Take a few pointers from Lonely Planet’s latest and begin your year on a quiet note in 10 meditation-friendly zones
Kartause Ittingen, Switzerland
In a former Carthusian monastery in Switzerland’s hilly orchard country, this hotel and farm complex combines monastic peacefulness and modern comforts. While Carthusian monks take strict vows of silence and solitude, visitors to the Kartause enjoy a more relaxed and luxurious existence. Spend an afternoon lost in thought in the ‘silent room’, quietly stroll the garden’s thyme maze, wander the ancient cloisters, or join in group meditation.Afterwards, feel free to exercise your vocal chords while enjoying a meal of fresh-baked bread, raw-milk brie and salads of local herbs and flowers. Kartause Ittingen is 40 km from Zurich. Rooms start at Sfr169 per night. Details: email@example.com
Esalen Institute, USA
Founded in 1962 by a pair of expanded consciousness-seeking Stanford grads, this retreat centre in Big Sur, California, is the mother ship of the New Age movement. Well-heeled bohemians flock here for massages, encounter groups, ‘vision quests’ and soaks in the world-renowned nude hot tubs. While most of Esalen’s workshops are decidedly un-silent – think Gestalt sex therapy, ‘shamanic dream healing’ and so forth – the institute is famed for its occasional, highly sought-after silent retreats. Spend five days watching the sun rise over the crashing Pacific, eating local organic meals, meditating and receiving patented ‘Esalen massages’, all in total silence. Esalen is a three-hour drive from San Francisco. Workshops start at about US$405. Details: www.esalen.org
MOVE over London. So long, Ibiza. The destinations of 2016, according to travel giant, Lonely Planet’s annual survey that features top countries, regions and cities, has Botswana, Transylvania and Kotor in Montenegro leading the lists respectively. Mumbai comes in at the sixth spot as one of the cities to visit this year and Sesh Seshadri, Director, Lonely Planet India, points out that this Mumbai is all about food, shopping and movie tours. ‘‘We have 226 authors in 46 countries and followers on social media that run into a few million. Travellers are beginning to understand the difference between content and curated content,’’ he says. Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016 also has themed lists – in keeping with the quest for serenity in today’s world, and to recover from all that partying, we highlight its silent retreats. Here are five of the 10 places, the others being Nyepi Day in Bali, Hridaya Yoga in Mexico, Kielder Forest in the UK, Kyoto International Zendo in Japan and the Franciscan Monastery in America.
This dot of an island in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides has been a spirituaol centre for at least a millennium and a half. Colonised by Irish monks in the early Middle Ages, its scriptorium produced some of the most important illuminated manuscripts of the period. Today, Iona is dotted with monasatic ruins and enormous stone crosses. It attracts thousands of pilgrims each year,many of whom attend retreats in and around ancient Iona Abbey.
The Bishop’s House offers week-long contemplative retreats throughout the year. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Emoyeni, South Africa
Open to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, Emoyeni in the Magaliesberg range offers a variety of silent and semi-silent retreats. A weekend ‘encounter with enlightenment’ requires only one day of quiet, while traditional nine-day Vipassana meditation retreats mean no speaking for more than a week. If that’s not your bag, just visit on a ‘self retreat’ – eat vegetarian meals, hike in the bushveld,
explore the library or walk the garden labyrinth. Talking is permitted except during daily post-dinner ‘Noble Silence’.
