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Monthly Archives: June 2015

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Shake a leg, go cross country on a bike and embrace the monsoons with caffeine and cookies

Fusion plated
ecr4buffetbeer2Toast the weekend with a mug of beer and a buffet spread at Le Royal Park Pondicherry. Comprising 10 vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes,it includes pastas, noodles, tandoori and Indian gravies. If beer is not your drink of choice, sample the mocktails instead. `499. Details: 0413 2231500

Dance nation
Here’s your chance to nail those filmi dance moves. Shake a leg to desi beats at the Bollywood dance classes being held at La Casita. Conducted by instructor Surya, the sessions start on Tuesday, with a trial session on Sunday. Open to all. `1,000 for four classes. Details: 7639405194
Opposites attract
For those who love fusion, Jain Sweet Stall has some fun options. Try unusual combinations of popular Indian sweets and savouries like their kaaju kaatli-made in jalebi form or the date flavoured laddoos, which are a huge draw. Don’t forget to stock up on their chilli-dusted sweet cashews for the road. `600 per kg.
Details: 9344727652

Perfect cuppa
Get your caffeine fix at Auroville, as Dreamer’s Cafe is introducing their brand of authentic French-pressed black coffee this weekend. Adding to the steaming beverage is their new range of vegan orange flavoured biscotti that is fat-free. `80 for a cup and `50 each for the biscotti platter. Details: 0413 1623143

ecr3-filmCat call
Catch a charming animation film this weekend as the Alliance Francaise de Pondicherry is screening Une Vie de Chat (A Cat in Paris). It is the story of Zoe, a young mute girl who finds adventure when she follows her pet cat across the Parisian rooftops and discovers that the animal has been working as a burglar’s accomplice. Nominated in 2011 for best animation film at the Academy Awards, it makes for an ideal Sunday watch. From 6 pm onwards. Details: 0413 2334351

Pedal Pondy
Explore Pondicherry on customised vintage bicycles as Sita Cultural Centre reintroduces their popular Wake Up Pondy Tour. Join the cyclists on their ride around the city and then wrap things up with a complimentary French or South Indian breakfast. All week, from 7 am onwards . `1,200. Details: 0413 4200718

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Authentic Erachi kola urundai thooku and Meen Poriyal, with a view of the sea

CHEF Mohammed Mustafa is on a mission. The idea behind his Namma Veedu food festival at Shenbaga Hotel is an attempt to remind people about how far they have strayed from the authentic cuisine of South India, specifically Chettinad cuisine. The hotel and convention centre is hosting the 16-day food festival with promises of traditional dinners with authentic home style staples on the menu. “Most of our dishes are inspired from the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu and are baked or grilled, which is definitely on the healthier side. We source the ingredients from nattu marundhu kadai (Ayurvedic stores) in Pondicherry or grind the spices ourselves,”explains the Kadalur- based chef who has worked previously with Le Meridien and the MGM group.
Home run
On the seventh floor of Shenbaga Hotel, Sea view restaurant claims to be the tallest floor in Pondy. We are greeted with a traditional set up of a Chettinad home and courtyard festooned with leaves.Welcomed with a refreshing Elaneer soda (tender coconut soda) and Ragi paniyaram (dumplings made of ragi and spices) we munch on slices of Meen Varuval (spiced fried fish) as starters. Next up, Mustafa plies us with the main course – fresh and piping from live counters – with our favourites being Erachi kola urundai thooku  (Mutton meat balls in spices), Vetrilai Poondu Saadam (Betel leaf and garlic rice) and thulasi chappathi (rotis infused with  holy basil leaves). “Contrary to Chettinad food, we have gone easy on the chilli, and the dishes are often steamed, boiled or sauteed,’’ says Shankar Rao. From July 10, priced at `495. 9597084996
— NH
Pics : Pattabi Raman

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Speaking about Land of Ashes, Vallavane Koumarane talks about war victims and their power to break free

