Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Photos: Reading by the canal side

The winter is here in Paris. Even though it is only fall, the climate is here more like winter. During these cold times, I travel a few weeks back to Amsterdam where there was a lot of sun during the three days I was there. There, I came across this woman reading something at the most unusual place.

Isn't this the most relaxing place to read something?



Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran

Tags: Photos

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Movie Review: Skyfall

The latest installment of Bond can't get any more British than this. You have "the" Lord Voldemort in the star cast. Yes, I am referring to Ralph Fiennes. If that isn't enought, you have a British director Sam Mendes, who has found recognition from directing intense drama based on American lives, at the helm. I understand the decision on Ralph. But I couldn't say the same about the director. What is a director who specializes in drama doing in a thriller which ideally should have diluted sensibilities?

The opening reels of Skyfall casts all the doubts away even though subsequent reels are a different matter. You see James Bond(Daniel Craig) chasing a bad guy to retrieve a disk. If the previous movie used the Bourne techniques to give an edgy look for the action sequences, here it outdoes the Bourne. Bourne may be running over the rooftops fighting villains and jumping from across the building. Bond prefers to chase the villain over the rooftops of Istanbul on a bike wearing a suit. How cool can it get? Then both continue their stunt on top of a train. That is where Bond's companion Eve(Naomie Harris) takes a shot at the villain at the command of M(Judi Dench) and ends up hitting Bond.

Now, Bond is presumed killed. MI6 and M are under political scrutiny by the newly appointed Gareth Mallory(Ralph Fiennes). If that isn't enough, MI6 networks are hacked by an unknown organization and the headquarters bombed. It is time for Bond to come out of hibernation. Did you really think he was killed in Istanbul? The non-action if you discount the ones with the local exotic girls, drinks and age is catching up on Bond. He has to pass the medical examination before embarking on the next mission. The next mission takes him to Shanghai, Macau, London and finally to Scotland. Somewhere in between all the globetrotting, Bond meets the mastermind behind all this, Raoul Silva(Javier Bardem).

When you choose Sam Mendes to direct a movie on the 50th anniversary of the Bond, it raises your expectations. For once, we have a Bond with very vulnerable looks. He is more athletic than any of his predecessors. What you need in the series is a bit of drama. That is what one hope Sam Mendes will provide. He does it but in excess. That is the problem with this movie. When there is too much drama, the series loses the meaning. So you see a icon struggling with his past, his mentors and his capabilities. Deja vu if you have seen another caped crusader doing the same a few months back.

The main problem lies in the plot. The plot is reminiscent of the past Bonds, at least some sequences. The die-hard fans, including myself, love it when there are references to the past successful movies in the franchise. The first action sequence is the best and wastes no time to get the viewer in the middle of the action. Then there are action sequences which is over before it even starts. The villain's entry is late, presents himself as a diabolical figure and ends up as a madman hellbent on revenge. Where are the plain old villains with sinister hideouts and a sole intention of global domination? Please bring them back.

The poorly written villain damages one of the best performances of the movie, Javier's Silva. Not a conventional villain, when Javier makes the first appearance walking carefully towards a captured Bond, you are hooked. Javier delivers. During the long stride to meet Bond, Silva begins his monologue, flirting with audience in guessing his sexuality. In that sequence alone, he is able to bring multiple emotions in the viewer, some of them outrageously funny. After this scene, there is nothing much for Javier to do.

The plot is designed to showcase the exit of one character, entry of another character and parental feelings in Bond. At the end of the day, it is a Bond during the initial reels, a Batman Rises in the middle and a Western in the end. Usually, I like to end the reviews with a simple but definite verdict. For this one, I leave it up to you. What the hell? It is a Bond. Are you really going to listen to what I have to say?

