Monthly Archives: June 2014
Hit the road and try some great self-drive holidays armed with our route maps and tips
A sturdy four wheel drive on good roads with a map of food-centric pit stops, is all you need for a great vacation-on-wheels. “Road trips across India are amazing because the country has an uncanny knack of throwing surprises at you,” says Rishad Saam Mehta, author of the travelogue Hot Tea Across India, as he shares his list of best driving holiday routes in India that include the Konkan coast (with pristine beaches and once-proud forts dotting the coastline) and the Orchha-Khajuraho route (to absorb the culture of places like Gwalior, Orchha and Varnasi). A foodie himself, he recommends downloading the Foodspotting app and stopping at local chai shops/dabbas along the way. We look at other interesting and slightly offbeat routes:
Research your route in advance. Besides the basic road safety guidelines, “keep your trip short with a few buffer days for resting. Carry twice the amount of cash you estimate you’ll need, in case of emergencies. And ensure that your car is in good condition, and you have a spare wheel,” says Mehta, adding that you must keep a cell phone and car charger with you. If you don’t want to use your own car, visit websites like Selfdrive.in, Carzonrent.com, Avis and Eco, to hire a self-drive. “For those on a budget, the Nissan Micra is great. For a family, choose a Toyota Corolla,” adds Mehta.
■ The Icefields Parkway of Canada, along the heart of the Canadian Rockies ■ The Atlantic Roads of Norway, set amidst hills and lakes of Western Scandinavia ■ La Ruta Del Che in Bolivia, cutting through the valleys on the Andes ■ The Alaskan Highway, through the Yukon Region and the deep northern territories of America
Get app-savvy, starting with Google Maps of course, but you could also try Waze or Scout. Audible—which lets you choose from 60,000 audio books—is great, while the cool Spotify lets you stream over a million songs into your device. Keep apps like AAA, which will let you summon help without making a call, at the ready. Finally, Car Finder AR is a neat app that helps you find your car in case you forget what your rented car
looks like or where you parked it.
Route: Asangaon-Khardi-Igatpuri-Ghoti Naka-Bhandardhara
I knew it was pretty and isolated, but what piqued my curiosity was the prospect of riding through the new Kasara Ghat section on the way there,” says Argho Mukherji, a senior official at Mavcomm Consulting and an avid biker, of the little hamlet in the Ahmednagar district, 185 km from Mumbai. Hit the road to Nashik (NH3) early and “have breakfast at Dutt Snacks, a little Maharashtrian eatery just off the highway, in Sai Nagar, on the outskirts of Mumbai,” Mukherji advises. Though the road to Kasara is scenic, once you turn to Bhandardhara at Ghoti Naka “the roads worsen,” he says, cautioning drivers to watch out for tractors and cattle.
The MTDC Resort is your best bet as far as lodgings go. It isn’t fancy, but it overlooks the river. You could include a visit to the Randhawa Falls nearby for a picnic or pitch a tent for the night. “If you do plan to set up camp, take along a local guide (`500 to `1,000 a night) who knows the terrain,” advises Mukherji. Lake view cottages at the MTDC Resort are `4,200 a night. 024 24257032
Route: Follow the Mangalore-Bangalore Highway that runs Kudur-Yadiyur-Hassan-Sakleshpur-Dharmasthala
Great roads make the drive from Bangalore to Dharmasthala a delight, says Chaterji—including the drive via Hassan and Belur. This picturesque little temple town in Karnataka, about 275 km from Bangalore, houses the Manjusha Car Museum, a vintage museum filled with Dodges, Rolls-Royces, Cadillacs and more—a must dekho for car enthusiasts. Don’t let its modest appearance deceive you. “There’s a great collection inside, including a whale skeleton,” he says, adding that there is an art museum in town as well. All the accommodation in the little town is run by the Manjunatheshwara Dharmothana temple trust and is simple, but spotlessly clean. Sannidhi is a VIP guest house with both AC (`800 a night) and non-AC (`600 a night) accommodation. Details: 082 56277121
Rukhla, Himachal Pradesh
Rukhla is an isolated apple-growing village 70 km from Shimla, and makes for an 11-hour drive from Delhi. After Shimla, the road is a series of winding mountain passes with spectacular views. It’s also a great route for wildlife enthusiasts as it passes through the Shimla Reserve forest sanctuary and the town of Kufri has a zoo that is worth a visit.“Don’t bother looking for Rukhla on a map because you won’t find it,” says Pablo Chaterji, managing editor of Motoring magazine. Once there, you can lounge under an apple tree, go for a walk among the pinewoods and orchards, have a cup of chai while sitting 6,500 feet above sea level or enjoy a picnic by the Giri and Chagaounti streams. Though there is a forest rest house in Rukhla, Chaterji insists the best place to stay is at the home of Jagjit Singh Chauhan and his wife “They’re a gracious couple and Mrs Chauhan’s cooking is the sort that cures terminal illnesses,” he declares. Rs.1,500 onwards for room and board.