LAND OF ASHES, a collective expression of the Sri Lankan war and genocide, is not new to Pondicherry. The play was last performed in 2011 by Indianostrum Theatre at the Kameleon festival. Vallavane Koumarane, the director and founder of the theatre group, is all set to revisit the play next month, with a mix of old and new actors. Busy with his annual 10-day workshop in Pondicherry,that will lead up to the production, Koumarane talks about the changes to the play and how he hopes Kalieaswari Srinivasan (last seen at Cannes 2015, where her Dheepan won the Palme d’Or) will join the team. Beginning with Kalari classes in the morning, the workshop includes reading excerpts from the play, and extensive brainstorming on the topic of ‘fighting back’.
War story
Land of Ashes (written by Cordis Paldano, one of the theatre artistes along with Koumarane) has raised many eyebrows and applause all over the world and speaks about Flora, a prisoner in a German concentration camp who puts on a play for children using pieces of leftover bread. Using both mythology and a mise en scene by Tamil poet Karaikkal Ammaiyar, the play has been performed 45 times so far. Talking about relevance in today’s altered political backdrop, Koumarane says it was the recent out breaks in Sri Lanka and other parts of the world that made him bring back the play. “War as a subject is relevant at all times. In the end, we are talking of victims and their power to break free. We are exploring the emotions that would have run through the minds of the victims at such a time. I feel excited about re-visiting it, to bring Flora alive again,” says the 40 year old, who is also hoping to turn the play into a feature film next year.
Fire fighting
Koumarane is upbeat about what he refers to as the contemporary phase of Indian theatre. “I can’t think of theatre in terms of production. I need an issue that makes me want to find answers – that is what contemporary theatre is all about, a burning issue that needs to be told.” Having recovered from the fire that broke out last year in their theatre in Pondicherry that ruined almost everything, he chooses to look at the tragedy positively. “ The fire destroyed everything we had, right down to the props and costumes, but to me it was like starting over. It was that point in our journey where we had to unlearn and begin from scratch,” said the director who got back on his feet with plays such as Kunti Karna and Karuppu last year. Next up, he hopes to tap into older local art forms like the Tamil-Koothu.
Land of Ashes is scheduled to be staged next month

—Niranjana Hariharanandanan

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    Director Balaji Mohan on Maari and how the secret to being global is to go local

    With Maari and its much-awaited audio launch being the talk of the town, we catch up over chaai with the man of the hour, Balaji Mohan. One of the youngest in the new crop of directors in Tamil cinema, Mohan quit engineering to pursue filmmaking. Having worked with the likes of Dulquer Salmaan and now Dhanush, Mohan was noticed with his debut short film, Kaadhalil Sodhapuvadhu Yeppadi, which then became a full length feature with Siddharth in the lead. Four years on, and with two successful bilinguals under his belt, the 28year-old is excited about his new directorial and assures us that it is unapologetically commercial.
    Abstaining from divulging too much, he says Maari is a character-led film revolving around Dhanush, who plays a slum chieftain and a pigeon racer. “I’ve always wanted to do a commercial film. Maari will have action, comedy, a love angle and even koothu songs,” laughs the director adding that he created the protagonist with Dhanush in mind. The film also sees singer Vijay Yesudas’s screen début, as a cop.

    Locally inclined
    Given Maari’s rural setting, Mohan believes the more local you go, the more global your product becomes. “Going into the interiors will definitely appeal to a larger audience because we are giving them a slice of life and emotions that they have never seen or explored before,” he says, citing the success of Kadhal, Parutheevarana, Aaadukalam and the recent Jigarthanda.
    Speaking about the stars he has worked with, Mohan says, “Dulquer is a perfectionist. He kept re-checking his takes in Samsaaram Aarogyathinu Haanikaram even when I told him I was OK with them.” Meanwhile, he is all praise for Dhanush’s acting, which he says is a combination of a studied approach and a burst of spontaneity. “He studies his character in detail, but when we go for a take he comes alive, like a child performing for the first time. It is rare to find both these traits in an actor,” he says.

    Shifting gears
    Having grown up watching Rajnikanth’s and Jackie Chan’s films, Mohan looks up to directors Mani Ratnam and K Selvaraghavan. “I don’t want to typecast myself. I want to shift gears between different genres,” says the director who has made films for Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam cinema, admitting that doing a bilingual is like “making the same film twice. Sometimes it is tough to keep the energies going the second time round.”
    Self-made, Mohan is all for crowd funding options. “Don’t be afraid to tell the kinds of stories you believe in. In the end, if you truly believe in the story you are telling, the audience will too,” he concludes.
    Maari releases on July 17.
    —Niranjana Hariharanandanan

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      The King of Pop’s top tribute artiste, Mikki Jay, pays Chennai a visit

      She could pass off as The King of Pop’s identical twin. Mikki Jay, Michael Jackson’s number one tribute artiste, has her game on point. Her moon walks and spins have even landed her a place in The Royal Variety Club of Great Britain, where she performed for British royalty. And tomorrow, the UK-based artiste will be in Chennai for the first time, with her dancing shoes on, to commemorate MJ’s sixth death anniversary in a tribute concert at the Courtyard of Phoenix MarketCity.
      Beyond appearances, Jay is also popular for the uncanny similarity to MJ’s voice and dancing technique that she brings to her performances. She has performed all over the world, including Russia, South Africa, Thailand and Dubai. But her most breath taking moment was when she performed for the pop icon himself at the Equinox in Leicester Square, London in 2002. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, when he turned around and we were face to face. He was everything I ever expected and more. Telling him I love him and him saying it back – priceless,” she gushes.
      Jay started off as a biology student with the aim of becoming a chiropodist, but changed course in 1992 to pursue her calling of becoming the most authentic Michael Jackson impersonator. “It made me really happy. Everything about Michael is so inspiring and I love to pass on the messages from his songs, because he wanted to make a difference and heal the world,” she shares. Now in India for the first time ever, Jay admits, “The hardest thing is to dance and sing live at the same time. Michael was a master of that. I continue to learn, but no one will ever dance as well as Michael in my opinion. He was a one-off,” she concludes.
      June 27 at the Courtyard, Phoenix MarketCity in Velachery, from 7pm onwards. Details: 30083008
      — SK

