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Monthly Archives: December 2015

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    Actress Amrit Maghera opens up about her time spent on the sets of Angry Young Goddesses and lessons learnt

    04December-Actress1Taking a cue from the iconic Frida Kahlo, all the girls from the cast of Angry Young Goddesses one day came to set with the artist’s famous uni-brow. The crew found it hilarious. This is just one of the pranks played out on the film set, divulges Amrit Maghera, one of the Goddesses from the movie. Directed by Pan Nalin, the film (India’s first buddy movie, according to the promos) has already made the rounds at international film festivals and is arriving in our theatres today. Maghera, whose first role as a giggling ten-year-old was Helena from Midsummer Night’s Dream in a school play, portrays the character of aspiring Bollywood actress Joanna Mendes in the film.

    Being in focus
    At the age of 32, British-Punjabi Maghera has ticked quite a few boxes ­— she has danced in music videos, starred in a Punjabi film and been a brand ambassador for beauty brand, Lakme. “But I like acting the most, as it allows me to do it all,” exclaims the actress, who was referred to as the most promising newcomer this year, by the Harper’s Bazaar magazine.

    Her twitter feed is filled with retweets of her co-stars, like Anushka Manchanda “That’s one thing we learnt on set, to celebrate each other’s success,” says the actress who will not attend the film’s premier in India, as she has rejoined the cast of her UK TV show, Hollyoaks. To create the chemistry that we see in the trailers of Goddesses, it took intensive workshops which included trust exercises. It obviously paid off as they received an eight-minute standing ovation at the Toronto International Film Festival and won the People’s Choice Award at the Rome Film Festival. “This movie with no massive budget but seven brave women, both new and seasoned, has already appealed to the senses of 57 countries,” she says.

    We asked her if as an NRI from London, she had trouble blending in. “On the contrary, I enjoyed it! Throughout the movie, I just trusted Pan Nilan and never worried about a thing.”Among the Bollywood movies she enjoyed, Queen tops the list. Maghera also wants to work with Ranbir Kapoor. She is a travel and food junkie. “We girls bonded over peanut butter and nutella sandwiches on the set,” she admits, something that soon earned them the title of ‘Hungry Young Goddesses’!
    Angry Indian Goddesses releases today.

    —Seema Rajpal

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    Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani,
    Movies OK, 2.10 pm
    Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif
    Prem (Kapoor), the son of a restaurateur, is a good-hearted troublemaker. He falls madly in love with Jenny (Katrina Kaif), who he believes loves him too—only to discover she considers him a friend. Later, he learns that Jenny is in love with her Canada-based college friend, Rahul (Upen Patel), the son of a wealthy politician. Prem helps Jenny elope with her lover after her parents try to force her to marry a wealthy boy of their choice. But even as he tries to convince Rahul’s father—who is against his son marrying a Christian girl—Prem has to come to terms with his own feelings. The movie won Kapoor the Filmfare Critics Award for
    Best Actor in 2010.

    The Scorpion King 3, Sony Pix, 9 pm
    Cast: Billy Zane, Ron Perlman, Victor Webster
    As prophesied, Mathayus’ (Webster) kingdom is falling apart due to a deadly plague. When it claims his wife’s life, too, Mathayus resumes the life of a mercenary. He is hired as an assassin and paired with a Scandinavian warrior, Olaf (Bostin Christopher), by the powerful king of Egypt Horus (Perlman), to fight his wicked brother, Talus (Billy Zane) who is trying to conquer his kingdom. Meanwhile, Talus sets out to steal the Book of the Dead from Ramusan (Temuera Morrison), an ally of Horus, and kidnaps his daughter, Princess Silda (Krystal Vee) as well. And though Mathayus gets another chance at rebuilding his kingdom, he tries to rescue Silda first. The film’s fight scenes were choreographed by stunt experts Kawee Seng Sirikanerut (of Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior fame) and Supoj Jimmy Khaowwong (of Batman Begins fame).

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    World War Z, Zee Studio, 9 pm
    Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos
    Gerry Lane (Pitt), a former UN investigator, and his family manage to escape a zombie outbreak in Philadelphia and move to Newark, New Jersey. They are offered shelter by a Latin family there. Gerry’s old friend, UN Secretary General Thierry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena) sends a helicopter to rescue them. Lane invites his generous hosts to come along, but they stay back and are attacked by zombies. Their son Tommy (Fabrizio Zacharee Guido) manages to escape and joins Lane and his family. They reach New York and Lane sets out to find the origin of zombies, but it turns out to be a huge political cover up. A video game, World War Z, was developed by Phosphor Games Studio and released in 2013.

