Monthly Archives: May 2014
With the south-west monsoon hitting the subcontinent on June 1, we look at places to visit and things to do
As the skies darken and the thunder threatens to deafen you, don’t run indoors and batten down the hatches. Pack your bags instead and head out for a rain-drenched holiday—we assure you, the advantages are plenty.
In God’s Own Country, you are spoilt for choice: lounge in a houseboat in Kumarakom as the rain pitter-patters on the roof; enjoy the lush rainforests in Thekkady and get in some animal spotting on the river safari (trust us, they come out); and in Munnar, go in search of the elusive Thar. On offer: Tailor-make your monsoon getaway with Kerala Tourism’s Dream Deal offer (keralatourism.org/dreamdeals), with discounts up to 30 per cent.
The beach shacks may have downed shutters, but that doesn’t mean the zing goes out of Goa in the rains. Watch young men jump into wells to retrieve gifts as part of São João (feast of St John the Baptist on June 24), while staying dry under your umbrella. Or get soaked testing your white-water skills as river rafting kicks off on the Mahdei River. On offer: Make My Trip has a 4D/3N package (from Rs. 19,999), that covers the beaches, water sports and night life. For river rafting deals: goarafting.com.
Heading to the desert to enjoy the monsoon? This oxymoron works beautifully for Rajasthan in July. As the clouds roll in, join the people as they celebrate the festival of Teej (dedicated to Shiva and Parvati), punctuated by feasts and swings. Also head to Bundi to check out the Bhimat waterfalls and the baolis (step-wells). On offer: In Udaipur, stay at the Taj Lake Palace (`53,000 for double occupancy). In Jaipur, relax at the Rambagh Palace (Rs. 55,000). Details: tajhotels.com
Bypass Mussoorie and Nainital and trek to the Valley of Flowers National Park to take in the alpine flowers and spot a snow leopard or two (walktohimalayas.com offers great deals). Or head to Simkholi, by the banks of the Kosi river, for scenic treks, mountain biking and river rafting. On offer: Kosi Valley Retreat, a home stay, has a monsoon offer of Rs. 4,500 per night.
How can we chase the monsoon and not go to Meghalaya, home to the two wettest spots on Earth—Cherrapunji and Mawsynram. While there, check out their living root bridges, stay in tree houses in Mawlynnong (touted as the cleanest village in Asia), try a spot of fishing (a favourite pastime) and, to stay dry, explore caves. On offer: Get 40 per cent off at Lakkhotaa Lodge in Shillong, with double occupancy starting from Rs. 12,000.
Surya Praphulla Kumar
Despite the publicity that followed the Bling Ring gang, our stars continue their battle with trespassers
If there is an intruder in Justin Beiber’s house, it has to be a girl. Last month, a 23-year-old trespasser was arrested, but she claimed to be the singer’s fan. Qianying Zhao was discovered asleep in one of the bedrooms in Justin Bieber’s house by the property owner’s niece. Zhao told police she had ‘‘entered the unoccupied home through an unlocked door’’ and came there ‘‘to attend Bieber’s birthday party.’’ When she realised she was too late (Bieber, his family and close friends had decamped to the Bahamas to celebrate his 20th), she decided to stay there and wait for him.
Actor George Clooney was quite upset after an intruder attack last week. A man was arrested for reportedly breaking into the wine cellar of the actor’s Italian mansion. The 29-year-old Romanian had scaled the fence at the Gravity star’s Lake Como villa and stolen a bottle of expensive wine from the well-stocked cellar. The unidentified man then attempted to enter the main house, but he was spotted by a member of the actor’s staff, who called the police. When the officers arrived, the man allegedly threatened them with the bottle of wine, but was overpowered and arrested.
Taylor Swift’s vacation home on the Rhode Island shore has constantly been a target. The Westerly Sun reports that 38-year-old Daniel Cole of Brewster, Massachusetts, was summoned before a state judge for ignoring previous warnings to not trespass at Swift’s mansion. Let us not forget that in 2012, when Swift was celebrating her birthday, Jacob Kulke, a pocketknife-wielding 24-year-old, was arrested for criminal trespassing at Swift’s Tennessee pad.
