Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Self check-in and delays in departure

A few weeks back, I gathered enough courage to perform a self check-in over the web before boarding a flight. It turned out to be an easy and hassle free experience. I was also rewarded with extra miles on my King Club card for performing this action. To my surprise, I ended up in the business class. I double checked my seat number on my ticket stub. It was luck. I was travelling on a Kingfisher Red flight. On that particular day, they used a Kingfisher class airplane on this route instead of a Kingfisher Red class one. In case you are wondering the difference between these two, the former features a business class section whereas the latter do not. While checking in over the web, I had chosen the seats closest to the cockpit. So, I ended up in the business class with extra room to toss and turn. After this incident, I always check in over the web. But, I have never had the good fortune for enjoying the business class luxury later!

Checking in over the web has it’s share of advantages and disadvantages. On my recent visit to Pune, I had checked in over the web, arranged a cab at 3:30 am in the morning and went to sleep early. My flight was at 6 am next day and the carrier was Kingfisher Red. At midnight, I received a SMS informing me about the delay in departure. Now, the flight will take off at 8:30 am. I promptly called up the cab service and rescheduled the time of pickup. When I drifted into sleep after this, the phone rang again! This time, a customer service representative had called to inform me about the delay. I thanked the lady and went to sleep again. At 3 am, I woke up again after hearing the phone ring. When I picked up the phone, an automated voice informed about the delay and the new departure time! Kingfisher notified me thrice about the delay and I can hardly complain. In order to wake up early on an important day, I put three alarms in a span of 30 minutes. Kingfisher also has a similar approach though with longer intervals! A frequent traveler would have switched off his mobile after receiving the SMS as he is aware of the repeated notification method of the airlines in case of a delay.

The next day, I overheard an irate traveler enquiring about the reason for the delay. “Pune runway is closed, sir”, replied one of the girls at the counter. The traveler questioned again, “Why? Are they filling in the potholes?”. He wore a deadpan expression while asking the last question. The girls at the counter smiled and looked down.

Picture Courtesy:

Tags: Musings,Self Check-In,Kingfisher

Movie Review: Red Cliff

In 208 AD, Chancellor Cao Cao(Zhang Fengyi) forces the Emperor Xian of Han Dynasty to give him command of the Imperial army to suppress the southern warlords Liu Bei(Yao Yung) and Sun Quan(Chang Chen). According to Cao Cao, these southern warlords are rebels who ought to be dealt with force. After obtaining the permission from the Emperor using strong arm tactics, Cao Cao sets southwards with the Imperial Army. Very soon, Liu Bei’s army struggles to fend off the massive army of Cao Cao. Cao Cao’s army does not distinguish between civilian and military during their attacks. Zhuge Liang(Takeshi Kaneshiro), the chief strategist of Liu Bei, advises on an alliance with Sun Quan. Sun Quan is already tired with the repeated defeats and massive losses in casualty.

Zhuge Liang visit Sun Quan to put forth the idea of alliance against Cao Cao. All Sun Quan’s advisors are against a war with Cao Cao. But Sun Quan tells Zhuge Liang that he will need a day to think it over. While Zhuge Liang waits for an answer, he pays a visit to the Grand Viceroy Zhou Yu(Tony Leung).There, Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu becomes friends. Now, Zhuge Liang is confident that Zhou Yu will influence the decision of Sun Quan in the favor of an alliance. As expected by Zhuge Liang, Sun Quan agrees for an alliance. Even after the alliance, Cao Cao have superior power. To make matters worse, Cao Cao has already reached the outskirts of Red Cliff with his mighty navy. His ground troops are almost there. How the combined intelligence of Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu thwart the superior power of Cao Cao’s army forms the rest of the story.

John Woo directs this war movie based on the real Battle of Red Cliffs. John Woo gives a spectacular recital of history showcasing the ruthlessness of Cao Cao and the resourcefulness of Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu. He focuses on the working relationship between the two key players Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu to tell us how the battle was won. Although the movie starts with the traditional Chinese technique of fast zooming on the key players to heighten the drama, it quickly falls back into using the cinematic techniques popularized by John Woo. There are slow motion scenes to make the viewer enjoy a great shot longer. Similarly, there are back and forth cuts between two events happening at the same time at two locations with the camera zooming slowly and steadily onto the actors during the cuts Yes, there are sequences featuring the John Woo trademarks -  the pigeon and the Mexican standoff! But the battle sequences are the major highlights of the movie. The CG in these scenes are a letdown. But the different formations by the cavalry is filmed in such a way that even a layman understands the formation clearly and also it’s advantages. When Cao Cao’s navy suffers a defeat, the viewer is very clear on the reasons.