Become a pro at the traditional ayurvedic massage or sign up for Zumba and swimming classes this weekend
Mind the ball
Catch the FIFA fever at The Promenade. And while you watch your favourite team play on the big screen, you can also enjoy their unlimited beer and domestic drinks that includes Kingfisher, Royal Challenge, Signature and more. From `666 plus taxes. At Risque, their bar, from 9 pm onwards. Till July 14. Details: 0413 2227750
A big fan of Ayurvedic treatments? At this workshop at Sita Cultural Centre, participants will learn the basics of Ayurveda and the techniques required for a full body massage. The workshop will be conducted by Fleur Soumer, the founder of the centre. The one-day programme costs Rs6,400. Registrations open. Details: 0413 4200718
Enjoy some of the best snacks from the South with Sitrundi Virundhu, a food festival by Hotel Atithi. Their a la carte menu has dishes that include idly, dosa, podi dosa, puttu, ghee roast, idiyaappam, vaazhapoo rice and other typical South Indian dishes. Desserts include paayasam and gulab jamun. Starters are from `50 onwards. Till today.
From 7 pm to 10 pm. Details: 0413 2345000
Make time for Zumba
Here’s some good news for all you fitness enthusiasts: Kash Kelsang Dolma, a Cuban salsa and Bollywood dance instructor settled in Pondicherry, is now the Zumba fitness instructor at Zumba.com. A licensed instructor, her evening batches are from 6 pm to 7 pm, while the morning batch will kick off soon. At `360 per class and `1,600 per month. At Bangabharati, Vaithikuppam. Details:kelsangdolma.zumba.com
Ami, the home decor specialists, have stocked some of their wine corks, cruet stands and ladle rests at Vivanta by Taj – Fisherman’s Cove. All the products have Indian and contemporary designs, especially inspired by Rajasthan. The wine corks are from Rs.450. Details: 67413333
If your child knows basic swimming and is interested in learning surfing, Bay of Life is the place to visit. For children above the age of five, the one-on-one classes will focus on the basics of surfing, ocean safety, depth and building confidence. Each child will be accompanied by a professional trainer. At `13,000 for two months, which includes 10 sessions. They also have classes for adults. Prior registrations needed. Details: bayoflife.com
At software engineer Satish Kumar’s Aruvadai, you can find all things organic
When Satish Kumar moved from his village near Thanjavur to Chennai, to become a software professional, he thought he had left behind his dreams of starting a farm. But luck favoured the 31-year-old and last July, he leased 17 acres of land near Madhuranthagam, where he started to grow mango trees and vegetables like snake gourd, chillies, spinach potatoes, etc. Today, Kumar is the proud owner of Aruvadai (harvest), an organic store in Palavakkam, ECR. “We get our vegetables delivered in the wee hours of the morning. We then take them to Thiruvanmiyur, Besant Nagar or Marina beach, to sell at stalls. We also stock them at the store,” he says. Born into an agricultural family, it is no surprise that Kumar is fond of farming. “I always wanted to farm but never had the financial support. I saved up to lease this. I have known several others who’ve started a venture but quit half way, mainly because they lacked marketing. I want to focus on marketing and set up a website so people can buy online,” he says.
Of eggs and dal
Besides vegetables, the store also stocks different varieties of millets like foxtail, kudo and poroso. Also look out for their ponni boiled rice. Their different dals, jaggery, honey and oils are fast moving. “Everything is sourced directly from farmers in Thanjavur. We also get dals from down South and Andhra Pradesh. We co-ordinate with some small-scale industries and get wheat flour from them,” says Kumar. With around 450-500 products in the store, Kumar says the latest addition is free-range eggs. The store is also lined with racks filled with snacks, pickles and podis, which Kumar informs us are hand made. Currently, they supply their vegetables to different stores in the city like Terra, Dhanyam, Gramiyum and others.
