold bloodedly murdered by someone and made it conveniently look like suicide.

The hero is an ex-war veteran, one–legged with prosthetic support, whose own personal life has been just wrecked by a breakup and is so broke that he sleeps in his small dinghy office.

He is blessed to have a smart, thinking-on-feet secretary Robin who provides able support despite being wild-eyed with admiration of his deductive /detective skills, so much so that she takes on her fiancé to support her employer.

The investigation takes some 400+ interesting pages (I read the e-book version), well paced and with some twists and turns to keep one turning pages.

But the 70’s familiar Hindi film theme of jaaydaad ( property) rears its head again and you are surprised , in this day and age!

But seasoned mystery novel readers (like me) won’t have to wait too long with bated breath to know the truth, they will ‘do it’ 3/4ths of the way through…But for the modus operandi of death, you will have to wait till the last pages…Good enough…in fact, very good!

This marks literally a new ‘chapter’ for the author Rowling…We couldn’t care what pseudonym she wrote under, as long as such good ones keep coming at regular intervals.

PS: It reminds you of a Chase novel of 50s:‘Lay her among the Lilies’ among others, very much!

Recommended: Oh, Yes!

Rating : 4/5

Inferno: when THE END is unproductive

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I am sorry to disappoint you. But please blame Dan Brown for the same.

I am talking of his new offering: Inferno, a novel based on Dante’s works, artifacts with mysteries;  throw in a Biomedical weapon, a deadly virus to set off the hero Langdon saddled with a short-term amnesia as he stumbles though the besieged Florence city ( Alas! This hero has not seen Ghajini, so he is not as smart as Aamir Khan!) aided by a bald lady  Doctor on a wild goose chase,  all the while ducking from Military Police..

Confusing enough? But wait.. The assured  thrills are there, and so are the clever  twists at the end of each Chapter through which the author takes us on a nail-biting and often puzzling chase covering Italy and Turkey with the couple ducking from bullets, à la Jason Bourne cum James Bond.

Without revealing more as spoilers, I will answer your questions…

Was it Good?:  ..haa….hmm..Yeah, but….sort of

What was not Good?:  When the end becomes impotent and unproductive, you come away unsatisfied.. Like what was this entire futile chase about?

Now to decipher the last two italicized words above (Sorry, Dan Brown, you are getting to me), you will have to read the book to ‘the end’.

There was a minor controversy on this book, recently regarding the description of the Philippine capital Manila as ‘Gates of hell’ and such unkind words…Yes, that is how these ‘Western Cultured’ authors still think of developing Asian Cities… Much like some still talk of India as the’ land of snake charmers’ in this day and age…

Alistair Maclean wrote The Satan Bug in 1961…I will rate it higher than this mishmash of History, literature, architecture and bio- terror any day.. Yes, despite that day and age…

This story looks like inspired from Mission Impossible-II

Come to think Bio-medical thrillers themselves, Robin Cook certainly does a much better job.

I feel Brown should stick to his territory of Museums and symbols. Next time around.

My fav Dan Brown book still is Angels and Demons closely followed by the Digital Fortress.

As to Inferno: Rating is 2.75/5 ( that is just for the thrills, not the plot!)

Book Review: Chanakya’s Chant

Book review:

Chanakya’s  chant

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Author: Ashwin  Sanghi

Many critics have raved about and against his Rozabal Line and Krishna Key..

 The Chanakaya’s Chant is the second one of his novels

This is a supposed to be a Historical and Political drama , one thread on the famous Chanakya , the wily, intelligent but crooked, smart but cunning, successful but cruel Brahmin guide and philosopher who has a personal vendetta agenda to settle with the present Magadha king.

He plots , confuses and creates a holy mess in warfare among neighboring kings and their states to get what he wants…He wants to install his protégé Chandragupta Maurya in place..

The second thread of story running parallels is that of  modern day politician/ king maker called Gangasagar who does the same with modern political parties, forges alliances with crooked mine owners, real estate businessmen, hijras, “honey traps”  and assassins to make and break alliances that he wants in power.

He also has his puppet PM candidate who he wants to establish in Delhi…

 How things turn out for the original  Chanakya and this modern chanakya , Gangasagar is the rest of the story.

It is Ok, its like a  new type of story line mixing History and present day politics  together . It is not very complimentary on Great Brahmin Chanakya as we know him; in fact author tries his best to make him detestable and as villainous as possible.

The writing style is not so great. It is mere hype that this author is hailed as ‘Indian Dan Brown’ (of Da Vinci code fame)

This book is supposed to be made into a Hindi movie by UTV.