Emoyeni is about 100 km northwest of Johannesburg. Retreats start at about US$100. Details: email@example.com
Vipassana Meditation Retreat, India
The ancient pre-Buddhist meditation technique of vipassana has been gaining popularity among stressed-out 21st century dwellers. Vipassana, which means ‘to see things as they really are’, involves silence, stillness,and observing your breath. Practitioners learn the technique at 10-day silent meditation retreats, held at some 160 centres wordwide. Dhamma Giri, in Maharashtra, is one of the biggest. Meditate beneath cyan skies in a golden pagoda with over 400 separate meditation cells, and share vegetarian meals with everyone from cleaners to CEOs. Adherents claim benefits ranging from tranquillity to psychedelic hallucinations to full-body orgasms!Three-hour drive from Mumbai. Courses twice a month. Details: (02553) 244076
Blast from the past
Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen did it 15 months ago, in Costa Rica, and so has Oprah Winfrey and other A-listers – it’s no wonder New Age travellers want to sign up for a silent retreat as well. With a forest, a coast and an alternative lifestyle to reconnect with serenity, Pacha Mama in Costa Rica has been popular for a few years now. Choose from body cleanse programmes, yoga workshops and work exchange offers. Pachamama.comThe Simple Peace Retreat Hermitage in Assisi, Italy, is another hub for alternative peace seekers. Choose from one to three-week programmes in the 25-acre farmland in the ancient town of Assisi. Assisiretreats.org
Sign up for Mongolian staples and fun musical experiments for a New Year reboot this weekend
Here’s a chance to sample some Mongolian cuisine. At Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay, this weekend choose between beer, soft drinks or mocktails, before proceeding to guriltai (a fried noodle dish with meat), buuz (a steamed dumpling filled
with meat), and more. Waters
Edge Café. Rs 1,600 plus tax per person. Details: 27443636
Walk the talk
US-based Noel Parent who was here last year for a reading of his book Transcendent Sky, is back with a video. In it he discusses how philosopher Sri Aurobindo’s writings led him to Auroville. On January 11 at 6.30 pm at Savitri Bhavan. Details: 0413 2622922
Le Dupleix’s dinner special — Best of Grills is for fans of meat. Try Pondicherry mixed grills where beef and pork medallions, and chicken supreme will mingle with grilled tomato and egg. Or opt for the Le Dupleix house grill with masala tawa squid and Cajun prawns. Meal for two at Rs 2500 approximately. From 7 pm onwards, till Jan 14.
Details: 0413 2226999
Sing to your heart’s content at the Drizzle’s karaoke night . Delhi-based DJ Akansha has a bank of English and Hindi songs that you can croon to, while Tamil is only on request. After singing, devour continental and Indian specials. Meal for two at approximately Rs 750. Starts at 8 pm. Details: 30853896
Girls on board
Strap on your best stilettos as it’s ladies night at Rendezvous Cafe on Rue Suffren street. At the ‘High on Heels’ party, ladies can get behind the bar to mix their own drinks. Eating options comprise around 10 seafood specials ranging from red snapper and sole, to halibut and more. Meal for two at Rs 750. Starts at 6.30 pm. Details: 0413 2226766
Take a bow
Go tutu shopping as Spin Dance Studio, Neelankarai, has started training children above four in jazz and ballet. The classes will be held twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday. The ballet batch on Saturday, is from 10 am to 11 am. One time registration of Rs 500 and Rs 2,500 per month. Details: 8939088866
Get your fix of recent socially relevant Indian films at Alliance Francaise de Pondicherry
Make your Sundays worthwhile this month with five eclectic films brought to you by Alliance Francaise, Pondicherry in association with Navadarshan Film Society. The Sunday film screening sessions feature Indian films, be it Hindi films, like Masaan and Manjhi —The Mountain Man, or the English film, Margarita with a Straw and one Bengali film called Kadambari. “The movies are curated based on their social relevant themes, awards won by them, movies from well-known directors and their importance as an art form. Suggestions are also accepted from our spectators,” says Saikat Bhattacharya, who heads the Cultural and Communications department, Alliance Francaise. “The movies are selected after a thorough literature review and most of them are non-commercial oriented films. We also consider commercial films that have a great impact socially. For example, though Bajrangi Bhaijan was a commercial film, it was chosen for last week’s screening because of the impact it had on the Pakistani audience which led to the release of an Indian girl who was stranded in Pakistan for 13 years,” says M Palani, secretary of Navadarshan Film Society, Pondicherry. “Once the movies are finalised, we try purchasing them online, either DVD or Blue Ray, and they will only be screened after purchasing the rights,” adds Palani.
Open to all, with English sub-titles, spectators include tourists and even visitors from Chennai. Talking about the purpose of the screening, Bhattacharya says, “A film is the best medium of instruction when it comes to learning a language. Through films students can easily learn a language as well as the culture as they are directly involving with it. Being a cultural centre, we also aim at taking the country’s culture to our foreign spectators through Indian films.”
Every Sunday at 6 pm at AF Auditorium, Pondicherry. Till January 31. Details: 04132334351.