Podis start from `30, millets from `80. Details: 9790933206
Fluorescent colours or daring cuts? Suhasini Damian and Dasha Yatsenko are now pros at fashioning the bikini
Besides a shared love of water, Auroville-based Suhasini Damian and Dasha Yatsenko also enjoy fashion design. Their partnership has resulted in bikinis that are scorching Pondicherry. Born and raised in Pondicherry, Damian, of German and Indian descent, and her friend Yatsenko, of Russian and Ukranian descent, started 4Shore last December. Graduates in design from Auroville’s Lilith Design School, the 22-year-olds are now looking to capitalise on Pondicherry’s recent interest in surfing. From triangles and bandeaus to corsets, they have it all. “In each piece we incorporate different styles such as fringes, braided straps, racer back, ruffles and decorative beads. We play with combinations of different colours and prints, such as florals with solids,” begins Damian, who also plans to create bikinis in different sizes and styles. “We want people with large frames to have options, too. If it is a custom bikini for a client, it would depend on what they would want and feel comfortable in,” she says.
The bikinis are made from spandex and elastic, and is sourced from Germany, Switzerland, Mumbai, Chennai and Tirupur. As for recent bikini trends, the duo is highly impressed with crochet, macramé, neons, cut-outs, bustiers and fringes. “Bohemian is one of our favorite styles in swimwear,” continues Yatsenko. Ask them about their inspiration and Damian points at Australian swimwear brands like Roxy, Billabong and Rip Curl. “We also follow some bohemian trends from brands like Volcom, L’space and Missoni,” she says. While most of their clientele are expats, the duo hopes to attract the locals at Auroville even as they retail on their FB page.
Long and lasting
Besides bikinis, Damian and Yatsenko hope to soon include board shorts, rash vests and summer dresses. “Our customers can choose the colour of fabric and style.If there is a specific request we also make dresses. We are currently designing a wedding dress for a friend,” says Damian.For first-time bikini buyers, Yatsenko suggest a few tips: “Always rinse your bikini or swimsuit after use, especially after being in the ocean because salt water damages the fabric and elastic. And make sure you always untie the straps before rinsing and drying, as it keeps the straps from wearing out.”
Their bikinis are priced from Rs.1,500 onwards. Swimsuits are available for kids and adults. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org
With Transformers: Age of Extinction, Mark Wahlberg is back with what he does best, action
The Transformer franchise is growing up with Mark Wahlberg taking over from Shia LeBeouf. Set four years after the last film, Transformers: Age of Extinction is the start of a new trilogy. And the 43-year-old star of films like The Fighter, Ted and The Perfect Storm, is quite excited about his role. Having watched the previous films with his kids, he says this one is a little edgier. The actor talks to us about working with director Michael Bay, his role and being a father.
How did this role come to you?
I had a great working relationship with Michael Bay on Pain & Gain. Then one day he just kind of approached me and asked me if I would be interested in doing this and I answered, “Yes, absolutely!” It was pretty much that easy.
What appealed to you about being in this film?
Even before reading the script, I was excited about it because Michael had told me the story and talked to me about the characters. It just seemed like the right movie for me. We had already developed a shorthand and he allowed me to develop my character. And then, as it’s a Michael Bay movie, it ends up looking even better than you’d imagined. He was the main attraction for me.
What impressed you the most about his direction?
Just to watch somebody manage a gigantic production like Transformers: Age of Extinction is pretty impressive…. And whether it’s a 30-day or 100-day shoot, he is always on top of every aspect of it.
You play the lead role of inventor Cade Yeager. Who is he?
He is a single dad who is devastated after losing his wife, and he is doing the best he can to raise his daughter. But Cade’s fascination with technology gets him into trouble when he discovers something. So he is an ordinary guy thrust into an extraordinary situation, where he has to become kind of larger-than-life to be able to protect his daughter.
What makes these films so different from other similar ones?
The difference is precisely that the audience can sense that those other films are a bit of an imitation of what Michael has done with Transformers. He just knows how to take these movies to a complete other level. And I thought that it would be a very interesting challenge for me as an actor; so it was also a bit of a risk for me.
The movie has action and a lot more….
Yes, there are all the huge effects and the action; but it also has a lot of humour and heart. I believe finding that balance between those elements will take it to another level.
After Ted and now this film, how comfortable are you interacting with characters that are not in front of you?