All the performances are good. The notable ones are Tony Leung’s Zhou Yu and Takeshi Kaneshiro’s Zhuge Liang. One scene alone is enough to showcase the talent of Tony Leung. When one of his trusted man dies after breaching a hole in the wall during the climax, Tony’s Zhou Yu smiles for a second and then the smile is immediately replaced with a melancholic look. He is happy about the hole in the wall which is the main objective but he is not happy about the cost he had to pay for the same! Throughout the movie, Tony’s Zhou Yu is calm which is inline with the character. Takeshi Kaneshiro’s Zhuge Liang is a strategist. He has to remain calm throughout. He accomplishes it with a smile that displays inner peace.

This is a must see for anyone who loves Chinese movies or war movies. There are two versions of this movie – Mandarin Full version in two parts and English (International) version in condensed form. If you have a choice, go for the Mandarin Full version. I watched the English version and was able to detect continuity problems.

Language: Mandarin

Genre: War

Rating: ****

Tags: Movies,Tony Leung,Takeshi Kaneshiro,John Woo,War

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Harry Potter(Daniel Radcliffe) is escorted to the Weasley household in the the Burrow. In order to confuse the Death Eaters, many of Harry’s friends consisting of Hermione(Emma Watson), Ron(Rupert Grint), Hagrid, Lupin, Moody, Arthur, Bill, Fred, George, Fleur and others drink Polyjuice potion to appear like Harry. But they are all attacked on their way to the Burrow. While trying to save the real Harry Potter, the owl Hedwig dies. Everyone except Moody reaches the Burrow with injuries. Moody is killed by the Death Eaters on the way to the Burrow.

Hermione, Ron and Harry mentioned in Dumbledore’s will. As part of the will, Hermione gets a fairy tale book while Ron gets an equipment that will show him the way in difficult times. Harry receives two items – the first one is quidditch ball he caught in the first match and the sword of the Gryffindor. Although the sword is bequeathed to Harry, someone has stolen it from Hogwarts. After receiving the items from Dumbledore’s will, the three friends attend Bill and Fleur’s wedding. The party afterwards is ruined by Death Eaters who attack everyone. Now, Harry, Hermione and Harry decides to find out the Horcruxes to destroy Lord Vlodemort(Ralph Fiennes). How Harry finds out the secret of Deathly Hallows and destroys one of the remaining 5 Horcruxes forms the rest of the story.

David Yates directs this movie which is the first part of the final installment in the Harry Potter series. The movie focuses on the hunt for the Horcruxes by Harry and his friends. With no help from Dumbledore, they are confused. But they try harder to solve the mystery! Because of this, the movie has the effects of a road movie where the protagonists are always on the move. Barring the initial fight with the Death Eaters where the chase ultimately happens on the highway, there are not many awe inspiring sequences. The CG sequences are neat giving a quality look for the movie and not beyond that.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint continues to impress us in their respective roles. Although the cast includes a lot of heavy duty stars from UK, there is not a lot of footage for any one of them. The only notable addition to the long list of (UK) stars in this franchise is Bill Nighy. But unfortunately, he does not have much to do in this movie.

This is strictly for Potter fans. Without the knowledge of the novel, you will be lost in this maze.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ***

Tags: Movies,Daniel Radcliffe,Emma Watson,Rupert Grint,David Yates,Drama

Movie Review: Manon des Sources

Ugolin Soubeyran(Daniel Auteuil) undertakes a flourishes business in carnations after growing them in the land bought from Jean Cadoret’s widow. Cesar Soubeyran(Yves Montand), Ugolin’s uncle, helps his newphew in realizing the latter’s dreams. Meanwhile, Jean Cadoret’s widow has moved away the village. But his daughter, Manon(Emmanuelle Beart) stayed back with the family who lived on their property. Now, she is an young woman who detests Ugolin and his uncle Cesar.

One day, Ugolin sees a naked Manon taking a bath in a spring in the property. After seeing her, Ugolin falls in love with her and wants to propose her. He confesses his love to Cesar. Cesar is initially skeptical. But the skepticism vanishes once Cesar sees Manon. Unbeknownst to them, Manon is attracted to the school teacher Bernard who is well educated and knows a lot of about farming. During this time, Manon by chance overhears two villagers conversing about the deceit of the Soubeyrans. She is heartbroken to know there was spring in her father’s property that was blocked by the Soubeyrans. If Jean had known this, he would have been alive and successful now. How Manon takes revenge on the Soubeyrans forms the rest of the story.