    Hunterrr, UTV Movies, 11 pm
    Cast: Gulshan Devaiah, Radhika Apte, Sai Tamhankar
    Mandar Ponkshe (Devaiah) is an ordinary guy whose only aim is to win as many girls as possible, so that he can outshine his cousins. It all started when he visited his village with his cousin Dilip, when he was 15. There they met up with another cousin, Kshitij (Vaibbhav Tatwawdi), who taught them the ways of live—watching adult films and wooing girls. Will Ponkshe ever give up his wandering ways and be happy with a single girl? The film’s original title was Vaasu, the Mumbai slang for someone
    who is always in pursuit of women.

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    The Karate Kid, Sony Pix, 9 pm
    Cast: Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith
    Twelve-year-old Dre Parker (Smith) moves to China with his single mother, Sherry Parker (Taraji P Henson) after she accepts a job there. He tries to make friends at his new school, but struggles to enter the close knit community. He meets schoolmate Mei Ying (Wenwen Han), while defending himself from a bully, Cheng (Zhenwei Wang). Later, after almost being killed by Cheng, he is rescued by Han (Chan), a handyman with superior Kung Fu skills. Reluctantly Han agrees to teach the boy self defense, but Parker ends up learning much more. A kissing scene and some fights with the bullies were removed for the Chinese release.

    Dracula Untold, Star Movies, 9 pm
    Cast: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon
    It is the 15th century and Prince Vlad (Evans) rules Transylvania, after his service as a soldier to the Turkish Sultan. He lives peacefully with his wife Mirena (Gadon) and son Ingeras (Art Parkinson), when Sultan Mehmed II (Cooper) demands 1,000 boys, including Vlad’s son, to be trained for the Turkish army. Vlad tries to negotiate with his emissary, but ends up killing him. He then leaves to Broke Tooth mountain and meets the vampire (Charles Dance) to gain power in order to defeat the Turkish army and protect his people. He receives the blood from the vampire and becomes powerful. Now the catch is, if Vlad gives in to his thirst for blood in the next three days, he will not be able to revert to being a human. Initially, Sam Worthington was chosen to play the role of Vlad.

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      The new Domus offers retro furniture and a healthy menu in a restored villa

      Get a closer look at some curated retro furniture as you snack on a healthy quinoa salad or a berry smoothie at the city’s new address, Domus that opened on November 10. Pondicherry has always been known for its café-cum-boutiques that blend dining with unhurried shopping.

      04December-Lead13Domus, is now housed in a restored colonial villa on a particularly picturesque stretch of Suffren Street. The tangerine walls outside reveal sunlit and white interiors — making it different from Domus’ original, a smaller store inside La Maison Rose, which will remain open till summer. In keeping with its name (Domus is Latin for house), the space is designed to replicate a house, with furniture, fabrics and accessories aesthetically scattered across the rooms. What the mix of textures and materials have in common is that they are all curated by proprietor and French interior designer Claude Dalmais. “I take a week out of every month to travel to different parts of India. But I bring back only what I like,” says Dalmais, who has spent ten years in India and has favourite artisans and shops in Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh and Chettinad.

      Though some pieces are displayed in their original state, you can also find old furniture refashioned or discarded artefacts rethought like a mirror cast in distressed wood to match a chest of drawers. From chandeliers in the entryway to newly upholstered couches in the living room, armchairs and cushions with geometric prints, the ensemble is a mix of contemporary and vintage.

      The dining room has plenty of eye-catching retro crockery, be it powder blue mason glass jars or enamel tea cups that made their way from Czechoslovakia to Chettinad. The back rooms showcase soft rugs, kantha work quilts, scarves, jewellery, soft leather bags, flip flops and simply tailored clothes like cotton shirts, blouses and kaftans.