Language: English

Genre: Action

Rating: **

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Books: The Fifth Woman

When the news of the murder of q Swedish woman in Africa reaches her next of kin, the pent up anger erupts destroying the mental equilibrium. This results in the murdered on murdered woman's next of kin on a vengeance killing men in a grotesque fashion. These gruesome murders are definitely a work of serial killer. But the victims are not connected to each other. This throws Wallander and his team on a search based on confusing details. In order to find the killer, the police has to find the connection between the victims. As usual, the time is running out.

In the sixth book of the Wallander series, Henning Mankell does what he is good at. He reveals a bit of unbalanced mind while he reveals a lot about the investigative technique. The resources are limited but the distance to be covered is quite a lot. Yet, human spirit triumphs ultimately. Another thing which is prominent in this book is the social commentary with respect to Sweden. The times are changing. Is this the time for a leaner police force? Are the citizens justified in forming militia? Does the police force have to evolve to fight a different brand of criminals?

The murder investigation combined with the social commentary makes this a compelling read. Keep in mind this is a series. If you haven't read the previous ones, this is not the right book to pick it up. Otherwise, go for it.

The earlier titles in this series are

Tags: Books,Henning Mankell,Kurt Wallander



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Friday, October 26, 2012

Good offense is the best defense

"You are always defending your decisions. You should be making the first move. Be on the offensive. Then, you watch how the game changes". Sounds familiar? There was a time I used to be hear this too often. Have things changed a lot since then? Well, I will not go into details over here. Anyways, two weeks back I came across an example of good offense being used as the best defense.

If you are thinking that I am going to quote a business situation, then you will be disappointed. This is a tale of two lovebirds. They are married. But I would still like to refer them as lovebirds because that is how I remember them. They were in Paris for a few days and Musee de Louvre was on their agenda. When they reached Louvre, they did what all of us in a relation often does. They had a petite disagreement.

Not only did they disagree but they also acted like the lovebirds they are. As they were walking, the  distance between them increased. This was done deliberately. The guy was a bit ahead and the girl was trailing behind. In a few seconds, the guy was far ahead and the girl far behind. Then they lost sight of each other. The guy couldn't see the girl and girl couldn't see the guy. Both of them didn't have cell phones to contact each other. Then, panic set in.

After an hour of frantically searching all over the place, contacting local friends and contemplating of a police complaint, the guy bump into the girl. What does the girl do? Walks towards the guy and slaps him. She had an important question to ask him. "Where the hell were you? How could you leave me behind in a strange city?".

The incident was narrated by the girl herself who is a much better story teller than me. She had two toppings to the story. The first one is simple. "Yes, he was concerned. All his documents including the passport were in my bag!". I couldn't help smile because they were finding humor in pathos. The second topping is also a lesson to all of us. "I slapped him because I knew he will slap me if I didn't do it first!".

Remember I started of with good offense...




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Thursday, October 25, 2012

About quitting

Quitting a job is not something new. I have seen many of my colleagues and friends quit their jobs for better opportunities and also to pursue other career paths. In professional life, this is common. When such things happen, there is always advance notice. A couple of weeks back, I was taken by surprise.

When a colleague did not turn up for 2 days, I attributed it to his health. The weather has been behaving erratically in this part of the world. So, it is natural for our bodies to succumb to the vagaries of nature. On the third day, another colleague told me the real story. The guy who was not turning up for the past two days is never going to come back. He quit the job. But what about the notice period? That was my question. He was a contractor. He had a showdown with someone in his company. So, he quit. He has the freedom to do so. 

Since he quit, someone else had to take up whatever he was doing. The person who took up had to work late hours as there was too much to do in less time. Too much as the new guy has to understand the history before tackling the present. The guy who quit ended up looking for a new assignment.

Being temperamental doesn't help anyone.




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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Movie Review: The Paperboy

A woman is in love with a condemned man on a death row. Two investigators are busy following up a story that might set this condemned man free. The three people are connected by a young man who helps in their investigation by doing odd jobs. In the process, he become jealous of the increasing distance between him and his brother, who is also one of the investigations. He also falls in love with the woman.