Claude Berri directs the sequel to Jean de Florette based on Marcel Pagnol’s novel. Like the first part, the movie scores on the performances and direction. The events are spread over months. Yet, the director beautifully captures the passing of time; through either seasonal changes in the farms or physical changes in individuals. The director emphasize more on the turmoil of Cesar instead on the revenge by Manon which makes the movie appealing and dramatic.

Yves Montand is excellent as Cesar. Yves’s nuanced performace captures all shades of a wrong doer. Cesar is unapologetic and defensive of Ugolin when confronted by the villagers. Soon after suffering a loss, Cesar repents. It is in this phase, Yves makes the viewer sympathize with the lonely old man. Emmanuelle Beart’s Manon relies less on dialogues and more on personality. Her beauty and innocence distracts the viewer. Daniel Auteuil’s Ugolin has less to do in this movie as compared to first part.

Go for it. Make sure you see Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources back to back for a more enjoyable experience.

Language: French

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

Picture Courtesy:

Tags: Movies,Daniel Auteuil,Yves Montand,Emmanuelle Beart,Claude Berri,Drama

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Recurring prize

The big companies want to go green. Do the various actions taken for this translate to positive results? That is a question to ponder. But one thing for sure. Most of these big companies are successful in generating awareness among the employees. One such company organized a quiz as part of this initiative. An young girl came up first in the quiz. When she was summoned to collect the prize, she was very excited. She hoped to meet the big shots of the company and a worthy prize.

She hurried down to the reception. There, she was greeted by the receptionist and a group of people. The group of people belonged to a non-profit foundation started for a green earth! The receptionist two plants to her; the kind you can buy from a nursery. The plants were the prize. Keeping her composure and hiding her disappointment, she gracefully accepted the prize.

When she turned back to leave the scene, they gave her another prize, the people from the non-profit foundation had another surprise for her. “Since you came up first in the quiz, you can donate Rs 250 for the foundation…”, said one of the people. Then with a slight pause, the person added, “…monthly”. The receptionist interjected, “You don’t have to worry about it. I can make arrangements to deduct the amount from your salary”.

What happened to the plants? The narrator of this story did not tell me about it. But he did tell me one thing. She was not happy when she came to her seat!

Picture Courtesy:

Tags: Musings,Quiz,Prize

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The “Easy Cabs” woes

Yesterday, I received a email from a friend. She had a very bad experience with Easy Cabs. Easy cabs is one of the many cab services that sprang up during the past few years. She had booked a cab on November 14th. She received the SMS with the driver details once the booking was completed.  But, when she called up the driver, the car had broken down. So, she contacted Easy Cabs again. The booking agent sent a SMS with the new driver details in an hour. This time, the car in perfect condition. But the driver had another pickup at the same time. So, she contacted Easy Cabs again. This time, there were no cabs available. There was nothing she could do now as it was late in the night!

I was surprised to read her email, strongly advocating against Easy Cabs. I dismissed it as a rare occurrence till I spoke to my friend on the phone yesterday. Around 9:30 pm, he was on his way to the railway station to drop his neighbor. His neighbor had booked a cab through Easy Cabs. The driver bailed out at the last minute!

Is this a problem with the cab services industry as a whole? Or is it Easy Cabs alone at fault?

Picture Courtesy:

Tags: Travel,Bangalore,Easy Cabs

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The bitter Ginger experience

Staying at the Ginger hotels is an exquisite experience. Anyways, that was my experience. Recently I stayed at a hotel in Pondicherry operating under this brand. During the duration of stay which lasted less than 12 hours, there were multiple instances which made the experience unforgettable.

I walked into the reception of Ginger hotel in Pondicherry after an 8 hour drive from Bengaluru. The time was past 9 pm. The person at the reception was on the phone. So, I waited. He was on a reservation call that lasted forever. As the call went on, my patience wore thin. And I fidgeted. Noticing a restless me, he winked back. That was the friendliest and most welcoming gesture I have ever seen while checking into a hotel. I haven’t yet checked in and the Ginger staff were treating me like a friend already.

When I walked into the room, I was welcomed by the mess left by the previous occupant! The Ginger staff were treating me like family now. Who else will dare to take you into a messy room other than family?