Pop star Rihanna is no stranger to break-ins. Last February, a man was arrested for breaking into her Southern California home in the Pacific Palisades. Again, in October, someone tried to break into her $12 million mansion while the pop star was away in Australia for her Diamonds World Tour. According to media reports, the intruders drove up the private road leading to the singer’s house, even though there are CCTVs along the road with a sign that reads, ‘Smile, you’re on camera’. They entered the garden and threw a chair through a sliding glass door. But they were then scared off by the security alarm.
Singer Selena Gomez has increased security around her Calabasas mansion in California, after an intruder was arrested for trespassing. He had trespassed at her house for the second time in the first week of April, while she was inside with her friends. To protect her $3 million mansion from future intruders, she has installed a huge perimeter security gate, which she purchased last month.
From nannari sherbat to bhoomadevi coffee, the four-month-old Mission Café is a quick stop for traditional refreshers
There are more than enough cafes in Pondicherry—starting from Zuka on Mission Street to the omnipresent Café Coffee Day chain. But there is always room for something new, believes K A Saravanan, 41, who recently opened a vegetarian option, Mission Café. The four-month-old café on Mission Street serves both traditional and contemporary food. “After school, I always used to have nannari sherbat, but now I do not find it everywhere in Pondicherry. So I decided to serve dishes that ‘once upon a time’ were very famous here. I personally do not like aerated drinks. So, you will not find any at the café. We serve kutti samosa and guruji sherbat, which is simply buttermilk mixed with chaat masala. That is how the North Indians like it,” explains the owner and Pondy native.
For munchies, besides the traditional almond ladoo—ground almonds mixed with honey—they have homemade cookies, brownies and chocolate cake baked by an Aurovillian homemaker from italy, Tamaru. Do not miss their paninis, quiches and mushroom tarts, with special options for vegans, too. Wash these down with a chocolate or vanilla milkshake or try their health drink, kombucha, made from mushroom extract. However, the main attraction is their coffees—popular ones being coffee mittai (white hot chocolate with a dash of south Indian coffee decoction), summer coffee, (a cold coffee) and bhoomadevi coffee, the famous degree coffee served in a davara (bowl used to serve coffee). “We also bring in different varieties of bread from Auroville,” says Saravanan, who plans to open two branches along the East Coast soon.
The café is open from 6 am to 9.30 pm. Meal per head at Rs. 220-250. Details: 0413 4204210
Two-month-old Biso in Kottivakam offers a multi-cuisine menu and a getaway for Chennaiites
Though Thiruvanmiyur beach has always drawn its share of walkers, bench warmers and drive-bys, the Water Land Drive Road could never match up to Elliot’s Beach when it came to food joints. With the exception of the Italian farmhouse cafe, Bella Ciao, you had to head back to the Thiruvanmiyur main road to grab a good meal. But now, there’s hope. Our destination: the two-month-old Citrus hotel and their multi-cuisine restaurant, Biso—the latest dining option on the strip.
Mix it up
With 48 covers, the restaurant has a balanced spread of Indian, Continental and Chinese cuisine. To begin with, our mocktail is served in a carved watermelon shell, definitely taking the concept of ‘fruit-based’ to an interesting level. However, there is nothing exceptional about the cream of broccoli soup that follows. So we jump to the starters: the paneer tikka is soft and well-flavoured and the chicken 65, though a tad greasy, does not disappoint. We also fill up on their tararey jhinga (spicy prawns) and give their fresh, crunchy Greek salad a thumbs up. Their menu is exhaustive, offering options like golden fried prawns served with garlic and chilli dip, hummus with crispy kuboos and fish fingers with a jalapeno tartar. We also find usuals like the bruschetta con pomodoro and Mexi-can nachos.