Lee Daniels directs this drama which tells the story of coming-off age from the perspective of Jack Jansen(Zac Effron). Nicole Kidman plays Charlotte Bless who is in love with the condemned man while the investigators Ward Jansen and Yardley Acheman are played by Matthew McConaughey and Danny Oyelowo respectively. The condemned man Hillary Van Wetter is enacted by John Cusack.

This is primarily a director's movie. Hence the storytelling overshadows the performance. The performances are good with each of the main character getting away from their comfort zone and acting in a very different role than we had seen them in earlier movies. Though a director's movie, Lee Daniels fails to keep us interested in the proceeding because of a predictable story involving discrimination, coming-off age and violence. The narrative employed by the author fails to hold our attention or keep the movie gripping. As a result, the movie meanders through interesting moments but fails to leave an impression as whole. The story is told by the household maid Anita(Macy Gray) of the Jensens.

When you run out all options for a drama, you may choose this.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: **

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Books: The Map and The Territory

You will be wondering about the theme even when you have finished half the book. Although the book is confuses the reader in terms of the genre, it is essentially a story of artist - right from the struggling days to glory days to old age. All through the book, mentor figures and their departure through death plays an important role. Written by Michel Houelllebecq and translated to English, this book provides a very interesting read.

Set in Paris, the novel is almost a commentary on French living loaded with cynicism and satire The way the characters think and react brought me a sense of deja-vu because those are the ways some of my friends think and react. That in itself was a good reason for me not to keep the book down. Moreover, Michel uses this book to justify his convictions and poke his contemporaries as well as adversaries. His convictions are different which sometimes makes us raise an eyebrow and otherwise admire him. The various potshots brings a smile in us. To make the novel more audacious, Michel also makes himself a key character in the plot.

The style of narration is different. It is not different because of the usage of language but how the characters appear. Towards the end of the book, Michel throws us offtrack with the death of a key character. At that point, new characters are introduced and the main characters goes offstage for a long period. Then towards the epilogue, two different story lines are given a conclusion, although it might not be the kind you like. Michel may not possess a beautiful mind but a very different and interesting one. 

If you want to surprise yourself and you do not mind drama, then I suggest to pick this one.

Tags: Books,Michel Houelllebecq



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l'année de trop

There is a lot of things happening at work this year. The management team has changed. There is a lot more scrutiny is on how you conduct business primarily because the newcomers arrive with preconceived notions. There is demand to increase throughput by achieving even greater efficiency. The infamous vacation season of the French has not slowed down the work. So much for globalization.

One thing about the French companies is that they depend on contractors. I am referring to the big companies. In order to avoid too much involvement with the contractors, the companies specify a period of time for this engagement. It may 18 to 24 month at the maximum. This makes sure that these contractors are indeed temporary. It is time to renew the contract of my friend as he is nearing the completion of stipulated time. When I asked him if there was a loophole to make him stay back as a contractor, he wasn't even interested. He wants to move on because it has been "l'année de trop".

It means an year of excess. There has been too many things happening this year that he simply wants to move on. Too much is too bad too. Anyways, you have a new French phrase as part of the French Lessons series.




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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Friends and hugs inc.

Being hugged is a nice experience. As a man, Being hugged by another man is a nice experience especially if he is your brother or a close friend. But being hugged by a man in the middle of Marais is a discomforting experience even though the man may be your best friend. Don't ask me why. Why don't you look up Marais, Paris on Google and you will know why.

What caused this emotional moment? That is more interesting to write about. It has all to do with my friends visiting from US. Life has not been the same since. On a retrospective, all the pictures came out well with all of us looking as if we had just graduated from college; if not the looks, we had the attitude. They were happy to eat Creme Brûlée at 4 in the morning sitting at a cafe in some of the busiest parts of the city even at that time of the day. Of course, it never happens in the US of A. It happens only here.

In Paris, my local friends also joined the fun. They were skeptical at first. But all of us hit it off well. So one night, we were somewhere in Marais, watching a live band perform in a tiny bar, late in the evening through to the morning hours. We were ordering drinks for ourselves and for the band. Energy and camaraderie were high. At one point in the day, my local friend stepped out. When I followed him, he was nearly in the state of bliss lost in thoughts. As soon as he saw me, he came forward, hugged me and said "You have great friends!".