I walked into the bar. After the 8 hour drive, I planned to uplift my sagging spirit. After entering the bar, I placed myself strategically on the stool near the bar counter to minimize the time taken to transport the drinks. I had around 20 minutes before the bar closed for the day. I finished my first drink and ordered a refill. There was still 15 minutes left for the closing time. But, the waiter informed me curtly with an accusing look, “You have only 15 minutes and I will not take anymore orders”. Here again, the staff treated me like a friend. How many times have we curtly told our friends to finish their drink in order to leave the bar as early as possible?

The third instance was less dramatic. The hotel advertised wifi connectivity. They even sent the wifi password as SMS when I checked in. Once inside the room, I was unable to find a wifi network after booting up the laptop. So, I approached the reception. They blamed it on the weather. There is no wifi connectivity because of the rains. If I really want to get connected, I can sit in the lobby. If I can get connectivity in the lobby, why can’t I get the same inside my room? After all, my room is not miles away from the lobby! That was my line of defense. So, the receptionist offered me the keys of another vacant room, closer to the lobby,  to try my luck with wifi connectivity. What I found was baffling! The wifi network is available in the corridor. Once I get inside the room and close the door, the wifi network disappears from the radar!

Ginger Hotels believes in Smart Basics™. It looks like a copyrighted philosophy! I’m still trying to figure what is smart about these basics!

Picture Courtesy:

Tags: Travel,Ginger Hotels,Pondicherry

Monday, November 15, 2010

Is Cancer on the rise?

Today, a friend was distressed after his classmate succumbed to cancer. My friend had recently crossed 25. So his classmate is of the same age too. It is too young an age to bid goodbye to life. Since this is the second case of cancer among his classmates, my friend was scared. Not only my friend, everyone who knew these two souls are scared.

Is cancer on the rise? It is the question we asked each other.

Has the field of medicine has advanced resulting in earlier detection of these ailments?

Is it the environmental effect?

We don’t have any answers. Do you?

Tags: Musings,Cancer,Medicine

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Movie Review: The Social Network

In 2003, Mark Zuckerberg(Jesse Eisenberg) studies at Harvard University. One night, he breaks up with his girlfriend Erica Albright. When Mark gets back to his room, he hits upon the idea of creating a program to compare the pictures of girls and ranking them. He uses the algorithm provided by his friend Eduardo Saverin(Andrew Garfield). Within a few hours, the program is ready and uploaded onto a website named FaceMash. The program becomes a huge hit bringing down the Harvard network. Due to this, Mark is punished with academic probation. But he gets noticed by Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra.

The Winklevoss twins and Narendra approaches Mark to work on their website named Harvard Connection. After listening to their idea, Mark approaches Eduardo to start “thefacebook”. Eduardo funds the project with $1000. Mark works on the project and is available to the Winklevoss twins and Narendra. Within a few days, “thefacebook” goes live and becomes an instant hit. When the Winklevoss twins and Narendra gets to know about this, they are infuriated. Narendra wants legal action but one of the Winklevoss twins disagrees. As the website become popular, Mark plans to expand while Eduardo plans to make money from advertisements. Very soon, the website catches the attention of Sean Paker(Justin Timberlake), the creator of Napster. The rest of the movie deals with the success behind Facebook and the two major legal hassles it has to deal with.

David Fincher directs this movie based on screenplay by Aaron Sorkin which is adapted from Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Millionaires. David tells us a riveting story behind the inception and subsequent success of the social networking site. He uses a non-linear format where the story shifts from the scenes where Zuckerberg deals with the lawyers representing the parties suing him to the actual story. In spite of knowing the history, this style keeps the viewer in suspense and also attentive.

Jesse Eisenberg steals the show with his depiction of an unapologetic and focused Mark Zuckerberg. Jesse’s Mark believes in a dream and will work hard to achieve success. Jesse is able to successfully portray the cold blooded nature while exposing vulnerable nature also. Andrew Garfield as Eduardo impresses. Andrew’s Eduardo trusts his friend blindly. But he is also impulsive which brings down the friendship.

Go for it! The history might not be accurate. But it is still an engrossing watch. The movie is a conversational one. So, make sure the movie hall has good acoustics.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

Tags: Movies,Jesse Eisenberg,Andrew Garfield,Justin Timberland,David Fincher,Drama

Hidden Kitchen: Sher Khan Hotels

For over six months, I have been seeing a giant hoarding announcing this hotel on my way to work. A few months back, I also drove past this hotel when I took an unexpected turn on my way to work. The location was a major turn off. So, I never tried this restaurant. When my friend mentioned this place yesterday, I was skeptical. But when he gave rave reviews, I decided to try it out.