      04December-Lead12An amble through the store ends in an open courtyard with wrought iron chairs and green foliage– Café Domus. Smoothies (`150), salads and sandwiches (` 250- 350) are the healthy triumvirate at the café, which is a veggie’s delight in the otherwise seafood and steak loving Pondy. Do not expect effusive service, but the salad thalis which offer a combo of three or five salads make for an interesting lunch. The sandwich basket allows you to choose your own bread, cheeses (from Auroville), home-made seasonings and fillings. If you’d rather end on a calorie high, we suggest their home-made Swiss apple tart.
      Open from 10 am to 7 pm
      throughout the week at Rue
      Suffren (near Alliance Francaise).Details:  0413 4210807

      — Olympia Shilpa Gerald

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        Catch public screenings of indie films by the beach in Pondicherry this weekend

        This weekend, the Kameleon International Film Festival will screen 45 short films and documentaries, made by independent and aspiring filmmakers across India. Organised by Indianostrum theatre and supported by the Puducherry Tourism Department and Alliance Francaise, Kameleon was a theatre festival in its previous editions.
        Pondicherry has been Tamil cinema’s backyard for some time now. Songs and action sequences are frequently canned here, often in the same streets — but filmmakers are yet to tire of it, as is evident from the recent Nanum Rowdy Thaan. Now the city seeks to cement its reputation as more than a sought after budget film location. What better way to celebrate celluloid than by showcasing the works of independent filmmakers?
        The selected films (under 30 minutes) deal with themes of contemporary relevance, be it family, religious tolerance, gender equality or even the Syrian crisis — as is the case with one of the nine international films. “The underlying factor is these films offer a sensitive look at diverse human conditions,” says Koumarane Valavane, festival director. “They have a bold vision but also manage to engage the audience through personal stories.”
        A mix of cultures and languages — sub-titled in English — await the audience.While the Alliance Francaise is the principal venue, 16 mm films will be screened at Indianostrum on Romain Rolland, open-air screenings will be held at the Old Distillery (end of Beach Road) and each day’s best films along with world cinema classics will be shown at the Gandhi Thidal, after 6 pm. Filmmakers competing for ‘Best film’ awards and a `1 lakh fellowship, will interact with the audience post screenings.
        From today till December 6, between 10 am and 10 pm. Entry is free. Details: kameleonpondy.com

         Olympia Shilpa Gerald

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          Sign up for a flea market, book reading, music and dance. Plus, master your mind

          On that note
          Hum along and snap your fingers to the tunes of  Bespectacled, the band from Swarnabhoomi Academy on keys, drums and bass. The musical delight offers familiar songs in an unfamiliar format. Genres like pop, funk, rock and jazz will keep the tempo right throughout.
          Starts from 8 pm at Kasha ki Aasha. Cover charges `100. Details: 0413 2222963

          Eat, play, repeat
          RMIf eating and shopping can contribute to a cause, then there’s no reason not to indulge. The Future School in Auroville is hosting a fundraiser between 2-5 pm today. Play games, hunt for goodies at the flea market, sample cakes and catch a few performances. Details: 0413 2622776

          Elephant tales
          Alliance Francaise’s cultural calendar is always filled with music, art and theatre. On December 10, writer Ari Gautier, will present his French novel Carnet Secret de Lakshmi (Secrets of Lakshmi), set in Pondicherry. Be there at 7 pm at the AF auditorium on Rue Suffren, if you want to take home a signed copy of the book. Details: 0413 2338146

          Power within
          04December-Snippet3FINALOPTION1The ATB (Awareness Through Body) workshop is here to help you get in touch with yourself again. Sharpen
          your sensory organs and increase concentration with exercise, games and meditation. Receive a certificate at the end of this introspective program. The workshop, priced at `4200, begins at 9 am this weekend at Auroville Retreat. Includes tea and snacks. Potluck to be conducted for lunch. Book your slot on aurovilleretreat.org
          Details: 0413 2622571

          Dance treat
          It’s been 70 years since the Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedy. OneAsia is organising a Japanese dance performance, Sakuta, to pay tribute. Through her performance artist Keiin Yoshimura hopes to highlight the devastation and the meaninglessness of mass destruction. At Sri Aurobindo Auditorium, at 8 pm, on December 12. Free entry. Details: 0413 2622887

          — Team Indulge

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            Catch two extremes in Australia—from the hot Northern Territory to the scenic beaches and desert climes and stark landscapes of the sleepy towns of New South Wales

            New South Wales
            There’s more to the land Down Under than flight-hopping between Sydney’s Opera House, Brisbane’s night life and Melbourne’s vibrant food scene. On our last visit to Australia, we chose a scenic road trip up the New South Wales coast. While the 900-odd kilometres from Sydney to Brisbane can be completed in 11 hours, we suggest spending a day each discovering three picturesque beach towns on the way—Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay. Besides the surf and sand, they offer farm breaks, delicious organic produce and even some beer making. And to break the monotony of the road, pack in pit-stops—from hidden beaches to boutique hotels (like Bells at Killcare, bellsatkillcare.com.au). Here’s to some fun motoring.