I replied, "I know... and you are one of my friends..."




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Friday, October 19, 2012

Pappettan teaches how to say things in Indian

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.


Pappettan has all the answers. I always wonder when I would reach that state of zen where there is abundance of patience and knowledge. Last month, I attended an Indian party in Bastille. Even though it is an Indian party, all nationalities were welcome. As a result, there were many faces from different parts of the world. In the party, I was engaged in a conversation with two pretty young things when I ran out of answers.

Pretty Things: So how do you say "I like you" in Indian?

Me: *surprised at the sudden turn of events*

Pretty Things: *looking expectantly at me for an answer*

Me: *looks around to see other hot Indian men and suddenly gets the connection to this abrupt query*

Pretty Things: *still waiting for an answer*

To be frank, I hate teaching "Indian" to non-Indians. If you are an Indian, you will easily connect with my dilemma. What do I teach them? Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi....?

Me: Errr... Well, that depends on who you are communicating with. As you know, India has several languages. So whom do you want to convey this message? What language does he speak?

Pretty Things: *hope turns to despair. on the verge of being bored*

I might not be smart. But I am smart enough to read boredom and also to identify a sinking situation. So I look around. I find Pappettan standing close to me.

Me: Pappettaaaa, can you help my friends?

Pappettan: *approaches calmly with a heartwarming smile and raises his eyebrows indicating to the pretty things to go ahead with their questions*

Pretty Things: *now with renewed interest* So how do you say "I like you" in Indian?

Pappettan: It is simple.

Pretty Things: *very happy now* How?

Pappettan: You say "I like you".

Pretty Things: *confused*

Pappettan: English is such a beautiful language. We use it in our everyday life. So when we like some one, we say "I like you". When we love someone, we say "I love you". Isn't it simple and uncomplicated?


Tags: Pappettan Says,Indian


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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Photos: Etretat

Do you have friends who are spontaneous? I do. 

Do you have any idea what happens when your friends are spontaneous? It gets very interesting. 

You might be sitting in a cafe, eating French dishes and forcing the establishment to run out of their desserts especially Creme Brulee. You will be sitting in the cafe till past the midnight hour. Then you end up planning a trip in the morning to a nearby beach. This is the glimpse of what might happen.

In fact, all these happened to me and four of my spontaneous friends, two of them from Paris and other two from Canada. We decided to visit Etretat. Although the plan was to leave Paris early in the morning, it was already afternoon by the time we left. Etretat is a beautiful beach town with rocky cliffs on both sides of the pebbled beach. The cliffs form an interesting pattern, almost making you think it is a small door which opens up inviting you the shore.

As we reached around the sunset, we could click many pictures. Moreover, my friends readily agreed to model for me. After shooting numerous pictures, we ended up in a restaurant. Luckily, all the waiters spoke English fluently. I tried raw oysters for the first time. It was delicious. Of course, I put a lot of butter and garlic as topping on the raw oysters.


Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/Photokkaran

Tags: Photos

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Photos: Paris Zombie Walk 2012

Trust Paris to come up with something interesting week after week. Last week, it was the Zombie walk from  Place du Chatelet to Place des Vosges. 

What is a zombie walk? You may wonder. It is people dressed up as zombies and walking through the streets of Paris. Since these are zombies, there is a lot of red paint everywhere in the body of these walkers. There are people who take it too seriously and put on an act. At the end, it is thoroughly enjoyable if you can stomach the color red used as a substitute of blood.

The participants are mainly young things. So there is a lot of noise associated with the walk. Also, there is a strong smell of marijuana in the air. One of the interesting thing was to see a bunch of zombies lighting a joint in the midst of cacophony.


Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/Photokkaran

Tags: Photos

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Searching for my old love in Amsterdam

Have you gone in search of your old love? I am not talking about stalking your ex. Instead, I'm talking about retracing your paths after several years to check out how your old love is doing now. I have to admit I did in Amsterdam when all my friends have left town. I could have done this along with them. They would have understood and supported me. But I waited for them to have a good time. The fun of touring 5 cities - starting from Paris and ending in Amsterdam - cannot be diluted with a personal quest. Moreover, the vacuum created after they left for the airport made me go searching for my old love.

10 years back, I was executing a project for a telecommunications client in Amsterdam. The duration of the project was 3 months. Every two weeks, I flew back to San Francisco, stayed there for a week and then flew again to Amsterdam. I did this from October to two days before Christmas. Since I was going out for dinner every night, the bartender at the hotel suggested an Indian restaurant named "Guru". I wasn't impressed with the name. When he tirelessly advised me to try it out day after day, I decided to visit the restaurant to get this person off my back.

The first impression was not a good one. It was neat, but it had a 70s look-and-feel. There was one thing that interested me - the tandoor oven. It was enclosed in glass, situated at the edge of the kitchen and sticking a bit into the main hall. The glass gives you a good view of what the chef is doing. You can see him sticking the meat on the skewer, putting it in the oven, checking it periodically, pulling the skewer out of the oven and emptying the contents into a dish. I scanned the menu quickly and ordered spicy chicken wings.

Everyone remembers the moment when they realize they are in love. But I cannot recall the moment. Thinking back, it is very hazy. Of course, I fell in love that day...with the spicy chicken wings. I still can't remember the exact moment! It has to be somewhere between seeing the aromatic smoke emanating out of the dish in front me and the juicy tasty piece navigating down my throat. That was the beginning of my love story. Then there were many nights; some with multiple plates of spicy chicken wings on the same night. It got to a point when the chef would put spicy chicken wings on the skewer as soon as he saw me walking into the restaurant.

It has been 10 years and it was the right time to search for my old love. I am not sure if the search for old love can be dramatic. One thing for sure, my search turned out to be exciting and dramatic. I got off at the tram station in  Leidseplein. I have been to this restaurant many times that I can sleep-walk from this tram station. I found the cobbled street where the restaurant was located. On reaching the earlier destination, I was shocked. There was no "Guru". The restaurant ceased to exist. Instead in it's place, there was another Indian restaurant named "Tandoor".

Disappointed, I was curious to know what happened to the earlier restaurant. So I stepped inside. Not only the exterior but the interiors had also changed. Yet, there was one thing that didn't change. The tandoor over at the edge of the kitchen and sticking into the main hall. And right inside the glass enclosed space, there was the familiar face of the chef. That really lifted my spirits. I could have the spicy chicken wings. That was what I did. Within no time, 3 plates were ordered and consumed.

The years have not withered the old love.


Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/PopeyeeImages




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Sunday, October 14, 2012

My name is Jameson...

Two weeks back, I was at a bar where I asked the bartender for a shot of Jameson whiskey. My order lit up a big smile on his face. Unfortunately, he didn't have Jameson. But that didn't explain his smile. Seeing a perplexed me, he decided to recount a interesting incident with a customer.

One night at the bar, an young girl approached the bartender. She was unsteady after having consumed too many drinks.

She: I want a Jameson.

Bartender: *listening*

She: A free Jameson.

Bartender: *raises his eyebrows in order to question the free clause*

At this point, she pulls out her ID and shows it to the bartender.

She: See my last name is Jameson. I own the whole thing. So I demand a free drink!

Bartender: *without losing his cool* I'm sorry.

She: *agitated* What?!! I own the thing. You can't give me a free drink.

Bartender: *once again doesn't lose his cool* We don't serve Jameson. There is no Jameson in this bar!

She was not happy with the answer and she returned to her table. But the evening turned out to be a nightmare to the bartender. She couldn't hold her liquor and whatever she consumed was on the floors of the bar in a few minutes.