I feel confident when I know that Michael is running the show, because I know we are in good hands. You can find yourself feeling pretty silly having a heated conversation with a giant robot that isn’t really there, but he is going to make sure you don’t look ridiculous.
What can you say about Nicola Peltz, who plays your daughter in the film?
Nicola is fantastic! She is the older version of my own kids and just a pro. It’s demanding to work with Michael because he doesn’t have the luxury to sit there holding your hand. I remember this scene in which she was fighting these real Navy Seals, take after take, and Michael gave me a nod that meant he knew she had the goods.
The film is scheduled to release today.
Director: Mohit Suri
Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Riteish Deshmukh, Shraddha Kapoor, Prachi Desai
In a role that’s quite different from the ones he’s played so far, Malhotra is Guru, a tough-but-quiet guy who falls for a vivacious girl. However, when she is killed, he becomes obsessed with finding out who did it. How he takes revenge forms the rest of the plot.
Did you know? Riteish Deshmukh makes his debut as an antagonist. Also, all the characters in the film have a touch of grey in their roles.
Director: Pawan K Shrivastava
Cast: Abhishek Sharma, Shaad Ahmed,
The first independent film from Bihar, it is pegged on the anguish behind migration. It follows the life of a man who loses his job after the sugar industry in the state shuts down. He moves to New Delhi to earn a living, leaving behind his newly-married wife. However, loneliness and culture shock take its toll on him.
Did you know? This crowd-funded movie is the director’s first. He sourced his capital mostly through social networking sites.
Director: AL Vijay
Cast: Nassar, Saara Arjun, Basha
The film revolves around the relationship between a child and her rooster. With Nassar and Saara Arjun (of Deiva Thirumagal fame) in the lead, the movie also stars the veteran actor’s son, Basha, in a pivotal role.
Did you know? Actress Amala Akkineni loved the animal welfare message in the film and shared her view that it should be eligible for tax exemption.
Newcomer Catherine Tresa on her two new Tamil films and her love for ‘loud masala’ movies
With movies in Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam in her kitty, Catherine Tresa is now venturing into the Tamil film industry with two projects—Madras with Karthi and Kannidhan with Adharva. “In Madras I play a girl from North Chennai, where the film is based, who is Karthi’s love interest. In Kannidhan, I play a contrasting character—I am portrayed as very glamorous and independent,” begins the Kottayam-born-Dubai-raised actress, who started her career with the Malayalam film Shankar IPS, with Vijay. Movies like Thriller and Godfather in Kannada, with Upendra, followed.
Several actresses, like Nayantara and Amala Paul, have made it big in the Tamil film industry. While we hope the same for Tresa, she says, “I have always liked what these actresses have done and appreciate where they are placed today. But I do not wish to be type cast and I don’t have any role models. I want to make my own mark.” What about genres that appeal? “I am currently working on a period film called Rudrama Devi in Telugu where I play a princess. I would love to do action as well. I love these loud, masala movies. I don’t want to do just one role all the time,” says the actress who hopes to work with all the new directors in the industry. And in between shoots and watching movies (the last film she watched was Mani Ratnam’s Kadal), the fan of Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Dexter and Two and a Half Men is loyal to her telly.
Madras is scheduled to release in August.
Mukesh Chhabra on his acting studio and hunting down unusual characters
For youngsters with stars in their eyes and no starry connections, casting directors are a boon. Unfortunately, these very same people have no identity outside the industry. In the US, Casting By, a 2012 documentary by Tom Donahue, revealed the untold stories of these star-makers. While we don’t have works closer home, men like Mukesh Chhabra are carving out a name for his ilk. The casting director who introduced us to stars like Sushant Singh Rajput and Rajkummar Rao is starting an acting studio he wants to make accessible to all. “There are so many people who think you need money to become an actor; I want to change that,” begins Chhabra, who has been casting actors for over five years. The Mumbai-based studio will have free weekend workshops conducted by actors or Chhabra himself, besides a 10-day monthly programme with 200 students. “I have a separate team that takes care of walk-in auditions. Since I have worked with several actors and directors, I will be calling someone every weekend for a workshop,” he says. The first workshop was conducted by actor Manoj Bajpayee last weekend and Chhabra plans to bring in Rao next.
The odd combination
Having given an identity to many wannabe actors, wasn’t Chhabra ever bitten by the acting bug? “No. I want to focus on my movies and the studio. However, I am working on a script and I will direct soon,” says Chhabra who has a long list of movies he is working on currently, including Rajkumar Hirani’s P K and Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet.