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        With hypnotic hips and unusual collaborations, Bindu Bolar promises to make you a fusion belly dance pro in six days 

        Belly dancers around the world have honoured her with the title Tribal Ballerina, or ‘Tribalina’, and she has more than 11 years of professional dancing to her name. But Mangalore-native and founder of Lights Camera Dance studio, Bindu Bolar won’t be taking your run-of-the-mill hip-shaking workshop in Chennai this weekend — she’ll be teaching Tribal Fusion Belly Dance. It’s described as the marriage between Classical Oriental belly dance, with significant Egyptian roots, and tribal influences, which takes inspiration from rural Rajasthani, American-Indian, Algerian and Balkan communities. And though Bolar only started traditional belly dancing in 2008, she delved into this style a year later. “I find the fusion of styles exciting. Sensual swings of the hips are complemented by powerful, animal-like movements, and urban touches of popping and locking also come through,” she says.

        Being different
        According to fitness instructor Ruby Hussain, who stopped her belly dancing classes roughly seven years ago due to the lack of interest, “belly dancing is perfect for the Indian woman’s body type.” And Bolar’s six-hour workshop, brought to the city by Aparnaa Nagesh of High Kicks, in Chennai aims to rekindle that interest. She will teach students to move different parts of their bodies separately, to learn techniques, which will then be choreographed and pieced together to form short routines. “I hope these workshops will inspire people to continue learning an art form this unique and beautiful, because you won’t find this style anywhere else in the city,” assures Bolar.

        Work-life balance
        Though dancing since the age of three, and trained in salsa, hip-hop, jive and the Lucknowi gharana of Kathak, Bolar insists that it’s the combination and influence of these styles in Classical Oriental belly dance that make Tribal Fusion Belly Dance so unique. “Everyone’s body structure is different, so the presentation of dance will also be different. That’s why Tribal Fusion Belly dance is so interesting, because the artiste is free to mix her own signature moves to recreate and reinterpret traditional belly dancing,” explains Bolar, who has represented India in multiple American belly dancing festivals, including the prestigious Tribal Fest. Crowned as The Most HipNotic Belly Dancer at Hip-Nosis’13 and appeared as a judge on Channel V’s India Fest, Bolar’s aim is to continue learning and teaching in the US and in India.
        At the Danzza Institute of Modern Dance on June 27-28. Workshop fee: `3,000 per person. Details: 9840317186

        — Sakshi Kaushik

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          Keeping it light
          Aadhi has his fingers crossed for his next film, Yagavarayinum Na Kakkaa, a bilingual that is set to hit theatres today.“Unlike my earlier films, I’m not carrying any heavy baggage here. I play a boy-next-door character, where I can be myself,” says the actor.The film, a home production starring Nikki Galrani and Mithun Chakravarthy,is directed by Aadhi’s brother, Satya Prabhas.

          Slice of real
          A team of technicians from the M.G.R Govt Film & Television institute, Taramani make their debut in Oru Thozhan Oru Thozhi (releasing today). The maiden directorial venture of P Mohan stars newbies Meenesh Krishna and Asthra. “It depicts the life of people living below the poverty line. The plot centres on the deep friendship between a small town boy and a girl,” says the exceutive producer, Mahathara.

          Time machine
          Among half- a-dozen releases this Friday, the sci-fi comedy Indru Netru Naalai. has Vishnu, Mia George and Karunakaran in the cast. This time travel plot is helmed by debut director Ravikumar. The escapist adventure is expected to be on the lines of the breezy hilarious Mundasuppatti, a landmark film in Vishnu’s career.

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            Merging dance, painting and sculpture, Forum Art Gallery explores the lotus and its metaphors