That is the story behind the smile. I decided to choose another brand for the evening. As I could hold my liquor or know where to throw up, the bartender was excused of a hard night. Now for you... If you have a fancy name like a liquor brand as your surname, you could try this stunt. There is no guarantee if it will work. At the same time, there is no harm in trying. Good luck!




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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pappettan on lottery

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.

One evening while returning from Paris, Pappettan went into a reverie. It was late in the night and cold air was blowing into our faces. I kept silent. Fortunately, the status-quo didn't last for long. Suddenly, he started talking.

Pappettan: What kind of life is this?

Me: *nods sympathetically as I already sense a blogpost*

Pappettan: If I had lots of money, then I would go on a world tour... and take a lot of pictures.

Me: *still nodding and mentally noting down what is happening*

Pappettan: I wish I win the lottery.

Me: *silently nodding*

Pappettan: Lottery! That is the only way out.

Me: *realizing it is time to say something* I will pray you win the lottery.

Both of us go silent for a short while. Then...

Pappettan: But there is a problem!

Me: * turns the face away from Pappettan and rolls my eyes*

Pappettan: In order to win the lottery, I have to buy a ticket. That...I never do.

Tags: Pappettan Says,Lottery


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Friday, October 12, 2012

Movie Review: Maattrraan

K V Anand's movie about conjoined twins tries to be many things except an entertainer. He tells the story of conjoined twins, Vimalan and Akhilan, with Suriya playing both the roles. The two are different like chalk and cheese. The makeup makes them looks different. The actor makes them feel different. Finally, the computer graphics makes the same actor looks conjoined. The CG is tacky. Fifteen minutes into the movie, you tend to overlook this factor. But the trouble with the movie is not any of the above.

It is a terribly long movie with nothing much happening in the first half and a lot of things crammed into the second half. So you see the birth of the twins, their mother refusing to sacrifice one of them and their father struggling to get a foothold to becoming a successful entrepreneur in the first few minutes. This happens in a breeze. Then you see one of the twins flirting with everything that moves and also helping his other shy half to find a suitable girl. At this point, the movie is actually in a standstill till the interval. From the interval, the movie moves from being drama to a mystery.

An uninteresting script and excessive length of the movie kills the joy of watching Suriya on screen. What could be told interesting in a matter of two hours have been stretched beyond that. The action sequence of conjoined twins is the trickiest. When the action is focused only on the conjoined twins, it is an interesting watch. But when the action is focused on the thugs and the conjoined twins together, it becomes confusing. The music by Harris Jayaraj is good. But the songs acts as a speed breaker.

Performance wise, Suriya stands out. He is a good actor. But there is nothing he can do to salvage this movie. Tara as the mother and Sachin Khedekar as the dad acts their part well. As the leading lady, Kajal Aggarwal has to look good. But she miserably fails to do so.

There is nothing in this movie. As the second half is based in Ukraine, you might think of watching this for the foreign locales. I say, No. You are better off with the pictures on the internet and videos on Youtube.

Language: Tamil

Genre: Drama

Rating: *

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Zaanse Schans - Windmills and a goat

I have been Zaanse Schans in 2003. But I didn't know the name of the place. I was more interested in the windmills, the wooden shoes and cheese. While meeting up with a friend and his family, whom I haven't seen for 16 years and had opportunity of meeting them twice in the past year, they suggested Zaanse Schans. To which our reaction was "Why not?".

Anyways, Zaanse Schans is a short train ride away from Amsterdam Centraal station. Once you get off from the train, it is a short walk to the windmills. There is no need for worry. The road leading to windmills are clearly marked. On top of it, there is an information counter which is dedicated for visitors. All these show what is the major booster for the local economy.

The windmills were fun to capture and also an ideal place to chill out. What interested more was the goat. The goat was posing for everyone!



Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran

Tags: Travel,Amsterdam,Zaanse Schans


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Movie Review: Taken 2

Bryan Mills(Liam Neeson) might have saved his daughter Kim(Maggie Grace) from the hands of Albanian slave traders. But the death trail he leaves behind causes anguish and desire for revenge in the mind of Murad Krasniqi(Rade Serbedzija), father of the person who was responsible for abducting Kim. Meanwhile, Bryan is trying to spend as much time with Kim trying to make up for the lost time. When Lennie(Famke Janssen), Bryan's ex-wife, breaks up with her husband, the trio gets a chance to spend the vacation in Istanbul. To complicate matters, Murad is able to successfully track Bryan down to Istanbul.

Directed by Olivier Megaton, this movie is one of the action movies that Luc Besson's production company has been churning out at intervals. Of late, all such movies are becoming more and more predictable. There is a thin plot line filled with action sequences; Columbiana and Lockout being some of the recent ones. The purpose of the movie is to take the viewer from one action sequence to another. The good thing about this is the action lovers has something to watch every six months. The flip side is the entertainment quotient goes down with every movie. This movie only helps in hitting a new low.

In all fairness, I haven't seen the first part, Taken. I have seen bits and pieces of it, mainly the action sequences. From what I saw, it wasn't a surprise that the movie redefined the image of Liam Neeson; an aging actor becomes an action hero all of a sudden. In the sequel, the director fails to invoke the same feeling as the first part in the audience for multiple reasons. The action sequences are very few in numbers. Hence it becomes a tedious watch. The movie is set in Istanbul. Except for a few sequences set on the rooftops, everything else is shot inside rundown buildings giving a poor look which may be due to a tight budget. All the action sequences are of close combat types where opponents are close to each other, the movements restricted but fast and lethal. The shaky camera and fast editing employed during these sequences gives the impression of actors being too slow or too old for this type of action.

An action movie should have cheesy and also corny moments. Although there aren't enough of it in this movie, the scene that gets the maximum laugh is how a captive Bryan finds out his location with the help of his daughter.

This isn't worth your time. Stay away.

Language: English

Genre: Action

Rating: *

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When in Amsterdam, do it like the Dutch

In Amsterdam, we decided to pursue simple pleasures in life. As I write this, I also realize this statement can be misinterpreted. Of course, the city is known for the green thing and the glass windows. Anyways, that is not the simple pleasure we pursued. We decided to be a local, get on a bike and tour the city. Amsterdam has many places where you could rent a bike. With a bike, you can either explore the city all by yourself or sign up for the various guided tours. We opted for the guided tours.

Riding the bike and simultaneously trying to shoot pictures was the hardest part. The guided tours have designated stops. But shooting people in action is much more fun. Thanks to Canon's Creative Auto mode, you could use the camera like a point-n-shoot. The difficult part is controlling the bike to avoid people and other obstacles. Once my friends realized I was clicking successfully, they happily posed.

The weirdest part of the bike riding was pedaling backwards to reduce the speed. I am a traditional biker. For me, there are two contraptions parallel to the handles named as brakes, one for the front tire and the other for the back tire. But the bikes in Amsterdam is designed differently. Luckily, it doesn't take much time to used to.

Later in the evening when we were talking to locals about this system, one of them loved it and the other hated it. The former said the latter didn't grow up in Amsterdam which turned out to be true. Although a Dutch citizen, the latter was transplanted to Amsterdam in the recent years. That is the reason why latter has hard time adjusting to the way Dutch are used to,




Tags: Travel,Amsterdam,Biking


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Monday, October 8, 2012

Pappettan on confrontation

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.

The other day, three of us along with Pappettan exploring the city. For us, exploration also means taking frequent stops to fill up our energy levels at whichever pub that looks enticing depending on the hour of the day.

On one such stops when the evening turned to night, our group got into a debate with another group. Since the energy levels were high, the healthy debate was soon turning into an unhealthy one.

When things were turning ugly, Pappettan pulls me over to a corner. As such occasions always turn into an enlightening one for me, I was eager to listen.

Pappettan: We are lucky.

Me: huh?

Pappettan: We are four. They are only two.

Me: *impressed about Papettan's ability to analyze all possible scenarios* Yes...