Although they are not high on the oomph factor, the food will make up for it. I had mutton sheekh kabab and mutton biriyani. The sheek kabab was grilled well and soft. It melted in melted along with my initial skepticism about the place. The mutton biriyani was revelation. The mutton pieces were cooked and soft unlike the rubbery and hard to chew mutton served in many restaurants.

This is indeed a hidden kitchen. You may have passed this area many times. But you will never notice the restaurant unless you are looking for this. The restaurant is located near the intersection of 24 Main road and 7th cross road in HSR Layout, Bengaluru.

View Larger Map

Picture 116 Picture 117

Tags: Hidden Kitchen,Bangalore,Kabab,Biriyani

Friday, November 12, 2010

Movie Review: Udaan

Rohan Singh(Rajat Barmecha) is studying in a boarding school in Simla. In the middle of the night, he along with his three friends escape from the eyes of the hostel warden to visit a nearby cinema hall featuring an adult movie. They meet the warden at the cinema hall. As a result, all four of the boys are expelled from school for the altercation created at the cinema hall. Following the expulsion, Rohan returns to his home in Jamshedpur. Rohan’s dad, Bhairav Singh(Ronit Roy) is a widower and a strict disciplinarian. In the past eight years, Bhairav have not visited his son at the boarding school. Rohan is reluctant to go back home.Once Rohan reaches home, he is surprised to find a young kid named Arjun in the house. Rohan questions his dad about Arjun. Bhairav had remarried after Rohan left and Arjun is Rohan’s half brother resulting from that marriage.

Later at night, all three of them visit Bhairav’s brother Jimmy(Ram Kapoor). Jimmy and his wife are childless and they dote on both Rohan and Arjun. During the dinner, Rohan declares his aspiration to become a writer. Jimmy encourages while Bhairav disapproves. An argument ensues during which Bhairav gets angry and physical. Jimmy helplessly tries to calm both parties. After returning from Jimmy’s party, Bhairav lays down the rules for Rohan. Rohan will address Bhairav as “Sir”. Rohan will work in Bhairav’s factory and also study in a nearby engineering college. Can the broken bridges be mended? The rest of the movie deals with this.

Vikramaditya Motwane debuts as director with this drama. The script is a joint effort by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane while the movie is produced in association with Anurag Kashyap, UTV and Sanjay Singh. The movie tells a story of repressed childhood poignantly, successfully touching an emotional chord in the viewer. The movie is successful because of multiple factors. The content has been told many times in other movies. But the narration in a realistic style makes the difference. Mahendra J Shetty paints a pretty picture of otherwise mundane locations. When Bhairav waits in the car for Rohan, Mahendra puts the camera to give a claustrophobic feeling accentuating the restlessness and also provoking the viewer to form an opinion about the characters. The editing helps the viewer get through briskly during the songs. The combination of editing and photography stands out throughout the movie and is exceptional in the final sequence where Rohan is running to break free. The music by Amit Trivedi introduces a different rhythm not widely seen in normal Hindi movies. The background score is perfect. Vikramaditya, the director, does not get preachy. He trusts the viewer to be intelligent and deduce the message. The various parts are played by competent actors. What stands out in the movie is how the various actors react to other performers on screen. There are two major instances. Check out the expression of the actor Manjot Singh when he listens to Rohan’s poem. He does not understand it. He admits that poem was beyond him. But throughout the recital, he was nodding his head in encouragement without a tinge of embarrassment. So much is said about friendship in one scene without a lot of conversation. Jimmy is a victim to the tension between dad and son. The pain and confusion are expressed in silence.

Rajat Barmecha has a dream debut as Rohan Singh. The movie is about his coming off age. So, he has everything going for him. His success as a performer lies in making the viewer forget that he is a debutant. The surprises of the movie are Ronit Roy as Bhairav and Ram Kapoor as Jimmy. They are brothers; but with diametrically opposite personalities. Ronit Roy’s Bhairav is selfish egotist disciplinarian with a foul temper. He thinks he is right. After all, he is modeling himself on his father. During confrontational scenes, Ronit is calm before the rage erupts. Ronit portrays the underlying tension effectively. Ram’s Jimmy is not difficult to play. But Ram transforms Jimmy into a more likeable character with his spontaneous performance. Ram is excellent during the scenes where he teasingly encourages Rohan for his artistic inclinations. He does the same when he sees the father-son duo jogging in the morning. The viewer’s heart goes out to him when he pleads with Rohan against putting him a spot. Ram also impresses in the scenes before the climax.