Rating: 3/5

Crimes and No Punishments

Disclaimer:
 The opinions in this post are not based on popular sentiments, but they are my own and you are free to disagree

OK, this Nirbhaya gangrape case in Delhi was a shocker that woke up the nation from its slumber to demand some action..So far so good..
But we have become too emotional and shortsighted due to the violence of the crime, to see the roots of all the evil that has seeped into the Indian society.

At the risk of being branded a conservative prude, I still say, all this is because of the sociological and cultural revolution sweeping in from the west where ‘being cool or looking hot’ means more important than behaving safely, ethically, legally within certain limitations etc..

In one breath, you demand the Police should not be everywhere but in another, you cry that they are not around when you want them!!
Police have a lot of limitations too in this country… Already saddled with the label of being most corrupt  for all they do and don’t, they are also severely understaffed ( understaffed at least for the common man, while VIPs have many guards drawn from this depleted Police force!)..

I was saying, don’t we slam any attempt by Police in bringing public order and restrictions as an infringement of our privacy, and scorn at them as ‘corrupt Moral Police’, who love snooping around young couples, and party birds, ‘instead of doing their work’?..

If they restrict the happy hours, they are criticized… If they arrest drunken drivers on New Year’s eve , they are branded party-poopers..

If they chase away couples from dark shady spots for security on Valentines day, we are up in arms claiming that ‘this country has matured, while Police have not’ …
So, its like damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Besides, everyone is very eager to pay the price ( which is usually a bribe) and quickly get out of such nasty embarrassing situations…How many of us like being fined for obvious flouting of rules…None, right?

When we do not want to live within the defined limits of decency, legality  and discipline, let alone moral bounds, how can we expect others to?… Especially the probable criminals who could be your car drivers, bus conductors, street vendors and louts who have the least access to education and good upbringing and are usually a deprived, hungry, angry class?

Are we being good role models to them in our indecent display of unbridled liberated youths?

So, if you do not want ‘Moral’ police around you, then you cannot wish away IMMORAL criminals too from risky spots either, right?
What do you want the Police to do then?..No one is wearing labels on their forehead as rapists or thugs or whatever.
They are just like the rest of us who want to have forbidden fun without getting caught.

In any case, what’s so wrong in being ‘Moral’, it’s not a four letter word, Rape is..
I am not holding a candle for the Police here, but surely the onus of making the country a safe, legally correct and ethical place to inhabit rests on all of us too being upright and straightforward upfront?

Can we take such a pledge on the New Year’s eve please, instead of demanding public hanging and chemical castrations which are impractical knee jerk reactions and will never happen in our brand of democracy..

As the latest Talaash film’s taglines said, ‘the answer lies within..’

Lets take a look inside, it’s been a long time since we did.

Mini-Review: English -Vinglish: Vintage Sridevi returns

Diamonds are forever…

No, I am not referring to the classic James Bond flick, but paying tribute to our own versatile actress Sridevi.
The lady who went into hibernation after marriage and children decades ago, returns to show the same sparkle and magical class in a role that was made for her in the latest Hindi/ Tamil offering: ` English Vinglish’ directed by  Gauri Shinde who has at once established herself as a quality director of reckoning  in this `feel good’ film about an ordinary middle class housewife, often belittled and snickered at for her lack of English skills in this modern “ anglicized’ world by her self-centred family members who take digs at her frequently, uncaringly.

She hides her tears and swallows her hurt and it is here that Sridevi is so real as the middle class house-wife Shashi, who is a ‘laddoo- maker’ by choice, that everyone can empathise with her.
Even her proficiency and popularity as a good sweet maker is somehow held against her and derisively mocked at. She then gets a chance to go abroad to be with her sister in New York alone and she is naturally petrified at the thought of making it all by herself in an alien English land.
But the lady is courageous, determined to learn English in a coaching class in New York  to get back her self-pride and some ‘show the world ‘ that she is not just ‘born to make only laddoos’.

The movie has many endearing moments like a cameo by Amitabh who provide solace and comfort to her on the flight to a soft spoken, French student who inadvertently falls for her simplicity and grace, a Pakistani called funnily as Salman Khan and a home sick madarsi..

The movie is all about her fight not only with her inner demons of fear and insecurity but also the time which is running out as the wedding dates at her sister’s house, get near and she is pushed to make a complicated choice.

This is a real heart touching movie and must be seen to appreciate.
The characters and performances are so real that you can reach across and touch them.
And Sridevi stands tall. Freckles and all.

Now everyone will know ` what and who’ we have been missing on the Indian silver screen all these years..