Being a casting director can be dangerous, he agrees. “I have received death threats from people. Everyone wants to be an actor—some have it in them and some don’t. If I think they need some polishing, I ask them to attend workshops. But in some cases, you know there is no hope,” he says. For youngsters looking to break into the industry, his advice is simple: “Focus on acting. It is an art and you should not get distracted.” And though Chhabra hasn’t come across the casting couch, he says, “I know it exists. What I would suggest is that when you go for auditions, go to places with a lot of people around, with cameras. And be very alert.”
The next weekend workshop is on June 28-29. Details: mccc.in
Two Harley-Davidson biker girls, on what they think of the new models designed for the urban woman
When someone says Harley-Davidson, you immediately think cruiser, chrome, loud and heavy. But the American motorcycle manufacturer, that has been synonymous with the bad-boy image since the 1900s, seem to be looking at a whole new market with their new models specifically designed for women. With the Street 500 and Street 750 (expected to roll out in the next few weeks), Harley-Davidson set aside the bulky fuel tanks and generous chrome accents for an all-black look, lower seats, smaller handle grips and altered footpeg positions as well. But what do the ladies have to say about this?
Durga Das (riding)
“The new models are nice. Light. But more like city bikes,” says Durga Das, an entrepreneur and the only female Harley owner in the city. “They could be tiring on longer rides, but for the city they should be great,” reasons Das, who owns a Forty-Eight. Das is, however, stoked about the new electric bike that the brand has started touring across America. Her enthusiasm is not shared by the first woman to buy a Harley in the country.
While Sheeja Mathews feels that the electric bike lacks the ‘thump’ that one looks for in a Harley, the new models for ladies just might increase their numbers, she feels.
“But today, women are going in for heavier bikes like the Street Glide,” she points out. Mathews is a proud owner of a custom Iron 883, and though she has heard many female bikers express interest in the British motorcycle Triumph that recently launched in the country, the Bangalore-based HR professional is confident that Harley will have a loyal following.
The Street 750 is priced from Rs.4,10,000 onwards. Details: harley-davidson.com
As DakshinaChitra gears up to unveil its newest addition, its founder tells us what to expect
If you thought you’d seen it all at DakshinaChitra, think again. Their Karnataka section, formerly consisting of just one heritage home from the Ilkal region, will soon sport a signboard pointing towards a 100-year-old home from Chickmagalur. The 18th historical home of the heritage centre, to be inaugurated on July 5, also happens to be their first Muslim-style house and will be doubling as the venue for an exhibition titled A Shared Heritage, that was funded by the US Consulate General, Chennai.
Of timber and tiles
Built in 1914, the house belonged to a Muslim coffee plantation owner, and was going to be demolished when the team at DakshinaChitra heard about it. “We bought everything we could salvage from the house — timber, tiles, rafters, stones, etc — and have recreated it,” says Dr Deborah Thiagarajan, the founder of DakshinaChitra. Since the original owners were untraceable and the house had been used as a primary school for a brief period, “we have furnished the house based on inputs from the neighbours,” she adds, pointing out that a majority of the furniture used, was sourced from antique dealers in Northern Kerala, where the family would have had their roots and where the architecture is similar. The owner was also a well-travelled general merchant who kept most of his stores on the first floor of the house and was fond of porcelain. Most of this has been recreated based on inputs, and while all the woodwork has been reclaimed from the original, the three-feet-thick mud walls have been replaced with brick walls, to make them last.
Dr Deborah Thiagarajan
The ample woodwork and spacious balconies are a highlight of the house, and parts of it have been used to set up an exhibition on heritage. “We have installed kiosks playing videos created by S Anwar (a city-based film maker) and upstairs, there’s and exhibition on Sufism,” Thiagarajan shares, about their first digital exhibition. Expect videos on the history of the trade routes, the old mosques, the making of zardosi, the contributions of Muslims to Tamil literature, among other subjects. The project, that is to be inaugurated by the US consul general Jennifer McIntyre, has been curated by Delhi-based Gigi Scaria, with contributions from many supporters — a zardosi panel by Vastrakala and porcelain, furnishings by Sushila Gopinath, among others. So what next, we wonder. “I hope we get to put up a home from coastal Andhra Pradesh next. And if we could, we’d like to add at least three more from Andhra and three from Karnataka,” she concludes.
The Muslim house and exhibition will be inaugurated on July 5, at 4.30 pm.
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