It is a must see! Grab your poison and have a nostalgic evening.

Language: Hindi

Genre: Drama

Rating: *****

Tags: Movies,Rajat Barmecha,Ronit Roy,Ram Kapoor,Vikramaditya Motwane,Anurag Kashyap,UTV,Drama

Rude shock in a Pondicherry hotel

Picture 110 There is a reason why I love hotel rooms. I can leave it a mess whenever I go out in the morning. When I come back in the evening, the room will be as fresh as when I stepped into it the first time. The housekeeping staff cleans the room and makes the bed. All these have not been my strengths. So naturally, I’m glad when I get help from expected and unexpected quarters.

During my recent visit to Pondicherry, I was in a for a rude shock when I walked into my room after checking in. The hotel staff had not cleaned up the room after the previous occupant vacated. The checkout time at the hotel is 12 pm. When I walked into the room, it was around 10:30 pm. The hotel staff did not clean up the room on that day! This is surprising. There can only be two reasons. Either they don’t have enough business and runs on bare minimum employees or their staff has not been trained well.

Check the picture to find out the state of the room when I walked in.

Tags: Travel,Pondicherry,Hotel

Monday, November 8, 2010

Movie Review: Jean de Florette

Ugolin Souberyan(Daniel Auteuil) returns home after First World War with a intent to grow carnations in his property. Sensing the potential of Ugolin’s scheme, his uncle Cesar Souberyan(Yves Montand) encourages him to grow the flowers on a large scale. Cesar is very old and has never married. After his death, he will pass all his wealth to Ugolin. In order to fulfill Ugolin’s dream, Cesar talks to his neighbor to buy fertile land with a spring belonging to the latter. But, the conversation turns ugly and an enraged Cesar pulls his neighbor from the tree resulting in a fatal fall for the latter. A manipulative Cesar decides to buy the land from the dead man’s heir. In order to make life difficult for the heir, Cesar and Ugolin blocks the spring using cement.

The heir turns out to the dead man’s sister Florette. Unfortunately, Florette dies and the property passes on to her son Jean Cadoret(Gerard Depardieu) who is a hunchback. Ugolin befriends Jean with a view to buy the inherited property when the time is right. But Ugolin is in for a surprise. Armed with books written on agriculture and animal rearing, Jean intends to grow rabbits and all kinds of vegetation in the inherited property. Jean’s wife and daughter blindly believes him. All of them intend to spend rest of their days in the inherited property. Despite Ugolin’s warning about lack of water in the property, Jean is not discouraged. Seeing Jean’s romantic views and also optimistic determination, Ugolin loses hope. But, Cesar is ready to play the waiting game. The rest of the movie follows the hardships of Jean and his family.

Claude Berri directs this movie based on the novel by Marcel Pagnol. This forms the first part of the two movies  based on this novel. The movie scores on two points – the direction and the performances. In this first part, the movie focuses on the selfishness and ruthlessness of man to achieve money. Here, you see a helpless and handicapped Jean confronting nature and unbeknownst to himself, confronting his neighbors also. Claude poignantly captures the hardship in setting up a farming venture. The movie is set in a span of almost 3 years in less than 2 hours. Yet, the director effectively portrays the passing seasons.

The performances of three main protagonists stand out. Yves Montand as Cesar displays many colors of this character. The way Cesar persuades Ugolin to dissuade Jean is a clever scene where Yves’ cunning is clearly visible in his eyes and barely noticeable on his lips. Also, when Cesar spies on a struggling Jean in the latter’s property, there are multiple emotions displayed by Yves – sympathy, revulsion and confusion. Daniel Autueil’s Ugolin is a bit slow in deducing. He is an emotional being who gets sympathetic to Jean and needs help from Cesar to walk the path. Daniel is fun to watch especially in the scenes where he gets flustered after unsuccessfully trying to dissuade Jean. Finally, Gerard Depardieu makes the audience root for Jean with his performance. It is towards the latter half of the movie, Gerard makes an impression. He is excellent in portraying the fatigued Jean while transporting water from the distant spring. He also makes a emotional impact when he cries out his plea at the clouds raining far away and also at the gods.

This is a must watch for a serious cinema lover.

Language: French

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

Picture Courtesy:

Tags: Movies,Daniel Auteuil,Yves Montand,Gerard Depardieu,Claude Berri,Drama

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Business of Firecrackers

I don’t understand this business. For the past two years, a makeshift tent goes up in the barren land near Iblur flyover during Diwali. Big hoardings indicate firecrackers being sold in this shop, run out of the makeshift tent. The service road is filled with cars during Diwali. Sometimes, there are cars parked on the Outer Ring Road disregarding traffic rules and safety concerns. The inconvenience to other be damned if it suits my convenience!