US-based Shanthi Chandrasekar explores concepts of physics and philosophy at DakshinaChitra
Armed with a bachelor’s degree in physics and an interest in Vedic philosophy, for US-based artist Shanthi Chandrasekar, the point of convergence for both her pursuits was art. “For example, the cosmology concept of a multi-verse, the idea of existence of multiple universes is present in Indian philosophy too and is called ananta koti brahmanda,” she says. This concept has translated into one of the installations for her collection Sanathana, on display from tomorrow at DakshinaChitra. The installation has hand made paper shaped into eggshells, about five inches in height, and each made with different drawings depicting ananta koti brahmanda or different universes.
About Yatra, the name given to a few paintings from the collection, she says, “I imagined myself as a light particle, going through a black hole.” The second installation of about 80-90 hand-made circular sheets with cosmic designs building blocks, black holes, voids and celestial clusters will hang from the ceiling, explains the 48-year-old artist.
This exhibition has been funded in part by Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County’s Individual Artist Grant. “After two years, this collection comprising two installations, 30 paintings — 12 new and 18 from the previous collections — was completed,” says the artist whose work was last displayed in India over four years ago. Concept art
While researching for Indian philosophy, she attended classes to understand the Bhagavad Gita and Atma Bodha, and to understand emerging concepts of physics she simply went online. “If one day I felt like understanding the concept of entanglement I just listened to the online lectures by professors at Yale or MIT,” she states. “I may not understand everything but the talks and discussions create pictures in my head which I proceed to translate on canvas,” shares Chandrasekar who believes all her pieces personify her take on concepts of physics and Indian philosophy. “Lots of physicists have actually had a background in Bhagavad Gita,” she says, citing the example of US-based physicist J Robert Oppenheimer who used to quote from the spiritual text. “This is the connection I wished to explore through my work,” concludes the artist.
All days except Tuesday, till the end of the month, Details: 27472603
Director: Sean Anders
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg,
This American comedy depicts a stepfather about to win the affections of his wife’s children. Just then, their biological father rains on his parade. What remains to be seen is
which father wins.
Did you know: Having starred in the 2010 hit The Other Guys, Ferrell and Wahlberg are together in a movie after five years.
Director: Bejoy Nambir
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Farhan Akhtar, Aditi Rao Hydari
The movie explores the friendship between two unlikely individuals — a wheelchair-bound chess grandmaster and an ATS officer, brought together by a strange turn of events.
Did you know: Some of the working titles of the movies
were Fifth Move, 64 Squares, Chess and Do.
Director: Ericson Core
Cast: Edgar Ramirez, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer
Boldly reimagining Kathryn Bigelow’s cult favorite as a movie where absolutely nobody seems to be having any fun, the new Point Break drops the original’s Zen-like balance of macho mysticism and camp in favor of dour humorlessness. While the extreme sports sequences are top notch, the film as a whole does not live up to the original. Though when it comes to the stunt scenes, Core’s efforts are very impressive. Pity about the rest of the movie. — Team Indulge
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Director: JJ Abrams
Cast: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver
et nearly three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, the movie revolves around a new set of characters. With Han Solo (Ford) and his allies aiding the newcomers, the story weaves between the search for the missing Jedi, Luke Skywalker, and saving the galaxy from the antagonist, Kylo Ren. But despite new music tracks and improved graphics, the director’s vision is not new. — T I
Scripted by ace director Selvaraghavan, the film is about a couple who go in for an arranged marriage and the issues they face. The characters are similar to his earlier ones. But what is missing is the sensitivity and conviction. Superficially etched, his protagonist’s complexities seem forced. Neither the characters nor their situations strike a chord. And in such a scenario, to expect a debutant maker to rise above the script and make a mark is unreasonable. Probably the weakest of Selvaraghavan’s scripts, it’s at the most a stepping stone for a debutante director. — Malini Mannath
Actor Rajniesh Duggall on why his stunts in Direct Ishq are the real deal and how critics inspire him
FROM a dapper model, to his latest outing in a negative role, actor Rajniesh Duggall has come a long way. The actor who is 10 movies old, is all excited about essaying the role of a street thug for Rajiv S Ruia’s
Direct Ishq set to release next month. The 34-year-old has three other films in his kitty this year — Yeh Laal Rang with Randeep Hooda, Beiimaan Love where he reprises his much-talked about chemistry with Sunny Leone and the one he is busy wrapping up currently, Udanchhoo.