Case for Indian
For mains, we are served a thick and spicy kadhai paneer and a delicious combination of green peas and mushroom— the dhingri mutter. The aromatic mutton rogan josh brims with the flavour of fennel and is a striking red. While their gosht dum biryani is high on spice, their vegetable pulao is unremarkable. From their Indian selection, the sarsonwali mahi ke tikke (fish, char grilled with fresh mustard leaves) and malai khumb aur desi gobi (cauliflower and fresh mushrooms from the tandoor) are the fast movers. Those craving something flavoursome and tangy will like the Allapuzha meen curry that uses seer fish. Moderately spiced, the gravy of freshly ground coconut, ginger, and raw mangoes is a must try.
Their Italian line-up includes grilled chicken and an aubergine lasagna that is a popular choice. According to Jude Michael, the resident manager of the hotel, the cheese-stuffed chicken steak and rosemary-rubbed beef tenderloin are major attractions from their grills. To end on a sweet note, we settle for their rich brownie with ice cream.
Dinner for two costs Rs. 1,800 and their buffet is Rs. 450 per person. Details: 24515435
Gareth Evans opens up on how he started making films in Indonesia, his filmmaking style and his brand of violence in The Raid 2
GARETH Evans has walked a strange path as a filmmaker. After struggling to make a name for himself in the UK, the Welsh director went on to give us one of the greatest action films of the last five years, The Raid: Redemption, in Indonesia of all places, where he continues to work. Evans has just released the sequel of the Raid series, The Raid 2: Berandal. The franchise has a world-wide cult following, which includes prominent Bollywood and Hollywood personalities like Quentin Tarantino, Anurag Kashyap, John Abraham and Imran Khan. More from the director:
How did an English man from Wales end up in Indonesia making films.
My wife is Indonesian/Japanese. After we got married, we were living in Wales for a while. I’d made Footsteps that I foolishly expected to open lots of doors.After a year, my wife found freelance work doing a documentary in Indonesia, so we took up that. I found a topic for a feature film, I met a choreography team that I could use and everything just fell into place.
After The Raid: Redemption , were you worried about measuring up to fan expectations?
When talking about pressure and expectation, we tried to avoid that. And the way we approached it was basically to make it in our own creative bubble. So we didn’t do so much of what we thought the audience wanted because we didn’t do that on the first film. We just made that film and luckily it found its own audience.
In The Raid 2, you spent time fleshing out the characters. How important was that during the script writing process?
Hugely so. This was always going to be a sort of a departure from the first. I didn’t want it to feel like a bunch of faceless people getting killed in an action film.I wanted to establish relationships and emotions between all of them and try to establish some kind of back story.
Martial arts is an integral part of these films. How do you craft your action sequences?
What we do is from the script. I always give an example of the scene, the tone of it, the opponents, the weapons, the skill set of the people they are up against and finally what the outcome is. My choreography team then sits down and starts work-shopping the scene. And if I happen to have an idea for something extreme or a punchline as I call them—something that happens that is extreme in terms of an audience reaction—then we will add those.
Could you comment on the violence in the series?
I am really curious about the different aspects of violence and how people react to it and how a filmmaker justifies it. There is a moment in The Raid:2, with the hotplate scene, where the whole purpose is that you don’t see anything. It’s an intensely violent and aggressive moment. It’s not meant to be confrontational, it’s more of a curiosity thing, like where did you stare? Where is your interest in that shot?
What’s the story arch for the third film?
I am keeping things under wraps at the moment. But if The Raid 2 starts two hours after The Raid 1, then The Raid 3 starts three hours before the end of The Raid 2.
The Raid 2 is scheduled to release today.
Sharib Hashmi ’s Filmistaan promises to be a laugh riot that will impress movie lovers
WITH a film journalist as his father, Sharib Hashmi was introduced to Bollywood at a very young age. Coming home to celebrities, attending previews and even shoots of movies, Hashmi had seen it all. So playing the role of Sunny in the movie Filmistaan, was far from intimidating for this debutant. “I play someone who wants to be an actor but ends up as an assistant director for a film being shot by Americans. While shooting at the border, I’m kidnapped by Pakistanis and what happens next is the story,” says the Mumbai-based actor, who has also co-written the film with Nitin Kakkar. Actor Amitabh Bachchan appreciated the movie’s trailer and the film has been screened at the Busan International Film Festival and International Film Festival of Kerala.