Last year, I ended up buying crackers from this shop after Diwali. I fail to remember how I reached there on the day after Diwali. On reaching the bill counter, I had an anxiety attack when I saw the prices scribbled on the notepad by the person at the counter. It was way beyond my budget. After writing down the prices and tabulating them, they applied a strange formula on the total. Suddenly, the total price were halved! In fact, it had more than halved! That turned out to the price of the firecrackers that I had to pay. The new figure brought a instant rush of relief and I quickly disregarded the strange formula. I didn’t care much and attributed the strange formula as a desperate bid by the shopkeeper to sell his stock.

This year, I went to same shop before Diwali. The same exercise was repeated. First, they wrote down the prices. They added all the prices. Then, they applied the same strange formula. The total was halved. Then they rounded off again to a neat number! Regardless of which day you buy, the shopkeeper is giving you a discount! Then, why the elaborate ploy of calculating a big number and then applying the strange formula?

Picture Courtesy:

Tags: Musings,Diwali,Firecrackers

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Day after Diwali.

Every passing day, my daughter surprises me with pearls of wisdom! Prior to Diwali, she was clear on how the celebrations had to be carried out! “We will only celebrate Diwali. No crackers will be used”. This was her specific instruction. When I looked at her questioningly, she offered an explanation. “There will be lots of black. Everywhere it will be black. It is bad”. I was happy for this was the result of her introduction on pollution from her school. Now that the supreme authority in the house has spoken, this also translated to saving on crackers. So, I was elated. As with all good things in life, it did not last! Her determination eroded at the first sound of bursting crackers on Thursday! The saving on crackers never materialized!

The wide road that runs in front of our apartment (and other apartments) was used for bursting crackers. Yesterday was a colorful day! There were all kinds of fire crackers. Rockets were being launched from the center of the road and the embers from the rockets showered into many apartments. The sight was scary. But how do you celebrate Diwali without a few mishaps? It is even easier to remember the day of the mishap. “You know, it happened on Diwali ‘10”. With that simple statement, the onus is on the listener to find out the exact date!

A look it into the neighborhood the day after Diwali is akin to getting up the next day after a successful drinking party! You have made a mess of the place. Luckily, our caretaker is good. He cleaned up the ruckus in front of our apartment before any of us woke up. The same was not the case with other apartments.

Tags: Musings,Videos,Diwali

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Background check before marriage

“Can you find out more about him?”. This is one of the most basic type of background check performed before proceeding to the many steps leading to marriage. Arrange marriage to be precise. The best part is when you live outside India and someone contacts you for rendering this service. You are living in California and you have gather the necessary data about someone residing in Memphis! If you are lucky, then there is a name, address and details of the employer. If you aren’t, you are left with a name and an address that is as good as “He lives in Tennessee”!

I dreaded this responsibility. If the person was of dubious character, it should be easy to end the background check and pass the report. What if the person crosses over to the dark side after the background check yield an unblemished report? Will there be a pang of guilt? Fortunately for me, I never found out because I was never ever entrusted with the responsibility!

One of the best background check story I have come across was narrated to me by my friend. His family was looking for an alliance for his second sister. The boy was working in a city in UAE. So, they entrusted this responsibility to an acquaintance who lived in the vicinity of this city in UAE. The acquaintance called up the boy’s friend. He introduced himself and told the reason behind the call.

The boy came out in flying colors. My friend’s sister got married to this boy! After marriage, the real story of the background check came out. During the background check, the acquaintance had actually to the boy and not to the boy’s friend. The unblemished report was given by the boy himself.

All is well that ends well. My friend’s sister lives in bliss.

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Tags: Musings,Marriage,Background Check

Books: And Thereby Hangs a Tale

This book written by Jeffery Archer is a collection of 15 short stories; some of it are inspired from true events while other are the result of imagination. The stories are set in different parts of the world and covers different topics like deceit, luck, love, ambition etc. The stories based on the true stories cover different time spans. Some of the stories unfold in a months while other in years. Despite the time spans, these stories tend to be more interesting and a compulsive page turner primarily due to the level of details provided by the author. The same cannot be said for the second type of stories.

See below for the synopsis of the stories.