Shot in Benaras and Ramgadh, Direct Ishq is a love triangle with Duggall playing Vicky Shukla, a Benarasi ruffian who has to vie with a naïve but endearing guy played by Arjun Bijlani to win over his love interest. In fact, the film makers offered him Bijlani’s role but he chose to play the thug instead. Known to often give his inputs to the characters he plays, for this role Duggall suggested that the character chew paan through most scenes and take the name of Mahadev (Lord Shiva) in his dialogues. “I landed in Benaras four days ahead of schedule to observe the people I was going to portray,” shares the actor, who also insisted on doing his own stunts. Though stunt master Robert Fonesca was hesitant to let him do the climax sequence himself, this winner of season five of Khatron ke Khiladi insisted, as this would make close-up shots possible.
Talking about Beiimaan Love, the movie in which he is paired opposite Sunny Leone, the actor shares, “My character is flamboyant, contrary to my own nature and this is the challenge that attracted me to the script.” Along with the movie’s climax, of course. “The ending is very Shyam Benegal and Rishikesh Mukherjee,” the actor allows cryptically.
The fitness enthusiast confesses that he does take criticism to heart. “Just so that I can do my best to change the critic’s opinion with my next installment,” he admits. That’s why he took up Yeh Laal Rang, the movie based on a true story of the 2002 thefts of blood banks in Haryana. He plays a police superintendent in this soon to be released film and is the antagonist to Hooda.
Direct Ishq releases on February 5. — Seema Rajpal
Award-winning and critically acclaimed movies, a Tamil film competition and more, at the ongoing Chennai International Film Festival
As THE 13th edition of the Chennai International Film Festival is underway, one thing is certain – the city has a hardy bunch of filmgoers and organisers. Even actress Suhasini Maniratnam, who has been involved in bringing together industry people and locating manpower and sponsors for the event, lauds the courage of the Indo Cine Appreciation Foundation (ICAF) for going ahead with the event despite limited funds. Her pick from the festival includes My Mother by Italian director Nanni Moretti. ‘‘Victoria by German director Sebastian Schipper and Taxi by the Iranian Jafar Panahi are the other movies that I am eager to watch,” she says. The 180-plus (world) movies in the ongoing edition have been curated by film expert Srinivasa Santhanam and his team, from a list of 500. He has been attending film festivals (Cannes, Venice and Berlin) since last February. Of the countries that have shown promise in this edition, he lists France, Turkey and Latin America, together with Philippines as the dark horse. His personal favourites, however, are Embrace of the Serpent by Columbian Ciro Guerra and Romanian movie Aferim!, directed by Radu Jude who won the Best Director award at the Berlin International Film Festival last year.
Also catch gems like Buster Keaton’s The General and Steamboat Bill Jr to commemorate 120 years of the American director. Indian movies include Maasan, Rajkahini (Bengali) and Kirumi (Tamil), together with tributes to filmmaker K Balachander and actress Manorama. For aspiring directors, there is a corresponding Tamil Film Competition, featuring 12 movies. The screenings are at multiple venues, from Woodlands Symphony to Casino Theater, Inox (2 and 3) and Russian Center.
Till January 13. `500 delegate registration Details: chennaifilmfest.com
Actor Amitash Pradhan talks about his upcoming Hollywood project and bonding with director Duane Adler
Amitash Pradhan had an epiphany of sorts at the age of three. “While watching Baazigar, I casually turned to my mom and declared, ‘this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’” And that’s exactly what the Chennai-based actor did. After a smashing debut in 2014 as the villain in the Dhanush-starrer VIP, Pradhan, 27, is on to bigger things. The industry is abuzz about him acting in writer Duane Adler’s (Step Up series fame) directorial debut, Heartbeats.
He says he had no qualms about debuting as a villain in VIP. “I figured if the Thalaiva (referring to Rajinikanth) can debut as a villain, it might work for me as well,” confesses Pradhan, who credits his “rockstar” parents (not from the industry) for all that he is today. And of course, actor Dhanush, for spotting him and urging him to gauge the response for VIP.