            Flower power’ was coined in the 60s to promote passive resistance to war, but the lotus, especially in India, means something completely different. From emoting happiness to signifying the birth of a child, its meaning will be explored at the Forum Art Gallery’s month-long exhibition, Padme, which will host interpretations by painters, photographers and sculptors.
            Renowned Bharatnatyam dancer Anita Ratnam, who is launching the exhibition, will present a 30-minute dialogue, where she’ll recite poetry and read stories, using the lotus as a metaphor for emotions. “It can symbolise grace, beauty, strength, love, longing, and even eroticism,” says Ratnam, whose students will also be performing their contemporary dance act, Padme.
            While artists like Bharti Singh and AV Ilango will explore the bloom through birds and gardens, Delhi-based Sarla Chandra sees the Sahasrara, the thousand-petaled lotus, as a form of meditation and a window into Indian philosophy. “I’ve been painting the padma for over 45 years and I’ve realised if you want to understand Indian myths and philosophy, you have to keep practicing painting,” says the 72-year-old artist.
            As for Shalini Biswajit, artist and the director of Forum, her stainless steel sculpture is about reflection and self-awareness. “I call all my work a self-portrait. The lotus is held as a point of self-enlightenment and as a vow to aspire for more and to stay away from mundane life,” she signs off.
            At Forum Art Gallery, from June 30 to July 31. Details: 42115596
            —Sakshi Kaushik

             

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              Things you didn’t know about the British comedian who is all set to headline India’s biggest chuckle fest

              From being the poster boy for bad habits to turning into one of Britain and America’s best loved comedians, Russell Brand returns to the country (he first married Katy Perry here in 2010), but this time for a performance. As part of the second season of Comedy Central Chuckle Festival, the funny man, who is also an actor, author, and more fiercely, a political activist, will bring his signature one-liners and clever quips to town, apart from Mumbai and New Delhi. Being a bad boy gave him his share of ‘you’re fired’ though nothing can keep this reformed drug-addict from turning anything into a positive. Best known for his satire, whimsy and observational humour, we dig into his record books for trivia that befits Dr Nefario (the apt name of his character in Despicable Me).
              1. Known for his kookie ways and sex addiction, the comedian was a postman before he became very famous. Brand became a postman to try and bed women, as he thought he could chat them up when delivering letters. “I thought as a mail man, sex would be everywhere for me. Simply not true. It was a series of doors being closed in my face,” he laments, but then went on to steal letters to ‘cheer himself up’!
              2. He was fired from MTV on September 12, 2001, only a day after the tragic 9/11 attacks. And it wasn’t his work that got him in trouble, but the fact that he dressed up as Osama bin Laden and showed up.
              3.Apart from various nefarious accolades,
              this 40-year-old was once named the orld’s Sexiest Vegetarian. The comedian has been a herbivore since he was 14, and he turned vegan after watching the 2011 documentary Forks Over Knives – a film about the benefits of being vegan.
              4.In October 2008, Brand and BBC presenter, Jonathan Ross got into trouble after leaving abusive and sexual messages on Faulty Towers actor, Andrew Sach’s answering machine. They went on to detail Brand’s relationship with Sach’s granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, then a performer with the dance troupe Satanic Sluts.
              5.Brand has never voted in his life. In fact, he’s called himself Mr Don’t Vote. But following his interview with the Labour party’s Ed Miliband, he urged people to vote for change.
              6. When he was 16 years old, his dad, Ronald, who hardly met him otherwise, took him on a trip to the Far East, and bought the youngster prostitutes in Hong Kong. Travelling on to Singapore, Thailand and Bali, it goes without saying what the trip’s agenda was.
              7. You may remember 5ive, the boy band from England comprising Sean Conlon, Ritchie Neville, Scott Robinson, J Brown and Abz Love. That line up just might have been different. Brand too auditioned for the band, belting out Robbie Williams and George Michael tracks. “I did audition for the boy band. That was pretty bad. I was only 20, I didn’t know what I was doing and I was on drugs,” he confessed.
              June 27, at White Orchid Convention Centre, Outer Ring Road. Tickets (`3,000 upwards) on meraevent.com
              — Aakanksha Devi

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                One man, two stories and an assurance to keep children in splits

                One of the many things that Krishna Kumar Santhanagopalan—better known as KK, the founder-artistic director of Masquerade Theatre—is interested in is taking theatre to the young. His newest attempt is Jungle Bungles, a solo performance created for children between seven and 12, which combines theatre and storytelling. “This is a great age group to narrate stories to because their imagination is beyond measure,” he says.
                Though tightlipped about the two tales of ‘misadventures and misdemeanours’, he does let slip that the stories deal with the consequences you face when you try to take the easy way out. “I’ve selected stories from different countries like India and Germany, and I have re-imagined them in such a way that they provide space for physical movement and voice variations. They will be loved by both children and adults alike,” he assures.
                With no sets, props or music, Santhanagopalan states it will be just him, the stage and the audience. “I don’t want to restrict the children’s imagination with sets and properties. Moreover, good storytelling doesn’t need any materials,” he smiles, adding that he might take the help of his stage crew if the story requires additional voices. While he will bring in mimicry, mime and other theatrical techniques wherever needed (“I will improvise depending on how the audience reacts and their energy levels”), he says he will also keep the performance interactive by occasionally posing questions to the kids.
                June 27-28, at Spaces, from at 7.15 pm. Free entry. Details: 42158062

                Aishwarya Valliappan

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