  1. Stuck on You: A chance meeting between Jeremy and Arabella leads to a fling and then a marriage proposal. After the marriage proposal, Jeremy goes hunting for a engagement ring in De Beers.
  2. The Queen’s Birthday Telegram: When Albert Webber turns 100, he receives a telegram from the Queen. Three years later, Albert’s wife Betty turns 100. But she doesn’t receive the telegram and Albert is concerned.
  3. High Heels: Alan Penford investigates an insurance claim by Lomax Shoes Ltd. Although it looks like an open-and-shut case, he feels otherwise!
  4. Blind Date: Charlie is blind. While enjoying coffee in his regular restaurant, a lady sits in the adjacent table. He starts a conversation with her while trying to conceal his blindness.
  5. When there’s a will *: Evelyn Mertzberger migrates to Los Angeles and makes a living as an escort. After her 40th birthday, she shifts to Florida to earn a diploma in nursing. She searches for a retirement home to swindle an old man of his wealth.
  6. Double-Cross: Kevin Bryant is sentenced to prison for diamond robbery. Detective Inspector Matthews comes up with an ingenious way to retrieve the missing diamonds.
  7. I will survive: Julian Farnsdale runs an antique store. A famous singer visits all his neighboring stores.
  8. A good eye: In the second half of 1600s, Hans Julius Grebenar meets a talented artist. The artist and Grebenar influences the history of the city.
  9. Members only: Sidney Chapman wins a golf set from the Southend Rotary Club. Little does he know how this unwanted prize is going to change the life of his son Robin.
  10. The undiplomatic diplomat *: Percival Arthur Clarence Forsdyke comes from a long line of distinguished diplomats. However, he has been relegated to office work because of his past undiplomatic behavior. After retirement, he plans to be worthy of his family name.
  11. The luck of the Irish *: Liam Casey, a real estate agent, goes on a holiday to Magaluf to impress his girlfriend. While holidaying, he takes an interest in the real estate business there. His luck changes for good. But will it hold?
  12. Politically correct: Arnold Pennyworthy is suspicious of his new neighbor and he calls up Scotland Yard.
  13. Better the devil you know: The Chairman of a successful bank meets Mr De Ath who makes an offer. Will the wheeler-dealer emerge as a winner this time?
  14. No room at the inn: Richard Edminston is short on cash after touring Italy for over an year. He is looking for cheap accommodation.
  15. Caste-off *: Jamwal and Nisha meets at a red light and a car race ensues. So begins a love story that transcends caste barriers.

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Tags: Books,Jeffrey Archer,Short Stories

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Martin Farm, Bengaluru

Martin Farm is situated a kilometer away from Karmelaram railway station. After travelling the railway track past the station, you will come across a green signboard with an arrow beckoning to the quiet farm. Set up in a little over 2 acres, the farm is run by Martin after his retirement as a bank official. Martin has also constructed a house in one section of the property. The rest of the property is devoted to animals and play places. Martin’s son, Gerry Martin, is a mini celebrity.

This is an ideal place for a day trip during weekends with kids. There are hammocks and swings for relaxing. I’m not sure if the farm arranges food. It is better to carry your own food. There is an open air dining room.

See below for the map.

View Larger Map

See below for pictures.

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Tags: Travel,Bangalore,Martin Farm

Monday, November 1, 2010

Books: Making Things Happen

Drawing from his own experience in leading many projects, Scott Berkun documents the major pitfalls encountered in the project lifecycle and the ways to avoid it. Earlier, this was published as “The Art of Project Management”. When published as the second edition, the book earns a new title and some of the chapters have undergone a facelift.

The book is divided into three parts – Plans, Skills and Management. In Plans, Scott tackles schedules, approaches to planning, the project vision, requirements, design and idea generation. Scott uses the second section named Skills to address specifications, review process, decision making, importance of communication, managerial skills that are less annoying but effective at the same time and conflict resolution. The third part covers trust building, prioritization, milestones, coding pipelines, change control, deadlines, measuring progress, controlling projects and politics.

The books contains a lot of diagrams simplifying complex topics. Additionally, the book contains reference to other books. The referenced materials are mentioned in the pages of reference. For a reader who likes to read more about the particular topic, this often serves as the next book to read. Some of the references are to Scott’s own website.

This is a treasure house for a mid level project manager who has been fighting fires. For such a person, this book gives a lot of ideas to follow up. This book can still be recommended to anyone who has been a part of a project for this will enable them to see the big picture and a better understanding of the heartburns associated with management. For an experienced project manager, this has nothing to offer other than the affirmation on what he/she had known all along.

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Tags: Books,Scott Berkun,Project Management

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