The big break
Pradhan recalls how, when his casting agent asked him if he could dance, his instant response was, “I’d like to think so!” But then he realised that she wanted him to audition for a role in Duane Adler’s movie. With the help of Vinu John from Verb School, he created a dance audition tape and sent it to the casting director, Nalini Ratnam. After flying to and fro between Chennai and Mumbai for over eight days and giving several auditions, he got that call from Adler, saying, “Welcome to the family”. Pradhan plays the lead and introduces his co-star to the Indian style of dancing, eventually falling in love with her.
For two weeks, Pradhan trained in Bollywood and hip hop, among other variations of dance styles, for nine hours every day. But he skipped the gym (“Thank God for that!” he quips) as the high intensity training took care of his fitness. “Also, Adler wanted a lean look for the movie,” he shares. Staying true to the “perfectionist” tag, Adler roped in Emmy-winner Tessandra Chavez and Pinga choreographer Shampa Gopikrishna. Pradhan says he had a lot of time to bond with Adler between readings. “I would only be satisfied with my work when he broke into his happy dance or proclaimed ‘Magic has been created!’” he reveals, also grateful to the producer, Andrea Chung. “She was the one who made sure I came through.”
So has he bid farewell to Tamil cinemas for good? “No, Never,” he declares and quotes the song from Ethir Neechal, English pesinaalum Tamizhan daa (I may speak English but I am a Tamilian at heart ) in conclusion.
At the Mylapore Festival this year, expect food walks, art exhibitions and a tour of old homes
It’s not really easy to celebrate and mourn at the same time. But as the saying goes, the show must go on and TT Srinivasaraghavan, the MD of Sundaram Finance, says that the Sundaram Finance Mylapore Festival that they have been organising for 14 years now, will be a “low key” celebration this year. “We wanted to cheer people up while being respectful of the pain that people have undergone recently,” he says, referring to the floods that shook the city by its roots a little over a month ago. “The Mylapore festival has always been about showcasing diverse talent. It is a modern day thiruvizha, and its heart lies in the volunteers and community that comes together for it,” he says, insisting that this festival is not about anything new or unusual. Walk the talk
It is about bringing back, he says, citing examples of traditional games like pallankuzhi and dayakattam that are open for children and adults to compete in. As an afterthought, he quickly adds that there is one thing that they are introducing for the first time this year. “A tour of the old houses of Mylapore,” he says, referring to the heritage walk starting at the Ambika Appalam depot on North Mada Street this Sunday at 7 am. This will be a guided walk past houses that are well over 50 years old, with architects Tahaer Zoyab and Anisha giving you an insight into their architecture. Much like their food walks (today and tomorrow at 4 pm) being led by food walk expert Sridhar Venkataraman, that will cover the lesser-known messes in the area. Music in the park4:11:24 PM
As you must be aware by now, this festival is all about the community and even their main stage (outside the East gopuram of the Sri Kapali Temple on Sannidhi Street) that sees classical performances like nadaswaram and traditional arts like bommalattam (puppet shows) will predominantly see students taking to the stage. Besides these, expect a host of exhibitions, like the photo exhibition that encourages people to go through their family albums and contribute photos that portray old Mylapore. And while the four-day festival generally winds up with the Spirit of Mylapore award ceremony on the last day, this year, a second award titled the Spirit of Chennai, will be given out to the people who did “outstanding service” to the city during the recent deluge. But whatever you do, don’t leave without picking up one of the souvenirs (we especially like the coffee dabaras and jute bags) that will be available at the festival’s info desk on Sannidhi Street, from 6 pm to 10 pm till January 10. Details: mylaporefestival.com, 9444040748
Do not miss
? The traditional kolam contest on the
East end of North Mada Street. Will have nearly 100 women participating each day, on Saturday and Sunday. From
3.30 pm, register on the spot.
? The crafts workshop for children, again on Saturady and Sunday, that will include wheel pottery, pot painting and zentangle. At Nageswara Rao Park,
for 25 children on first come basis.
? The sari exhibition featuring 10 traditional designs of Tamil Nadu,
by Co-optex. On North Mada Street,
from 3 pm to 6 pm on Saturday
? The art exhibition by Chennai
Weekend Artists. On Sannidhi
Street, every evening.