Pappettan: Two of us can escape.

Me: *confused* What?

Pappettan: We are four and they are two. When the fight starts, two of us will be beaten up for sure. The other two can escape.

Tags: Pappettan Says,Escape


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Thursday, October 4, 2012

An Onam with Suhasini

It is stretching facts a bit. I agree. First, Onam was a long time ago. Second, it was not a date with Suhasini. As I have written in many occasions previously, there is a delay in celebrations when you are living abroad. If there is a cultural event for a particular occasion, it is never on the right date but on a convenient date. This time, French Malayalee association decided to celebrate Onam with cultural events and Suhasini was the celebrity guest or even the guest of honor.

My first encounter with Suhasini was on silver screen when she acted in Padmarajan's Koodevide. The movie had a tragic ending which I could not digest at the time. It introduced Rahman (the actor) and also Mammmoty-Suhasini pair. The pairing did look good on screen. If there is any competition for Suhasini with respect to looking good with Mammootty, then it is Sumalatha. Anyways, that is digressing from the main topic.

Suhasini looks the same. The years has neither affected her appearance nor her energy. The stage lit up after she took up the microphone. She was all over the stage, involving the audience in her act and putting everyone at ease with her casual speech which almost sounded impromptu. Of course, she is an excellent actress. But handling a live audience is always not easy.


Tags: Travel,Onam,French Malayalee


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Books: Sidetracked

Wallander witnesses an young girl setting herself on fire. At the same time, an old man is murdered and scalped. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated event. As time progresses, more dead bodies turn up which are scalped. As a result, Wallander has to dive deep into the pysche of a murderer. This could well be the work of a serial killer.

Henning Mankell continues the Wallander series with this book. Though the writing style doesn't change at all, the theme is violence against women and fetishes of men. Mankell narrates the story with a deranged mind as the backdrop. But the message is hard to miss. Wallander does face personal challenges and comes to terms with most of them. All along the investigation, Wallander has a nagging doubt if the investigation is being sidetracked. The emphasis is to catch the killer. But what is the connection with the girl who set herself ablaze.

This is a must read for you if you are a Wallander fan. Don't read this book without reading the earlier ones. It is better to read the entire series instead of pulling out one at random.

The earlier titles in this series are

Tags: Books,Henning Mankell,Kurt Wallander



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Monday, October 1, 2012

Marry v/s Manage

There might be a lot of management in a marriage. But is it possible to mistake the words "marry" and "manage"? I am not talking philosophy here. I am talking about a normal conversation. Apparently, you can. When it does, it also leads to a difficult situation. At least, that is what I found when I listened to two young things conversing with each other.

On a Saturday evening, I joined my French friend and his girlfriend along with my two Indian friends for a drink. The girlfriend in question likes me especially after I packed a whole lot of Biriyani for her, after a boys-only party at my place, in a goody bag. So both of them like to hang out with me. On this particular Saturday, the couple and three of us decided to hang out together. We were in the Montmartre district. When the watering hole was shutting down, the couple invited us to their place. Having been to their place before and aware about our combined decibel levels, I politely asked, "Will you guys be able to manage?". The us and the potential noise pollution was left open for interpretation. For this, my French young friend replied without hesitating, "Yes".

If you have guessed it, then you are smarter than I think you are. Yes, this is where the trouble started. She heard "marry" instead of "manage". She also heard the "yes". Her eyes widened. She pulled him aside and asked in excitedly, "So you will marry me?". The question was referring to an unspecified time in the future while pleading for a preview. My French friend smiled. The rest of us froze. There is no situation from which you can't talk your way out. My friend patiently explained she had heard it wrong. The situation was defused.

It was a difficult situation for him and embarrassing one for me. Unable to stand the intensity of the situation and haunted by the sudden hope in her eyes, I turned away and walked towards my friends. When I was near them, I blew an invisible sigh for which pat came the answer from one of them. "Tell your friend to say Yes. We were almost ready to jump in and say Yes!".




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