Is Hashmi a Bollywood fanatic in real life? “I am not as bad as Sunny, who includes film dialogues in his life. But yes, I love movies. The most challenging part was getting a Punjabi accent,” he says. Hashmi previously worked as a script writer for music channels like MTV and ETC. “I never grew after hitting 5’4” and so, I lost all hope of acting. I started writing scripts for TV channels. It took me a while to get my own film,” says Hashmi, who is worried about being typecast as a comic actor. “I want to try different genres like the ones made by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. I do not like preachy movies, but rather the light-hearted ones that come with a message,” says Hashmi.
Filmistaan is scheduled to release on June 6.
Hansal Mehta talks about his Citylights and the pressure after winning the National Award
WITH last year’s critically-acclaimed film Shahid, director Hansal Mehta began a new chapter in his filmmaking career. The National Award that followed, firmly put aside memories of debacles such as Woodstock Villa. His less-acclaimed previous works include Chhal and Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar. Mehta speaks about his latest film Citylights, starring Rajkummar Rao, Patralekha and Manav Kaul:
What kind of impact has the National Award had on your life?
There are small discernable changes in perception, especially among peers and the industry. They realise that you have been recognised and that brings respectability. It got us, as a team, a certain amount of recognition. But that must convert into audience. So I am glad it came before the release of a special film like Citylights. You make one film in order to make the next.
Does that place greater expectations on Citylights?
It is scary. I try very hard not to be burdened by expectations. This is another film, another journey, but it’s made with the same sincerity as Shahid, with the same empathy, love and honesty. Frankly, I have seen failure for so many years that it has made me wary of expectations.
What made you connect to Citylights, which is a remake of Metro Manila?
I have not seen Metro Manila yet; none of us besides the casting director and writer has seen it. I used the adaption as the basis for my interpretation. I improvised. The decision was made on the basis of what I read. I felt that even while this is an adaptation, these are characters I could empathise with. Producer Mahesh Bhatt said three things to me: make the film fearlessly, with audacity and honesty. He has been an energy source.
How would you describe Citylights?
It’s about a family unit and their survival in the city. There is a thriller element that acts as a plot device to take the story forward. It’s an important film and an engaging tale of the times we live in. It asks you to look at the people all around you and find your story within them: those nameless, faceless people lining our streets. Rural-urban migration is true of all big cities in India and around the world. What Rajkummar’s character Deepak does is what is going to happen if you ignore them.
What’s next for you?
Writer and editor Apurva Asrani is working on a script, which I am hoping to get off the ground this year. Once again, it is a voice that is fading in the din of right-wing jubilation. When the boundaries are clearly defined your voice is distinct—I like that. It challenges me to see how fearless I can be.
Citylights is scheduled to release today.
What to expect at a fund raising yard sale to send a Chennai dance team to Glasgow
Whether you crave homemade podis, or love the smell of old books, there’s something for everyone at choreographer Aparna Ganesh’s yard sale, that starts tomorrow. Ganesh’s all-girls dance ensemble, High Kicks, is one of the two teams from India (the other one being from Kerala), that have been selected to perform at the Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival in Glasgow, Scotland, in July. “We got our selection notice last May. We have 14 dancers and needed to arrange flight tickets, visas for all the girls and money for our accommodation, food, etc, had to be given to the organising committee,” explains Ganesh, the owner of the dance company, Showstoppers Inc. Since their dance form is not Indian classical or folk, Ganesh and her team are not eligible for monetary support from the government. So the team is organising their yard sale, to cover the rest of this expenses.
Their performance is modern dance theatre with a concept or story behind every act. Almost 70 per cent of their expenses have been covered through crowd funding campaigns (around USD 5,000 was collected) and workshops that Ganesh held last year along with three sponsors. One of them, Jaishree Premium Rejuvenation Salon, who donated the proceeds of a ‘hair day’ to them, has also loaned their driveway for the sale.