            Port Macquarie
            (four hours from Sydney)

            Byron Bay 2The sleepy town takes its own time doing things. As the elderly amble along the promenade and marina (it’s a popular retirement destination), youngsters choose between a spot of surfing at its 18 beaches or a picnic with friends and seagulls. We try something different—a morning at the local Koala Hospital. The only one of its kind in Australia, it takes in animals that are injured or sick. Be warned, cuddling is not appreciated. They keep the koalas as wild as possible. But you can join the ‘Feed, Walk and Talk’ tour, every day at 3 pm (koalahospital.or.au). On the way back, drop by Ricardoes Tomatoes where you can pick fresh strawberries and tomatoes from their hydroponic greenhouses. Make sure you stock up on their homemade relishes, sauces and tapenades, too (starting from $5 a jar, ricardoes.com).
            Accommodation: The Rydges Port Macquarie has spacious rooms (from $164 a night) and is right by the Hastings River. Details: rydges.com
            Where to eat: Swing by the one-hatted (local Michelin equivalent) The Stunned Mullet. We recommend the Glacier 51 toothfish or the pork belly with seared scallops (meal for two at $140 approx). Details: thestunnedmullet.com.au
            Things to do
            Try a wine-and cheese tasting at Cassegrain Wines (cassegrainwines.com.au)

            Learn how beer is made at Black Duck Brewery. The free tour ends with a tasting and a ploughman’s platter (blackduckbrewery.com.au)

            On Sunday, head to Near River Produce for a tour of the organic farm. Feed chickens, collect eggs and even pick your lunch from the garden (nearriverproduce.com)

             Coffs Harbour

            (two hours from Port Macquarie)

            Coffs Harbour 3The beaches here are beautiful—wild, expansive and a paradise for surfing and kayaking. But what the area is really known for is its banana plantations, blueberry fields and fresh seafood. So when not catching the waves, we suggest you relax over some cold beer and a large plate of oysters or a grilled barramundi at the Park Beach Surf Club Restaurant & Bar (meal for two at $110 approx, surfclubparkbeach.com). It not only gives you a great view of the beach, but as the popular local hangout, you get to absorb some of the joie de vivre. A great stop for kids is the Big Banana Fun Park. With water slides, toboggan, laser tag, ice rink and more, it’s a fun day out (tickets from $10 onwards). And in the evening, how about a picturesque ride on the beach—atop a camel? Not what you’d expect to be doing on a beach, but it’s fun nevertheless ($25 onwards for a half-hour ride, coffscoastcamels.com.au).
            Accommodation: The serviced apartments at Wyndham Vacation Resort are great for a family stay (&165 onwards, wyndhamap.com)
            Where to eat: Overlooking the Solitary Islands Marine Park, the new Latitude 30 bar and restaurant serves great seafood. Try the seafood platter (from $130) with lobster, Balmain bugs, prawns, oysters and swimmer crabs. Details: latitude30.com.au

            Things to do
            Go herb, vegetable or fruit picking at Northbank Community Gardens in Bellingen. Do leave a donation on your way out. (northbankgarden.org.au)
            Watch aboriginal elders trap fish or go on a bush food medicine tour at the Yarrawarra Aboriginal Cultural Centre (free entry, yarrawarra.org)

             Byron Bay

            (Under three hours from Coffs Harbour)

            sunset_over_kata_tjutaAustralia’s easternmost town, it is chic with a distinct hippie vibe. Though there is plenty of surfing to be done, this is the last stop on your road trip before you hit the Gold Coast. So why not take it easy? The pretty little town, with its white wooden store fronts, is a great place to shop. Pick up artisanal chocolates, handmade porcelain or the latest designs from their numerous boutiques. There are also plenty of local markets, like the Byron Bay Market we visited (every first Sunday). It’s a great place to pick up local craft—but be warned, thanks to the hippie culture, we also came across a lot of ‘Made in India’ products! Another fun way to spend a day is to visit Tropical Food World. A short drive out of town, the farming operation is a tourist attraction because of its acres of fruit trees from across the world. It’s a great place to pick up gifts, too—from avocado oil to farm-fresh macadamia nuts (from $14, tropicalfruitworld.com.au).