Besides collecting funds for their trip, Ganesh and her girls hope to introduce themselves and the dance form, over iced teas and cold coffees. “We are also making knick-knacks like candle stands, repurposing old T-shirts and alcohol bottles and painting them for the sale,” says Sneha Varma, 20, one of the dancers. Shoes, books, CDs, paintings and podis made by Ganesh’s mother — around 900 articles in all — are going to be available at rock-bottom prices.
Prices between Rs. 25 and Rs. 500. On May 31 and June 1, from 4 pm to 8 pm. Details: 8754480048
What you need to know about two marathons coming your way in June, and what they support
This June, the city gears up to run for a cause. The Tobacco Free India Marathon 2014 (June 1) and MADathon (June 15) are being conducted by the Natchatraa Events & Entertainments and AIESEC, Chennai, respectively, with the aim of spreading awareness and raising funds. And though summer has still not loosened its grip on the city, we hear that registrations for both events have been overwhelming. Here’s what you need to know about these marathons, if you wish to attend:
Tobacco Free India Marathon 2014
With responses (over 2,000 entries) pouring in from all over South India (Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad), this 21km run against cancer is being organised by Natchatraa Events & Entertainments in collaboration with the Tamil Nadu Athletic Association & the Health Department of Tamil Nadu. Starting at 5 am from the War Memorial at Marina Beach, runners will head to Aavin Circle at Adyar, and then back to the War Memorial. “The heat shouldn’t be a problem since it’s being held early in the morning,” says Jagannath J, 26, a graduate from Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, who will be participating. A cash prize of `1,00,000 will be given to the winners in the men’s category (21km) while the winners of the women’s category (16km) will receive `50,000. Runners will be provided with a T-shirt, a cap, a certificate of participation, refreshments and medical support (standby ambulance and first aid by Apollo). Register at `300. Details: 9176466177
Intending to raise funds for underprivileged children, AIESEC, a youth non-profit organisation, have come up with MADathon (Make A Difference Marathon). Starting from the Light House at Marina Beach, the 10km run will take the service lane till the Labour Statue and return back to the Light House. MADathon is also hosting 5km and 3km short walks (for which participants will take a U-turn after 2.5kms and 1.5kms respectively, from the Light House) for the benefit of beginners and kids. “Though I am not a professional runner, I am excited about the marathon and its cause. AIESEC has provided a brilliant platform to meet other runners and to show my support for their cause,” says Rahul Nair, 19, a student of SRM University, who has registered for the event. The participants are provided with amenities like T-shirts, badges, and medical support (standby ambulances with doctors, first aid kits) and refreshments being provided every 100 metres of the run. With 200 people having registered (till date) MADathon begins at 5.30 am on June 15. Register at Rs. 500. Details:explara.com
Parthiban is one of those rare filmmakers who retains the passion to do things differently. Whether it’s his plot lines or his film-related invites, he always tries to lend everything his unique touch. Like the imaginative invite (a diary with sketches of the actors) he created for the recent audio launch of his new directorial, Kathai Thiraikathai Vasanam Iyakkam. The film with its quirky tag line, ‘A film without a story’, promises to be an interesting satire on filmmaking.
Thangasamy’s maiden directorial venture, Raattinam, was appreciated for its realistic feel and moving ending. Now the director is working on his next, Ettuthikkum Madhayaanai, starring Sathya (Arya’s brother). Shreemukhi (from Telugu cinema) is the female lead, and Laguparan, who played the lead in the director’s earlier film, portrays a crucial character. “It’s about a common man’s reaction when the system he turns to during a crisis, fails to give him justice,” says the director.
Adhu Vera Idhu Vera is scheduled to release today. Varshan (comedian Jayamani’s son), who played a negative role in Nanbargal Gavanathirku, essays the lead here. Sharing frames with him is Sanyathara. Debutant director Thilagarajan helms the film, which is about a village boy who aspires to be a don.
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