            Accommodation: The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa is plush, nestled amidst 45 acres of rainforest, and great for honeymooners ($390 onwards, thebyronatbyron.com.au)
            Where to eat: Three Blue Ducks at The Farm Byron Bay. Serving organic and sustainably farmed produce, try the beef short rib and farm salad (meal for two at $105 approx). Details: thefarmbyronbay.com.au

            Things to do
            Try some beach-side yoga, meditation and massage with your partner. The 90-minute classes start from $18. (beachsideyogaandmassage.com.au)
            Take a tour of the 19th century lighthouse. With amazing views of the ocean, it’s a great spot for spotting humpback whales—though we spied a few rock wallabies foraging on the cliff

            Uluru

            If someone said to you why not spend nearly a lakh of rupees to fly four hours into the middle of a desert to inspect an old rock, you might look at the person in utter disbelief. That’s exactly the reaction I got from my wife when I suggested we forgo a trip to the Great Barrier Reef and go to Uluru instead. Getting to the sandstone monolith in the Northern Territory’s Red Centre desert isn’t easy—perhaps that’s part of the allure for the 4,00,000-plus tourists that visit every year. You are visiting a place that is world famous, yet seen by so few.

            Accommodation
            dinner_in_the_outbackThere is only one resort at Uluru and it offers different levels of accommodation. My cub scout days are over so although staying in a tent without electricity would have been easy on my wallet (at AUD $36 per night), I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The Outback Pioneer hotel offers hostel-type accommodation, with communal ablutions and cooking facilities if you are happy sharing with others. The other ‘low cost’ option is the motel-style accommodation with rooms that can comfortably sleep up to four.

            Weather
            Uluru doesn’t get much rain but, just our luck, storm clouds moved in just after we touched down. This rain was an anomaly and for the remaining days the weather was typical of a desert climate— hot in the day, cooler at night.

            Food
            Vegetarian options are limited in Uluru. My wife was shocked when the mushroom and capsicum kebab cost `1,000. For carnivores, Uluru offers a plethora of eating options including kangaroo, crocodile and emu. The solo supermarket in the resort lets you buy provisions to cook for yourself in the resort’s communal kitchens, if needed.

            Experiencing the sunrise
            uluru_base_walk_2A problem with visiting Uluru is that all the good stuff happens early in the morning. My sister bullied us into leaving the resort at 4.30 am to catch the sun rise over the magnificent Uluru at 6 am. Since we had a car it was easy to drive to the park when it opened at 5 am. For people without a car, they can pay for the bus trip ($69) plus the entrance fee ($25 per person). The designated viewing platforms give you a breathtaking view of the rock. As the day broke, the sun’s rays began dancing across the red rock. It was also a cue for the flies to wake up and start bothering you.

            Kata Tjuta
            Fifty kilometres from Uluru is another rock formation, Kata Tjuta. Though less famous, it is no less impressive. Having experienced the flies from the day before, we decided to buy fly nets to slip over our hats. At $15 for two, they were possibly the best thing we purchased on our entire trip. Kata Tjuta has many trails but the easiest one takes about an hour as you walk between the rocks and across the red landscape.

            Silence and a buffet
            One must experience the Sounds of Silence dinner. At $195 per person, it offers four hours of unforgettable memories. It begins with sipping champagne while the sun sets over Kata Tjuta. For dinner, we sit at tables of 10—the perfect opportunity to meet people from around the world—and the extensive buffet presents a surprising variety of dishes (like crocodile salad and roasted kangaroo). My vegetarian wife was overjoyed as there was even rice available, something she had been missing since we left India.

            The morning walk
            Determined to make the most of our time in Uluru, my sister enforced another 5 am start to do the ‘Base Walk’ around Uluru. It is best to start your walk by 6 am, as it’s light but not too hot. While travel guides recommend you take three to four hours to complete the 12 km walk, my family marched through the red sand in under two hours. As the sun rises, the rock changes appearance with almost every step you take. By 8 am, the sun makes its scorching presence felt and you can understand why the guidebooks recommend finishing your hikes before 11 am.

            — Peter Claridge

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